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DoD News Briefing, Tuesday, January 27, 1998

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth Bacon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
January 27, 1998 1:45 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon, and welcome to our briefing room.

Let me start with a couple of announcements.

First, I want to bring you up to date on an issue of great concern to many of you, the African Crisis Response Initiative.

Approximately 70 soldiers from the U.S. Army's 3rd Special Forces Group from Fort Bragg, along with some other support troops, will deploy to Mali between February 1st and February 5th to begin training a battalion in peacekeeping operations as part of the African Crisis Response Initiative.

As you know, we started doing this in 1997, in July. The 3rd Special Forces Group has trained peacekeepers in Senegal, Uganda, and Malawi. Now they're moving on to a fourth country.

Second, for your scheduling purposes, Secretary Cohen will deliver the keynote address at the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Thursday, January 29th at 11:30 at the Capitol Hilton. The title is "The New Revolution at the Department of Defense." He'll be talking about the Defense Reform Initiatives, his proposals to close down unnecessary bases that are costing us money and extra infrastructure expenditures, and other aspects of the reform proposal here at the Pentagon.

We're trying to get that piped back here, and we should know by later today or tomorrow whether that's possible.

Q: Is he going to take questions or is it just a speech?

A: I don't know. I don't think the Mayors will be asking questions, but I'll check on that. I think he's got actually a rather tight schedule that day and I think he will make the speech and leave, but if there's an opportunity to take questions, we'll let you know.

Finally, our budget plan. There will be a background briefing on Friday afternoon here at 2:00 p.m. to lay out the budget. The budget will be available on an embargoed basis at that time, and then the Secretary will have his press conference on Monday at 1:30 here.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: Before we get to all the other stuff, the Lewinsky stuff, is the SECDEF considering whether or not to go to the Middle East in advance, because of the Iraq crisis? He's supposed to go to the Wehrkunde Conference.

A: The Secretary is tentatively planning to go to the Middle East to consult with leaders in the area. The exact time of that trip and the itinerary have not been set yet, but it would likely be in early February.

Q: Would it be part of this Wehrkunde Conference or anything...

A: I think we're working out the details, and when we have the details worked out, we'll get back to you?

Q: Will he be traveling with Secretary Albright, or...

A: No, this would be a separate trip. He would be going over there to talk with military leaders and heads of state as part of the consultation.

Q: To the Gulf?

A: It would be to the Gulf, yes.

Q: What would the purpose of the trip be?

A: The purpose of the trip would be to consult with our friends and allies in the Gulf about possible military action. As you know, the President has not yet made a decision on which way to go, but there is an increasing feeling that the diplomatic options have exhausted themselves and it leaves us little choice to achieve our goals than to look at military action.

Our goals, obviously, are to convince Iraq to stop work on its weapons of mass destruction program. We have tried very hard diplomatically, and will continue to try diplomatically to do that, but if the diplomacy fails, we'll have to look at other options.

Q: Will he be seeking permission from various countries to launch offensive strikes from their territories?

A: If he goes to the Middle East, he'll go to discuss our plans and to consult with the allies.

Q: I refer to a New York Times article today, specifically on warheads being loaded with biological weapons. First your comment on this development that's reported by Butler. Secondly, does this not raise the threshold for some response? Does this not invite response when missiles are loaded and then could be disbursed and not found as targets?

A: Mr. Butler's comments focused attention on what the real issue is here. The issue is weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's continuing ability to build them and it's possible willingness to use them. We know that Iraq has used chemical weapons in the past against its own people and against people in Iran. This report by Mr. Butler is based on his observation in Iraq, his knowledge from his trips there, and his own inspection teams and the information that they've gathered. I think that the appropriate person to comment further on that is Mr. Butler, but it is an important statement because it focuses on the issue here, which is weapons of mass destruction -- the threat that countries in the area can face from Iraq.

Q: But this does not raise the alarm with the U.S. military and the British military about finding these weapons...

A: Our goal through diplomacy has been to stop work on this program. That's what the UN Security Council's goal is, and that's what our goal is too. That's what we've been trying to do for the last couple of months.

Q: Couldn't this biological-filled warhead that Mr. Butler referred to -- doesn't it potentially threaten U.S. troops in the region if Iraq decided to use this weapon which was described as crude, but nevertheless could be a very dangerous weapon. Doesn't it threaten U.S. troops?

A: That's the point that we've been making for months. The existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq threaten people in the area and yes, of course, they threaten troops -- our troops or other troops that are stationed in the area.

We have very adequate air defense capabilities in the area, a number of Patriot batteries spread throughout the area. We have a substantial military force in the area now. I think that Saddam Hussein knew during the Gulf War and knows now that any use of weapons of mass destruction against American troops or American allies would be extremely dangerous; that we would respond with great force and great decisiveness. We've made that clear to him. President Bush made it clear to him. Secretary Perry made it clear to him. Secretary Cohen has made it clear in statements. Our position on that has not changed.

What we would like to do is to go beyond the threat phase to the dismantlement phase, to getting rid of these weapons so they are no longer a threat, so people can't be held hostage by such weapons. That's what the UN's been trying to do. That's why this issue is so important.

Q: If the United States were to launch a military attack against Iraq, how would you describe the end state? How would you describe what it is that has been accomplished once this has happened? Would there be inspections again? Is that your anticipation? Or you would have wiped out all capability from now until eternity that they could do this again, or that there would have to be repeated military strikes? What is the thinking if this were to happen, of how you know you're successful?

A: I can't get into specifics, obviously, about what any military action would involve. I want to stress again that the President has not made a decision on military action. But I think you have to look at diplomacy and any possible military action as part of the same continuum and they're designed to achieve the same goal. That goal is to dismantle, get rid of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. We've been trying to do that through the UN Security Council, we've been trying to do that with inspectors, we've been trying to do that the same way we proceeded through the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency with the Iraqi nuclear program. We've tried to apply the same mechanism, the same procedures to chemical and biological weapons. So far we have not succeeded.

There's still room for diplomacy to work. It is still our hope that that will work. But if it doesn't, then we'll have to look at other options. But the goal will be exactly the same, which is to end the threat to the area and to our forces in the area potentially.

Q: Can I follow that up? I think what we're trying to say is, are we trying to force compliance with inspections, or are we trying to destroy the capability? Can you be more specific at all?

A: Our goal overall goal is to get rid of the threat of weapons of mass destruction -- particularly chemical and biological agents. The preferred way to do that is through inspections. We would like to do that through inspections and follow-up actions now. Our hope would be that we could do that even after military action. We could have inspectors back and on the ground. But our hope, our main hope is to do this through diplomacy. We've made that very clear, and we continue to make that very clear.

Q: If American troops face a weapon of mass destruction, you said Iraq will face a serious threat. They already face 325, soon to be 375 combat aircraft and a substantial force. You're talking about another level of force, of violence? Can you be more specific?

A: No. All I'm saying is the response would be decisive and devastating.

Q: As far as any potential attacks now if diplomatic means don't work, the SECDEF made it clear in an interview with CNN on the trip that places where these weapons are being made, built, or planned would be hit, likely be hit. Would it go beyond that, to military targets beyond where things were being made?

A: I don't think that...

Q: He did use the term "targets which are important to Saddam". Did he mean beyond chemical and biological targets?

A: Well, there are a range of targets that are important to Saddam and that he may use to support his regime. Republican Guard units, special Republican Guard units that provide security forces, intelligence, command and control. But I don't think it's profitable for me to get into discussions of targets. I don't think that we want to use Reuters to telegraph the end goals of military action to Saddam Hussein at this stage.

Q: Can Saddam Hussein be concerned that he personally might end up being a target of one of these attacks?

A: I think that our goal, our primary goal is to deal with weapons of mass destruction, and I'd just like to leave it at that.

Q: In terms of the goal, the weapons of mass destruction, it's been said in this room, in fact last fall, that a military attack faces some significant technical problems. Marrying intelligence -- where the weapons are -- with the technology to destroy them. Does that problem still stand? And if not...

A: Obviously there are technical problems facing any military action. That's one of the reasons why we think diplomacy offers the best result here. Successful diplomacy, and let me say so far the diplomacy has not been successful.

There obviously are a number of ways to deal with the weapons of mass destruction challenge. One is to go after the stockpiles themselves; another is to go after the way they're delivered; a third is to go after the production facilities and the facilities that are associated with production. Those are all things that we would look at.

Q: Following that up, though, isn't it awfully difficult to drop a bomb on any kind of CW plant without it spewing the atmosphere full of poison that could be perhaps more of a problem than you solved?

A: That's certainly something that the planners would take into account, but without getting into specifics, I can't go beyond that now.

Q: Can you describe in a general way how military technology and military armaments have improved in the six years since the end of the Gulf War? What will he face that's new and different?

A: The basic idea of precision guided weapons has not changed. That was well established and proven by the Gulf War. What has changed is the ability of those weapons; the software packages have changed, the amount of weapons available, the variety has changed somewhat. So there have really been improvements in the concept more than new concepts guiding the type of weapons we would use.

Q: There was a, if I recall it correctly, there was an article by Ambassador Murphy in the paper within recent days suggesting that an air campaign alone would probably be unsuccessful, that to be sure you had actually knocked down any sort of biological or chemical capabilities would require the use of ground forces. How do you view that argument?

A: The problem is not just limited to storage facilities, it includes delivery capability, manufacturing capability, research, etc., command and control. So you have to look more broadly than just storage. I would not encourage anybody to think in terms of use of ground troops here.

Q: During the Gulf War the Pentagon had expressed some concern about the possibility of some sort of terrorism incident in the U.S. that could be traced back to Saddam Hussein's regime. Is there any intelligence that the Pentagon has discussed, that there's an increased chance of that at this point?

A: First, obviously I can't discuss intelligence in any detail. Second, it's clearly a concern and something that we're watching as closely as we can. Third, in terms of our troops in the area, you know that force protection is a major, major concern. And we are also doing our best to upgrade our capability to deal with terrorist attacks domestically. But the fundamental wall for interdicting terrorism is intelligence, and we do spend a lot of time focusing on intelligence about domestic terrorism.

Q: Isn't the same air campaign over several days, isn't that in fact a war?

A: First of all, I don't want to answer a question in a way that suggests that I buy into a sustained air campaign over a couple of days. I think we'll have to wait and see one, if military force is authorized by the President; and two, what type of tactics he would approve. I think that's a question for lawyers to answer.

Q: Is there any consideration being given to sending biological detectors such as Portal Shield over there?

A: Yes.

Q: Is that going to happen?

A: I think that one of the things we're looking at is upgrading our chemical and biological detection capability, and that's one of many things we're looking at right now. We will do everything we can to make sure we're as well prepared as possible for that type of environment.

Q: Are there Portal Shield units, if you will, that are on alert for this?

A: I don't know whether alert is the right term, but we are clearly looking at ways to upgrade our ability in the area.

Q: When do you expect INDEPENDENCE to arrive? And how long a time will there be when there are three carriers in the Gulf? What's the expectation now?

A: That's a good question. The INDEPENDENCE is scheduled to arrive in early February. There will be some overlap among the three carriers in the Gulf. Of course there's actually a fourth carrier, because the British INVINCIBLE is there as well.

But we believe that under all reasonable or expected scenarios that two carriers will be enough to do the job. Having said that, there is still a possibility of an overlap for some short period of time, but that hasn't been determined yet. It remains a possibility that has not been decided.

Q: I just wanted to check, has the President ruled out a response to weapons of mass destruction with our own weapons of mass destruction?

A: The Administration's policy on this is very clear. We will respond decisively with devastating force.

Q: The reason I ask is because if some of these targets are buried targets, the best weapons to get after them are the nuclear penetrating bombs. Has that been ruled out?

A: I don't think we've ruled anything in or out in this regard. Our position is that we would respond very aggressively.

Q: Does the Administration have a position on whether or not it is going to seek additional approval of some kind from the UN Security Council in the days of weeks ahead, prior to doing anything?

A: That's the type of question that Jamie Rubin -- it would be more appropriate for him to answer than for me. So I recommend that you talk to Jamie about that, who's very well qualified to deal with questions like that.

Q: You talked about improving chemical and biological detection capability. What about the vaccines or medicines for troops in the region?

A: It's certainly one of the issues under consideration.

Q: Giving them what?

A: I think that consideration means that decisions have not been made, and until they're made, I'd rather wait and not speculate.

Q: We've already had a decision, haven't we, on anthrax, one new vaccine, anthrax?

A: We've had a preliminary decision to vaccinate all active duty and reserve military people with anthrax. Now that's a preliminary decision and there are several more checks that have to be made before that's a final decision.

Q: What part of our forward deployed troops have that vaccine now?

A: There are small numbers of troops whose vaccinations are current for anthrax -- some special forces, some troops that deal in chem/bio detection and control units. As I say, small numbers of troops. I can't remember the number but it's in the hundreds, I think. Maybe a little more than that.

What we're talking about here is something a little different. As I say, there aren't final decisions, but there are a number of options for dealing with anthrax, and what we're doing is looking at the range of health options.

Q: Does the Pentagon currently know, or can you say if Iraq has operational missiles with warheads loaded with biological components that can be used against U.S. forces or Israel or Saudi forces at this time presently?

A: I saw the statement by Mr. Butler. As I said, he has been in the area. His teams have been working very aggressively in the area. They've been collecting documents, they've been talking to people, they've been inspecting places. He based that statement on his knowledge, and the appropriate person to ask about that is Mr. Butler. I don't want to comment on any intelligence matter. He's made a public statement, and I would encourage you to follow up with him on that.

Q: Has there been any change in the disposition of Iraqi forces at all on...

A: Nothing major, no. They continue to move their missiles around in ways that they've been doing actually for months. Ways that make them more difficult to target should we want to do that. And also give them the ability to make some adjustments in their capability by moving around new targets or into new locations. But we haven't seen anything major beyond that.

Q: Do you have anything to say about, without being specific, timeline, time running out, clock ticking, all of those sorts of sentiments? Is this an indefinite process or...

A: It's clearly not an indefinite process. But first of all, the President has not made a decision yet, and even if he were to make a firm decision to use military force -- and he has not, but if he were to make that decision, up until the very moment that force is invoked, there's still an opportunity for Saddam Hussein to realize that the best option for him and the best option for everybody else is to allow inspectors in to do their job with unfettered access to the weapons of mass destruction sites. That's what this... That's the issue. That's what we're trying to achieve. We've been trying to achieve it diplomatically. We continue to try to do that. That will be our goal until the last minute.

If, as is currently the case, that seems to be a fruitless, unachievable goal, then obviously we'll have to do something else. But I don't think that I should give specific dates at this time. That's for the President to decide. It's very clear that the train is leaving the station here. Mrs. Albright is going off, Ambassador Richardson is going off. Secretary Albright's going to go to Europe and to the Gulf states to talk to people. Ambassador Richardson is going around the world talking to the seats of government, to members of the UN Security Council. And Secretary Cohen is prepared to go to the Gulf at the appropriate time.

So we are very serious about trying to come to the resolution here, and to talk to our allies about what our options are.

Q: Back on the preparations for chemical/biological warfare. The preparations for detection, are you basically talking about deploying some of these Army and Marine Corps units -- I forget the acronyms for them -- CBORG [CBIRF -- Chemical Biological Incident Response Force] or something like that, these units whose mission it is to deal with chemical and biological attacks?

A: We're considering a number of options designed to enhance our ability to deal with chemical and biological weapons. These involve detection teams or kits. Portal Shield is a shorthand description of one that deals primarily with biological detection, as I understand it. We would presumably look at decontamination capability in teams. Make sure that we had the proper defensive garments and other material necessary to deal with a chemical or biological threat. But detectors would be the first line of defense. But these remain in the study stage at this time.

Q: Also on the health end of it, as I remember from the anthrax briefings it takes something like what, six months...

A: Yeah. There are alternative ways to do it. I don't know enough about the science of it to discuss it.

Q: Alternative ways to vaccinate, or alternatives other than vaccination?

A: There are alternative medical protection techniques.

Q: It said somewhere in those briefings that if you're immediately treated with antibiotics it's not fatal. Is that what you're talking about?

A: That is certainly an option, yes.

Q: Have the flights patrolling the no-fly zone increased at all? Is there any plan to increase it?

A: No. They've stayed pretty much at the same high level they've been at for a long period of time.

Q: (Inaudible)

A: Well, that's the type of thing that obviously we'll be looking at in the next couple of days. We think we have a very adequate force there now, but the question is, are there elements that have to be enhanced, and we are studying that.

Q: Aren't any of the bio/chem detectors and teams and protective garments, aren't those already in theater in fairly large numbers?

A: We have a whole variety of equipment, and I don't know exactly what's over there right now. But one of the questions is what can we do to enhance what's already there.

Q: Have the Gulf countries given us permission to use our planes that are stationed there?

A: We are quite confident that we'll be able to do what we need to do if military action is selected.

Q: Including using those airplanes? Or are you talking about using other airplanes?

A: I believe that we will have the flexibility we need.

Q: The train leaving the station comment took me back to another subject, took me back in time. I think it was the Watergate craze. But my question really is, is Ms. Tripp still working in a Schedule C job today?

A: She is.

Q: Is there any consideration of removing her from that job?

A: Not that I'm aware of.

Q: On the budget. Several defense executives have said that the budget was predicated on $250 billion a year plus inflation for the projection. With inflation being less than projected in '99 and possibly in FY2000, is the dividend from the less than projected inflation going to be returned to the taxpayers or is it going to be poured into the defense budget? And I say that against the advance report that Clinton is going to propose tonight that any such dividend surpluses be poured into the social security account to stabilize it for the future.

My question is whether the Pentagon is going to return its inflation dividends to the Treasury, or keep it?

A: George, I may be dumb, but I'm not dumb enough to get in the way of the President's State of the Union message, so why don't we discuss that on Thursday or Friday. I think it would be a more appropriate time to discuss it.

Q: Forget about the President. Is the Pentagon going to return its dividends from inflation to the Treasury. (Laughter)

Q: If we could!

A: I don't forget about the President. I encourage you to watch the State of the Union message. I'll certainly be watching it to learn what he says about inflation, social security, and a number of other topics.

Q: But I am right that you did originally say here several times that $250 billion plus inflation was your long term goal, right?

A: We have said that, yes. That we would like to maintain real levels at around...

Q: If it's more than that then the question arises what to do with the dividends.

A: I understand the problem. We'll be glad to answer it at the appropriate time. We have an answer, and we'd be glad to answer it at the appropriate time.

Q: Can you characterize Monica Lewinsky's employment at the Department, and under what conditions she left?

A: I can't go beyond what I've said publicly on this already, because I've said everything, but if you want me to say it again, I'd be glad to.

Monica Lewinsky worked here from April of 1996 to December of 1997. She performed her job competently and she left on her own volition to move to New York and seek a job in private public relations.

Q: To what degree was your decision to hire Monica influenced by the fact that she was recommended by the White House?

A: That was not a major part of the decision at all. I interviewed four people, including three from the building, and Monica, and chose her.

Q: Is she the only political appointee you interviewed?

A: She was the only one I interviewed for that position, yes.

Q: Has Monica been in contact with you since she left?

A: She has not. I gather she has many other things on her mind.

Q: You and Monica are well acquainted.

A: Well, she worked for me for a little over a year and a half.

Q: How do you feel about what's happened, personally?

A: I don't think it's profitable for me to characterize my feelings.

Q: Could you say who it was that recommended her? Was it some type...

A: Well, there's a process. I cannot remember who or if anyone person recommended her, but the process is to inform... And this is a process that applies to Schedule C or political appointee jobs generally. There was a vacancy. The job that Monica took was a Schedule C job. We reported the vacancy to the White House Liaison Office in the Defense Department and asked them if they had any candidates they wanted to recommend. The recommendation that we got came through that office. I didn't deal directly with the White House on this. At no time did I talk to anybody in the White House about this appointment.

At the same time, we made it known to the personnel people in the Pentagon that we were looking to fill the slot. The people they suggested were administrative assistant/secretary type people who were already working in Schedule C jobs in the building, and some of them had been working in those jobs for some time. Those were the people I interviewed from within the building.

Q: Why did you pick her over the other three?

A: All of these issues are subjective, but one of the reasons I did was that frankly, her predecessor recommended that I look for somebody with high energy and somebody younger than the people who had tended to have it before. I talked with the predecessor about that. That comment dealt specifically with travel and the demands that are placed on people who stay up all night typing out transcripts and distributing faxes that come in and doing the other work that's required on these overseas trips. When I looked at all the candidates, I decided that Monica came closest to filling what I wanted. I was also looking for somebody who was Internet literate and could use the Internet quickly and easily to search for documents from the United Nations Security Council or anywhere else.

Q: Some people have described Monica as being somebody who was infatuated with President Clinton. From your observation of her, working with her for over a year, do you think that characterization is fair?

A: I don't think I want to get into psychological characterizations.

Q: Can you just tell us how much of an impact this is having on your operation? Do you have to have staffers digging through stuff to answer subpoenas? Have you been subpoenaed in these cases to appear? Are all your files being dragged out?

A: There are a lot of questions in there.

First of all, our work goes on. We have... I'm here. I'm talking about Iraq and a wide variety of other topics. My office is supporting me with the same enthusiasm and quality that they always support me, which is very well. We're getting our work done. There are a few distractions, but they're manageable distractions. After all, this job is one of managing distractions, much as a reporter's job is one of managing distractions and interruptions. So it's not anything that we're not unused to.

As you know, the Department has been subpoenaed for documents by the Independent Counsel's Office, and we are doing our best to comply with that subpoena in a complete and timely way. That has taken some time, and a team of people worked all weekend in order to help us comply with that. They deserve credit for doing that work. We, I'm sure, will meet the deadline on that. I'm not aware that the Office of the Independent Counsel has subpoenaed any individuals in the building.

Q: What about the Jones case? Is that also impacting down here, or has that been separate?

A: I'm afraid I can't give you... The answer is no, it has not had an impact.

Q: They have issued subpoenas down here also?

A: I'm afraid I cannot give you a yes or no answer on that. The Judge that is handling that case in Little Rock has issued a very clear order that people shouldn't talk about it, so I'm not going to talk about it. You can deduce from that what you want.

Q: Back to Linda Tripp. It's reported that she surreptitiously tape recorded conversations with Monica. Are you aware of this? And is this kind of behavior considered appropriate for a DoD employee?

A: I'm certainly aware of the reports. Beyond that, I have no comment.

Q: If it were to be found that she had surreptitiously tape recorded a conversation...

A: I can't answer the question just on the basis that you've answered it. There are a lot of other variables here, but basically, I'm aware of the reports and I have nothing more to say about it.

Q: You didn't ask her about this? She works for you, doesn't she?

A: I'm aware of the reports.

Q: I just wanted to go back, can you speak at all about Monica Lewinsky's work performance? Her working characteristics and anything else about how she did in this job here?

A: As I said, she performed competently, and I think that describes it adequately.

Q: Let me take one more swing at that. (Laughter) Was your budget structured with the assumption you could put back those savings into the programs?

A: George, I would be glad to talk to you about this when we have the budget briefing, which is going to be on Friday.

Q: When Ms. Lewinsky left, did you provide her with a letter of reference?

A: She asked me to send her a letter of reference to... I'll have to check my records on this. If she asked me to send her a letter of reference, I did give her a recommendation based on her competent performance in my office, but I will have to check to find out if I did send such a letter.

Q: Was that to a "Whom it May Concern" or to Vernon Jordan or...

A: It would have been to a specific person.

Q: To whom?

A: To whomever she asked me to send it. But I can't remember whether I had a discussion about this... This is literally not something I've checked, and I will check.

Q: Would you take the question?

A: I will take the question. I think I'm unlikely to answer the question beyond saying that if she asked me for such a letter I would have sent it if she gave me the address and the place to send it to. We're dealing with, we have some privacy considerations here, and I'm not sure that I can release letters of recommendation that I send to potential private employers.

Q: Is Linda Tripp still considered an employee in good standing?

A: She is.

Q: How long will you allow her to work at home for $88,000 a year, to telecommute?

A: First of all, as you know, telecommuting is a very common way of working, particularly in the journalistic profession. But there are many other professions in which people work over computer lines from home and it's a fairly accepted way of working these days.

Q: So her job doesn't require her to meet face to face with a lot of people in the Pentagon?

A: Well, from time to time, but I think we'll be able to, for at least a period of time, work that out.

Q: If she were told not to come in any more, forever, she'd have no recourse, isn't that... She serves at the pleasure of the President.

A: I'm not an employment lawyer, and I think I would rather not answer that question until I know more about it.

Q: You worked obviously very closely with Monica over a long period of time. Did she ever indicate to you what her relationship with the President was like? Did she tell stories of visiting the White House even while she was working here at the Pentagon? Did you have a sense that she had close ties with the White House even after she had left there?

A: She came here from the White House, and she clearly had friends in the White House, and she spoke about those friends from time to time. Beyond that, I can't characterize it.

Q: What was the salary for that position? Or what is the salary?

A: I believe when she started it was about $30,000 and when she left it was $32,700, I think.

Q: Have you filled the job?

A: I have filled the job, yes.

Q: Can you speak to the issue of the trustworthiness and honesty of Monica?

A: As I said earlier, she performed competently, and I don't think that I need to say more than that.

Q: Has anyone asked you to look into or consider firing Linda Tripp?

A: It's been suggested more by the press than anybody else.

Q: But I mean someone...

A: No one has. I want to be clear. No one has asked me to do that.

Press: Thank you.

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