Friday, Dec. 6, 1996 - 10 a.m. (EST)
Ceremony Welcoming Minister of Defense Jorge Dominguez, of the Argentine Republic, to the Pentagon.]
Secretary Perry: If there's any press here from Argentina, I'd like to give them the opportunity to ask any question they might have of either the Minister or myself. Do we have any press from Argentina?
(Question and Answer in Spanish.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you speak briefly please about the transition and also about the future that lies ahead for Secretary White, and touch briefly on what you see to be to main challenges for the next Secretary of Defense, please -- Or whatever parts of that you want to talk about (laughter)?
A: We have already organized the transition team. I've asked the Deputy Secretary to be in charge of that team. I've discussed this with Senator Cohen. Senator Cohen will be here Monday and we will start the preliminary briefings to make for a very smooth transition.
I will do everything possible to make this a smooth transition for Senator Cohen. He's a good friend. A person with whom I have very high regard, and I'm looking forward to working with in this period of transition.
I think President Clinton has made an excellent choice in Senator Cohen and, as I said, I'm looking forward to working with him. I'm confident we will a smooth and effective transition.
In terms of the Deputy Secretary, Senator Cohen has told me that he hopes the Deputy Secretary will stay on in the office, but this is a decision that the Deputy Secretary himself will have to make. That's a question which you will have to refer to John White.
Q: When will you be leaving.
A: I'll be leaving as soon as Senator Cohen is confirmed. That's a matter for the... That's a long and a complicated process as you know. It requires going though the FBI clearance, getting the papers over to the Senate. The Senate will have to then go through their process which will include a hearing. I estimate that that process will go on into the latter part of January; but that's just an estimate.
I have told the President that I will stay here until Senator Cohen is confirmed. My estimate is that would be the latter part of January.
Q: An ABC news report last night raised the prospect of U.S. troops being exposed to biological agents in the Gulf. Is that something that has been ruled in or out?
A: We know that the Iraqis had some biological weapons at the time of the Gulf War, so we cannot therefore ever rule it completely out. We have no evidence of any exposure to biological weapons. But since we know that the Iraqis had the weapons we have to continue to examine data and we can not categorically rule it out. We do not believe that is the case because we have no such evidence.
Q: Thank you Mr. Secretary.