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DoD News Briefing, Thursday, April 16, 1998

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
April 16, 1998 1:30 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to our briefing.

I have several announcements to make at the beginning. First I'd like to welcome 30 international military officers from 22 countries who are here from the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies at the Naval Justice School in Newport, R. I. I don't know what brought you to Washington from Newport, which must be very beautiful at this time of year, but welcome anyway.

There are also here six high school students participating in the Congressional Youth Leadership Council at the Washington Journalism Center, and we welcome you as well.

I'd like to announce that Secretary Cohen will deliver the graduation address at the United States Military Academy at West Point on May 30th. You can get more information from us or from West Point. That will be at 9 a.m. on May 30th.

The President has nominated Lt. Gen. Terrence R. Dake of the U.S. Marine Corps to the grade of general. He would become the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. The current assistant commandant who many of you know, Gen. Butch Neal, will retire after 33 years of service in the Marines.

The Army will hold a press conference later today at Fort Hood to announce that the 1st Cavalry Division will provide [forces for a fall rotation] the next rotation of troops to Bosnia. That rotation will take place in June [October] and they will be replacing [forces scheduled to rotate into Bosnia this summer] the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment from Fort Polk, La.

This, I know, is of interest to all of you getting ready for Earth Day. I have two Earth Day related announcements, because you can't get ready too soon.

The first is that the Department of Energy is going to begin construction of a large disk, a 50 foot high tower with a 50 foot diameter disk on it next to our power plant which is back there, and this will be a solar energy machine that will collect heat from the sun and use it to generate power from an engine that has no moving parts. The power it generates will be fed into the Pentagon system and run your computers.

Another environmental announcement is...

Q: ...percentage of power? Is it something like less than one percent?

A: It will be a small percentage. I think the best thing to do on that is to contact the Department of Energy. There's a fellow named Gary Birch over there at (202) 586-0081 who can answer questions about this. This actually is a demonstration project of new technology which holds, obviously, great promise. It's a partnership that is being run by the Department of Energy, Virginia Power, Virginia Electric Power Co., and Science Applications International Corp. The thing will be up there for six to eight months. It's supposed to be operating by April 23rd, which is also Shakespeare's birthday. I think that's a coincidence. And we'll see how it works.

Also on Earth Day, which is next Friday, the Department along with state, local and other leaders will join volunteers from the Navy and elsewhere and plant 200 trees and shrubs along the Severen River in an effort to protect and restore water quality of the Chesapeake Bay. At that time Sherry Goodman, the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Environmental Security, will release a new report on the Department's strategy to protect water quality around the country. And also to restore the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. So for all you weekend sailors, this is a story of considerable interest.

Finally, the Army Reserve will hold its 90th anniversary celebration this [next] week. There's a historical exhibit here in the Pentagon. There will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns and a cake-cutting on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on April 23rd.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: Ken, could you give us a bit of a readout on this war game, ELIGIBLE RECEIVER and what steps the Pentagon is taking to shore up computer security?

A: Sure. First is, ELIGIBLE RECEIVER is a game that was played by the Joint Staff last June. It tested our ability to deal with cyber attacks. It was directed only against our unclassified systems, not against classified systems, and it found that we have a lot of work to do to provide better security. We're not alone in this regard. Most businesses, many private institutions, many individuals have a lot of work to do in improving their ability to protect their computers and computer systems. But because of ELIGIBLE RECEIVER and the subsequent attack by hackers against unclassified computer networks earlier this year, John Hamre, the deputy secretary of defense, has launched a number of initiatives to improve computer security in the Pentagon.

The first is, of course, something that we achieved by holding ELIGIBLE RECEIVER, and in fact it was the point of ELIGIBLE RECEIVER which was to improve everybody's awareness of the threats posed to computer systems today. And ELIGIBLE RECEIVER I think succeeded beyond its planner's wildest dreams in elevating the awareness of threats to our computer systems.

Since then we've had a series of meetings with the Justice Department, with the Vice President's office and other agencies in the government to address, on a broad scale basis, issues of computer security. In this building in particular, we've appointed a Chief Information Officer, Art Money, who's going to become the Assistant Secretary of Defense for command, control and communications. He's been nominated to do that. He is in charge of being the main focal point for efforts to improve computer security across the military.

This is a daunting prospect. We have in the Department of Defense 2.1 million computers, 100,000 local area networks, and more than 100 long distance networks. Of course some of these are highly secure, and those are the ones that receive the most attention, but we've come to realize that we have to pay a lot of attention to just standard computer networks that transmit e-mail and other information such as payroll information, etc.

One of the things that Dr. Hamre did earlier this year was issue a memorandum directing that a number of actions be taken. One was, for instance, that every computer network in the Department of Defense has to have a named security officer, sort of a central point of contact to go to to deal with problems for that particular network.

There are a whole series of other efforts to develop better ways for detecting attacks. We're putting a lot of effort into better ways of detecting attacks against our computer systems. In the fiscal years 1999 to 2002, the Department of Defense will spend $3.6 billion to address computer security issues, so it's something we are devoting a lot of resources and a lot of time to, but we have a ways to go. I think we are making progress, and we will make progress at an accelerating rate as we grapple with the dimensions of this problem.

Q: Have there been any investigations on the apparent attempts to hack into the Special Operations Forces computer?

A: I'm not up to speed on that. We'll get somebody to look into that. I assume if we know of attempts to break into our computer systems we investigate them. That's one of the things we've talked about with the Justice Department.

One of the things we've looked at is ways to set up a better counter-intelligence system for detecting attacks and for going after the people who are making the attacks. In addition, we're trying to do a much better job of staying in touch with our teenage children and others to learn the latest hacker techniques so we can be one step ahead of them rather than several steps behind. But as all of you know, that's easier said than done.

But there are a variety of efforts across a wide spectrum of issues that we're taking here to improve computer security. Obviously this is a moving train. We've got two problems. We've got to make the switches as we continue to pump increasing amounts of important information over the computer systems. That's the first thing. And we have to keep up with technology that's changing very rapidly.

Q: Do you agree with the assessment that this could have drastically impacted the electrical grid in the country, number one? Have they had mal-intent? And number two, why did they not attempt to go into the classified, or to penetrate the classified systems?

A: There are tests done on a fairly regular basis against a number of the classified systems to make sure that they are in fact secure. By virtue of the fact that they are secure they receive much more attention.

I guess I'd rather not make apocalyptic statements about the electrical grid, but we did learn that computer hackers could have a dramatic impact on the nation's infrastructure, including the electrical power grid. That, of course, is why there's a whole commission set up to deal with that, the Commission on Critical Infrastructure.

One of the things that Deputy Secretary Hamre did back early this year when we were subject to attack by hackers, the unclassified systems, was talk to the President about this because the President and the Vice President are both very concerned about computer security and infrastructure stability generally.

Q: Has a decision been made yet on what to do with the napalm shipment?

A: My understanding is that one decision has been made and another one is yet to be made.

The first decision is what to do with this sort of flying dutchman rail car that was headed toward Indiana but now can't go there. The answer to that question is that the rail car is going to be redirected to China Lake which is a naval installation in California. This is a car that has 12,000 gallons of napalm on it. It will remain there until the Navy works out a permanent solution to the problem. A permanent solution is finding a contractor that can dispose of this napalm by burning it. That's what the contractor in Indiana was going to do and decided not to do.

The Navy believes that it will take probably several weeks to work out a final solution to this problem, but they're confident they'll be able to do it. You might ask why are they so confident? One reason is that companies have actually been calling them to offer their services or to offer to sign contracts to get rid of the napalm, so they're finding that there are many companies around the country that are willing, prepared, and able to do this.

I might point out that the previous contractor or the previous arrangement to have this napalm destroyed by a company in Indiana had been cleared by various environmental agencies and had met state and federal guidelines for pollution control and environmental impact, so this is something that can be accomplished very safely.

Q: Will the remaining napalm remain at Fallbrook until this final solution is...

A: My understanding is that it will remain there. They hope to have this wrapped up in a couple of weeks and then begin to move the napalm.

As you know, they were always going to move it at a measured but relatively slow pace, I think at the rate of about one rail car a week or so out of its current storage facility. I believe that's still the plan.

Q: Do you have any cost estimates on what this operation has consumed to date?

A: I'm afraid I don't. I think that most of the cost has probably been, so far, in long distance telephone calls and airplane trips because not too much napalm has been moved yet. But I think the Navy could give you an estimate... They could have given you an estimate of what the whole operation would cost. Now, of course, that's in abeyance because they have to find a new contractor, and it's probably a little hard for them to talk to the total cost until they have a new contract signed.

Q: Finally, in retrospect, is there anything that could have been done to have avoided this, as you said, flying dutchman of a freight train?

A: That's a question I think you should better ask the Navy. I think the Navy has worked hard on this problem. They thought they had a good plan. It encountered some political opposition at the last minute. I think there were a number of misconceptions about this from the beginning.

The first was that this was -- that napalm is a highly volatile, unsafe cargo to transport. Not true. It's much more stable than gasoline. Gasoline is transported into every town in this country every day of the week. We all see gasoline trucks every day going to and from work.

Just to give you one example of the difference between napalm and gasoline, napalm has a flash point or ignition point of 700 degrees Fahrenheit whereas gasoline is 140 degrees. So that's one way in which it's more stable.

The second is that the destruction or the recycling of the napalm is dangerous and there again, this has been something that's been cleared by various environmental authorities and the Navy believes that it's very safe, as risk-free as you can be in a situation like this.

I think more facts about this will probably come out as the debate over this continues.

Q: On that score, Ken, is the Department concerned over the role that the number of members of Congress played in fanning these distortions rather than going for the information? They seemed to be playing on the public fear rather than doing anything to make the situation better.

A: Members of Congress represent their constituents as they see fit. In this case some areas of the country will be deprived of a contract that would have generated employment for some workers over a two-year period. It was a $24 million contract to this company in Indiana.

I think the important thing here is to focus on the science, on the facts, and to take, and I urge this I think as a matter of public policy, that certainly the press when writing about complex and emotional issues like this, that the first refuge is the facts. That's what the Navy's tried to do is get the facts out.

Q: That's not what the member of Congress was doing. He wasn't getting the real facts out, was he?

A: The member of Congress was, I'm sure, representing his district as he thought was best.

Q: A related question. The Defense Department has many sets of problems like this of nasty stuff or stuff that it would like to get rid of, whether it's chemical weapons, whether it's nuclear waste, whatever. The fact that this relatively very simple and stable thing can be paralyzed by the political system does not bode well for those other more difficult problems, does it?

A: I'm not sure that I would call a delay of several weeks paralysis. I think we have to wait and see how this turns out. The Navy assures me that they're confident that they will be able to renegotiate a new contract and get this recycling process underway relatively soon. If that's the case, it's not paralyzed. It will have been a pause, not paralysis.

I think that these are important public issues. You're absolutely right, we're engaged in a whole spectrum of these issues. We spend billions and billions of dollars a year on environmental cleanup and protection. It's become a major project for us at the Pentagon and we try to be very good environmental citizens. But the fact is, the nature of the military business is to deal with a lot of dangerous and toxic stuff, and we try to do that as responsibly as we can, and I think we succeed in most cases.

Q: Do you happen to know if the shipment will start going back to California today or at another time?

A: I don't know the timing of that. I think the Navy could answer that question. The question is exactly when the rail car will be turned around and recoupled to another train. The Navy will be able to tell you that.

Q: Is the Pentagon satisfied that the body in the jungle is in fact that of Pol Pot?

A: I can't answer that question. I think we need more information. I've seen pictures on television. I know there have been some... The Thais have made some statements. There's a possibility that there will be an autopsy. I think we'll just have to wait for more information until we can know for sure.

Q: Has anybody in the U.S. government been up to look at the body and try to determine?

A: My impression... Not yet.

Q: Can you confirm reports that the U.S. was prepared to provide military assets for transportation of Pol Pot and for temporary custody of Pol Pot in the event that he would have been taken alive? And if there are such plans, are they still active for any other members of the Khmer Rouge?

A: First, the Justice Department is the lead agent on this and Attorney General Reno did make a public statement about this last week saying that the President had asked the Justice Department to make arrangements to take control of Pol Pot if he were detained by other people, and to transport him to an appropriate place for trial. The State Department and the Defense Department were appointed as a supporting cast to the Justice Department's lead in that effort. So yes, we were prepared if asked to provide transportation to some appropriate place. As it turned out, we haven't been asked to do that.

Q: Do you remain prepared to transport any other members of the Khmer Rouge?

A: I think that the Attorney General made it clear that this would just apply to Pol Pot.

Q: Does that mean that the U.S. had military assets up in that corner of Cambodia prepared to do that, or were you at some back staging area?

A: I think I'll leave the details of what, who, where and when vague.

Q: I guess there are details.

A: Vague details.

Q: Mr. Cohen's meeting with the deputy prime minister of Malaysia?

A: I think the meeting might be over. He was supposed to have lunch with him. They are old friends. They've known each other for years through a series of meetings that they've attended, the Asia Pacific Forum in Malaysia which Mr. Cohen attended earlier this year, and Deputy Prime Minister Anwar was there, he was the host of it, I believe.

Q: What is the ship and troop count in the Persian Gulf these days? And are there plans to remove or to draw them down further than where you currently are?

A: There are currently about 36,000 or 37,000, probably closer to 36,000 -- I don't have the exact numbers in my book here today. I had it for weeks and weeks and nobody asked me this question so the first day it's not in here, you ask the question.

Q: I knew it wasn't in there.

A: I know. It's this type of sensing that gets me in trouble.

Q: A trend line?

A: The trend line right now is this. It's been this way for several months. Right now there are no plans to change it. Obviously at some point we're going to look at what force level is appropriate, and that decision will be made based on a number of issues. One is what's happening in Iraq, how compliant is Iraq with the inspection mandates. The second is -- is Iraq making any menacing moves against its neighbors or against our forces, that is the coalition forces in the area. Third will be, obviously, our competing operational demands. And we'll roll all those things up and make a decision, and that will happen in the next weeks or months, I assume.

The number of ships there, DDI will get you that. I recall there might be 15 ships, about 15 ships in the area now. I think there are about 7,700 soldiers exercising in INTRINSIC ACTION in Kuwait. And a couple of hundred aircraft in the theater in Bahrain, Kuwait, Diego Garcia, Saudi Arabia, and also on the carriers.

Q: What do you think about Iraq's desire to import $300 million worth of oil equipment so that they can produce more oil?

A: Well, as you know the Oil for Food program has recently been expanded to allow them to sell more oil, and they have claimed that they can't produce all the oil they're allowed to sell now to buy food and pharmaceuticals for their people. The United States has been a leader in the effort to allow Iraq to sell oil for food to meet humanitarian needs. This program was delayed by Saddam Hussein for over six months, I think for several years, actually.

I can't answer that specific question. In general we're in favor of well monitored efforts that do in fact direct food to the people of Iraq, and we also, in looking at this, would want to make sure that the investment was going to this part of the program. It was going only to producing additional oil that would be sold for food to feed the people of Iraq. I think we'd have to make sure that this investment was going exactly to the purposes they promised it was going to, but I don't... I can't give you the government's position on this. These are some of the concerns, obviously, that the government would have.

Q: About the two carrier presence in the Gulf. What are the plans in terms of... There's been obviously discussion about one carrier. Could you bring us up to date on that, what's...

A: Well, the history is that for the last couple of years we've had a standard presence of carrier there three-quarters of a year. One carrier there for nine months. And one Marine Amphibious Ready Group there for six months. Now we have two carriers there and we have a Marine Amphibious Ready Group there so we've boosted up that presence. The question is how long do they stay? That's one of the questions that will be asked. Do we stay at 2.0 as the Navy calls it? Or do we move down to one carrier, 1.0, or do we move down to 0.75 where we used to be? Those are the types of questions that the Secretary and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Vice Admiral Clark and others will be considering in making a recommendation to the President. As I say, that will probably take several weeks to complete, but that's something that we will be looking at.

Q: No decision yet?

A: No decision, no.

Q: You're not suggesting that you think Iraq has made enough progress towards compliance that...

A: I'm suggesting this is what we're going to look at. We're not going home. Clearly... The issues is do we stay at the current level, or do we move back down to where we were before Iraq generated this crisis starting last year? Or do we end up some place in between? Those are basically the choices.

I don't think anybody's talking about going lower than we were before this crisis was kicked up in late October. So it's going to be same level, old level, or somewhere in between. Those decisions haven't been made. The analysis is just beginning, and it will probably be, as I say, several weeks before a recommendation goes to the President and a decision is made.

Press: Thank you.