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DoD News Briefing, Thursday, February 26, 1998

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
February 26, 1998 1:45 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

First I'd like to welcome a group of 21 journalism students from Carlton University in Ottawa, Canada. They're here for a three-day program sponsored by the USIA, and we welcome you to our briefing.

Second, I want to remind you that the Army will have a background briefing on its Biological Integrated Detection System, known as BIDS, following my briefing this afternoon.

Finally, I'd like to build on a story that many of you worked on yesterday which was the story about cyber attacks against the Pentagon computer system. I'd like to talk briefly about a cyber accomplishment which is our system called DefenseLINK. As you know, it's a cyber window to the Pentagon, open to the public, anybody who has a computer. I want to focus on just one aspect of that which is the photographs we carry from combat camera and other sources on DefenseLINK.

Last year, 1997, there were 98,000 photos downloaded form DefenseLINK by various people logging on to get photographs of military operations or of people such as Secretary Cohen or General Shelton, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. So it's become a major way of getting photographs out to the public and to the news media, as a matter of fact. And since you're all very interested in the accomplishments of the Defense Reform Initiative, I'd like to point out that we have calculated that it would have cost us more than $1.5 million to print and mail those photographs to people. Instead they got them more quickly, and certainly more cheaply over DefenseLINK than they would have if we'd used our traditional way of transmitting photographs.

With that, Charlie, I let you ask the first question on the DefenseLINK system, which I know is of passionate interest to you.

Q: Speaking of photos, has the United States increased the U-2 flights over Central Iraq during this problem period, and are Russian planes, at all flying a Russian reconaissance flights (inaudible)? And while we're on that, what is the situation with the inspections now?

A: There are a number of questions there. Let me start first with the U-2s.

As you know, we fly a U-2 over Central Iraq in support of UNSCOM. There has not been an increase in the frequency of those flights to the best of my knowledge. We still fly at a schedule given to us by UNSCOM and we've been doing that. I think there was a flight earlier this week. I don't know the date of the next flight, but they've been basically following the same schedule for the last month or so, and I've seen no indication there will be a change of that yet.

You'll have to ask UNSCOM about the incorporation of other aircraft into its overhead surveillance schedule. Clearly that's something that has been discussed for a period of time, and we've made it clear that if other assets were used by UNSCOM to supplement the U-2, that would be fine. What we are looking for is good information to support the UNSCOM mission.

Q: To your knowledge, have the Russians flown reconnaissance flights?

A: To my knowledge they have not flown in support of UNSCOM. That doesn't mean that they won't, but to my knowledge they have not. That's really a question you should direct to UNSCOM, and they could answer it more directly than I.

The inspection teams are now just beginning to go back into Iraq after the last week of uncertainty, and I think it will be several days before they're back doing their job. But we have made it very clear and UNSCOM has made it very clear, at the press conference today by Ambassador Butler, made it very clear that we expect inspections to begin quickly, and that they will be thorough inspections, and that they will attempt to visit some of the sites that were out of bounds until this new agreement.

As you know, one of the single accomplishments of the new agreement between Kofi Annan and the government of Iraq is that it does open up all sites to inspections. We will test that through UNSCOM as soon as possible to find out if the Iraqis are prepared to live up to the agreement that they've made.

Q: Do you have any idea when the first test would come?

A: I don't. That's really an issue you should ask UNSCOM. But the teams are just moving back in and getting their feet on the ground, so it will probably be a couple of days.

Q: These blue pin-striped officials will be added to the inspection teams, or tacked on, or tag along, whatever you want to call it, is the United States prepared in any way to lower the number of Americans on the inspection team?

A: The number of inspectors and the composition of the teams varies from team to team. I think you should be careful about falling into the trap of believing that non-Americans would reach different conclusions in their inspections. There was, as you know, after one of Ambassador Butler's trips to Iraq I think in January, he responded to an Iraqi request to send in a technical evaluation team to look at two issues. The first was chemical weapons and the second was delivery vehicles. Two technical evaluation missions were mounted, and they had extensive non-American membership -- Chinese, Russian, French, etc. And both these teams concluded that they had no confidence in the information that Iraq had provided. They came away unanimously -- each team -- the members from a number of nations agreed unanimously that Iraq was withholding information in both the chemical area and the missile area.

So here's a team that was invited in by Iraq with a multinational composition to it, specifically including people from China, Russia, France, and other countries, and they reached exactly the same conclusions that UNSCOM inspection teams have been reaching on their own for the last several years. So it's important, I think, to note that the people populating these teams are primarily scientists and weapons experts, and they go in there with a goal of trying to find out what is fact and what isn't fact. These two technical evaluation missions, in fact, found exactly what UNSCOM has been finding.

Q: What can you tell us about the efforts of Iraq to develop some kind of a remote control plane that would be capable of delivering chemical and biological weapons?

A: I can't tell you very much about that. We do know from statements made by Iraq that, before the Gulf War, it experimented with ways to drop chemical or biological weapons from airplanes. We also know that UNSCOM has found some drop tanks that they've built for that purpose. They've experimented with several different platforms in the past for delivering chemical or biological weapons, and we also know that they do have a program to develop UAVs -- remotely piloted vehicles.

We do not believe they yet have the capability to deliver chemical or biological weapons through using UAVs, but that's something that I'm sure UNSCOM will look at when it gets its inspectors back in on the ground.

Every report we have of Iraq trying to develop either new capabilities with chemical or biological weapons or new delivery techniques is just another reason why we need UNSCOM inspectors back on the ground with unfettered access to all sites so they can trace down these reports.

Q: Does the Defense Department favor supporting the creation of a Radio Free Iraq, either with technical support, money, or (inaudible)?

A: This is really an issue that other agencies in the government deal with. Our job is military preparedness, and...

Q: ...these radio stations?

A: We've worked on the communications effort in Bosnia, for instance, but in this case I think it would be more appropriate for other agencies to answer that question.

Q: Weren't the U.S. military planes based in Pennsylvania, were they not, that did that in Bosnia?

A: They were deployed over there briefly, and they've come back.

Q: Would not such planes be used in any such effort involving Iraq? I thought the military would have a...

A: As I said, I'm going to stick with my first answer, that this is something for other agencies to respond to.

Q: Can you comment on just the general... the fact that there's been some very strong opposition in Congress to the settlement with Iraq and some statements that, for instance, Jesse Helms said that the United States ought to have a naval blockade, a complete naval blockade of Iraq. Can you just comment on the reaction and some of the other statements that have been made?

A: There is a maritime interdiction force that works to suppress smuggling into and out of Iraq. As you know, the embargo is pretty strict, and we do our best in connection with other countries to try to enforce that embargo. It hasn't always been easy. So there already is an enforcement of the embargo.

I think that members of Congress are understandably suspicious of the Iraqi regime and any agreement that it would sign. However, this agreement does provide us with important authorities that UNSCOM did not have before, and the most principal one is that it explicitly says that all sites have to be open to inspectors and it doesn't set any limit on those sites.

There are clearly questions we still need answered, and those questions will be answered, I assume, in the next few days in discussions between the UN and this Administration, and also as UNSCOM inspectors get back on the ground and start their work again.

But as I pointed out, Ambassador Butler endorsed the agreement and he's been very hawkish in pressing for full, unfettered access and complete operational control by UNSCOM of the inspection process. He believes that this agreement gives him significant new capabilities, and he supports it. So I think there are many reasons to praise this agreement, but there are also reasons to be skeptical about it. The skepticism has to be rooted in our need to find out what it really means in the fine points when the inspectors get back on the ground and start trying to do their job again.

Q: One of the things that has emerged repeatedly from especially members of the Senate is not only a skepticism of the agreement, but a conviction that whether you have an agreement or not, you have to get rid of... you have to have a policy to get rid of Saddam Hussein, which the Administration is lacking at this point.

A: We've always made it clear that we believe the people of Iraq would be better off with a different leader, and we also believe there would be more stability in the Middle East, fewer threats to other countries in the Middle East if Iraq had a different leader. There's no doubt about that. Now a lot of people are talking publicly about ways that might be achieved over a period of time. I think it's not my job to comment specifically on these ideas right now, but there is certainly a lot of discussion in Congress and elsewhere about that.

As you know, members of this Administration in the State Department and also at the NSC have met recently with opposition forces from Iraq. We are clearly engaged in discussing the problems that these opposition forces have faced in Iraq.

Q: A change of subject... This takes us back to Monica and Linda Tripp. If we could go over some of the ground that you have covered before, and just so I understand it clearly in my head.

In the case of Linda Tripp, the White House has been trashing her employment record saying that she was not doing her job and they shuttled her over here to this building, leaving the impression that this is a dumping ground for White House rejects, and here she is making a lot of money. Can you again state that she's doing a good job and that she is adequately holding her position?

A: I can tell you that she came here in August of 1994 and starting in either late 1994 or early 1995, she started working on a specific project called the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, which is a project that this Department has been running since 1948. It basically introduces civilians outside of this Department to the work of the military. She has worked on that program, and came in at a time when it was facing some challenges, and helped resolve those challenges, and has done a good job in that program. She continues to work on that program. She has recently signed with the Department of Defense something called the flexi-place agreement that allows her to work at home. She is currently doing that, and she continues to work on various aspects of the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference program. Those aspects involve dealing with a budget, setting up milestones for this year's project -- this year's conference which will occur in June -- and also setting up the assignments of project officers who will shepherd the people on the program around the visits... Basically people start in Washington and they go and visit each one of the services and spend a night or two at sea on a ship or at an air base or an army base.

Q: She is the one that runs the project?

A: She is the director of the project right now. The project has just finished one milestone, it's put together a list, it's reviewed all of the applicants for the project. These are people who pay their own way, by the way. People come and pick up all their own expenses for the project. We obviously provide the organizational muscle for the project, but they pay their own ways. And she has been working on that project and continues to work on it.

Q: In the case of the hiring of Monica Lewinsky, you said you had three applicants, you chose Monica out of that pool. And let me just run over some of that ground again. Were... did you get any suggestion from the White House that you should have hired her? Pushed?

A: No.

Q: Flat out no.

A: Zero. None.

Q: What are the regulations on hiring people for a job like that? Do you have complete discretion or are you supposed to pick the most qualified, whatever that might be?

A: I think the way to answer that question is, and I realize that whatever else I do in this job, I will always be known as Monica Lewinsky's boss... (Laughter) But I think the best way to answer that question is that I have complete discretion to find the best person I can for the job, given the qualifications that I and my staff set for the job, because whoever holds that job is part of a team working with other people, not just for me.

Q: Here again, the White House has spent a lot of time telling reporters what a bad job Monica did and they wanted her out of there. Your assessment of her work here.

A: I've said many times that she performed her job competently. I think most of you dealt with her. Many of you saw her at work on trips. Most of you talked to her a couple of times a day when you were in and out of my office and you can make your own assessment. But from my viewpoint she did the job competently.

Q: How many other DoD civilians are on the flexi-place program, and what's the average length of time that someone is on such a program?

A: Well, the program, I think, has had a total of about a dozen people use it, and most of the people who use it use it for health reasons. They're people who might be recovering from surgery or recovering from some sort of illness. Not everybody has done this for health reasons, but the majority of people have. I can't answer the question on the total, the average length of time that people are in flexi-place.

Q: Is that something you can check? You take that?

A: Sure, I can attempt to find out.

Q: How long will Linda Tripp be allowed to work at home on the plan?

A: The flexi-place program she's on now works in 30-day increments. The first program was, which started either late last week or this week, will start this week, she will be on it for 30 days.

Q: And then indefinitely or...

A: Either party to the agreement can make decisions about how long it should be extended, and I think we'll just have to play it by ear and see what happens.

Q: What is the reason she gave for requesting that?

A: I think she...

Q: When one asks for that I assume you give a reason?

A: Yeah. She thought that given the current notoriety with which she's faced in the press that it would be disruptive for her to work in the Pentagon and we agreed with that. In addition, she felt that it would just be more efficient for her to work through e-mail and faxes and deliveries at home, and we agreed with that as well, so that's what's happened. But as I say, we'll take this one increment at a time.

Q: A question on the B-2. Some of us were a little surprised to read Dr. Hamre's comments yesterday after the Air Force had gone to great lengths to tell us that the B-2 was ready to go, and then Secretary Hamre seemed to believe that it wasn't quite ready for prime time. What's the real story with the B-2?

A: The real story with the B-2 is very simple. General Zinni, the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Central Command, did not ask for the B-2 to be part of the force package in the Gulf, so it wasn't.

Q: But Secretary Hamre said... indicated that, he called it a system still under development and indicated that the upgrades to some of the planes had not been completed, and therefore, it really wasn't ready for the kind of mission it might have been needed for in Iraq; hence might explain why General Zinni didn't ask for it.

A: Well, there are nine B-2 bombers, as you probably know. There will be a total of 21. And of the nine B-2s, 50... five of them, five of the nine B-2s are the so-called Block 20, which is the first group of B-2s. They are less capable than the second group that's being built now, the so-called Block 30. The Air Force is in the process of upgrading the Block 20 B-2s to be Block 30 B-2s, which makes them more capable. So that work is going on now.

The plane has been operating in the Air Force since April of 1997. The program has not reached what's called the full operational capability yet. That won't happen until the summer of 1999. So the Air Force is still working with the plane and bringing it up to full operational capability.

Q: When you say the older versions are less capable, do you mean by that that they can't drop as many bombs or they can't drop precision bombs? Just in general terms, what do you mean when you say less capable?

A: First of all, there are basically three types of upgrades being made to bring the Block 20 planes to Block 30 planes. The first is some work on its outer skin. As you know the skin or the material of which it's made is what gives it it's unique radar-evading capability. The second is they're upgrading the software in the plane. And the third, they are making changes that will allow it to deliver certain types of precision-guided munitions such as the JDAMs and also to drop certain things like mines which will expand the range of missions that it can perform. So those are the three types of changes that are being made.

Q: So when Secretary Hamre indicated that the plane might not be ready yet for the mission in Iraq, did he commit the classic Washington definition of a gaff, which is to accidentally tell the truth?

A: I think the main point is the one I started with, which is the CINC did not request this plane for the operations in the Gulf, and therefore the plane wasn't one of those that was included in the force package.

Q: When you say the plane will have full operational capability you expect by mid 1999, I think you said,

A: The summer of 1999, yeah.

Q: Would that include the ability to maintain its radar evading characteristics overseas? That's one of the problems that you have.

A: Well, one of the issues with the... First of all I think the plane has not operated extensively overseas. It's operated from the United States, and in fact that's what it was designed to do. It has not been forward deployed in a way, for instance, that the B-52s currently assigned to the Southwest Asia theater are. That's one of the things I suspect the Air Force will experiment with over time -- the maintenance and other demands of having the plane forward deployed.

So they will be working with a variety, over the next year or so, they will be working on a variety of projects to test how the plane can be best used.

Q: Can I just ask you another Iraq question?

A: Sure.

Q: I didn't understand something you said. A couple of points you make, you said the agreement provides us with authority we didn't have before, and significant new capabilities. I don't understand that. Because I thought after the war the terms of surrender were declaration within 15 days and open everything up. So what does this agreement give us that we didn't have before, and do we need it for any other reasons than Iraq's non-compliance? What does it add to this?

A: Well, first of all, as the President said, the proof of this agreement will be in the testing. But to answer that... and so no matter what the agreement says, no matter what UN officials say the agreement says right now, we are still going to have to look at how it is implemented and the level of compliance that comes from Iraq. But to answer your specific question, it is my understanding that this is the first time that Iraq has explicitly committed to open every site throughout the country to weapons inspections. Now the reason they may not have explicitly done that in the past is that the issue hadn't arisen. But this agreement explicitly allows the inspectors to go everywhere. It makes it clear that no site is off...

Q: Every site... If they want to go in some shack on the side of the road they can go.

A: That is what the agreement provides for. But as I said, we have to see what the agreement actually means in practice when the inspectors are on the ground trying to go from place to place to do their work.

Q: In other than what we're told by UNSCOM or the United Nations, does the U.S. have any method of directly assessing Iraq's compliance with the agreement? Do we have any method of direct knowledge separate from the United Nations and UNSCOM?

A: We have a lot of ways to verify some of the findings that UNSCOM comes up with. Some of those have been in the newspaper. Defectors come out and talk about things. And as you know we have certain capabilities to look at things.

Q: Sure. I had meant a little more specifically the inspection process itself. Is our only source of information about whether UNSCOM inspectors are getting the access that they themselves as people want from UNSCOM itself?

A: That would be the primary source, yes.

Q: Since the numbers have changed and just for the record, can you provide the latest ship counts and troop counts in the region?

A: You can get that from DDI.

Q: The cyber attacks. Can you provide us with any more detail of particularly the sites that were penetrated, and anything more about the kind of information that the hackers might have been able to extract?

A: No. I can tell you that Dr. Hamre said yesterday that this was a wake-up call to the Department. He actually has been working very hard on this issue and has made a great deal of progress in focusing the attention of the Department of Defense on this issue.

On January 30th he signed a memorandum to all the Secretaries of the military departments and to the Joint Chiefs and others calling for the establishment of what is called an information assurance program and setting specific deadlines for people to report back on work they're doing to improve their ability, first, to detect attacks against computer networks -- both classified and unclassified -- and then to protect those networks from attacks should they find they are under attack. So this is something that he personally has been working on for some time.

That memorandum also set up a new office called a Chief Information Officer to monitor this stuff and that's currently Art Money who's coming over from the Air Force Acquisitions program to run the Communications, Command and Control and Intelligence operations in the Defense Department and OSD.

Q: Are those attacks continuing or have they stopped?

A: To the best of my knowledge they are not continuing.

Q: Can you just describe in perhaps very broad, general terms the numbers of attacks you're talking about? Dozens, hundreds, thousands?

A: I don't want to go beyond what was said by Dr. Hamre. That transcript is available. This entire issue is under investigation now and I don't want to...

Q: (Inaudible) in terms of how many actual penetrations there were, whether it was a low number, a percentage or...

A: I do not want to characterize the activity in any way.

Q: On a different subject, the Super Hornet program. I was wondering if you could bring us up to date on the Secretary's assessment of the wing drop situation.

A: Well, Dr. Hamre said yesterday that he thought the fix was on track and that is the Secretary's hope and expectation as well. There will be another review of the program relatively soon, I believe, and we'll look at what's happening before the next infusion of funds are made. But I think that the Deputy Secretary was speaking for the Secretary when he said he had confidence that it would work. But this is sort of a trust and verify operation. You want to see results. The program is being watched very closely by the Navy and also by the Secretary of Defense, his office, to make sure that, in fact, the fix is effective.

Q: To follow that, the trust and verify implies that there was some breach of trust or suspected breach of trust earlier. Is that the case?

A: No. I don't think there was any breach of trust here. I think the Navy, when they learned about this, reported it very quickly to the Secretary. He's been following it. He's asked Dr. Hamre to follow it very closely. I didn't mean to suggest that there's any breach of trust. But what we want to do is make sure that the statements about the fix working, in fact describe the reality of the fix working. You want to make sure that the fix is in fact a fix. It's no use putting more money into a program where there's a problem until the problem is fixed. I think that the Navy has done a good job in coming up with a fix, the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary have been following it closely, and they just want to make sure the fix, in fact, works.

Q: North Korea. The Japanese newspaper [Yamiudi] has reported that a senior Defense Department official confirmed that North Korea has already deployed a Nodong missile. Can you confirm this report? And if you can't, what can you tell us about this missile?

A: I can't tell you anything about it. What we've said in the past is that we know the missile has been tested, and I can't go beyond that.

Q: Can you just briefly describe what the United States is doing in terms of training members of the Mexican military in anti-drug operations?

A: Well, we have developed a cooperative working relationship with Mexico. Secretary Perry went to Mexico several years ago along with Barry McCaffery, who was then the Commander of Southern Command, and as you know is now the chief drug enforcement officer. Our cooperative program does involve the training of Mexican military personnel at U.S. installations. These are programs that have been worked out between the U.S. and Mexico.

Q: Are we training these people, is the United States training these military members to do essentially police work?

A: Well...

Q: Law enforcement work?

A: A lot of it has to do with...

Q: I was just wondering how that works given that the United States military is essentially barred from law enforcement functions.

A: Countries have to make their own decisions about how best to fight the scourge of drugs. And we've had extensive discussions with Mexico about that. The type of training that we have provided involves some technical training, training in leadership skills. It involves training in areas of planning, in executing counter-drug operations, and it also involves training in human rights and civil military operations and programs, just general civil military relationships.

Q: Are you concerned that if, for instance, these troops are trained in the United States and then they go on to say commit some abuse of human rights that there may be some criticism of the United States playing a hand in that?

A: I'd be surprised if anybody ever criticized the United States or the U.S. military in a situation like this, of course. But look, we're working very hard with the Mexicans to help them devise a program that works for them. We're trying to be very attentive to their needs and to respond to those needs. That's what we've done. We've designed a program that we think helps them carry out their counter-drug operations. Basically they have to make their own decisions about what they do and about who does the counter-drug operations. What we do is provide training that we think responds to their needs.

Q: On that [Yamiudi] report on the Nodong. You've not only said before that you're watching closely the North Korean missile program. But you've also said that you had no indication that the Nodong has been deployed. And now you seem to be saying, you're declining to comment. Are you...?

A: No. What I've said is we know that it has been developed and the development has been completed. I'm not going to comment on deployment. What we've said is we don't have firm evidence of deployment at this stage. We obviously have been working with the Koreans on questions of non-proliferation and we've made our most significant progress in the nuclear area under the framework agreement, but there have also been very extensive talks with the Koreans about missile proliferation as well.

We think that the deployment of a more capable, longer range missile would be destabilizing in the area and we also wonder why a country experiencing the economic problems that North Korea has would be devoting its precious resources to this at this time.

But obviously a more capable missile poses a threat to other countries in the area, and is destabilizing. Japan, for instance, has been looking at the possibility of a theater missile defense system precisely because it has concerns about what North Korea might be doing.

But, I just want to say that we know it's been developed, the development is completed. Whether or not there are preparations underway for deployment, or whether it's been, in fact, deployed is not clear.

Q: So you're still saying that you have no evidence that it has been...

A: Yes. We're not changing what we're saying.

Q: Can you comment on the progress the various services have made in giving feedback on the Kassebaum-Baker report on gender integrated training? Seems that we're coming up to the, I believe it was a 90-day deadline?.

A: Well, I think the 90-day deadline is in about mid-March. Isn't that right? So it's about three weeks off. They are working very hard to come up with their responses.

Q: When they get those all together will you...

A: I don't think I'll scoop my leaders on that. We will have a lot to say about the service responses to the Kassebaum-Baker report at the appropriate time, but that's still several weeks away.

Press: Thank you.