Friday, September 6, 1996 - 3:40 p.m.
Mr. Bacon: Well, thank you for your patience in waiting for this much delayed briefing. It's sort of an endless news day but you couldn't be outside anyway, so. What better place to spend your Friday afternoon, than in the Pentagon briefing room.
Q: Here! Here!
I like that enthusiasm. I'd like to start with a brief statement about the crash of the Marine Corps helicopter or the accident involving the helicopter. As you know, at about 11:15 EDT, this morning, a Marine Corps CH-46E helicopter, while taxiing at the Orlando Executive Airport, suddenly tilted to its left and burst into fire. The Marine Corps has appointed a mishap board to investigate the accident. That was done almost immediately. As far as we know, all six people onboard are safe. We're not aware of any hospitalizations, but there are probably bumps and bruises. There were five Marines onboard and one employee of the Boeing Company.
The CH-46 helicopter is made by Boeing -- between 1964 and 1972. As you know, this helicopter was part of the Presidential Support Unit, which involves about two dozen helicopters of various types, and it was one of several CH-46Es that were carrying equipment from Miami to Pensacola, Florida. Some of it was helicopter maintenance equipment, other involved equipment that the President needs to support his travel. It was a fairly standard mission and, as I say, an accident -- it was a standard mission with an unstandard result and a mishap board is investigating it.
There was also a second incident today involving a CH-46E helicopter in the Presidential Support Squadron, which is known as Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 -- or HMX-1 -- stationed in Quantico, Virginia. The second incident involved the failure of a utility hydraulic pump, we believe, at least a caution light went on. The helicopter landed in a field outside of Orlando, and the crew is in the process of replacing the pump, which runs part of the hydraulic system that has really nothing to do with the engine: it runs the rotor brake, the back ramp; things like that. But, anyway, the pump is in the process of being replaced.
Q: Ken, was the first chopper also HMX-1?
A: They were both in the Presidential Support Unit, HMX-1.
Q: This is the third failure in three weeks of Presidential support aircraft and is there going to be some kind of review?
A: Well, there's a review after every mishap and as I said, the review was already started here. But I think we ought to be very clear: there is no indication of mechanical failure in the helicopter that burned. We think that its rotor blade hit a light post as it was taxiing -- it landed at an executive airfield and was taxiing to a refueling station. And, it appears from eye witness accounts -- we won't know for sure until the accident investigation is completed, but according to eye witness accounts, it appears that this rotor blade struck a light post. It then tilted over onto its left.
The rotor blades broke, of course, they dug into the ground and fire broke out and before the fire crews could ... When the fire broke out -- it was small at first -- the crew got out, the passengers got out -- five Marines and one civilian -- and then, before the fire crews could get there, it burst into flames.
Q: How many in the crew? Sorry?
A: Well, it normally has a crew of three: a pilot; a co- pilot; and a crew chief, but there were also two additional squadron members on this helicopter. So, there were five Marines and then the Boeing person.
Q: Well, how about in the other helicopter, how many people?
A: Well, in the other helicopter there were 12 Marines onboard. There were no injuries. This was basically a precautionary landing. I wouldn't even call it an emergency landing. A light went off and they -- being well-trained and conservative pilots -- decided to land and check out the situation and that's what they did. So.
Q: Can you tell us about the safety record of this particular unit; any details about the safety record of the CH- 46; and how are people selected for this unit? Is this supposed to be the cream of the crop -- in pilots and maintenance people that are in this unit -- servicing the President?
A: Well, those are all good questions. Let me give you a little history, first of all. This helicopter squadron was started in 1947, in the early days of helicopter aviation. It started carrying the President and his staff -- supporting the President's travel -- in 1957. From 1957 to 1976, the Marines and the Army shared the duty of transporting the President and supporting his travel. Starting in 1976, during the Ford Administration, a decision was made to give the mission entirely to the Marines. So, since 1976, the Marines have had exclusive responsibility for carrying the President, his staff, and supporting his missions.
There have been only from the beginning of this squadron -- only three Class- A mishaps. And, a Class-A mishap is one involving the loss of an aircraft, or $1 million worth of damage. Obviously, this is a Class-A mishap because the helicopter was lost in a fire. The preceding Class-A mishap was during a routine maintenance evaluation flight in Mary of 1993, and that occurred over the eastern shore.
The only previous Class-A mishap for this squadron -- I'm not listing these by type of helicopter but the squadron itself - - was in 1990, when a VH-3 helicopter was landing in Chicago where the Secret Service had set up a snow fence for crowd control purposes. The snow fence was sucked up by the rotor blade and causing the helicopter to land abruptly, more abruptly than they had planned. I don't believe there were any injuries. The helicopter was actually reconditioned and returned to service, but it cost more than $1 million to do that, so that counts as a Class-A mishap.
Those are the only Class-A mishaps in the squadron since 1947. The squadron flies approximately -- it has flown over 250,000 hours, I believe, since 1957, when it started carrying the President. It flies about 10,000 hours a year. This is all types of helicopters in the squadron. It is very difficult to calculate a mishap rate when you have only one mishap every three or four years. Obviously, in the year that mishap occurs, it drives the mishap rate up artificially high; if you have one mishap in several thousand hours of flying, it is a very high rate based on the way mishaps are calculated. I think what to focus on is that this has been an extraordinarily safe, low accident flying record over nearly 50 years of helicopter aviation.
Just to finish up on your multi-part question, so you get a multi-part answer, the Class-A mishap rate for the CH-46E is 2.5 every 100,000 hours -- that's for the whole class of helicopters. These are, as I said, have been work-horses of the Marine Corps since the mid-60's. The Marines choose only the best pilots and maintenance crews out of the Corps to serve in HMX-1 or to support HMX-1. Pilots must have at least 1,500 flight hours, which means that they've been flying for approximately four or five years to accumulate that many hours in the air. The maintenance people are very experienced and they pass extremely rigorous tests.
These helicopters, of course, are treated specially and this helicopter that burned in Orlando is not the type of helicopter that generally carries the President, he travels on a different type of helicopter than this. Yes, Susanne?
Q: I wanted to ask, can you tell us how many of those helicopters there are -- those white tops -- that do fly the President?
A: I can not tell you that, but there are several. One of the characteristics of HMX-1 is redundancy. And, obviously, I think, if you look at this mission it gives you an idea of why they have to have more than two dozen helicopters supporting the President. These helicopters were leap-frogging up Florida, carrying equipment, to meet the Presidential party when it arrived in another location. And, as you know, when the President travels on Marine-1, there are always two helicopters in the air and you can imagine there are back-up helicopters around as well.
Marine-1 is a VH-3D -- that's the one you see him getting into and out of when he lands at the White House.
Q: There have been some phone calls made to press agencies that there is a rogue-military unit that is out to get the President and has only been able to conduct sabotage on his support unit, so far. Do you have any evidence that there is a conspiratorial group trying to sabotage the safety of the President?
A: What nationality is this rogue military unit? I have no evidence. I mean it's certainly a very disturbing allegation and I have to assume that these calls are being made by nut- cases, but, as I say, this is the first I've heard of those calls. I will refer this information to the White House. I hope that the news agencies have already.
We take all charges like this very, very seriously and this is absolutely no exception. However, I want to be perfectly clear that from what we can tell in this case, this disaster occurred -- this accident occurred -- we believe, because the helicopter hit a light post with its rotor blade. The rotor blades are about 25 feet long. The investigation will confirm whether that was the case. And, the investigation will determine why this happened. In this case, we have the entire crew to talk to; we have the air traffic control crew to talk to. It's a much less complicated accident then some are.
Second, the other accident today was a rather routine mechanical incident and the helicopter stopped because these people are trained to be extremely careful and rather than take any risk whatsoever; as soon as the light went on, they landed safely, got out of the helicopter and began going through their normal maintenance procedures for such an event. Yes, Charlie?
Q: You said the first incident occurred at 11:15. When did the other one occur, that put down in the field? Was that?
A: I'm afraid I don't have the exact time of that, but we can get you that information.
Q: Was that after the?
A: I just do not have the time. Colonel, do you know the time of that? We'll get you the time. Ivan?
Q: May I ask a somewhat related question? Do I get a multi-part question, too?
A: Ivan, I've never known you not to ask a multi-part question.
Q: A somewhat related -- underline "somewhat," but ... a strike by machinists against McDonnell-Douglas in St. Louis is now about three months old. Is the Department of Defense getting quantity and quality of aircraft and weapons systems, according to the specs -- the same quality and quantity that it got before the strike? What about readiness?
A: This is the same question you asked several weeks ago, as I recall.
Q: I'm just getting an update if you don't mind.
A: Well, the update is, basically, what I told you. The status is the same and the reason for that is that we have a considerable stock of aircraft parts and other critical weapons components in our supply system world-wide and, so far, we have not begun to run down on these parts. So, we are working from our inventories. That means no challenge to readiness, yet.
Now, my understanding is that this strike involving the machinists' union and McDonnell-Douglas in St. Louis has not stopped all work at the plant and that there is still some production going on, is that correct?
Q: That's correct and I guess the thrust of the question would be perhaps not quantity, but quality control?
A: Well, in situations like this, whenever there's a strike that allows production to continue, we have a special inspection program that swings into effect to make sure that parts are up to normal quality standards and that has happened in this case. So, we basically have a two-line defense, the first is -- two-line defense against degraded readiness -- the first line of defense is that we have adequate parts in our inventory and have not drawn down our inventory to critical levels yet.
And, the second to the extent that new parts from this factory are entering the inventory, they're subject to very special inspection procedures.
Q: Does that include the weapons systems in the planes themselves, when you say parts?
A: Well, it includes what comes out of the factory. Tammy?
Q: New subject?
A: Are we through with ...
Q: Just to sum up, one. A question one of my editors asked me which, I think, it may sound kind of silly on the surface, but I think it sort of gets to what some of the general public thinks when they see an accident like this which is, if this could happen to one of the helicopters in the Presidential fleet, I mean, could it happen to the helicopter that carries the President. What can you say to reassure the American public about the safety of the travel of the President of the United States in Marine Corps helicopters?
A: The President himself, has expressed, today, after he was informed of this, complete confidence in the professionalism, the quality, and the safety of his Marine Corps flight crew. And, so, first of all, I think that the person who deals most directly with these pilots has complete confidence in them. Secondly, the training and maintenance procedures are all extraordinary for the people involved in HMX-1. And, those will continue. The third is that this squadron, over nearly 50 years of flying, has a splendid safety record and there is absolutely no indication that that's changing.
These seem to be two isolated incidents, one would get no attention whatsoever. That is, the routine landing for precautionary reasons would get no attention whatsoever if it hadn't happened on a day when another helicopter had burned. And, fourth, of course, there's a pinnacle of precaution here and that is when the President flies, he gets even more attention from air traffic controllers from crew and maintenance people than anybody else.
Just to give you an example. This accident occurred at a time when two helicopters, two Marine Corps helicopters were taxiing in parallel down a runway. That would not have happened with the President. He would be going alone down a runway. And there would be other precautions taken, so, I think that this was clearly an unfortunate incident, but I don't think it casts aspersions on the overall safety record and professionalism of Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron-1.
Q: Are you saying that if this pilot had been piloting his aircraft, he perhaps would not have hit a pole?
A: I'm not saying that at all. That's for the investigator to find out. All I'm saying is the procedures would have been different for the President.
Q: Do you have any assessment of the accuracy of the weapons that were used in Iraq, yet? Anything you can tell us beyond what has been said thus far?
A: Before I move on to that surprising question, I'd like to tell you that incident involving the second helicopter -- where the hydraulic problem light went on and the helicopter landed for precautionary reasons -- that occurred at 11 a.m. this morning. That helicopter was also coming in to Orlando Executive Airport, but it landed short of the airport.
Now, to go back to the question you asked about bomb damage assessment. I don't have as much information as you'd like, or I'm not prepared to give you as much information as you like -- and one problem is that we do not yet have imagery that we can release publicly to explain what happened. We're working to get that, but it's probably some time off. I would say, several days, but as soon as I say, "several days," then, you'll be asking me on Tuesday where the darn stuff is.
So, I'm going to hesitate to suggest any timeframe when the new information will be available. But, let me address the topic just in general terms if I can.
First, as Secretary Perry explained to some of you yesterday, the question of cruise missile accuracy has to be considered, I think, in context. Cruise missiles are highly accurate. They are not perfectly accurate. And, the way we measure accuracy of cruise missiles is statistically. And, these missiles that were used, the TLAMs and the CALCMs -- the air- launched conventional air-launched cruise missiles -- have an accuracy defined as a "circular error probable" of 12 to 13 meters. If you have a circular error probable of 12 meters it means that 50 percent of the missiles fired will land in a circle with a 12-meter radius around the aim point. Fifty percent will land inside that circle.
To put that in terms easier to understand, 12 or 13 meters is approximately 14 yards. If you were looking at a football field, if you were aiming for the 50-yard line, 50 percent of the missiles would land within the 36-yard lines on either side of the 50-yard line.
These are missiles that have traveled, in this case, about 500 miles from their launch point. They were launched either at sea from ships or submarines -- or from airplanes. They have ranges longer than that. Some can travel over 1,000 statute miles. So the missiles that are launched, they travel 500 or more miles and they land -- 50 percent of them land -- close to the 50-yard line in a football field. Almost all the rest would land somewhere else on the football field.
A few would land off the football field, but still in stadium -- maybe at the concession stand or something and a few might land outside the stadium. So, we aren't talking about missiles that are expected, 100 percent of the time, to hit their targets on the nose. We're talking statistically about missiles that 50 percent of the time will land within a radius of their targets. Yes?
Q: So, even if there's a 50 percent chance that it hits the target or it meets specifications, what are the chances that if it doesn't land within that radius, that it's still going to do damage to the intended target?
A: Well, that's a good question, but it's almost impossible to answer because it depends on the nature of the target. A hardened target -- certain hardened targets -- could survive a direct hit. These are not the biggest conventional warheads in our inventory and it depends a lot on the type of target that's being attacked. All of these things have to be fit into the mix. Yes?
Q: Just a point of information about the -- pardon my ignorance -- about how these operate. Are these cruises -- are they visually triggered, visually detonated, types of systems or, I mean, how could they not be perfectly accurate if they were visually ... How do they work?
A: Well, remember these are guided by the Global Positioning satellite system and they have programmed into them their destination. And, as they fly, they take fixes from a network of satellites in the air and you can program -- just like a commercial air flight -- you could program them to fly a straight line from point of launch to point of impact, or you could program them to fly a crooked line, perhaps, to evade air defenses or other obstacles. So, these missiles are programmed to fly over considerable distance. They are not guided by somebody looking at a target through cross-hairs, you know, giving it a little more juice on the right, a little less on the left, to turn it around.
Q: So, they're not guided like smart bombs?
A: No, they are not. They are not. These are remote. They're remote and they have built into them ... In this case, all the missiles were guided by the Global Positioning satellite system.
Q: Ken, you've done an admirable job of explaining exactly how you measure, now can you tell us how many of these 44 missiles, to the best of your knowledge at this point, hit the 50- yard line, the 40-yard line, the concession stand, and how many landed outside the stadium?
A: Well, I want to tell you that that's not the right standard to use. It is a standard and let me explain, let me move on to a second point about bomb damage assessment. The first standard, of course, is did the missiles complete the mission? And in this case, we had a two-part mission. The first mission was to make a statement to Saddam Hussein that we would not let violence go unchallenged.
We fear that if Saddam Hussein gets the idea that he can massacre minorities in his own country, or use force against his neighbors, if he's unchallenged on that unacceptable activity, he will continue to do it. So, we acted to deter that. And, I think, that political statement was made and, I think, that part of the mission was highly successful.
The second part of the mission was to suppress air defenses in an extended no-fly zone in southern Iraq. As you know, we moved the no-fly zone from the 32nd parallel up to the 33rd and now approximately 60 percent of Saddam Hussein's airspace is under no-fly zones, being patrolled by American and other coalition aircraft. So, those were the goals of this mission and, I think, the first question everybody has to ask is whether those goals were, in fact, reached by this mission. And the answer is "yes."
Q: Well, we've asked that question and you've answered it and I'll accept your answer. But, now, I'd like to ask another question which is not about how effective the bomb damage was, not about whether the mission was accomplished, you've just answered those. This is question number 3, what was the accuracy of the missiles?
A: Well, as I said, the first way to judge accuracy is whether they achieved the mission. And, I'm going to tell you that they did and give you some details on that. But, you're asking a second question. And the second -- another part of assessment of the mission is, How well did the weapons work?
The first answer to that is, did they achieve the mission? And, yes, they did achieve the mission. The second answer is -- in an absolute sense -- did they work as well as expected? Yes, these worked as well as expected. We expected that 50 percent of them will land within a certain radius of the targets and they did.
The third issue is, in an absolute sense, Wwhat happened to every single piece or ordnance fired? We do not have the answer to that yet. The reason we don't have the answer is that we're dealing with a sort of a bell-curve dispersion of where the missiles go -- with 50 percent of them within the radius and others spread out. We have not been able to find all the missiles, their points of impact at this stage.
The reason is that the people who assess that -- who actually look at the information -- are the same people who are providing intelligence for ongoing operations. So, obviously, they concentrate primarily on sorting out, How we did last night, or the night before, or the week before; What happened to the targets; and, How do we proceed with the next set of targets. That's what they have been concentrating on first. They will get around eventually, when they have time, since the same analysts do both of these things.
Q: [Inaudible] have a next set of targets?
A: I didn't say we had another set of targets, but that's the reason why we have not accounted for all these missiles.
Q: Can you give us an idea of how many are not accounted for, whether they're?
A: I cannot at this stage. But, let me just give you a sense of what happened here. After the second strike, the overall assessment was that the two strikes, involving 44 cruise missiles, had achieved a severe degradation of Iraqi defenses south of the 33rd parallel. There were two sets of targets: there were SAM sites; and then there were command and control and air defense centers. Looking at the first set of targets, we concluded that of the eight SAM sites involved, all had been damaged or vacated. Of the eight SAM sites involved, five were determined to be severely destroyed or damaged. One was either damaged or vacated. In two, we determined that the targets had been moved before they were hit. So, basically, the targets we were aiming had been moved before the missiles got there.
The second set of targets involved, as I said, the air defense and command and control facilities. These, basically, are the facilities that integrate the air defense system and tie together parts in the west with parts in the east, etc. And, of those seven targets, we determined that: one had been destroyed or severely damaged; that four had been damaged, degraded -- performance degraded significantly or vacated; and that here had been no or minor damage on two. So, that's basically looking at the targets at fifteen, how it sorted out.
I want to repeat what General Ralston said several days ago when he gave you up here a picture of a site, of a target. These targets are not one thing like this. They're frequently an area that -- there might be facilities that stretch out over a square kilometer or more. And, they might involve several missiles, maybe six missiles; some radar; maybe some command facilities -- and so there could be a number of aim points at each target. In other words, we're not firing 44 missiles at 15 discrete targets. A target can include several aim points. And, typically, or at least in this mission, we planned it so that two missiles were fired at each aim point.
Now, I'm not in a position to tell you the number of aim points at this stage, but, as we have more information available, I will do my best to either relay it to you, or get somebody with more expertise in bomb damage assessment to relay it to you.
Q: Just bringing up these figures for a moment, and you say, no new strikes are planned ...
A: Hey, wait a minute -- wait a moment. Ivan, I don't want to talk about new strikes. I didn't mean to suggest that there were or were not going to be new strikes. That's an entirely different issue.
I was talking about the people who handle operations -- they are the same people who are looking at the intelligence from the aircraft flying over; they are looking, everyday, at new intelligence coming in. We are carrying out operations over the no-fly zone, so we have to evaluate information coming in every day. I do not mean to suggest that anything is going to or not going to happen in the future. I don't deal in the future.
Q: I'm not trying to put words in your mouth. What I'm saying is, looking at the figures you just gave us, when you talk about the SAM sites ... First of all, you say five of eight were severely damaged or destroyed ... At least three, which are not severely damaged or destroyed ... If you look at the other seven targets, you say two, there was no or minimal damage ... So, it seems that the mission, even though perhaps successful, was certainly not carried out.
A: No. I said that the targets ... In two sites, the targets we were aiming for had moved before the missiles got there. That's what I said.
Q: So, you have two million-dollar holes in the ground?
A: What we have is a mission that succeeded in its goal, which was suppressing enemy air defenses. If the enemy feels that it can not leave its air defenses in one place, that it has to keep them on the move all the time, we've achieved a certain amount of degradation of that air defense system.
Now, I want to also stress that this is the analysis, shortly after the strikes. Yes?
Q: Ken, what was the cost of the operation?
A: I don't have the complete cost, yet.
Q: Rough estimate?
A: I don't even have a rough estimate. I mean, the cost of TLAMs is over a million dollars a piece, probably over $1.5 [million] a piece. The difficulty is, How do you calculate the cost of the conventional air-launched cruise missiles? These were initially designed to carry nuclear ordnance and they've been modified to carry conventional ordnance.
Again, looking at the cost as ... I know you're frustrated, because I don't have an exact figure, but you always have to make trade-offs and one cost we didn't pay was any losses of air crews or airplanes on this mission. Yes?
Q: I want to get back to the CEP issue, if you say that the one thing you know is they met the specification -- and Secretary Perry said that -- that means at least 22 missiles accounted for, is that right? Because otherwise you can't calculate the 50 percent? That [inaudible] 22 you know hit the target that's well within the CEP of 12 meters?
A: Yes. Yes, basically, that's correct. I don't have the figures right here in front of me, but ...
Q: So, we have 22 ...
A: Well, I don't want to be locked into that, because I don't have the list here in front of me. But, yes, basically, these ... I think there may be a misconception and, maybe I'm taking a big risk in trying to clarify this misconception. The American military is extremely good. Our weaponry is extraordinary and we have extraordinarily well-trained people running the weaponry. They're not flawless. And, the weapons do not hit their targets 100 percent of the time.
Q: No, but you did say they met their specification and I want to just clarify if that's really what they did? I want to follow-up one other thing. Were all of the weapons GPS-guided? Because that would mean that they were all block three Tomahawks?
A: They were all GPS-guided, yes.
Q: Well, the last question I wanted to ask is do you have any indication of the accuracy -- which were better, the CALCMs or the Tomahawk?
A: I do not have that now. I'm not sure that analysis has been done yet. Yes?
Q: Just another quick clarification. You said before about the intelligence analysts doing both jobs, or having to do both jobs of identifying targets, and also doing BDA. Is that always the case? Because the question that pops up in my mind is, During an ongoing operation, isn't that done continuously? Aren't both done continuously to determine whether that target needs to be hit again?
A: Yes, it is done continuously. But, I'm talking about, if you -- just sticking with statistics for a minute -- if you have a bell-curve distribution of where these missiles are going to land, some may land, some may not get to the target, they may land beyond the target. They have to be located and they have to be charted.
People are concentrating on looking at the narrowest possible spectrum, the targets themselves and what happens to the targets themselves. They're not searching as broadly right now for the missiles that didn't hit. Their primary concern is, What happened to the targets? How degraded are they? And, How much has the risk been reduced to American pilots? And that's what we were concentrating on. We will try to reconstruct what happened to every missile, and why, to the best of our ability. But, that will take longer. That's the point I'm trying to make and, I think, that's what Jamie wanted to know. Yes?
Q: Ken, when you say that some of these sites -- some of them had been vacated before the strike and some were vacated after?
A: That happened in both cases. Some were vacated after and some before, right. You might vacate afterwards, because after somebody has shot a cruise missile at you, you might not want to stay at the site. Bill?
Q: Yes, Ken. There are two more issues on this. Now, you say that the strike was, basically, to punish Saddam, and my second question will address that. But first, was the security -- as Secretary Perry spoke -- the security of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the southern flank are our vested interests, was that improved indeed by: 1) hitting these sites; 2) extending the no- fly zone significantly in that he cannot cover his armored forces in a southern advance?
A: Our strategic position was improved and his was degraded by expanding the no-fly zone and by inflicting a heavy cost on his air defense system. Yes. The answer to that is "yes."
Q: OK, and the policy, after the Gulf War, of allowing Iraq to retain enough military clout to defend itself, that has not been degraded, that policy has not been changed?
A: Well, if that was the policy, it has not been changed. We have made it very clear to Saddam that our primary goal is to enforce the no-fly zone to prevent him from mounting attacks against his neighbors and we continue to do that.
Q: And, my second point then, in a New York Times article today by Mr. Weiner, it says that he advanced himself in the north over the costs he had to pay and that he bolstered his political standing by our attacks, what would you say to that?
A: Well, I guess that's a judgment. If you feel that losing control over a 60-mile ribbon of air sovereignty right across the middle of your country, just south of the suburbs of the capital city, is enhancing your political stature, I suppose that's true. I don't happen to see it that way. It seems to me that when a leader loses control over a 60-mile slice of air sovereignty in the middle of his country it has to degrade his political stature.
Q: Of the 44 missiles that were fired, did the plan call for more missiles than that to be used and some of them never got fired because there were programming hang-ups and there were other difficulties aboard the ship, the ships in particular, so that you were unable to fire the number of missiles you had planned to fire, especially in the first round?
A: Without getting into great detail, there were, the first night, several missiles that weren't programmed completely in time for the raid, and therefore were not fired. It's not a large number. And, the second night, there were at least several missiles that did not fire as planned. In one case, at least, a back-up missile was fired from another platform.
Q: Why didn't the missile fire as planned?
A: I don't think we know, right now.
Q: The combination of the difficulty of programming at a particular speed and maybe a mechanical or some other reason, you had half a dozen missiles out of the suite of missiles that you were trying to fire roughly, but you couldn't get off the rails?
A: One key to military success is redundancy. And, another key to military success is good planning. And because we know the military is run by humans, and using weapons designed and built by humans, we know that they are not flawless. And, therefore, we take into account the fact that everything might not work as planned, the first time. So as good planners, the military is prepared when something doesn't always work as planned.
Q: So, is my estimate of roughly half a dozen missiles that were unable to be fired for one reason or another, approximately right?
A: As far as I know, it's approximately right. But, you should be clear that there are two separate reasons for that: the first group, it was because they weren't programmed in time. So, that's one of the reasons that sometimes strikes occur over more than one day.
Q: Can you say if it takes hours or days to program ... Can you be a little more specific about that problem?
A: Well, first of all, I don't know whether it's right to call it a "problem." We're always looking for ways to do things faster, but some complex tasks naturally take a long time. I can't give you an exact figure of how long it takes to do the programming. Yes?
Q: I have kind of a follow-up to the other question. Is there any concern that Saddam Hussein's military has been damaged to the point where he would'nt be able to fend of an attack from Iran?
A: We've been very explicit to Iran about not complicating the stability in the Middle East by attacking other countries and we don't see signs that Iran is preparing to attack now.
Q: Did we allow Iraq an air force for that very reason, to defend themselves against neighbors?
A; I can't speculate about that. Yes?
Q: Do you know what happened to the HARM? Did, I mean, did the mission because it suppressed the [inaudible]?
A: I don't know that yet. I don't know what happened whether the HARM knocked it out or whether it shut off. That's a good question, I'll try to find out. Phil?
Q: Do you have any thoughts about what the President's Advisory Panel on Gulf War Illness has said about the Pentagon staff recommendations?
A: Well, they were staff comments, as I understand it, not comments of the Commission, is that correct? I understand that the staff is working for the Commission, but won't actually issue the report. The Commission itself will end up issuing the report.
In 1995, the President launched a major initiative to learn everything possible about Persian Gulf Illness. And, he instructed the Pentagon and the CIA and other agencies, the Veteran's Administration, to do more to help the veterans. And, the Pentagon, for its part, launched a four-part program. And, that program involves the clinical evaluation program involving over 20,000 Gulf War veterans.
It involved stepped up research into the science of the illnesses and some of these research projects have been subject to peer review. It involved the declassification and dissemination of many health-related documents and those have been made available on the Internet -- some of which you have reported on. And, it also involved a final point, a so-called Persian Gulf investigative team.
My understanding is that the staff of the Presidential Advisory Group commented on the activity of that team. So, my first point is that, it was looking at one part of a four-part effort by the Pentagon to deal with this issue. I have not gone over all of the comments or charges that the staff made yesterday, but I can tell you that the team is working very hard to locate people who may have been around Kamisiyah in March of 1991, when the weapons storage depot was destroyed. We've now contacted about 500 people and we figure that's about half of the people who might have been in a broad area.
We are investigating all reports of detections made, during that time, by gas detecting devices; and we are also -- as Dr. Joseph said yesterday -- continuing with research. And, we will press ahead with that. Dr. Joseph said, yesterday, that we're very pleased to sit down with the Committee. We're on the same team. We're trying to get to the bottom of a mystery. We are guided by our scientific findings and we assume that the Committee will also be guided by its scientific findings or its factual findings. But, we're ready to sit down with them and do everything we can to sort through this.
Q: Talk about the assertion that this should be taken out of the hands of the Pentagon?
A: Well, that's something that I wouldn't think makes a lot of sense at this stage, but I assume that the Commission will consider its own staff recommendations and come to a judgment as to whether the recommendations make sense or not.
We're dealing here with an issue that is both wrenching from a human standpoint and complex from a scientific standpoint. And, we are doing it by dealing with evidence that is old; pawing through thousands of documents -- analyzing these documents; trying to contact people who have symptoms; and trying to match up what we know about what happened in the battlefield or -- in this particular case, involving Kamisiyah -- after the battle was over, with the health responses of the people in the area.
We have to reconstruct wind patterns; dispersion rates for possible chemical dispersion. We have to evaluate the responses of our detectors, which are frequently conflicting and ambiguous and we're trying to do all that. But, our main goal, from the very beginning, has been to provide adequate health care to the people who are still in the military -- the Gulf War veterans who are still in the military -- and the Veterans' Administration is doing what it can to provide health care to people who are out of the military.
Q: Was the Department put off or surprised by the tone of the criticism [inaudible]?
A: I guess, Phil, I'd have to admit that we seldom get congratulations for the way things have gone over the last four years in Persian Gulf illness. As I said, it's a very wrenching question from a human standpoint and it's a very complex scientific question. We have not dodged asking the hard questions, but we have not been able to answer hard problems, right now.
We've tried to be guided by the evidence and we'll continue to do that. The Persian Gulf investigative team has launched over 50 studies to try to answer questions about the link between chemical weapons in the Iraqi inventory during the war and the health of veterans who fought during the war. And many of those studies are designed to ask the one question that is on everybody's mind. And, that is, Was there a link between the existence of chemical weapons in the Iraqi inventory and the health problems suffered by some of the veterans?
Q: You said, it wouldn't make much sense for the Pentagon to hand over these responsibilities to an outside body. But if the Commission, indeed, decides to recommend this, do you think the Pentagon would then be willing to hand them ...
A: I want to go out of my way not to pick a fight with the Commission. We're on the same team. We are trying to work in this Administration to do everything we can to explain what happened and how we can improve the care for the veterans who are suffering from illnesses after the war. That is our goal.
It would be much easier if we could attribute all the illness or a large portion of the illnesses to a single cause. We have not been able to do that yet. The research is continuing. The Kamisiyah case is a perfect example of the type of work that's being done at the Pentagon today.
Yes, there was a document that was sent to people in Washington, in 1991. It did not provide as much specificity about what happened at Kamisiyah and who was in the area, as some people have suggested, but that document was overlooked for a long period of time. It was sent in at a time when, first of all, Persian Gulf Illness hadn't become a real issue, in late '91. The war had ended in the spring of '91, and many of these health effects that seem so evident today had not shown up, yet.
Secondly, to the extent that we were looking at health effects and, specifically, to the extent that we were looking to the impact of possible chemical exposure, we were focusing on what happened during the war itself. And, as you know, better than most, the Kamisiyah destruction occurred after the war had ended. So, again, in retrospect, you would look at everything all at once -- in fact, in life, you have to sequence your effort and we had sequenced it to look first at the war. I'll take your question in just a sec.
When we discovered new information about Kamisiyah, then UNSCOM happened to check the area to collate all the evidence we had about that area and about the destruction of that dump. It did this earlier this year, I believe in May, to find out if there was any evidence of chemicals there and it did find evidence. When we found that out, we announced it to the Presidential Advisory Group and we announced it to the press.
What we don't know, yet, is whether the fact that there were chemicals in Bunker 73 at Kamisiyah is directly responsible for some of the illnesses being endured by people who were in the area. We may find that there is a link. We haven't found it, yet. We are not trying to avoid finding a link. Quite the opposite, we are trying to find -- we are trying to reach the conclusions that the evidence leads us to. Yes, sorry?
Q: Give a little elaboration about whether taking it out of the Pentagon's hands and you said that's something I wouldn't think makes a lot of sense. Elaborate on that as to why?
A: Well, first of all, this is something that a team of experts has been working on for a considerable amount of time. As you know, after the President launched his effort to leave no stone unturned, in 1995, this team was set up.
People have been working on this going through documents. There are a considerable number of documents. We have been working on the epidemiological studies and I would think that there would be a considerable climb up a new learning curve that would set back our efforts considerably if it were to start again. But, as I say, we're part of an Administration; we're part of a government that's determined to find out as much about this as we can and to deliver the best possible care to victims of illnesses suffered during the Gulf War and we will do what people determine is best.
This is not my decision to make, but the reason the President set up the Advisory Group in the first place was to try to get to the bottom of this. And, we have been working hard to support that. Every month, almost, there is extensive testimony by DoD officials and CIA officials, given in public -- anybody can attend these meetings -- and then carried on the Internet afterwards. We're not trying to cover this stuff up. We're trying to get it out. We're trying to allow people to reach the conclusions and to help us get to the bottom of this.
Q: Yesterday, Dr. Joseph talked about an alternative framework for looking at this investigation into nerve gas exposure. Does he have something in mind?
A: I'm afraid I can't answer that question. I'm sure he has something in mind, he always has something in mind, but I just don't know, specifically. I wasn't there and I will try to talk to him and find out. Yes?
Q: Has the PGIT here or any other Pentagon unit discovered any exposure to chemical agents besides Kamisiyah?
A: Well, you know, there was a case where a soldier got blisters on his skin by putting his hand in water tinged with mustard gas. So, that clearly was an instance of exposure. There have been reports of the existence of chemical agents by detection devices. I'm not aware that -- and those are -- I mean, I don't know what sort of exposure may have come from that.
The problem here is over a -- is going back into history and sort of reconstructing where people were, dispersion rates, etc. We still do not believe that Iraq used chemical weapons in the war. But we know that they had chemical weapons and we know that they were exploded and destroyed in the course of the war effort. So, this is exactly the type of question we've been looking at since 1991. Thank you.