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DoD News Briefing - October 31, 1996

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
October 31, 1996 2:40 PM EDT

October 31, 1996 - 2:40 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: I'd like to begin with an announcement about the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee. This is important. They will host a media day tomorrow at 10 a.m. at its headquarters, which are 4301 Suitland Road in Suitland, Maryland. It's an hour- long program to include briefings on the committee's operations, detailing the military support of the 53rd president inauguration and opportunities to talk with the staff of the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee. We've got currently 324 personnel assigned from all services to the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, and that will peak at about 820 in January, which incidentally is about -- is nearly 200 less than we deployed in 1993 for the last inaugural. So that's tomorrow at 10 o'clock.

With that, I'll take your questions. Yes.

Q: I have a question about a letter that -- a memo, I should say, that I found on the Internet this morning from a Mr. Paul Wallner, staff director, Senior Level Oversight Panel, Persian Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses where he outlines the identification and processing for sensitive operational records. And several points mentioned in it, such as being careful how to respond to, in particular, what may be bombshell reports, information which could embarrass the government or DOD.

How much did these deadlines delay the release of information as the building sought to look at these things very carefully to make sure you were prepared to give an accurate response? A: Well, first of all, this is the same memo that says, I believe, the purpose of this procedure is not to stop any declassified or unclassified document from going on GulfLINK, but to allow the investigation team time to begin preparation of a response? Is that right? Is that the same memo? That says it's not designed to --

Q: (Off mike) -- It's dated 3 November 1995?

A: Right, exactly. Well, as the memo points out, the purpose of this was to give us time to marshal information that would allow us to explain the impact of these memos -- not to stop the memos from going on the GulfLINK. I don't believe that this memo significantly delayed the release of any of the information.

Q: But because of the nature of the memorandum, doesn't it reinforce the vets [and] critics that the Pentagon had something to hide or has something to hide?

A: The Pentagon has nothing to hide. I think that's clear from our performance over the last several months. We've been aggressive in releasing information. We released the information about Khamisiyah. We've released information about possible chemical exposure. We've put a number of documents on the GulfLINK. We will put more on later on. I think it's completely unfair to charge us with sitting on information.

Parenthetically, most of the -- I think there have been two classes of stories that have been written or run on TV about Gulf War illness recently. I would say recently; my definition is since June. One class are stories that spring directly from information that we've made available, much of it announced right here on this platform. The other class of stories, I think, have rehashed old information that's been out for some time. And much of this information has been reviewed by Congress in 1993, the Riegle commission. Much of it's been reviewed by the presidential advisory commission. All of it's been reviewed by the DIA, the CIA, the Defense Department and other government agencies. Much of it's been reported upon in official documents that have come out.

We're working hard to get to the bottom of what may have caused some of the difficult-to-diagnose symptoms that some veterans are suffering. I think we've been very clear and forward leaning in our descriptions of the medical care we're providing and the scientific studies we've launched. I think we've been very forthright in releasing information as we've gotten it about what we believed happened during the Gulf War and after the Gulf War. That's of course what applies to Khamisiyah. That happened after the war was over.

Q: If I may follow up, Ken. Realizing that the concept behind this memo is probably very credible, are you concerned at all about the language which was used in setting forth the directives of how the information should be handled?

A: Absolutely not. I mean, this strikes me as a reasonable stance to take. The memo is forthright in stressing that the goal is not to stop information from getting on GulfLINK. It is a simple request that certain documents be called to the attention of people who were -- who could get more information in order to respond to your inquiries. I think that, actually, if we had -- I think that this is a prudent approach, and it's an approach we take all the time. And I think any prudent person would take it.

Q: Do you know whether, as a result of this directive, any documents did not go onto GulfLINK because they were found to be too sensitive?

A: As you know, Ed, the problem with what happened to GulfLINK is that too many documents were put on GulfLINK, according to some intelligence analysts, not that not enough were put on GulfLINK.

So I think we operated -- we acted in this building aggressively and quickly to get these documents out. And, you know, it was determined afterwards that too many were declassified. We're in the process of reviewing those, and we have put back hundreds of documents that were initially taken off. I think there were -- to begin with -- 1,400 documents put on GulfLINK. And we have -- after they were pulled off, many of them were put back on relatively quickly, and we're trying to get the rest put back on as soon as we can.

I hope we can do it. It would be a lot easier for me if all these documents were back on GulfLINK, and they were there for everybody to examine.

Q: Ken?

Q: Ken?

A: Yes, Tammy?

Q: Did the criteria laid out in this memo have anything to do with any -- with decisions to remove documents in February 1996?

A: No.

Yes, Ivan.

Q: On the related subject of the Gulf War syndrome -- and correct me if I'm wrong. But in recent months the thrust from the podium has been to see if any low-level contamination from sarin or related agents came from the destruction of the bunkers in the pit at Al-Khamisiyah. There has been some testimony within the past 48 hours from people who said yes, but there was also the strong possibility that U.S. forces came under chemical attack from Saddam Hussein. Can we say again, does this building have any evidence at the moment or to the moment that our forces were attacked in any way by chemical agents during the Gulf War? A: We have no evidence that Iraq used chemical or biological weapons during the Gulf War. This was stated in a letter sent out in 1994 by Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili. It was the conclusion of the analysts who reviewed the Gulf War activities in the official reports put out by the Defense Department. The Iraqis themselves have said that they did not use chemical weapons during the war. And the U.N. has found no evidence that chemical weapons were used during the war. We have not found, in short, any evidence that Iraq used its chemical weapons during the war.

Yes, Pat.

Q: You've led us to believe that the destruction of the chemical weapons at Khamisiyah was done by accident. And Dr. Joseph referred to 40 personal interviews conducted with enlisted men and officers at Khamisiyah. Do you have any evidence that prior to the destruction of the chemical rockets that some of the troops had identified what they thought were chemical munitions and warned their superiors?

A: I do not have any evidence that that's the case. I know that some veterans have talked about stripes appearing on some of the weapons and have deduced that these were signs that they were chemical weapons. I have read that. From my discussions with people in the Pentagon who have looked into this, I'm not aware that commanders at the time had evidence that there were chemical weapons there.

Q: Prior to the --

A: Prior to the destruction. Indeed, the whole significance or drama of what we announced in June was that we said for the first time we had concluded that there were chemical weapons there, that they were exploded, and that this created the possibility that some troops may have been exposed to chemicals. We did not know, prior to last spring, that there were in fact chemical weapons -- we had not concluded decisively prior to last spring that there were chemical weapons there.

Q: Chemical weapons was a concern of all the commanders in destroying these bunkers. How are our troops alerted to spot chemical munitions before these destructions? A: Well, one of the things we're trying to piece together, by reaching out to people who were there at the time, was exactly that type of information, what they were told. We did have experts on chemical weapons in the Gulf, in the theater, throughout the training, the preparations for the war and for the war itself.

And I had referred earlier to the report that the Pentagon filed on the war called "The Conduct of the Persian Gulf War." It was a report sent to Congress in April of 1992. There's a whole appendix on chemical and biological warfare defense, and it talks about the teams that were sent over there, how they were trained, how many of them there were, what they did, and how troops were trained and outfitted to respond to the possibility of chemical attack. As I said, this report concluded that there was no chemical attack, no use. It says here: It is not known why Iraq did not use chemical or biological weapons. But it concludes that it did not.

Q: Ken --

A: Excuse me. Just let me finish.

So one of the things we're trying to find out is exactly what the troops at the time were told. But there were experts with them who knew about chemical weapons; and there were some detection devices used at the time. Exactly what was used we're still in the process of trying to sort out, but there were some used on the scene.

As we testified here from this podium when we talked about Khamisiyah in June, there were not, prior to the detonation of Bunker 73, indications that there were chemicals in the area.

Q: But are you referring to the hand-held chemical detector?

A: Yes, I'm referring to the detectors that were used at the time.

Q: Was that used at Khamisiyah, to your knowledge?

A: I believe that there were some detectors used, yes.

Q: Could you make available to us the interviews that you've conducted so far with the individuals at Khamisiyah?

A: The last time I asked about that, they wanted to get a complete set of interviews. I'll look into that and see if there are some interviews we can make available. I've found, as I've said before, that the press has had no trouble finding people to interview about what happened at Khamisiyah, so I assume that you have your own sense of what happened there.

Q: But we're all trying to build a picture on the reports of detections there as well. How is that investigation going -- on the missing reports?

A: Well, as I said, one of the reasons we're reaching out to these people is to get accounts from them of exactly what they did, where they were, and what happened. It may seem easy to reconstruct this, but this happened over five years ago. People obviously weren't thinking about chemicals at the time, or they would have acted differently, I assume. There were no signs of acute chemical exposure after these explosions took place at Khamisiyah. So we are trying to find out from these people exactly what they did.

Q: There were detections, and were those -- I mean, Dr. Joseph says now there were two confirmed detections of sarin at Khamisiyah --

A: No, I don't believe that's what he said. I'd have to go back and check the record. But I believe what he said was that two alarms went off --

Q: Alarms --

A: -- after Khamisiyah. We used --

Q: Confirmations --

A: We used the chemical detection kits after that, and we were unable to confirm that. I believe that's what he said. But I will double-check that.

Q: No, I think he said two -- he had two confirmations from NCOs interviewed at the scene. And the question is what --

A: I think we're -- let me get the -- let me get from him what he actually said.

My understanding of what happened was that there were two chemical alarms that went off. When we moved in with the 256 kits to confirm -- in other words, to make a more precise determination -- we were unable to find that there were chemicals in the air. I believe that's what the case is. But I will double-check that.

Q: Is there any record of the alarms going off at the 24th Division, 101st Airborne, or reports from Khamisiyah going up the chain of command to XVIII Corps, ARCENT CENTCOM? How is that investigation? Have you found any records of reports from Khamisiyah on March 4 and March 10, 1991?

A: I'm not aware that we have. I will check. I just -- I'm not aware that we have.

Q: You were checking on that the last time.

A: Yes. And sometimes it takes longer to make these checks than I or you would like.

Q: Ken, what is the process --

A: Just a second, Joe?

Q: I'd like to go back to this point of the issue of the memo. Of these documents that are now on the Internet, some of which are said to be classified, does the Defense Department intend to take any action against the individual who has posted this information in an effort to get some of the documents you have not cleared removed?

A: I think we'll have to -- I have not evaluated the documents that have been put back on the Internet.

This is a tricky and somewhat delicate situation. As I said, there were 1,400 documents put on the Internet initially. (Pause.) I'm sorry, I think there were a thousand documents posted in the summer of 1995. They were removed in 1996 in February. Six hundred of those were put back on the Internet. Four hundred of those are still being reviewed.

Now, during the time that these 1,000 documents were on there, over six months, about eight months -- seven or eight months, there were 33,000 inquiries into this database. There were 18 complete downloads of the documents. So obviously, many people read these documents. They were available to anybody in this room who had an Internet connection. And some people presumably, read or at least kept all of the documents.

As I say, a team comprised of people from the Defense Department and the CIA are currently reviewing the other 400 documents. I would hope that they'd be able to put as many as possible, if not all of them, back on the Internet as soon as possible. So far, they're still reviewing them.

I don't think I should speculate on what action we will take in response to people independently putting documents onto the Internet, until we have a chance to review those documents.

Yes?

Q: What's your progress on the CIA model? Do you anticipate progress is moving in a quick manner that will get it maybe before the election, or is it going to be after the election? A: Well, I would have to say that the chances of getting it before the election are pretty slim.

As you know, the CIA has announced that it's holding a press conference tomorrow. And one of the things they'll talk about is where things stand on completing that computerized model of what happened at Khamisiyah.

I can't give you a firm time of when this will be done. But we've already acted to reach out to a large number of soldiers we think were within a 50-kilometer perimeter of Khamisiyah between March 4th and March 15th, 1991. If it turns out we have to contact more soldiers later, we will do that. And, of course, any soldier is free to call in and give information or to call in an register for a medical examination.

Yes?

Q: Can you explain why DOD analysts and the CIA analysts, at least inasmuch as the Pentagon has said publicly, have come to one conclusion, and a pair of CIA analysts, namely the Eddingtons, have come to a completely different conclusion? And is there that type of disagreement among the analysts in this building and at the CIA generally speaking, or is the belief uniform outside of the Eddingtons that there was no offensive use and that other exposure was more limited?

A: I can't explain why the Eddingtons said what they did. I know they're writing a book and trying to sell it, and maybe they'll explain it in the book more completely than has been explained so far.

I've seen what they've said in the New York Times story, and I've seen what they said on CBS last night. They have reached a different conclusion than almost all the other analysts in this case. I think that in one respect they -- we are looking into this. We're not closing our eyes to any information. These documents on which they base their conclusions have been reviewed by the presidential advisory committee, they have been reviewed by the DIA -- they've presented the documents to the DIA and they've been reviewed, and they've been reviewed by the CIA as Dennis Boxx said yesterday.

We simply find no substantiation of their charges from the reviews that we have done and the reviews that the CIA has done and the presidential advisory committee.

Q: (Off mike) -- almost all other -- does that mean that there --

A: Well, I can't say that there is some analyst somewhere else in the government who hasn't reached this conclusion.

To a certain extent, their conclusions are illogical. If there was that much exposure during the war, you would have expected to see some sort of acute response from soldiers on the ground at the time. We didn't see that.

Now one of the issues we're looking at now, both from a scientific standpoint and from a medical care standpoint, and from a epidemiological standpoint of trying to gather information, is whether there was some type of low-level exposure that could have had a delayed impact on soldiers or that could have, in combination with oil fumes, smoke, other toxins in the environment or that might have been in the environment, could have affected some soldiers. That's one of the things we're looking at. So far we don't have any evidence that that's the case.

We're not closed-minded about this. We have watched a number of studies, and we've asked for peer review of these studies to find out if that's the case.

Q: Are you familiar with this University of Washington study that is soon to come out? Have you been made familiar with this study that essentially claims that the DOD and DOD-sponsored studies have not been sophisticated enough and have not taken into account variations such as genetic and ethnic variations, and also combination effects of drugs that were either given to soldiers or that they may have been taking independently in combination with other factors?

A: Is that a peer-reviewed study?

Q: I'm not entirely sure.

A: I'm not familiar with that study. I just asked that question because I think it's important in assessing the impact of studies to know the circumstances under which they were done.

There have been a number of other studies that have assessed the way we've looked at this and concluded that we are on the right track. As you know, we've asked both the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine to review what we're doing today, and I don't know when they'll finish that. It will be some time, I assume. But we're open to ways to improve the type of studies we're doing.

Q: Didn't the DIA review these Eddington documents at an earlier date, months ago? A: The DIA looked at these documents in early 1995. Mr. Eddington put together a briefing book which the DIA reviewed at the request of then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Deutch. And that review concluded that the documents did not verify or confirm the charges that the Eddingtons have since made.

Q: But were these essentially military documents?

A: They were -- these were documents that, as I understand it, form the basis for the Eddingtons' allegations today. These - - sorry?

Q: Why did Deutch ask DIA to do this?

A: From the very beginning, we have been trying to find out exactly what happened and why people have been affected the way -- why some people were affected the way they were during the Gulf War. We've been interested in getting to the bottom of this. We have nothing to hide. If there are -- if people have sustained injuries because of battlefield conditions that we don't fully appreciate, we want to find out what those conditions were. We want to find out how we can respond to them in the future. In fact, one of the things that current Deputy Secretary White has asked the National Academy of Sciences to do is look at steps we can take to improve our response to toxins or other chemicals that we might face in battlefield environments in the future.

Q: Did Eddington contact Deutch and ask for the DIA review? How did Deutch get involved in requesting the DIA analyze --

A: As I understand it, Mr. Eddington had put together a briefing on the topic in early 1995, and that -- I don't know whether he came to us or we went to him, but these documents were reviewed.

Q: On another topic?

A: Yeah.

Q: You said that you haven't evaluated the 226 documents, but they were among the 1,000 that were on the Internet before.

A: I'm sorry. Say that again?

Q: The 226 are supposedly among the 1,000 that were on the Internet before and were pulled off.

A: I don't know the answer to that question. Bryan, do you know?

PAUL WALLNER: Yes, that's right. That's correct.

A: All 226 were part of those that were pulled off?

PAUL WALLNER: That's correct.

Q: And my question --

A: How many of them have been put back on? Do you know? How many of the 226 have been put back on?

PAUL WALLNER: I think we've only put -- we're in the process of putting about 30 back on right now, is all.

A: Of the 226. Do you know when the rest will be put back on?

PAUL WALLNER: As soon as the review that you mentioned earlier is done.

Q: And my question is, did -- had you already concluded that the 1,000 that were found before did not show that chemical or biological agents were released? This says these do show that chemical and biological agents were released. But had you already concluded when you -- before you put them on the first time that they did not show that?

A: During warfare, a large number of documents are generated and people report information of all sorts, sometimes under extremely hurried and stressful conditions.

As you know, there were logs that were kept by many units and there were indications sometimes, in these logs, that there may have been chemicals present. Upon subsequent checking, we found that not to be the case.

As I understand it, many of the documents that Mr. Eddington, who was a photo analyst, not necessarily a skilled document analyst, many of the documents that he and his wife are referring to, as I understand this, were actually sort of intelligence assessments of the chemical capabilities of Iraq.

We know that Iraq had chemical and biological capabilities. We know that Iraq had used chemicals against Iran in the past. We, therefore, were aware that they could use chemicals against us and we were prepared for that. It was one of our primary concerns during the war, it was one of the reasons why President Bush warned Iraq against the use of chemicals before the war, it was one of the reasons we trained extensively to fight in a chemical environment if we had to.

So this is something that's been investigated from the earliest days of the war. We've investigated it aggressively since the war. We have not found evidence that Iraq used chemicals during the war. And Iraq itself -- not that they're the most trustworthy reporters -- but Iraq itself claims that it did not use chemicals during the war.

As I said earlier, if chemicals had been used against our troops in the war, I think we would have seen acute responses to chemicals. We did not. I think we would have seen many more alarm indications of chemical use than we did. We did see indications, as you know. Alarms went off. We found that most of these alarms were false alarms. But we do not believe that chemicals were used during the war. We stated that in our report to Congress in 1992. The secretary and the chairman stated it in a letter to all veterans of the Gulf War in 1994. There have been independent reviews that have found the same thing.

So we just don't agree with what their findings were, what their conclusions are. As I said, they're writing a book. They may explain their case in the book, and we will have a clearer idea of why they reached that conclusion.

Q: But beyond intentional use, can you hold out any possibility that Pentagon officials or experts [who] investigated found no release, no accidental release, any kind of release of chemical or biological weapons? But in fact you were putting documents on the Internet that contradict those conclusions and show that, in fact, some of that was released. In other words, the investigators probably saw these same papers.

A: I don't know how many times I have to say this, but all the thorough investigations that have been done have concluded that there was not use. The issue raised by Khamisiyah is whether there may have been exposure due to the detonation after the war. Other veterans have raised the concern that the earlier bombing of chemical -- of ammo dumps -- that may have included chemical munitions could have caused releases of chemicals. This is a statement that some veterans have made. They have raised this concern. We have not found that there was significant exposure to chemicals during the Gulf War. Many of these were far away from where our troops were at the time the bombings took place. We are looking at all the evidence, but we have not found indications that there was during the war widespread or significant exposure to chemicals.

Q: And that conclusion is based on investigations, including an investigation of these 226 documents, on the whole 1,000 documents?

A: Yes. We've looked at these documents. That's one of the -- we've been looking at documents for a long while. But it's also based -- more, I think, pertinently it's based on chemical indicators used during the war, and it's based on the responses of our troops during the war.

Q: On another subject --

Q: (Let's stay with this one ?) --

A: Yeah, Otto?

Q: Is there any study being done of the effectiveness of the chemical detectors our people had in the field in -- during the Gulf War? Because a lot of these problems seem to be arising from the numerous reports from the units of chemical -- detecting chemical weapons.

The Marines I was with, going into Kuwait -- we went on alert at least three times in the first two days, from -- when the alarms went off, you know. So if the alarms -- the chemical detectors that we had were no good, or something was in the air - - is there any study going on of the -- of our chemical detection equipment itself?

A: Yes. There's been not only studies, but there have been improvements made in our chemical detection equipment.

At the time our troops were deployed, they were deployed with the best chemical detectors we had. They used -- they had - - first of all, they had masks, they had chemical-protective suits, and they had detectors. The main detector was the M-8A1 detector.

That is in the process of being replaced with a more advanced detector called the advanced chemical agent detector alarm, which is being fielded this year. And it is designed to give out fewer false alarms -- about one-tenth the number that the M-8A1 gave out -- and it can detect both nerve and blister agents, as opposed to the M-8A1, which detected only nerve agents. And we found that it also issues -- it's been designed to issue a different alarm sound, so that the tests sound different from an actual alarm. With the M-8A1, the test and the alarm sound exactly the same, so if somebody were testing the device to make sure it worked, it could have been misheard or misread by somebody else as an actual alarm rather than a test. I don't know how often these things were tested, but it was a possible source of confusion that the designers of the advanced chemical-agent detector alarm tried to eliminate.

So yes, there has been improvement in the alarms. There's also been improvements in the masks that were used at the time. There have been -- it's easier to exchange filters. We've improved the peripheral vision of the masks. We've taken a number of other steps to improve the equipment. And this will be ongoing.

Yes?

Q: How much more sensitive to these chemicals are the detectors than is the body? That is, would someone whose detector went off already have been exposed to chemicals that in a concentration, that would be serious to him or her?

A: I can't answer that question. The detectors are very sensitive. And we did have a number of detection incidents during the war. These have been very extensively investigated.

The -- [pauses] -- I just can't comment. I mean, we can get somebody down here to talk about it. If you'd like, we can get somebody down here to brief you on chemical detectors -- what we had at the time and what we have now. If you think that would be helpful, we'd be glad to do that.

Q: And how they would prepare to spot Iraqi chemical munitions?

A: We can do that as well. We can do that as well.

I mean, this report that I referred to earlier, the 1992 report on The Conduct of the Persian Gulf War, says that there was CW/BW training conducted aggressively at every echelon, from individual survival skills to large-scale unit sustainment operations, and it goes into considerable detail on the types of training and other precautions that were taken. And I'd be glad to make this available to you if you haven't read it already. It also goes into a fairly lengthy description of the detection devices that were used at the time.

Q: Since the -- I'm sorry, one more on this. Since the documents that -- the 1,000 documents that were put on the Internet and then taken off were once made public, is it clearly illegal for someone to put them back on the Internet or to publish them, as it would be, say, for the Eddingtons to publish classified documents, had they not at one time been made public? Or is that unclear?

A: I didn't know the answer to that question 15 minutes ago, and nothing has come to me while I've been up here to suggest the answer. [Laughter] So I'm afraid I'm going to have to pass on it one more time.

Bill?

Q: Let me ask about START II, and especially the -- I understand now Javier Solano has announced that NATO will negotiate with the Russians some kind of a charter for 16-plus-1. And I wanted to ask, is the United States waiting for this move by NATO before further following up the trip of the secretary to Moscow on the START II matter? In other words, is there a follow- up to START II that is planned, or will NATO take the lead now?

A: Well, NATO is not a signatory to START II. START II was a treaty negotiated between the United States and Russia. We're the signatories to that.

To answer your question, the secretary, just two weeks ago, went to Moscow and, as you know, spoke to the Duma about the importance of ratifying START II. The U.S. Senate has ratified START II. The Duma has not yet ratified START II. I think U.S. and Russian officials both agree that we can have adequate deterrence with much lower levels of nuclear weapons than we have today, and that by reducing down to 3,000 to 3,500 the number of nuclear -- strategic nuclear weapons on each side, we can reduce risk and make the world more stable.

This is irrespective -- the benefits of START II accrue to Russia whether or not there's a charter between NATO and Russia. I think the benefits of START II should be very clear to Russia, and that's what the secretary spoke about. And if you haven't seen a copy of his remarks, we'll get you a copy afterwards.

The charter is a separate issue and I --

Q: Ken?

A: Yes, go ahead.

Q: I'm sorry. My presumption here was that the NATO matter with the Russians, NATO expansion, was the sticking point on the approval by the Russian Duma for START II. Is this not correct? It was widely written that that was the main point.

A: I think it's an issue in the minds of some Russians. I obviously can't speak for all Russians on this. It clearly is an issue in the minds of some Russians. But remember, the Russians were not rushing to ratify START II even before NATO expansion became a hot issue in Moscow. So they have to evaluate the treaty and come to the conclusion that it's beneficial for them to sign it. I think that when they look at all the pros and cons, they'll decide that it does help them to ratify the treaty.

For one thing, we've made it clear, as has President Yeltsin, that we would like to move forward to a START III treaty that reduces level of strategic weapons even further, but we don't feel it's appropriate to move forward on START III until START II is ratified, and to move down from START II. Secondly, any reduction in the level of nuclear weapons makes it cheaper and easier for the Russians to maintain the weapons they already have. And START II would be a substantial reduction from the START I limits, which are 6,000.

Bill?

Q: Does the Pentagon have any concerns that heightened tensions in the Golan Heights might lead to a conflict between Israel and Syria?

A: The whole goal of the U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process, starting back in the Carter administration and running through Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations, is to reduce the possibility of instability in the Middle East. And heightened tension anywhere in the Middle East is worrisome. That's not to say that -- well, the heightened tension is worrisome. We've made it very clear that we think that broadening the peace process is the best way to deal with those tensions.

Q: Have you seen any recent indications of force movements near the Golan that would set off any alarm bells here in the building?

A: Well, Syria has been conducting some military exercises, and some troops have moved around in connection with those. I'm not aware that the situation is particularly more alarming today than it was several days ago.

Yes?

Q: Secretary Perry met with the minister of defense of Croatia today. Could there be in the future a possible -- when IFOR goes away, that there may be a permanent military installation in Croatia?

A: I think it's way too early to speculate about that. We don't have any plans for a U.S. military installation or an allied military installation in Croatia today.

Q: Speaking of that, has Secretary Perry decided not to make any more comments before the election? I notice he cancelled both of the photo ops today.

A: The secretary gave a press conference yesterday at Fort Hood, Texas. We had a great tour of the 4th Infantry Division, which as you know is the Force 21 Division of the Army. It's the experimental division that's designing new equipment for the -- to make it more survivable and more lethal. They're doing very impressive work out there. As you know, the commanding general is Major General Paul Kern. He used to be the secretary's military assistant. I'd urge any of you to go out there and see what they're doing. It's very, very exciting.

In fact, they're going to be holding some military exercises in December, from the 2nd to the 14th, where they'll be comparing a newly configured brigade with the equipment that they've been developing to a more traditional brigade to see how they perform side by side. And this is a very complex challenging technological and training effort that is not something that can be -- these aren't changes that can be made immediately. But I think that they're making very, very sound and fast progress. And anybody who's interested in sort of future warfare should go out and look at this.

He also gave a press conference at Fort Sill the day before. And he'll give a press conference tomorrow here.

Q: Ken, why were they --

A: With the Korean defense minister, who is -- he just decided to spend his time in other ways. But to say that he's not making comments to the press, I think, is not backed up by the facts.

Q: Ken, on this Korea dialogue, can it be said that the U.S. side is counseling the South Koreans to be restrained about the submarine incident so as not to upset the joint framework or the possibility of the four-power talks or four-way talks?

A: We're counseling restraint on both sides. And we're counseling both sides to avoid provocative acts, one, to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula, and two, to allow us to move forward with diplomatic efforts to reach a lasting peace there. That's what the four-power talks proposal was designed to do. That was the proposal that President Clinton and President Kim made back in April in Korea.

Q: Ken?

A: Yeah?

Q: Regarding the situation in Zaire, what can you tell us about General Jamerson's upcoming visit, the purpose of the visit, and also possibilities for humanitarian relief missions run by the U.S.?

A: I understand that General Jamerson will be in the area next week. The mission -- this trip was actually scheduled before the current problems, but he will certainly review the situation there. And I think it would be premature to comment on what the possibilities are for providing humanitarian aid until we get an on-the-scene report from him.

Q: And where is he going to go when he's there? What's he going to survey? Is he going to go to the actual camps, or is he going to stay in other areas?

A: I believe he will go to that area. I believe he will go to Goma, but I'm not positive about that. And we will check.

Yes?

Q: Do you have any information on the talks with the North Koreans in New York?

A: I am afraid I don't have any information on that.

Q: Did they hold talks this week?

A: I just have not followed those talks. It probably would be more appropriate to ask the State Department.

Q: Can you confirm reports that Super Puma helicopters equipped with air-to-ship missiles made by the Chinese, sophisticated missiles, a sale by an Indonesian company, is about to go through to the Iranians? And do you share the concern with the speaker of the House and Mr. Benjamin Gilman that this sale should be stopped?

A: Well, I can't confirm the reports about an imminent sale. The view of the United States is very clear; that military buildups in the Gulf are destabilizing, and they should -- we are against the import of sophisticated military equipment by Iran.

Q: The fact that the Speaker and Mr. Gilman have spoken, have said that this is a serious danger, does that not confirm that this sale is imminent?

A: Not necessarily.

Q: Thank you.

Q: One more question, if I could.

A: Sure.

Q: This is a very serious matter facing the nation. Physicians for -- Committee for Responsible Medicine did a ranking of food available on college and university campuses around America. Of the 38 colleges polled, number 36, 37 and 38 are the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy and West Point.

Does the Pentagon plan action on this matter?

[Laughter]

A: Ah -- have you ever been to West Point?

Q: Yes.

A: Did you see many fat cadets? [Laughter] Did you see many unhealthy looking cadets? Have you ever eaten in a dining hall at West Point, Annapolis or the Air Force Academy? What did the food look like to you? Did they serve vegetables?

Q: Greasy, fatty -- [laughter] -- not very healthy --

A: Did they serve vegetables? Well, I -- you know, the -- this is a serious issue, and I've seen that report. I'll just point out one thing. I see on this report that Notre Dame is listed as having the third best food in the country, and as you pointed out, the Air Force Academy is number 36, and yet, just recently, the Air Force Academy beat Notre Dame in football, so they must be doing something to build healthy bodies and healthy minds at the Air Force Academy.

Press: Thank you.

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