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DoD News Briefing, November 21, 1996

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
November 21, 1996 2:10 PM EDT

Thursday, November 21, 1996 - 2:10 p.m.

I want to start with a piece of historical trivia. Do you know that today is the 14th Anniversary of a very important event here in the Pentagon. Does anybody know what that is?

Q: [Crosstalk]

A: Actually more than that. It was 24 years ago when we had this important event. Twenty-four years ago, 1972, November 21st, Melvin Laird named the Correspondent's Corridor down here in honor of a free and strong American press. I thought you guys would know this. Some of you were probably there!

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: Can you fill us in on the latest on the Zaire situation? Including whether or not these reconnaissance flights, these dangerous reconnaissance flights, have determined anything about how many refugees are in Zaire?

Q: And are they still ongoing after being fired at?

A: There are no reconnaissance flights today. We are reassessing the flights in light of the incident yesterday. We're looking basically at the evidence we collected during the flights to try to gain as clear an understanding as we can of what happened. We're looking at the flight profiles as well. When EUCOM completes that, or the Navy completes that, we anticipate that the flights will start again.

Q: Do you believe that this plane was actually fired at? Does that seem to be the case?

A: The crew believes it was fired at, but it was way above the range of the guns. It was flying at 19,000 feet. One thing they might look at is if they should fly higher. But they were significantly above the range of the guns that apparently fired at them. Yes.

Q: What kind of guns fired at them?

A: I don't know that.

Q: How do you know it was way above the range of the guns if you don't know what kind of guns fired at them?

A: Because they saw the bullets exploding way below the plane.

Q: Can you fill us in on the various advance forces? Have they finally arrived at their destinations?

A: I can tell you what we've got right now. We've got a total of 365 Americans in the area. That includes 160 in Entebbe. It includes 10 in Kigali. And it includes 195 in Mombasa. The numbers, as you know, will get larger as we continue preparations, but so far no decision has been made to go ahead with this mission. We're still in the position of getting ready for anything we're called upon to do.

Q: Do you know when we're going to get a green light or a red light or any type of light to go?

A: That's a good question. I don't know that. You know that there's the conference in Stuttgart tomorrow. There could be as many as 28 countries at that conference. Our delegation will include Ted Warner, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Requirements; and also Major General Doc Foglesong, Robert Foglesong of the Joint Staff; along with Rear Admiral Timothy Keating of the Joint Staff. They will look at the military contribution to such a mission, the role of the military in such a mission. There will be a press conference after that... I do not think they will produce a decision. This isn't a meeting of decisionmakers. This is a meeting to review the military situation, to assess the contributions made by other members of a potential multinational force, to sort of look at the dimensions, the geometry of the potential mission. In light of their meeting in Stuttgart and the meeting Saturday in Geneva of donor nations, a decision will be made somewhere along the line about what sort of mission is called for if a mission is called for.

Q: Who makes the decision? The UN or Canada or...

A: Ultimately the President will decide whether American troops participate in this. He said last week that he had decided in principle to participate in a mission. As you know, the purpose of that mission would be to assist in the provision of humanitarian aid and to help refugees repatriate. Since then, many refugees have repatriated. We're assessing the demands for humanitarian aid. And those are two things that will be discussed... The aid will be discussed tomorrow and Saturday in Geneva.

Q: Let's step back a little bit. The United Nations Security Council approved the humanitarian mission, or a humanitarian mission, as I understand it, and it's on hold for a variety of reasons that you have discussed. Now who makes the decision, again... Let's say not the United States, I understand that, but who makes the decision to have a mission, period? Does it have to go back to the Security Council? Does Canada have the authority to make that?

A: The Security Council has already passed a resolution on this. We have agreed in principle, as I said. The Canadians are pulling together a mission. That will be part of the meeting tomorrow. And after the dimensions of the mission are fleshed out, then presumably every government will have to decide whether its country will participate in that mission. So I would expect the President and his National Security Advisers to review what they learn from these meetings and to make a decision.

Q: Not to belabor a point. Somebody has to go charging up San Juan Hill saying, "follow me." Will that be the Canadians, do you think?

A: The Canadians are the people who are leading the effort to establish a multinational force. They have taken a leadership position. Their Lieutenant General Maurice Baril is over there. He'll be at the meeting. They are marching ahead on this.

But as I said, eventually every government is going to have to look at the mission that's called for and decide whether or not to participate.

Q: Can you talk about the $140 million in aid? Are there bundles of food being prepared to go in? What's being done with that money?

A: There's a lot of food over there. There's at least a 40-day supply of food in the area -- not all in Rwanda. Some is in Uganda, it's in other countries. But there's a lot of food there. It's a question of one, delivering the food that's there to the right place at the right time; and two, making sure that enough food fills up the pipeline to take care of these refugees as they go back and resettle into their towns and villages. And also to make sure there's enough food in case the flow of refugees continues to come into Rwanda, or to get the food to refugees who may remain in Eastern Zaire. I don't know exactly where the U.S. food is. That's an AID operation, and I'm sure they've got all the facts on that.

Q: Back to my original question on the flights. Have the flights, or national technical means or anything else, determined approximately how many refugees there still are in Zaire? There seems to be...

A: There's still a lot of confusion about that. We don't have good estimates at this stage, nor do we know exactly where everybody is. But we're continuing to check with people on the ground. For instance, a USAID Disaster Assistance Relief Team, called DART, moved into, was in Bukavu today. We don't yet have a report from them on what they learned. But that's an on-the- ground assessment from Bukavu that will provide information we haven't yet had from that area.

Q: Back to numbers, just so we can refine them as best we can. Were the ones that we got earlier...

A: If you can tell me what sort of numbers...

Q: ...numbers. They came to 800 prospectively. Two hundred in Rwanda, 500 in Uganda, 100 in Kenya. Now we're at 365. I didn't know whether the 365 was as of today, already on the ground and all military people. How do I equate the 365 with the 800 that earlier you talked about?

A: 365 is approximately half of 800. That's the first way to equate it. [Laughter] These are military people who are on the ground in the African theater. As I said, there are 160 in Uganda, 10 in Rwanda, and 195 now in Kenya.

Q: Is it still prospectively, that it will grow up to about 800?

A: The U.S. plans are that we will provide as many as 800 people to run a mission if it's called for. That's what we're prepared to do.

Q: Is that breakdown of 800 still the way it was, about 200 in Rwanda, 500 in Uganda, 110...

A: Right. And you're going to ask me why we already have nearly 200 in Kenya. It's because some of the people in Kenya are waiting to go to Rwanda.

Q: Okay. But that breakdown is still good.

A: That is still an approximately breakdown, yes.

Q: Can I go back again to the refugees in Zaire. You may have noticed, the humanitarian head of the European Union is criticizing the international community for delaying on a military decision and saying that they have seen the latest satellite pictures which shows at least a half million people there in remote locations in danger of starvation, and there are more reports about the rebels are separating the young men from those refugees still there. What is the U.S. position on those refugees still in Zaire?

A: Our position is that we know there are many refugees there. We don't know how many refugees are there. We believe that right now there are about 100,000 refugees moving north toward Goma. That's our best estimate right now. We don't know whether these refugees are planning to get to Goma and then swing east and move into Rwanda. Our information on this is not as good as we would like and we don't have as clear a picture as we would like, but we know two things. First, about 500,000, maybe more, have already gone into Rwanda -- a move of huge proportions. And two, there are still many left in Eastern Zaire. We don't know exactly how many are left, nor do we know where they all are. Some, as I said, are apparently moving north. We think quite a few have also moved east. We also think that some have gone into Burundi, some from the south have gone into Burundi and maybe into Rwanda as well, and maybe Tanzania. So there has been some movement out of Eastern Zaire, but nothing out of Eastern Zaire on the southern part, nothing that matches anywhere near the proportion of the numbers that have gone into Rwanda from Goma.

Q: What about the reports that they're separating the young men from...

A: I can't comment on those reports. I just don't know.

Q: And one follow-up again on the European Union humanitarian head person. She was saying that the reason perhaps the international community is delaying is because of the, as she put it, the color of the skin of the people there. Any reaction on this criticism of delaying of the international community to make a final decision to help these refugees still in Zaire?

A: I think that's a completely unsubstantiated and troublesome charge. We are poised and ready to provide help, and we provided extensive help in 1994 -- we, the multinational community -- and we're ready to do it now. We're just waiting for an assessment of the situation. Right now we have not gotten a request for a support mission from Rwanda, for instance, nor have we gotten huge requests for additional aid from the NGO groups at this stage. I think everybody is in the posture of assessing what the situation is. This is a challenging situation. It's one that could change quickly if disease were to sweep through refugee populations, if there were some hitch in getting food to them. We have to be prepared to move to head off humanitarian crisis, and that's what we're there for.

Q: Last week there were a number of non-governmental organizations that were making estimates of widespread starvation and death in the jungles, among the refugee population. I gather it is appearing that that is not the case. Do you have any assessment on the vitality of the refugees, on the kind of death that may have been left out in the jungle?

A: I do not have any assessment of that, no. What we do know is that the refugees who have made it into Rwanda are in relatively good shape, considering what they've been through. They're hungry, but they're not desperately starving. They're relatively healthy -- relative considering that they've been living in refugee camps and that they've walked a long way to get into Rwanda and are continuing to walk. But I can't comment at all about the status of the refugees left in Eastern Zaire, and that's one of the issues that we were hoping to get more information on.

Q: You said 30 U.S. aircraft dedicated... That figure has somewhat grown. We saw a DDI figure up to 48. Can you give us an accurate count of how many aircraft are now standing by waiting to fly in if the green light is given?

A: There are 45.

Q: On the concern about the problems with race in the military and sex trends in the military in general, do you have any figures that tell you whether or not there's more of a problem with rape and other violent sex crimes in the military as opposed to in the civilian sector?

A: I do not. I read a piece by a law school professor in the Washington Post yesterday, and she made the case that the incident of rape is actually less in the military than it is in the general population, but I do not have good figures providing information on that.

Q: Why is it that you don't have those figures?

A: Because there aren't particularly good figures available. Yesterday Secretary Perry met with the Chairman of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, known as DACOWITS. This is a committee that was founded in 1951 by Secretary of Defense George Marshall to monitor the condition of women in the military. He asked the chairman of that committee, whose name is Holly Hemphill, to come and spend a day in the Pentagon doing basically three things. The first was to meet with Secretary of the Army Togo West and other top Army officials to get briefed on their investigation of what's happening at Aberdeen, Fort Leonard Wood and elsewhere throughout the Army; to then go talk to Fred Pang, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management Policy, and talk to him about what the other services are doing to monitor the situation. As you know, Secretary Perry and Deputy Secretary White have asked the other services to look at the way they communicate the Department's zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment to the services from the top level of command down to the bottom. And also then to come back and report to him, Secretary Perry, on their assessment of what the Army and the Department was doing generally; and two, to make recommendations for changing the way DACOWITS operates in order to look more attentively at training situations.

She and the incoming chairman of DACOWITS, Judith Youngman, met with the Secretary and the Service Secretaries yesterday, along with Mr. Pang and Edwin Dorn, who is the Under Secretary for Personnel [and Readiness], to make their report. One of the points they made in their report was that there were not good statistics on sexual harassment in the military. The reasons for that are many, but one is that all the services use different definitions and different ways of reporting these statistics. So the Department is in the process of trying to come up with uniform reporting techniques that will give us a much clearer picture of not only sexual harassment, but of various types of sexual harassment, including rape, assault, etc., in the military.

Q: Didn't Congress mandate that back in 1989? And why is it taking until now to get that going?

A: Congress did mandate it after a federal law was passed in 1988 requiring the creation of a uniform, what they call an incident reporting base. Congress mandated that the military come up with its own system that would be compliant with the 1988 law, but they gave no money to the Department to help it do that. So the project which was first required in 1989 did, in fact, languish for several years. It was just last month, I think, October 15th, that we issued a directive instructing the services to come up with what we're going to call the DIBRS or Defense Incident Base Reporting System, for all sorts of crimes -- not just sexual crimes.

Q: How is it that you got the money now to do this?

A: I'm afraid I can't answer that question, but basically, after this hadn't been done for awhile, somebody decided it was time to do and we're in the process of doing that now.

Q: Is it a case of when something becomes really important then you find the money for it?

A: Well, I want to point out that the directive was issued on October 15th, which was about a month before this issue arose for the Army. It takes awhile to get directives going.

Actually, last year, as you probably recall, I think in May, Secretary Widnall of the Air Force and Under Secretary Dorn held a press conference here reporting on the findings of a Sexual Harassment Task Force. That task force made a number of recommendations for combating sexual harassment in the military, and in the course of that, they looked at the statistics and realized that the statistics weren't up to par. So we've been working since then to come up with a better system for getting the statistics.

Q: You said the directive came out a month before the Army's announcement, but wasn't it, in fact, a month after the Army was aware they had a problem, which they arrested somebody in September for this.

A: I don't want to comment on when it came out. It was not prompted by the Army's problems. I think you've been around here long enough, Jamie, to know that directives take eons to write in the Department of Defense. This is an issue that's been around for awhile; it's, frankly, a deficiency. The Department admits it's a deficiency. The Secretary discussed this deficiency with the Service Secretaries yesterday and with the members of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, and it's one that we've set out to correct.

Q: Is it from the Secretary's point of view that DACOWITS hasn't done anything, or isn't empowered to do enough? Why did he have to bring DACOWITS people in and ask them to do something, if that was already on their charter?

A: DACOWITS has been looking at the issue of sexual harassment for a long while, and it's performed, actually, a crucial role in helping to improve conditions for women in the military over nearly the whole life of the Defense Department. They had not, frankly, spent time looking at the training environment. The reason they hadn't done that, Ms. Hemphill reported yesterday, was that training is very intense, and almost every minute is spoken for during a training cycle, particularly basic training or advanced skill training. Therefore, they had not actually gone into training bases and spent time talking about problems women were having in training. They are going to do that.

One of the changes they agreed to make was to include training in their 1997 program. So they will begin visiting training sites and talking with not only women there, but also NCOs and commanders about the training environment, with a particular eye to sexual harassment.

Last year, on an average year, they make about 90 to 100 installation visits. So it's pretty broad coverage. It hasn't included training bases until now, but it will, starting next year.

Q: Back to the gathering up of statistics. Is DoD going to make the services come up with similar reporting methods? Or how is this problem going to be solved so this issue can be better studied?

A: We can get you a copy of the October 15th directive. That directive actually was issued in order to require each service to come up with the money necessary to develop better, more responsive, and uniform reporting requirements for all crimes, not just sexual crimes. So there will be a better set of statistics sometime in the future -- I can't predict when -- than we've had in the past.

Q: How much money is it going to cost to do that?

A: I'm afraid I don't know that. I'm not sure the services know at this stage, either.

Q: This will probably sound odd coming on the heels of a sexual harassment discussion, but Penthouse Publications has filed suit in the New York District Court to delay the implementation of the Military Decency Act to remove adult magazines from military retail outlets. A hearing is set for late December. Is planning still ongoing within the building here for doing that, or have you put that on hold pending the outcome of that hearing? Can you give us any update on...

A: That is a law passed by the Congress and enacted by the President. We have to comply with the law unless the Court enjoins us from doing that. So my understanding is, I'll double check on this, but my understanding is we plan to comply with the law.

Q: We've gotten quite a few outrage letters from GIs, obviously sentiment is running pretty strongly against this, that they're being asked to put their lives on the line in places like Bosnia, and now they may not even be able to read a Penthouse, Playboy in their off-duty time. What would you say to those troops? Does the Department have a position on the wisdom or the necessity of doing this?

A: Congress has passed a law and we will do our best to comply with that law unless it's overturned by the Courts.

Q: Does the Secretary have a position pro, for, or undecided on the recommendation to have civilian female ombudsmen in training centers?

A: That's a suggestion that's been made by some members of Congress, I know. It's one of a number of suggestions we're looking at now. There is a broad review going on by the Army. I believe the Army will be speaking more in the near future about some of its plans. There will be also reviews in every service of its training environments. That's one of the thing we'll look at.

Q: Do you have any reaction to this Duke University study which seems to show that rape is more prevalent than other violent crimes in the military?

A: The study also pointed out, as I understand it, that rape is actually less prevalent in the military than it is in society as a whole. So I think we should start with that point and keep it foremost in our discussion of the study and of this topic.

The study was based on some data going back to World War II. I'm not qualified to comment on the validity of that data, nor am I qualified to say whether that data is still relevant 50 years later. It was data that was, I think, generated from some wartime incidents during World War II.

What I would like to say is that the author of the study, Madeline Morris, called for a uniform reporting system for crime figures, and that is something that we are doing, as I discussed earlier.

Q: You're accepting the validity of the figures in that they show that rape is less prevalent in the military than in civilian society, but you're not accepting the validity of the figures which show that rape is more prevalent than other violent crimes?

A: I'm heartened by the figures that show that rape is less prevalent in the military than in society as a whole. I'm not qualified to comment on any of the figures in there because I don't know. But she did make that point.

Q: Back to the issue of the uniform reporting requirements, I don't understand the argument that you didn't do anything because you didn't have the money. In the first place, the military was supposed to be collecting statistics on their disciplinary rates and...

A: Otto, let me interrupt you here. I said it was a deficiency that we don't have uniform figures. The Secretary realizes that. Assistant Secretary Pang realizes that. We're correcting it.

Q: It's been four years since that law was in existence, to have done something in this current Administration.

A: I hear what you're saying. We are trying to correct it. I can't speak for what happened in the Department or didn't happen in the Department in 1989.

Q: Do you have any comment on a report that China has been sending missile technology to Iran? The CIA report in the Washington Times.

A: I saw that report. As you know, we don't comment on leaked intelligence reports, so I have nothing to say about that particular report. Our policy on proliferation is very clear. We've made it clear to the Chinese. Also, our policy on efforts by other nations to help Iran improve its military is very clear. We oppose those efforts. We think those efforts are dangerous, and we think that they can lead to a less stable environment in the Gulf.

Q: After the... There have been previous incidents where some of these classified intelligence reports have leaked. Secretary Perry took some measures in an attempt to tighten up the security. Does this latest report indicate that those measures aren't working?

A: They certainly indicate that the measures aren't airtight, but you're assuming that this report came from the Department of Defense. I don't assume that at all.

Q: Back to the question of these flights being called off, you said there were no flights today. Reassessing the flights. Do you expect the flights will be resumed, or you just don't know?

A: I would expect the flights to be resumed, but I don't know when. Part of a reassessment is to decide what to do.

Q: Panama apparently has called off negotiations on U.S. military presence after the year 2000 because the United States is not interested in considering paying rent for those bases. What's your reaction to that?

A: My reaction is that I'm not certain of the accuracy of that report. That's my first reaction. The report that Panama has called off negotiations on that. I think we'll just have to see what happens.

It is true that we have said that we aren't going to pay rent for military installations in Panama after we pull out at the end of 1999.

Q: But the Panamanian President didn't tell Wesley Clark that those talks will not be held?

A: I will check into this further, but the last time I inquired about this, my understanding is that some of the published reports didn't accurately reflect the conversation.

Q: What happened to Guy Smith, the public relations person who was brought in to assist with the Gulf War Illness? Many of us met him in the last week or so. What happened to him?

A: Guy Smith returned to Smith Worldwide in New York.

Q: Why was the contract for his services terminated?

A: Well, when Bernie Rostker set out to beef up the Persian Gulf investigative team on a number of fronts, he went out and sought some outside advice from Guy Smith and from others. Guy Smith provided him some advice, and he decided that after a month of services, that was enough.

Q: Was it because of Smith's links to the tobacco industry and their credibility problems?

A: No. I think it was that when some people in the building, and also in the press, raised questions about the contract, Bernie Rostker, rather than waiting for a lengthy investigation, decided that it would deflect attention from the good work he's doing in the Persian Gulf area, and rather than have this as a time-consuming sideshow, he would just rather go ahead with his task. So he intends to pay Guy Smith for the work that he's done. He thinks that Guy Smith provided very valuable advice and services. But he decided, as he said in one article I saw, that when the public affairs man becomes the story, he's become a distraction from the job that's being done.

Q: Last week Secretary Perry made some comments where he said that the Department could live within a balanced federal budget. That appears to contradict statements made earlier in the year in which top officials argued that the Pentagon might be unduly burdened by budget cuts. Can you tell us why the change in policy, if there is one?

A: I don't think there's been a change of policy. Secretary Perry has always said that the ability to maintain the current force, that is of about 1.45 million, we're about down to the level we've set for the drawdown. The ability to maintain a force of that size and to increase modernization efforts as called for in the future years defense plan depend on several things. One is maintaining the proposed top line budget figures. That is the budget figures built into the long term plan; and two, generating significant economies from our operations. He has pinpointed several economies. The one he speaks about all the time is BRAC. There will be a $10 billion swing in BRAC from the $4 billion a year we have been spending in the last couple of years to shut down bases, to savings of $6 billion a year in the future. So that will be a swing of $10 billion a year, money that we can use for modernization, training, etc.

He also believes that it is possible to make significant economies in the way we acquire weapons. Indeed, we've already made very significant savings in our weapons acquisitions. The example he cites frequently is the JDAMS program where we've encouraged savings of probably several billions of dollars over the life of the program. We also, I think, expect significant savings in the Joint Strike Fighter, compared to what it would have cost to develop that plane and buy the plane several years ago using different procurement techniques.

Also, he believes that there are significant savings possible from the way we deal with defense inventories. Obviously, we can't change dramatically the way we deal with inventories in battlefield situations, but we can probably save quite a lot by reducing inventories, by putting more of the inventory burden on the supplier and the manufacturer in our non- battlefield supply operations. So those are three areas in which we think we can achieve fairly significant savings.

Q: Now that the JSF is on the table and some $2 billion has been allocated, is there any thought or any consideration to cancel either the F-22 or the F/A-18E/F program?

A: No.

Q: Before I say thank you, I'd like to raise, I'm sure on behalf of everybody here, a collective bleat about the way these briefings keep slipping. We realize that one reason why they slip is because you're trying to give us all the information you can. But maybe if we could try to hold them at one time...

A: I accept that, Charlie. I will try to make my briefings as on time as all the other briefings in the government.

Press: [Laughter] No! No! No!

Q: Wait a minute...

Press: Thank you.

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