DoD News Briefing, February 10, 1998, at 1:30 p.m.
[Corrects home station location of unit currently on exercise INTRINSIC ACTION in Kuwait.]
Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.
Let me start by welcoming three Republic of Srpska and seven Federation journalists from Bosnia who are traveling together on a USIA-sponsored program. They'll be in Washington from February 9th through the 11th, and then they go to the University of Missouri at Columbia, Missouri, to work with the Investigative Reporters and Editors Association. So we welcome all of you.
I have no other announcements, so let me try and answer some questions.
Q: Has the SecDef signed a deployment order for the troops yet that General Zinni's asked for?
A: Charlie, in fact there is no deployment order that has been signed. I think the best way to explain this is that these troops were part of an original concept which has been part of the overall planning. General Zinni has indicated that he plans to ask for the deployment of these troops, and the Secretary has indicated that he will provide General Zinni with whatever he needs in this regard.
These troops would round out those that are already in Kuwait operating in that INTRINSIC ACTION exercise which has been going on for some time. These troops were alerted some time ago that it might be necessary for them to deploy. They will essentially round out the brigade that we have plans to deploy. There will actually be a brigade minus configuration. And I would anticipate that we would get a formal request for a deployment within the next several days.
Q: You mean from the SecDef?
A: A request from General Zinni, the actual formal request that the units be deployed.
Q: How many troops and from where?
A: I don't want to specify exactly what units. My expectation is that the troops would come from Fort Stewart, and it would be up to about 3,000. Now these troops would be sent because of the deterrent factor that they represent, kind of an enlargement of the units that are already operating there.
Q: What would be their purpose? To protect Kuwait or what?
A: As I say, they have a deterrent capability and they also would provide some additional security if it became necessary to do so there.
Q: Will these soldiers just meet up with equipment already prepositioned there?
A: Yes. That's correct.
Q: So there would be no new equipment...
A: No new equipment.
Q: You say you would expect a formal request in the next couple of days from General Zinni. Are they pre-approved? Will that await sign-off by the SecDef or what? Or has he already virtually signed off on it?
A: He has indicated that he is certainly inclined to support General Zinni as he refines the forces that he, General Zinni, believes he needs in the area. But at this juncture the formal request has not yet been submitted.
Q: Is the Pentagon or the Secretary pleased with the support they've gotten from the Gulf States on basing?
A: Yes. The Secretary has indicated on several occasions that he is very pleased with the support that he has received from those that he has visited. The Secretary right now is in Qatar, and I think he goes to Bahrain tomorrow before he finishes up there in the Gulf region. He has a few more days in his trip before he returns to Washington. But he's very satisfied with the support that has been indicated, that we will be able to carry out any mission that we are required to carry out. Keeping in mind that not only he but those he has been visiting continue to hope for a diplomatic solution to this issue.
Q: Are you clear on what kind of support aircraft based in Saudi Arabia could provide to any U.S. air strikes?
A: I don't want to get into that level of detail. First of all, if it ever comes to any kind of military action all of that would be clear, but I think that the Secretary and General Zinni and others are very pleased with what they have heard and seen from all of the countries they've been visiting and the friends that they've talked to in the region.
Q: So you're not going to (inaudible) any AWACS or any refueling planes or anything from Saudi Arabia?
A: I continue to say that we're satisfied and pleased with the level of support that we have received.
Q: Can you clarify what happens to the offensive, the strike aircraft that are in Saudi Arabia. If they are not going to be used in an operation, would they be flown out to other bases and used there? Would they remain in Saudi Arabia for the duration?
A: Again, I'm not going to get into where planes are going and that sort of thing.
Q: Can you give us an indication of exactly what's moving today towards the Gulf region?
A: As we indicated late last week, there are additional aircraft deploying, and those include six F-117s, six F-16CJs, six B-52s, one B-1, and 23 additional aircraft. In addition to that, I think you're aware that the ARG, headed by USS GUAM, is also en route to the area. As we've just been discussing there is a request anticipated from General Zinni for some additional ground troops.
Q: The 23 additional aircraft, is that support aircraft? Can you break that down?
A: I'm not going to break it down any further than that, no.
Q: Are they actually en route?
A: If they're not en route, they soon will be.
Q: Why won't you break down the additional aircraft?
A: I'm just not going to.
Q: INTRINSIC ACTION is an ongoing exercise, right?
A: Yeah, it's an ongoing exercise that we conduct in Kuwait from time to time, several times a year. It involves operating with Kuwaiti forces as well as exercising our ability to take the prepositioned equipment out into the desert and operate in it in that environment.
Q: Is this a scheduled...
A: No, this is not a scheduled...
Q: ...or was it speeded up?
A: Excuse me?
Q: Was it a scheduled appointment...
A: No, but it was part of the overall thinking that General Zinni put into his contingency planning here.
Q: When do you hope to have the 117s and the B-1s in place?
A: I can't give you an exact date, but once they're there, we'll hopefully be able to let you know.
Q: Do you think already that airplanes from Kadana or Misawa or based in Japan are to go to the region?
A: The planes that were part of the air wing for USS INDEPENDENCE have deployed with USS INDEPENDENCE, that's correct.
Q: Could you plug personnel numbers in for us in amounts with this additional equipment that's going?
A: No. I don't have personnel numbers for the additions that are going to be coming, but we will be able to develop those in the next several days. The present numbers, if you want to know where we stand, are about 25,000 U.S. military personnel now in the Gulf region, and then approximately 28 ships. That includes 15 combatants and 13 support ships, and over 320 aircraft. These numbers that I have just given you do not reflect the GUAM, do not reflect the NIMITZ, which is still in the region but not in the Gulf area, and do not reflect the incoming aircraft that are deploying from the orders that were signed out last week.
Q: Can you tell us where those aircraft are going? Are they all going to Kuwait?
A: I'm not going to give you specifics as to where they'll go, but I think many of you can probably extrapolate from where the others are.
A: I would think over the next couple of weeks it will certainly be there, if not before.
Q: Is this enough to do the job now or are more aircraft going to be needed?
A: I believe that General Zinni and the Secretary both indicated that they are satisfied with the forces that we have in the region and with those that are ordered into the region; but General Zinni continues to refine his plan, and that process may go on for some time.
I want to stress, however, that despite these deployments, that we firmly believe that the best solution is the diplomatic solution in this situation.
Q: Over the past few weeks the Pentagon has been in various venues talking about this operation being more than a pinprick, a sustained operation. Does this increasing of the forces, does this mean that the operation will be larger than it was planned maybe two weeks ago? Longer? Stronger?
A: I don't know that it means any of those things. I think that any time you have the potential for military operation the commander who is going to be in charge of the operation reviews his plans, refines the forces that he feels will be necessary, and requests additional forces as he sees fit. And that is what these deployments we've seen in the last several days are a reflection -- of that process.
Q: Do you see any encouragement that strikes will not be necessary against Iraq?
A: Do we see anything on the diplomatic front?
A: I think that everybody remains hopeful that a diplomatic solution to this issue can be found, but our bottom line is unchanged in all of this. That is that we feel that the best solution is for UNSCOM to be on the ground and that the UNSCOM inspectors have unfettered access to the locations that they seek to inspect.
Q: Has the Olympics been a factor in your planning?
A: I know there's been a lot of reporting on that, but if there is some action required as a result of action from Saddam Hussein, it will be independent of that factor.
I just want to point out that the timing on all of this is as a result of actions taken by Saddam Hussein and it is entirely coincidental that the Olympics are taking place now, from our perspective.
Q: That would not be considered... The Iraq situation will not be considered... Or the Olympic situation will not be considered in terms of any timing...
A: The one thing that I want to point out is that we will be prepared to respond if there is a requirement from the National Command Authority to respond, but that external factors will not play a role in all of that.
Q: On the ground troops, there was some confusion yesterday. I think every newspaper in America reported that these troops were going to come from Fort Hood. I'm wondering whether the reporting just got out in front or whether there was a decision made to change...
A: I don't think so. It makes a lot of sense for the units to come from Fort Stewart. This is... If the units come from there, indeed they'll be from the same post that those who are already in Kuwait doing the INTRINSIC ACTION, where they come from. [Task Force 1-30 is from Fort Benning, Ga., not Fort Stewart, Ga.] So it just rounds out, as I say, the brigade that we have equipment for over there. I'm not sure how the reporting focused on Fort Hood, but I believe that it has been corrected with those who are in theater and traveling around that it would be Fort Stewart.
Q: Is there any force that General Zinni has asked for, either formally or informally, that the SecDef has indicated he won't provide?
A: I am certainly not aware of any force that he's indicated that he won't provide.
Q: Has the NIMITZ left the Gulf?
A: The NIMITZ has left the Gulf, but it is still in the region. The NIMITZ, its air wing -- which is the aircraft -- are not reflected in those numbers that I read just a few moments ago. It's still in the region, and it will move up, as I recall, through the Red Sea in through the Mediterranean, to ultimately go to Norfolk, Virginia, where it was scheduled to go in the first place.
Q: What are the estimated costs of the deployments since November? And is there any thought being given to asking allies to pay for part of this?
A: First of all, as we've said many times in these kinds of operations it's not possible to come to a full determination on costs until the end of the operation. I don't have a good figure at this point, and I have heard of no plan to ask for assistance from allies. I think many of you have seen the statement that the President made earlier today about the offers from Canada and Australia regarding forces, but I am unaware of any kind of a plan that would involve money.
Q: The Pentagon has, in fact, said that costs will be addressed once the operation is done, but conceivably you have a problem in that you have to send a supplemental for the FY98 budget.
Q: That supplemental is supposed to go to the Hill by mid-March. Are you saying the operation will be done by mid-March?
A: No, I'm not saying that the operation will be done by mid-March. There will be a plan for, I believe, an emergency supplemental that will go up in March. The Comptroller working with the services will come up with a cost factor that they can provide. But at this juncture I don't think we have a clear idea of what that figure would be.
Q: Could you restate for us the Department's objectives in these proposed airstrikes, or the Administration's objectives? What is hoped to be achieved through a sustained bombing campaign?
A: I certainly can, and I'm willing to do that, but I think it has been stated by many individuals more senior than I, and I think that it's not necessary for me to restate it. From this Department's perspective, what we are doing is getting units in a position that we can respond if we're required to do so. That process has been going on for some time, and we will continue to refine the process and get units into position.
Q: Is forcing Saddam to allow UN inspectors full and free access a militarily achievable objective in the minds of the planners in this building?
A: I think that all of the issues that you're raising there have been discussed before, and I think I'll leave it to the Secretary of State and others to discuss that.
Q: Are you sure you want to say that Secretary Cohen is pleased and satisfied with the level of support he's received from Saudi Arabia?
A: He has said that he is satisfied with the support that he has been getting. There is a joint statement that was released by the Secretary and his counterpart when he left Saudi Arabia that we can provide to you that gives kind of an indication of where we stand with the Saudis on this overall issue.
Q: How about deadlines? Is there going to be a public deadline set on Iraq and Saddam Hussein...
A: I'm not aware of any kind of public deadline. I just know that...
Q: ...plan? Are there plans to set a public deadline before any...
A: Not that I'm aware of.
Q: The Chinese government warns against using force in Iraq saying that it would trigger more serious conflicts. This parallels what Yeltsin and the Russians have been saying about hitting Iraq. Do you have a reaction?
A: I think you've heard from the Secretary of State and the President on that and I can't add anything to what they've said.
Q: As far as anything on the ground in Iraq right now, are you seeing anything unusual? Are they moving around any of their surface-to-air missiles?
A: No, in fact the picture on the ground is not much changed. They continue to be dispersed for the most part in garrison. Nothing of any great consequence there.
Q: You seem to imply that the NIMITZ was loitering around. You said it was ultimately going to...
A: I just don't want to give the impression that the NIMITZ, once it left the Gulf region, is out of the Central Command area of responsibility, which is not the case. It takes some time to get out of that area. But the ship has left the Gulf region. It is redeploying. It is heading toward Norfolk, Virginia, in accordance with the original plan.
Q: But is it taking its time so that it would be available for something? When is it going to be no longer a factor?
A: When it goes through the Suez Canal. But I just must say, having said that, that the good thing about not only naval forces but any kind of forces is their great flexibility. If NIMITZ or any other unit is required anywhere in the world, they're ready to go. It's not unheard of that we have turned units around, that we have deployed units on very short notice. I think you saw an example of that this past weekend in San Diego when there was a unit that deployed a little bit early to ensure that we maintained a PersTempo. So while I'm not trying to forecast anything, I certainly do want to emphasize the fact that the military remains very flexible and certainly very capable of responding if necessary.
Q: Where exactly is the Tarawa Group heading?
A: The Tarawa? Tarawa is the unit that was deployed from San Diego this weekend. That group, amphibious ready group, had been scheduled to deploy to the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean region. It got underway a little early. The purpose of that deployment was simply, as I just mentioned, to maintain the PersTempo. Ultimately Tarawa will relieve the GUAM ARG in order to get GUAM home on time.
Q: Are you sending JSTARS aircraft, one or more, over to the Persian Gulf?
A: I don't have any announcement on that today.
A: No, it is not a no. I just don't have an announcement on it.
Q: A question on the Australian government. They have talked about sending refueling aircraft and personnel, medical and intelligence, and a detachment of (inaudible) in the event of a U.S.-led airstrike against Iraq. I'm wondering what the Pentagon's view is of the usefulness of that support? And I'm also wondering how many other U.S. allies have offered to commit ground troops so far and if that's seen as desirable.
A: I can't give you a full rundown, to answer the last part of your question on the offerings that have been made by other nations. What I can say is that the offers are certainly appreciated by the United States. The President spoke about this today and I would refer you to his comments for his reaction to them. What I can tell you is that it will be up to General Zinni, the commander in chief, to review what he feels is necessary to ensure that any forces that are deployed can integrate fully with those that we have deployed to the area; and then to ensure that any kind of joint operations, of combined operations, are carried out effectively. But that is a military activity that will have to go on, and I think you'll see conversations taking place on the military level in the next few days to make sure that that takes place.
Q: From a military standpoint, is this a real coalition that's coming together? A few planes from Britain, a little help from the Canadians...
A: I think you've seen the world community over the last weeks and months voice concern on the diplomatic front that the Iraqis are way out of line in their adherence to the UN Security Council resolutions. I think this is another manifestation of parts of the international community that they feel very strongly about this and are willing to play a role in whatever action may be required if it gets to that.
Q: Trent Lott, among others, is urging that a strategy that would remove Saddam Hussein from office... I was just wondering if there was any planning or any other indication that the Pentagon is seriously considering that suggestion?
A: First of all, that kind of a decision has been addressed by both the President and other senior Administration officials and the short answer is none.
Q: ...criticisms that are heard regularly at this point are questions of the military efficacy of an air campaign of this sort, generally coupled with a comparison of the Gulf War and the kind of statements that are made fall under the lines of the air war and the air campaign in the Gulf War wasn't able to do thus and such, we wouldn't be able to do any better than that now. It would be a waste, type of thing.
How do you respond to that, in terms of the military technology?
A: I think that you have heard from many senior officials in the last several weeks that the United States feels very strongly that first of all, we should pursue this thing diplomatically. We see the very best solution as one which gets the UNSCOM inspectors on the ground where they can actually see what it is that needs to be inspected, to ensure that the Iraqis are not continuing their development, production, perhaps deployment of weapons of mass destruction. That's the best solution possible. But if that is not possible, on the other side of that coin is a military option and we're putting into place those platforms, those weapon systems that we believe will have an effect on Saddam Hussein to diminish his capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction, or to deliver weapons of mass destruction, or to threaten his neighbors.
Q: The Pentagon has been very public about aircraft movements to the Persian Gulf, almost publicizing them in the past. Why now no comment on 23 aircraft going to the region? Why the secrecy?
A: When we are in a position to delineate for you the additional aircraft that are going, we'll be glad to do that, but right now I'm not prepared to do that.
Q: I just wondered if I could follow up on Trent Lott. He was saying not (inaudible) directed against Saddam Hussein personally, but by supporting alternative, democratic, if possible, alternatives to him.
A: That's a perfect question for the State Department.
Q: In the Gulf War, Saddam launched scores of missile strikes against Israel. Is there any reason to believe that he would use not use missiles possibly armed with weapons of mass destruction against Israel if he's provoked by strikes by the United States? And couldn't this lead to a wider conflict between Israel and...
A: I don't want to speculate on what it could lead to.
Q: Can you talk about something different? A force structure announcement today coming from the Air Force. They're apparently going to cut about 950 jobs at Tinker, outside Oklahoma City. Why is the Air Force doing this when there's a buildup in the Gulf?
A: I have not seen the Air Force announcement that was made today, but I think this is their annual adjustment. My expectation is that it's in keeping with the force levels, the manpower levels that they establish for themselves over the FYDP. So I don't see this as anything unexpected.
Q: I'm just trying to get an idea of scale in the Gulf, the military presence in the Gulf. Say compared to during the war, what is the presence now? Is it two percent, ten percent of the forces present? Again, I'm just trying to get...
A: I think people who are historians... they've probably looked through that. I haven't looked through it. I can tell you what we've got, but I can't give you a percentage based on what there was there during the Gulf War. We may be able to come up with some figures, but I don't have it off the top of my head.
Q: There are special forces aircraft leaving Holbrooke in Florida. What will be the purpose of those special forces deployments? What will they do in the Persian Gulf region if called?
A: I don't have a delineation of exactly what they will be doing, but my guess is that they will be involved in search and rescue, that kind of thing.
Q: Can you give us an idea of how much longer Linda Tripp, who makes $88,000 a year, will remain working out of her home? And the second part to that scenario, can you tell us whether or not any computers that were used by either Ms. Lewinsky or Ms. Tripp were taken out of this building by investigators for further examination?
A: To answer the second part of your question first, I would refer you to the independent counsel for a list of any materials provided by this building in response to the subpoena that we talked about some time ago.
With regard to Linda Tripp, she remains an employee with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. She is working with her supervisor's permission at home under a program called the flexi-place. That allows her to work by telephone and by computer. She is, as we've said before, in charge of a project called JCOC and the process of putting together the program for this year is ongoing.
Q: Can you give me an example of any other public affairs worker who in the past has been granted a similar provision for employment?
A: To my knowledge there are no other public affairs people who have been placed on the flexi-place program. There are other individuals working in the Pentagon who from time to time have been put in this kind of a work arrangement.
Q: Is this work arrangement going to be like indefinitely? Is there a time limit?
A: I can't forecast for you how long this will go on.
Q: ...meeting face-to-face with people in the building, it doesn't seem like she should be able to do this forever.
A: There may be requirements for her to meet face-to-face with people in the building, and we'll have to address that when we get to that point.
Q: Is she putting in a full productive work day?
A: That's the requirement. Put in a full...
Q: But is she putting it in, though?
A: A full productive work day. That's the requirement.
Q: Is it happening?
A: To my knowledge, it is.
Q: Do you still describe her as being in good standing with the Pentagon?
A: All I'll say is that she is an employee of OASD/PA. That's what she was yesterday and she remains that today.
A: The Joint Civilian Orientation Conference is a program which takes individuals who have no experience with the military or whose experience with the military was long ago, and exposes them to the services, the military services, and the operations that we do on an everyday basis. It's a program that these individuals are, for the most part, influentials and they essentially are exposed to the servicemen and women who serve in the armed forces, to some of the leadership, and as I say, to some of the operations and equipment that we have in today's armed forces.
Q: What is the budget for that program?
A: I don't think it's very large, because the individuals actually pay for all of the costs except for perhaps transportation.
Press: Thank you.