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DoD News Briefing, February 11, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.

Presenters: Captain Mike Doubleday, DASD PA
February 11, 1999 1:30 PM EDT

Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.

Just a few minutes ago I talked to Ken, so I thought that for those of you who did not travel, that I would let you know that Secretary Cohen is wrapping up, if he has not already done so, his trip to South Africa.

Today, he had a series of meetings with counterparts in the South African Ministry of Defense including South African Minister of Defense Joe Modise. Secretary Cohen also had a productive discussion with South Africa's Deputy President Mbeki.

Both governments agreed to improve and strengthen our ties with South Africa through information exchanges and continued dialogue. There was an exchange of diplomatic notes. We agreed to provide some airlift for an upcoming regional peacekeeping exercise. Both Defense Secretaries signed off on initial drafts of some environmental documents that our people have been developing with the South Africans.

The visit today concluded with a tour of Robben Island where President Mandella was imprisoned during his time of protest. Then there was an embassy reception in honor of Secretary Cohen. As I mentioned at the outset, when I talked to Ken he was en-route to the airport, so they should be heading back to Washington.

With that, I will try and answer some of your questions.

Q: Captain, can you update us on whether there have been any additional strikes today in the southern part of Iraq?

A: Let me see if I can give you a rundown on what has been going on there. In fact there has been some activity within the last couple of hours.

Altogether, by my count, there's been activity in both the north and the south. There were five sites in the north that were struck by coalition forces and two in the south. I can go through this in more detail if you'd like it. It's a combination of aircraft, and what I'll be doing here is working off of draft press releases, and we'll have the final versions of those for you shortly after the brief.

First of all to address the activity in the north, that included... First of all let me say there was an F-15 flying enforcement of the northern no-fly zone and that aircraft observed Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery fire, and then it was subsequently illuminated by an Iraqi radar. This occurred near Mosul.

As a result of that activity one F-15E dropped four GBU-12's on an Iraqi surface-to-air missile communications site, and two F-15Es launched an AGM-130 and dropped four GBU-12's on an Iraq surface to air missile system, which I think you know we consider a threat to coalition forces.

About an hour after that, U.S. Air Force fighter aircraft again responded after being targeted by Iraqi radar in three separate incidents. First a U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle dropped GBU-12 munitions on an Iraq surface-to-air missile site. This was west of Mosul.

About two minutes later a U.S. Air Force F-16CJ launched an AGM-88, which is a high speed anti-radiation missile, at an Iraq radar site which is located northwest of Mosul.

Then a few minutes after that, a U.S. Air Force F-15E dropped GBU-12's on a surface to air missile communications site east of Mosul.

Those are the activities that occurred in the north.

In the south, at about -- these times that I'm going to give you in the south we've put in eastern standard time. I have some times in the north, but they're still in [local] Iraq time.

At about 10:45 this morning (EST), there were...first of all this one started off by MiG-25s (sic) violating the southern no-fly zone. As a result of that activity, the Air Force F-15s -- this was a combination of F-15s, Navy F-14s, Navy F/A-18s -- operating from both land and sea bases in the region -- hit sites. These included radar sites and also some associated facilities near a town that I believe is pronounced Al Habbariyah. I'll spell that if anyone would like. It's A-L. Then it's H-A-B-B-A-R-I-Y-A-H. That's about 135 miles southwest of Baghdad. And at another site called Al Amarah, which is miles about 170 miles southeast of Baghdad.

In all cases -- both in the north and the south -- all of the aircraft returned safely. We're still looking at the battle damage assessment.

Q: The Iraqis say that two people on the ground were killed and several were hurt.

A: I think you know that these statements from the Iraqis occur from time to time. I don't have anything to confirm or contradict what they're saying. I think you're also aware that we go to extreme measures to ensure that as we attack these targets we do so in a way that minimizes risks to the civilian population.

Q: What is a SAM communications site?

A: I think you're aware, as we've talked before, that the Iraqis have been using their air defense systems in a very integrated way. In some cases what they have done is to use systems in one part of the country to obtain early warning information, and then relay that information to other sites elsewhere in the no-fly zones, with an eye toward avoiding illuminations from their radars in the no-fly zones. In other words, it's kind of a force protection effort on their part.

So what we have said is that we are going to take actions that we believe are effective in reducing these threats, wherever they may occur.

Q: Captain, Doubleday, what was the time difference between the provocation in the south, the incursion by the MiG-25s...

A: I don't have...

Q:...and the strikes that took place as a result.

A: I don't have an exact timeframe for you. I'll see if we can get that.

Q: The reason I ask is it appeared that in the incidents in the north, each time there was some sort of provocation -- AAA fire or radar being turned on -- and then a fairly swift response from the coalition aircraft; whereas in the south it appeared as if the stated provocation, the incursion, there was a long time between that and the strike.

A: There may have been some period of time that elapsed between the no-fly zone violation. But as we have made very clear, the coalition commanders in both the north and the south have broad authority to take actions that they believe are necessary in order to protect their forces, and to reduce those threats as they feel are necessary.

Q: Are these strikes in fact pre-planned offensive strikes rather than any response to a particular provocation?

A: Well, Jamie, I'm not going to get into details of exactly how we determine targets except to say that we certainly keep an eye on the activity of the Iraqis. We keep an eye on the sites that we believe are threatening to coalition forces. And when there are these provocations we take actions that we feel are appropriate to reduce the threats that are posed by the Iraqis.

Q: When U.S. pilots leave for their no-fly zone patrols do they take with them a list of potential targets that they can hit if there's a provocation?

A: I have no idea whether they take any kind of a list like that with them.

Q: Mike, if these are - [if] what the United States is doing is retaliating, are we actually doing this in self defense in every instance? Is it correct, does it require having some indication where that radar is, where that missile site is, in order to have a successful strike? Is that necessary for them to illuminate?

A: First of all, I'm not going to get into rules of engagements, and what exactly triggers strikes or does not trigger strikes. What I have said in the past, and I think others have certainly referred to, is that the Iraqis over the last several weeks, ever since DESERT FOX, have been acting in a very aggressive way to violate the no-fly zones. They've been doing this in a variety of ways including violation by their aircraft, violation by firing off AAA, violations by firing surface to air missiles. All of these we consider to be threatening. And we have said that commanders in the area have broad authority to respond as they see fit to reduce the threats that are posed by the Iraqis. That's what we've been doing and that's what we will continue to do.

Q: You mentioned the integral system that Iraq has. Is it not some point, some place, some group of locations that could be eliminated that would de-integrate this system that the Iraqis have? In other words, would it not be less risky for U.S. pilots to go to the source of their anti-aircraft system?

A: I'm not going to debate your theories on what we should be doing except to say that the Iraqis have been using their air defense systems, their radars, their communication sites, their surface to air missile radar sites in an integrated way. We've seen this, we've observed it, and we are taking actions that we think respond to the threats posed by these integrated systems.

Q: Could you tell us a little more about the communication site? Was this attack basically made on a telephone exchange, or is it some more elaborate way of moving radar data from point A to point B?

A: The communication site, as I understand it, was... first of all, to say it was a telephone exchange is not accurate. This was a military communications site. I think that's probably the best way to describe it. It had the capability to communicate information from one location to another which could then be used in targeting coalition aircraft.

Q:...pictures from the radar screen...

A: I don't know whether it was pictures or whether it was data, but it was a capability that they had used in the past, and that was being used to threaten coalition aircraft.

I misspoke earlier. I think I gave you the wrong MIG type that was involved in the violation in the south. It was caused by MiG-23s, not by MiG-25s.

Q: How many of those?

A: Usually they fly in pairs, and I would think that was the case in this particular instance. But we'll check on that for you.

Q: Is this a unique violation that happened the other day, like tens or even hundreds of kilometers deep, or...

A: Since this one happened so recent I don't have a good feel for that.

Q: You've mentioned Iraq aggressively violating the no-fly zone. Has there been any change in that level of provocation over the last week or so, or are you continuing to see the same pattern of behavior?

A: There were a few days that there were not the violations we had seen over the last several weeks. I don't think you can characterize it as a daily occurrence, but it happens with great frequency, and certainly in the last couple of days, last three days, there have been at least as many as at any other time in the last five or six weeks.

Q: Can you give us any idea what affect these strikes [have had] since the end of Operation DESERT FOX in degrading the air defenses of Iraq?

A: I am going to be very general here, just to say we believe they have had a very grave impact on the Iraqi military defenses. Particularly these integrated air defenses.

I can't give you a percentage, but we believe that we have been effective in hitting the targets that have been threatening to our coalition forces, and as I mentioned before, our intention is that as long as the Iraqis continue these provocative actions we're going to continue to respond.

Q: One last thing. Can you either tell us or provide at a future date some sort of accounting of how many bombs or munitions have been dropped or launched against Iraq since the end of Operation DESERT FOX, and how many sorties of planes have been flown?

A: I will do my best to see if we can accumulate that information.

Q: Is it correct to assume that the responses to Iraqi violations are limited to the air defense system? Is there a possibility that the U.S. might expand its target list? In other words, if they violate the no-fly zone then the U.S. can go and hit a factory, for example?

A: First of all, I'm not going to get into the details of the rules of engagement. I think you've seen -- by the actions that we've taken over the last several weeks -- that there indeed have been some targets that have been hit that are not air defense in nature. I think the most recently example that I'm aware of are those seersucker sites.

But I think it is safe to say that our responses have to do with the capabilities that the Iraqis have that are being used in a provocative way and are threatening to coalition forces -- both in the north and in the south.

Q: New subject.

A: Just one more...

Q: Are there any kinds of threats on the ground? Any kind of movements involving Iraqi troops?

A: No, I'm not aware of any kind of...

Q: Are there times when there are a lot of U.S. planes or coalition planes flying in the no-fly zones when there are not threats from the Iraqis? What's the correlation between U.S. activity and the threats?

A: We patrol those no-fly zones on, I won't say a daily basis, but certainly on a very regular basis. I'm not sure what exactly your question is. We have flown 200,000 sorties since the end of the Gulf War. So...

Q: How many...

A: Yes, we're going to be in the air. Have they always illuminated us? No. Actually, they haven't.

Q: Just in recent weeks, since the end of DESERT FOX, there have been a lot of times when they've either fired missiles, fired anti-aircraft artillery or illuminated. Is it only when there are a lot of planes around, or are there times when there are a lot of planes around when they haven't done anything? In other words, are they targeting us when we're there, or are they only targeting us when we're there sometimes.

A: I'm not sure exactly what you're asking. Does it take us being up in the air for them to do the things that they're doing? No. Sometimes actually...

Q: (Inaudible)

A: I think they actually do these violations into the no-fly zones with their aircraft when we are not in the vicinity. As General Zinni indicated when he was up here several weeks ago, their tactic is in some cases an attempt to lure coalition aircraft into a trap involving their surface-to-air missile sites.

Okay, next one.

Q: There's a number of families who lost people on that gondola in Italy attending the trial in Camp LeJeune. A lot of them, I don't know the exact count, but there are a number of them there. Twenty people were killed, a number of their families are attending this trial. But also their plane ticket and expenses have been paid for by the Department of Defense?

A: I will have to refer you to the Marine Corps because I am not aware of the details of how those families were... what kind of support was given them to travel to the United States.

Q: If they did pay the tickets and they did pay some of their flight expenses in any event, but what's the policy? Do you have a policy where you can pick up expenses of interested parties at court martials?

A: I'm going to have to take that question. I'm not at this point certain enough what our directives say on that subject.

We certainly do have the capability to provide invitational travel orders to people to attend functions that the Department of Defense runs, but I don't know exactly what was done in this case.

Q:...a criminal trial is sort of unusual as far as I can understand it.

A: All I can tell you is we'll look into it. If you have a specific question, though, the Marine Corps may be able to answer it for you.

Q: I want to know what the Defense Department's policy is on picking up the tab for people coming to criminal trials? Is it permissible? Have you done it before? Is this unusual?

A: We'll take those questions and see what we can find out.

Q: Linda Tripp makes her TV debut tomorrow. Can you give us an update on her job status?

A: Linda Tripp is an employee of the Department under the flexiplace arrangement.

Q: Any sense when or if she'll be coming back to work at the Pentagon?

A: I can't give you any further details other than that.

Q: Could you comment on whether the Department is concerned about Chinese missiles that are apparently pointed at Taiwan? I think there have been Taiwanese officials quoted today as saying that they understand there is at least 100 now staring at them from across the straits, and there may be plans to increase that by as much as 600.

A: Well, we're aware of the growing deployment by the Chinese in recent years of missiles which have been placed near Taiwan. I think that the most recent public statements on this were made by CIA Director George Tenet when he testified recently up on the Hill. This, however, is not a new threat. It stretches back more than half a decade. And any kind of report that indicates there's a sudden deployment here is wrong. They actually have been deployed for, as I say, over the last five or six years.

Q: There's supposedly some DoD reports that are on the way to Congress that are supposed to be released today or soon. Will these reports say that there's been an abrupt increase in the number of missiles?

A: There are two reports that were required of the Department by the Congress in the current year budget activity. Those reports are still being reviewed. I would anticipate that they would go to the Hill at some time in the near future, but I can't predict for you when they will. One of them deals with the theater missile ballistic defense architecture for allies and friendly countries in the western Pacific; and the other one addresses the security situation in the cross strait area between China and Taiwan.

Q: Mike, what's the latest status of talks, consultations between U.S. and Taiwanese authorities with regard to ballistic missile defense? Is that going forward as far as...

A: They are addressing their own needs in that regard, and as I understand it their interest in theater missile defense appears to be at this point primarily informational.

Q: I see. So you say they're going about their own shopping or their own evaluation?

A: They are gathering information from what I know about the situation.

Q: Mike, how many missiles does China have within striking distance of Taiwan?

A: I cannot provide you with that information right now. I know that our annual report that addresses these kinds of issues may have some information, but I don't have that with me. I'd be glad to see if there's anything we can get for you on that.

Q: Just to clarify for myself, but this deployment pre-dated say the '95, '96...

A: Actually there were missiles deployed there the last time the Chinese fired a missile in the direction of Taiwan, and when we deployed the aircraft carriers down there.

Q: I guess my question is the building. At some time there had to have been a buildup of missiles in that region. The buildup you said began five or six years ago?

A: Right.

Q: Some of these published reports suggest there was a sharp increase in the number of those missiles since that time in 1996 when tensions were high. Is that not accurate, that there's been a sharp increase since then?

A: I would refer you to the testimony that I mentioned earlier, and beyond that I don't have any way to characterize the situation.

Q: Mike, there was a report last night that the DIA conducted its own highly classified review of the bombing of Khartoum. The Pentagon last night said there was no such report. Was there a review? Whether there was a report or not, was there a review?

A: All I can tell you is that the DIA has conducted no such review, they have no such analysis, and they have no report.

Q: So the agency that is normally in charge of selecting targets, and of reviewing strikes on targets and the aftereffects, had no such review of this target.

A: All I can tell you is there was no report, and there has been no review that would correspond to what was referred to in that news report last night.

Q: Wait a minute. So the DIA did not assemble a group of experts to assess the aftermath of that strike? Is that what you are saying?

A: What I am saying is that the report that was characterized last night on ABC -- [that] there is no such report, there has been no such analysis done by the DIA.

Q: The piece on ABC never said there was a report. They said there was a highly classified review. So what you are saying is there was no group of experts assembled by DIA to review the bombing damage at Khartoum, is that correct?

A: I am not trying to play word games with you. I am saying no report, no analysis done by the DIA on this subject.

Q: No group of experts was hired by DIA to go over the aftermath of the bombing, is that correct? Or is that not something that you can respond to?

A: No report, no analysis done by the DIA on this subject.

Q: CIA? Did they...

A: I would refer you to the CIA for what they may have done.

Q: Did any analysts or experts working for the Defense Intelligence Agency participate in any review conducted by the intelligence community's Non-Proliferation Center?

A: I am not aware of anything that resulted in a DIA report of a DIA analysis on this subject.

Q: To just follow up though, again, to point out that the DIA has the stated role and mission of providing military intelligence to targets and helping select the weapons used by the military to attack targets. Would it not be extraordinarily unusual and almost rather incredible for the agency that has that role and mission to make no assessment of the work that it did? Or is it your sense that the DIA played absolutely no role in this military strike?

A: Excuse me. I am not going to expand this thing to what role the DIA played in the strike. What I am saying is they did not do the report or analysis that was referred to in the news report last night.

Q: Just to be clear, are you saying that no such analysis or review took place, or are you saying that whatever analysis or review took place didn't support the conclusion in the ABC report?

A: First of all, I think it's been said before that we feel that the pharmaceutical plant was a legitimate target during that strike.

That said, I am not going to talk about the roles that various parts of the building played in planning the strike. I'm simply pointing out that there was no report and no analysis done on that subject by the DIA.

Q: Would you concede that there is at least a variety of opinion on whether or not... on how conclusive the evidence was of a link to chemical weapons production that was the basis for the bombing of that plant?

A: My guess is that you could probably find as many opinions as you can find people in this building on that subject. But that doesn't mean there is a report or analysis that has been done by an agency.

Q: Not to beat a dead horse Mike, but you will not directly answer the question whether or not DIA assembled a group of experts to assess the damage on this bombing. That is a question that you will not directly answer, is that correct?

A: I am going to say what I have said now six or seven times, and that is no report, no analysis done by the DIA on this subject. And I am not playing word games with you.

Q: If you're not playing word games then how come if we ask a yes or no question we get some sort of an essay response? If you're not playing games with us, and Jack is asking a yes or no question about whether or not a panel of experts is... It's yes or no. It's not no review, no...

A: I think my answer stands fully, [and is] exactly what I mean on this subject.

Q: Another subject?

A: Sure.

Q: Published reports yesterday and today about the problems with Russia's early warning system. To what degree is that a cause of concern for the Pentagon? How serious is it? How worried is the Pentagon that problems with the Russian system could result in a miscalculation or accidental response? Is that something that's seen as likely, unlikely? What degree of confidence do you have?

A: I think that people in this building believe that an accidental launch is unlikely. However, we have been engaging, in the process of engaging the Russians in a program called Shared Early Warning, and that process continues. The overall goal is one that would result in both sides having a greater degree of confidence in their early warning systems, so that any kind of anomalies that might appear in early warning systems could immediately be checked, and resolved in a way that did not cause either side to become more anxious about the activities of the other.

Q: In other words they talk to one another? So Russia would call the United States and say I see an incoming missile. Have you fired something?

A: I think it goes beyond that. There is some thought that perhaps, at some point there should be representatives from both sides in rooms, either both here in the United States and in Russia or in some central location where these issues could be addressed.

Q: Is that a system that the United States is promoting with the Russians?

A: As I say, this is something that was addressed by the President and President Yeltsin some time ago, and we have been talking to the Russians about discussing this further.

Q: Mike, the September 1983 alleged close call, that was in that article yesterday. Also I think it was '94, '95, the Norwegians launched a satellite that the Russians mistook for a possible attack against them.

Did those two incidents happen? Were they a serious lack of early warning? Serious misinterpretations? Or do you know?

A: I think there have been occasions where there has been anxiety on the part of the Russians. I can't cite any specifics for you, but as I say, we are aware of those. We have talked to the Russians about those kinds of situations, and we are taking steps to address that in terms of this shared early warning.

Q: But not yet. It's not been implemented.

A: No, not implemented yet, and we are no doubt some ways away from actually getting to that point. We need to do a lot of talking first.

Q: Is that what the threat reduction agency project in Moscow is about?

A: I'm not sure exactly what you're talking about.

Q: I thought it was early warning in Moscow. No?

A: I'm not sure exactly what you're talking about. There needs to be additional talks before we actually get to the point of having everybody on board with this one.

Q: When do you think you could have a system up and running?

A: On our part, we're anxious to move ahead very quickly, but the Russians I think have indicated that they want to address this further before we get to that juncture. So I don't have any prediction at this point when we may be at the point of actually establishing a site.

Q: Secretary Hamre, I think it was last month, said that the United States was sending a team to Russia to talk about Y2K issues. Would early warning be part of the Y2K discussions?

A: The vision that he had on that was that Y2K, since we've been working through this thing, has the potential of causing anomalies to occur in computer systems. And his thought was that perhaps we needed to have some sort of a place where Russians and Americans could be looking at scopes together during the time when Y2K problems may be at their greatest, namely at the turn of the year.

This is an issue that we're continuing to address with the Russians. Next week there is a group of people here in the building who will be traveling to Moscow to discuss a number of issues, among which will be Y2K with the Russians.

Q: How many people in that group? Can you tell us who's leading it?

A: The leader of the group is Assistant Secretary of Defense, Ted Warner. I don't know exactly how many people are going. I think it's probably about a dozen.

Q: There seem to be some stories floating about in Russia that this Y2K group is coming with large amounts of money to solve the Russians' Y2K problem. Is that not true?

A: We certainly want to share with the Russians what we know about Y2K, and the steps we have taken to address this problem, we think successfully, here in the Department. But I saw those new reports. I'm not aware that there has been any official request from the government of Russia for money in connection with their Y2K problem. But we certainly have insights that we can share with them about what we have done to solve that problem.

Q: So DoD is bringing information, they're not bringing...

A: We are taking experts who have technical expertise in this area, and information. That's correct.

Q: When is the trip?

A: It starts next week. I can't give you an exact date, but I believe that it's toward, the middle of the week.

Q: There have been some reports of two U.S. carriers moving to the Red Sea to help with the Ethiopia/Eritria conflict, in terms of evacuation.

A: It wouldn't be the Red Sea.

Q: The Red Sea.

A: To the Red Sea?

Q: Yes.

A: No, no. We have some ships off the east coast of Africa that have been participating in an exercise. That's an amphibious ready group centered around Boxer. But to my knowledge there are no ships moving into the Red Sea for that purpose.

Q: Can I just back up on one thing in the China missile threat?

A: Sure.

Q: You characterized this as a threat that's been there for several years.

A: The thing that I want to make clear is, we acknowledge that China has been modernizing its armed forces, and has been increasing its capabilities on a variety of fronts, but I think it is incorrect to think that the missile threat that was identified in these recent news reports is something that developed in the last several months. Those missile have been down there for, as I say, the last five or six years.

Q: Just one thing. So I take it in meetings that U.S. defense officials have had with their counterparts in China, I assume that they've mentioned this is not good for the region.

A: What we have said is we have a strong interest in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. And for that reason we've approved defensive arms sales to Taiwan, which is consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act and with the 1982 U.S./PRC Joint Communique.

The Taiwanese have purchased a number of defensive arms from the United States. We believe, however, that the differences between Taiwan and mainland China should be settled peacefully, and that is our overall goal.

Q: Is there any other application to which China could be intending this missile buildup on-shore, along the Straits of Taiwan? Is there any other application they could be using these missiles for, except to intimidate Taiwan?

A: I don't know what their overall objective is, except to simply say that they have this capability, and they have built it up in that region.

Press: Thank you.

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