Thursday, January 13, 2000 - 1:32 p.m.
Also participating: Mr. Charles Cragin, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs
MR. BACON: Good afternoon. Welcome to our briefing.
Let me start with a couple of announcements.
First, Secretary Cohen has recommended to the president that Dr. Bernard Rostker, who is currently undersecretary of the Army, become the undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to succeed Rudy de Leon. As you know, Rudy de Leon will be nominated to become the deputy secretary of Defense, to replace John Hamre when he leaves.
Second, tomorrow at 10:00 in the morning, we will have a background briefing on the upcoming national missile defense interceptor test that will occur early next week. And this briefing will lay out for you what's at stake, what the test involves, and give you the details on it.
Third, President Clinton has created something called the Military and Veterans Health Coordinating Board, which is designed to improve health care for service members, veterans, and their families. One of the things we learned during the study of Gulf War illness was that sometimes there was a disconnect between research programs carried out by the Defense Department and the Veterans' Administration, and we're looking for ways better to coordinate health care and research between the two organizations. So this new board, the Military and Veterans Health Coordinating Board, has been established, and it will be headed by retired Army Major General Robert Claypool. We have a statement on this with more information, if you want it.
Finally, I'm joined here today by Charlie Cragin of Reserve Affairs, to bring you up to date on Secretary Cohen's program to establish a new capability in the Guard and Reserve elements -- that is, the capability to assist local and state law enforcement agencies in assessing and responding to attacks that may involve weapons of mass destruction, principally chemical and biological weapons.
As you know, 10 teams were set up previously. Mr. Cragin will announce an expansion of that program and be able to take your questions.
After that, I'll come back and answer questions on anything else but these teams, because Mr. Cragin will answer all your questions.
MR. CRAGIN: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
As Mr. Bacon said, today Secretary Cohen is announcing the establishment and location of 17 additional weapons-of-mass- destruction civil support teams.
Now, you may recall that these teams, when they were originally fielded, one in each of the 10 FEMA regions, were identified as "rapid assessment and initial detection teams." We have renominated them as part of this expansion, because we feel this more adequately reflects their mission and their involvement as a supporting element to local first-responders and governors and adjutant generals of states.
The secretary announced today that we will begin the identification, employment and training of 17 additional WMD civil support teams, which will bring us to a total, throughout the United States, of 27 of these teams. The states that will be receiving these 17 teams will be Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia. The department will work with each of these states, their governors and their adjutant generals, to identify the specific communities within those states in which these teams will be placed.
These states were selected after a very careful and objective analysis, to optimize population and geographical coverage and at the same time, to minimize the overlap in the teams' areas of responsibility. The resulting distribution of the 17 teams, in concert with the 10 teams established in fiscal year '99, provides support to the population of the United States.
The WMD civil support teams will be able to deploy rapidly, assist local first-responders in determining the nature of an attack, provide medical and technical advice, and pave the way for the identification and arrival of follow-on state and federal military response assets.
Each WMD civil support team consists of 22 highly skilled full-time members of the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard. Beginning in fiscal year 2000, the personnel selected for these 17 additional teams will undergo 15 months of rigorous individual and unit training and then will be evaluated for operational certification.
Let me just say at the outset that this is the second phase of an initiative that Secretary Cohen began in 1998 because he was apprised by first-responders in many communities around the United States that one of the expertise elements that they did not have that they needed was the technical expertise to be able to identify and assess particular chemical or biological agents that may be the instrument of a terrorist attack.
As a result of that these teams were formed, and they are very, very unique in the federal-state relationship, because these are teams that are federally resourced, federally trained, with federal doctrine developed for them, but they are, in fact, under the command and control primarily of the governors of the states in which they are located, and under the operational command and control of the adjutant generals of those states, so that they can immediately respond to an incident as part of a state response, rather than have to go through the federal wickets of requesting federal assistance and working their way through the federal response plan, which obviously would not permit them to be able to respond immediately.
We think we have fashioned an element that will work collaboratively in support of local first-responders and state emergency management agencies that can bring to the United States in its totality a level of expertise that most jurisdictions in America would not be able to develop on their own.
And with that, let me stop and take your questions.
QAre there any of these new teams in places where old teams -- in states where old teams already exist?
MR. CRAGIN: No. As a matter of fact, what we did in this highly objective stationing plan was to ensure that we did not have any significant overlap between these teams.
Q (Off mike) -- the first 10 --
MR. CRAGIN: The first 10 states are Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.
QIs California on the list?
MR. CRAGIN: I was about to say, if you were paying particularly strict attention you would have noticed that we announced California on the list. And we did that because this was not a stationing plan that was predicated upon state jurisdictional boundaries. This is a stationing plan that was predicated upon population. And since California is the tenth-largest state in the nation as far as total population, since it -- I take that back; it has 10 percent of the population of the nation. (Laughter.) I noticed a couple people back here, though, that were snoozing and didn't pick up on that gaffe. It also had an area in northern California that was not covered at all. So the team stationing was recommended for northern California.
QHave any of the RAID teams been pressed into service yet, even if not a real emergency?
MR. CRAGIN: No, they haven't. And one of the reasons that they have not, the first 10 teams are just now finishing all of their train-up and are in the process of receiving their highly sophisticated equipment. Each team has two large pieces of equipment, a mobile analytical laboratory that it deploys with, that is utilized for field analysis of chemical or biological agents, and they also have a uniform command suite that has the ability through multiplexing systems to provide interoperability of communications to the various and sundry responders who may be on scene.
Congress, when it authorized the establishment of these teams, specifically directed that before they could be deployed, they had to be certified as deployable by the secretary of Defense. What that means is that the members of the team must have completed their individual training, the team as a whole must have completed all of its collective training, and it must have received all of the equipment necessary to deploy. And we expect that the external evaluation of the first 10 teams will take place the latter part of January or February and that they will be certified by the secretary in March. After that point in time, they will be deployable assets of the governors in the states in which they're located.
We had a question, I think, down here.
QSir, it's a shared resource, though. For example, if there was an incident in Connecticut, the New York team could respond; right?
MR. CRAGIN: That is absolutely correct. Each of these states has obviously the stationing of the teams, but the states work very cooperatively for handling many incidents in the United States, either through the facility of an interstate mutual assistance compact or just generally on the basis of working cooperatively together. We have about 27 states, for example, that make up the major emergency assistance compact, but there are other states that don't participate in the compacts, that do in fact provide support across state lines. Alabama comes to mind, for example -- not a member of the compact, but when we were dealing with situations in Florida and other states, Alabama was one of the first to come to their assistance.
QThese teams, being small in size, I assume, will not be designed in any way to treat victims, but to identify -- mainly to identify --
MR. CRAGIN: Your assumption is correct. I mean, they are primarily there to provide initial advice on what the agent may be, to assist first responders in that detection assessment process, and then also to be the first military responders, so to speak, on the ground, so that if additional federal resources are called into the situation, they are already there as an advance party that can liaise with the Joint Task Force Civil Support, for example, and provide that on-the-ground assessment information to the other military officials.
QWell, what about providing information to the federal government? Is there are going to be a direct connection where you can get real-time information from your teams? Is that one purpose?
And -- and I forgot what else I wanted to ask.
MR. CRAGIN: Well, let me answer that while you're thinking about the second part of it. Absolutely they'll be providing information to the federal government. They'll be providing their information through the liaison with the Joint Task Force Civil Support headquartered in Norfolk, which is an entity of the United States Joint Forces Command, which is the federal government. They, in turn, liaise with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and we'll be providing that information as well. And they do have that communication capability to do reach-back, because one of the other things these teams have in their communications suite is the ability to reach back to expertise at medical laboratories and things of that nature, and bring that expertise right to the location.
QI see. And the other question I had was, will these teams be going out as scouts, sizing up the situation, so that your federal teams in Norfolk can read and size, you know -- and evaluate what the situation is?
MR. CRAGIN: Well, first off, while they are going to be providing information as a matter of liaison to Joint Task Force civil support folks, first and foremost, these teams are part of a state response system. And they will be activated through that state response system as one of a number of state responders. And so they will be providing the initial assessment to the incident commander, who could be the fire chief, the police chief on the scene, the folks that, you know, respond to every single incident in America, the 911 force of firemen and EMT and HAZMAT and police. So they are going to work cooperatively in support of those people, first and foremost. But then secondly, were this to become a larger event in which a governor determined that state and local resources had been exhausted and they had requested the president to issue a declaration and provide federal assistance, at that point this team would continue its support of the local officials but at the same time, provide liaising information and be essentially the people on the scene to assist if other federal resources were brought to bear, other federal military resources particularly.
QTo what extent will these teams leverage off of the U.S. Special Forces, Special Operation commands already established responsibility to be the Pentagon lead agents in WMD activities? And I am thinking of the Energy Department's NEST teams also. Will they go through some rigorous training with those operations? And can you talk a little bit about the training scenarios? They'd be handling everything from anthrax to the suitcase nuke that was featured in the movie "Peacemaker."
MR. CRAGIN: And sarin gas and things of that nature.
First off, they are not involved in training with Special Operations forces. They are involved in consequence management activities, not in crisis management activities.
As I am sure you are aware, the Department of Justice is the lead federal agency with respect to crisis management. The civil support teams are teams that link with the consequence managers in their jurisdictions and, as I say, would become involved with FEMA were it to become a federal situation.
I should also say that as part of their training, they have been involved with local responders. They have received the same types of training that local responders -- so that they can work hand in glove and provide support to local responders -- such as attendance at the National Fire Academy, things of that nature. They have also received training in the radiologic, chemical and biological aspects, protective gear, how you enter a hot zone, things of that nature.
This training has been, as I mentioned, rigorous and also both individual as well as collective -- learning how to work as a team. You have a medical assessment group, you have a logistic support group, you have a communications group. They all have to learn how to work as a team, and then what they will do is they will also exercise with other local and state and federal responders. In fact, Congress, in its authorization, wanted to ensure that they not only just exercised in the state that they were located, but that they exercised in other states within their area of responsibility, so they'll be doing that as part of their ongoing instruction.
These folks, while they are members of the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, are full-time personnel. This is their job, to be a member of a civil support team, and they live it, they breathe it, they think it and they train it seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
QCould you give us cost estimates on the 17 teams, and also what's been spent on the 10 teams? And one other thing, do you still plan on creating 54 teams around the country?
MR. CRAGIN: The Department of Defense has no plans to create 54 teams. The Department of Defense is going to implement the 27 teams that have been authorized by Congress. I can tell you that in fiscal year 1999, we expended a little over $60 million to train up and employ and equip these teams. We are budgeted for fiscal year '00, the year that we're now implementing the 17 additional teams, for about $75 million for the totality of the program. Fifty-eight million of that represents the investment for the 17 new civil support teams. There's some money that was appropriated by Congress that wasn't placed in the right account within the appropriation and we have to go back to Congress and -- what they technically say is a "reprogramming." They put it in personnel money, and we need it in procurement money so we can buy the equipment, but that's a minor thing and we'll go back to Congress and take care of it.
QOne other thing, too. GAO has complained about duplication of efforts. They mention that the Army has a technical escort unit, the Marines have their own rapid response unit, even the Coast Guard has one, so why create these new teams?
MR. CRAGIN: We don't think that they're duplicative, to start with. First off, all of those teams that you mentioned are federal response teams. They are not a state resource that a state responder can immediately access. Secondly, with respect to teams within the Department of Defense, such as Tech Escort, such as the Chemical/Biological Incident Response Force, the CBIRF, for the Marine Corps, they also have other missions as well. And so there really wasn't enough of this resource to be able to field throughout the United States that really could exercise regularly with first responders in their areas of operation.
I had an opportunity to visit with representatives of the General Accounting Office and have discussions about this, and I found that one of the areas of misunderstanding was that people thought these were federal response assets that were going to be part of the federal response, when they're not. They are part of a state response. They just happened, as I said, to be a very unique creation because they're federally resourced and federally trained, but it is a governor who gets to direct their deployment. And that's how we can get the immediacy of these teams into the communities.
Other questions? Yes, sir?
QHas this expansion of this program been accompanied by a change in your assessment of the threat?
MR. CRAGIN: No, I would not say that it's been accompanied by a change in the assessment of the threat. We within the Department of Defense always recognized that we were going to have to field more teams than the 10 that we fielded originally, but Secretary Cohen felt it was important that essentially we walked before we ran, because this was a new entity that we were creating out of whole cloth. We had to develop doctrine. We had to know if we were going to be able to recruit individuals with particular areas of expertise, such as nuclear medicine, things of that nature. And so we've learned as we went along. We also recognized that there were a number of population areas within the country that we had provided no coverage to.
QSir, I asked about training scenarios. Could you walk through some -- everything from sarin to mini-nukes, or what's the breadth of scenarios?
MR. CRAGIN: Well, essentially you've defined the breadth of the scenarios. I mean, they are looking at -- and have exercised and trained to be able to go in, enter a suspicious area, enter it safely, enter it with protective clothing, things of that nature; evaluate the perimeter before they even enter; and then go in, find the agent, make an assessment of the agent, perhaps remove the agent, depending on what it is to their analytical laboratory suite so that they can in fact do that field assessment on the location; learn how to deploy, work with, exercise with local responders; understand the incident command system and how responders operate under an incident command system, which is not a system that is generally utilized by military commanders. But it's a system that most first-responders in the United States operate under. So they have had to be trained in the incident command system, as well.
MR. CRAGIN: Other questions?
Thank you, Ken.
MR. BACON: Okay. I'll take your questions on other issues.
QKen, the Korea Times is reporting today that the United States has halted shipment of all missile parts to South Korea as part of this pressure on South Korea not to singularly develop missiles with ranges of over a hundred and eighty kilometers again --
MR. BACON: I don't think that's an accurate account.
QThe United States is not halting --
MR. BACON: We have had no change in policy in terms of our exports.
QSo you have not --
MR. BACON: It has not, right.
QKen, the president of Venezuela has expressed angst that the U.S. is sending aid down there and the party, the USS Tortuga. And the message is they are not going to allow the ship to land and they don't want U.S. troops. Do you have any guidance in terms of what happens next?
MR. BACON: Well, we were surprised by the reported comments.
We have been working very closely with the government of Venezuela, responding to very specific requests for exactly the type of help we were preparing to provide, and that is heavy equipment and engineering battalions to clear a 20-kilometer road section that has, I think, 131 landslides across it.
So we were, as I said, caught by surprise by the remarks. We are in the process of seeking clarification from the government of Venezuela. Clearly, if they don't want the help, we won't provide it.
We do have four helicopters continuing to work in Venezuela and some water purification units that I discussed, last time, Tuesday. But if they don't feel they need this assistance, then we'll hold back.
We have one ship on the way, and that's the USS Tortuga that has some equipment on it. Obviously, the ship will be turned back if it turns out they don't need this assistance.
They have made a comment that what they would like is equipment without people. We're not in a position to do that. Our equipment comes with people, and the people who -- the engineers who would be running the earth-movers and heavy loaders, et cetera, maintain them properly and then clean them off and bring them home. So we'll continue to discuss this with them and respond to their conclusion.
QSo the Tortuga has left Morehead City?
MR. BACON: Yeah, the Tortuga has left Morehead City. It was going to take several days for the Tortuga to reach there. She's steaming down at a slightly slower rate than she would have otherwise, as we work this out. If they don't want or need the support that we're willing to give them in this regard, then we'll go back. But as I say, we're trying to sort out exactly what their position is, because we've been working on the assumption that we were providing what they wanted. And indeed we've had very detailed discussions with the minister of defense and other people in the government about what their specific needs are.
QHas the other ship left Norfolk?
MR. BACON: The other ship, the USS Nashville, has left Norfolk and gone to Morehead City, North Carolina, where she was to pick up some equipment. She will stay in Morehead City until we sort out what the situation is.
QYes, thank you, Ken. What can you say about the -- either the administration's policy on military aid to Colombia, insofar as dollars? Is this something that's got to be appropriated first? Are the helicopters going to be sent as is? What details can you provide?
MR. BACON: Well, I don't have a lot to add to what I said on Tuesday, and obviously Secretary Albright and Director McCaffrey talked about this at some length.
The new program is $1.278 billion over two years. Most of that money will be spent by the State Department. The military part of that is about 10 percent, $144 million.
The helicopters will be provided by the State Department. There will be 15 Blackhawk -- 15 Huey helicopters and 30 Blackhawk helicopters. And they will be providing those over the next two years, as I understand it.
The military will focus primarily on training, on radar upgrades, and on setting up a forward operating location in Ecuador. This will replace some of the bases that we had in Panama. It would be one of the ways we're replacing those bases.
Our training will be limited to work with a counterdrug battalion, in fact, two new counterdrug battalions that will be set up by the Colombian army. Our training will be limited to helping the soldiers learn to police and stop narcotics growing and trafficking in Colombia. It will not be -- we will not provide any training in counterinsurgency, it will only be counternarcotics. And as I say, there are -- as you know, we have worked with the Colombian military to train a counterdrug battalion comprised of people who have been vetted to make sure that there are no human rights violators in there, in cooperation with their embassy. I believe the first battalion is trained up and may have just started operations. Under this new plan, we will train two more counterdrug battalions.
QBut you can do it, initiate it and get into this program, with monies that are already available?
MR. BACON: Well, no. We're making a request to Congress, and that's what the administration announced on Tuesday. And the request will be an emergency supplemental, I believe, of $905 million in the current fiscal year, and then the balance will be in the next fiscal year, and Congress will have to buy on to this.
QThe White House said it was 33 Hueys in their release that they put out that day. Is that wrong?
MR. BACON: My memory is that it was 30 Black Hawks and 15 Hueys. But I'll double check that. I mean, whatever they said, I'm sure is right.
QKen, can you comment on the Chicago Tribune story of a vast loss -- of a possible vast loss of information because of the Y2K glitch in the spy satellites, and in particular, the timing and how long you were without these systems?
MR. BACON: Yeah, I'd be glad to. The story was wrong. (Laughter.) Deputy Secretary Hamre spoke about this at considerable length the Tuesday after New Year's, and I'll be glad to repeat much of what he said. I think this is -- I don't mean to dismiss this. This is a very important issue. It's become, I think, a test of credibility between the Pentagon and the press, and I think it's very unfortunate. And frankly, I think the press is off base on this issue. Let me tell you why.
We have a very robust and overlapping intelligence capability, comprised of a number of different systems, that is designed to give us the ability to monitor events around the world 24 hours a day. These systems are, to a certain extent, redundant, and they're redundant in order to give us various ways of monitoring events around the world, but also to give us overlapping or redundant capabilities in case there is a temporary glitch in one of the systems.
So without getting into details, there are a variety of systems collecting, observing, providing information in a number of different ways.
Dr. Hamre, I think, went into considerable detail in discussing this and, in that respect, broke new ground, because we don't generally talk about our most sensitive intelligence collection systems. We made a commitment to you to reveal how our military systems were working during the Y2K turnover between December 31st and January 1st. In the context of that, we did report that we had a temporary problem with a collection system, with getting information from a collection system. We do not as a matter of course reveal problems with collection systems. We don't do that because we don't want to give away information about our capabilities or temporary lack of capabilities at any given time. I think everybody would understand that when you're dealing with intelligence collection systems of the most sensitive nature, the less said about them the better. We made an exception during the Y2K turnover because this was something that arose during the turnover.
At no time were we blinded. This has been a canard that's been thrown around in the press from day one. At no time were our intelligence collection systems blinded. That is because we have redundant systems designed precisely to deal with a variety of situations.
Two, as Dr. Hamre said right after the turnover, we did suffer a temporary interruption in information processing by one -- from one system. It was repaired quickly, in a matter of hours, although not repaired 100 percent. It took a while to get back to 100 percent capability, but we did in a relatively short period of time. During the period when we were moving from a temporary fix to the front line, normal system, we were able to, through a process of education and repetition, become so good with the temporary fix that we were restored to close to 90 percent of our total capability by the time we got the regular system back on line.
The amount of time this system was down not particularly remarkable. There are various weather and other events that can affect our systems, and this was well within the type of temporary interruption that we experience on a fairly regular basis.
As I say, you must remember we have multiple and redundant systems precisely so that we will never be blinded if there is a temporary glitch in one system.
QWould you explain, then, when there's a temporary glitch in that system, so at absolutely no time it -- explain "blinded," I guess, is what I want you to do. You could see what you needed to see, high-priority things, even during that temporary system shutdown?
MR. BACON: Well, let me explain it in the simplest ways. In the way that most Americans would think of our intelligence systems -- that is, the ability to monitor attacks or potential attacks, or preparations for attacks against the United States -- we never lost that capability. And I think that without getting into details, that is the central fact. We always had the same type of real-time -- we always had an impressive degree of real-time monitoring capability, despite this temporary glitch.
QBut you may have lost one type of capability during that period -- optical images or radar images?
MR. BACON: Well, as Dr. Hamre said and I will repeat, we had a temporary interruption of product from a significant system, and that temporary interruption had an insignificant impact on our ability to monitor events around the world.
QCould I ask a -- can I follow up?
QKen, the story, though, said two days versus a temporary -- as a matter of hours, though. I mean, there was a greater time here that the story implied here was detailed.
MR. BACON: Right.
QI mean, you can't just blow it off as a wrong --
MR. BACON: Well, I would say the story was one part fact and two parts fiction. And the length of time listed as the interruption for this system was fictional; it was wrong.
QCould you say --
MR. BACON: Dr. Hamre has been very clear. If you go back and read what he said on January 4th, he said: One, we had a temporary interruption. The interruption was quickly repaired.
It was repaired at about 50 percent of normal capability. Between the time it was repaired -- and it was repaired on December 31st -- between the time we put a manual fix into place and the time we got the automated system fully up and running again, we had raised our ability to manipulate the manual system to about 90 percent of normal capability. So over a period to two days, we did, I think, a Herculean job of moving up the capability of this manual fix.
QKen, do you mean 50 percent capability for that system; meanwhile, another system covered what you lacked?
MR. BACON: Yes. We have multiple systems.
QBut a 50 percent capability for that system; meanwhile, another system is covering what you were lacking?
MR. BACON: For this one particular system, 50 percent of capability for one of the several systems --
QMeanwhile, you were covered by another system in what you were lacking --
MR. BACON: I am saying that we have multiple systems that all provide different types of collection. They are redundant in that you could describe the types of collection as somewhat the same in that they are intersecting circles. And what we lost was one -- if you took all our systems and put them together, they provide a total of intelligence. We lost a little corner of part of our total intelligence take for several hours. That's what happened.
Now, do we wish we hadn't lost it? Of course. But as I said, there are weather and other events that sometimes cause temporary glitches in the systems. And we did not experience any greater loss during this Y2K-related incident that we do from time to time in the normal course of operations.
QKen, speaking of other events, there is a piece today in Inside the Pentagon, that says that there were other technical glitches earlier in the week, and there was also a piece in the Aviation Week that talked about 1970s era computers that have been frequently breaking down in this system. So you seem to be sort of defending what happened over the weekend by saying, well, this happens frequently and this wasn't out of the norm for the kind of breakdowns we have all the time.
MR. BACON: No. No. I'd like to go back to the point I made earlier, that we don't generally talk in much detail, or any detail, about intelligence systems. I think that the reasons for that are very obvious. In this particular case, we made an exception because it was Y2K related. I think Americans would appreciate that when we're spending billions and billions of dollars on highly sophisticated, sensitive systems, that we want to say as little about these systems and their capabilities as possible so that people can't then figure out how to counter the systems in certain ways.
In this particular case, the system we're talking about, the system that was affected temporarily by a glitch on December 31st, is a highly reliable system. Every system we have, whether it's a tank, a submarine or an intelligence system, has a level of reliability. In other words, we set a standard that it is supposed to be operational and reliability X percentage of the time. This system routinely, routinely performs better than the level of reliability we have set, and the level of reliability we have set is extremely high. Now, it routinely beats the very demanding level of reliability we have set for it. But remember, this is a system that is designed to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So if something happens for two hours or three hours, it's an extremely small percentage of the time that it's supposed to be operating, or that it is operating in the course of the year.
QKen, when you were forced to go to the manual back-up system, was your through-put problem more an issue of amount of coverage of the Earth's surface that you wanted to look at, or was it a time -- time lag issue, more so?
MR. BACON: Neither.
QIs it correct that the problem was caused, sort of ironically, by the Y2K fix? Is that what caused this?
MR. BACON: Well, the analogy here would be somebody on a medical procedure that had to continue all the time -- somebody in an artificial lung, for instance. A polio victim.
You would like to make a fix in the lung, but you can't stop the lung to make the fix, to test a new system. This was a system that would have required us stopping it in order to test the fix from end to end. A decision was made not to stop this particular part of the system at any time. Therefore, they never tested the patch or the fix from beginning to end. They tested it in sections, and it turned out that it was a mistake, because the sections didn't fit together, the sections of the fix. They tested each section of the fix, but they never tested them all together, and it turned out that was the mistake, that one section of the fix didn't operate compatibly with another section of the fix.
They figured this out relatively quickly and they were able to put together a manual fix and that manual fix, as I said, was up and running within a short period of time, and it was running at a fairly high level of reliability and it allowed this one system, one of several important intelligence systems, to operate -- not 100 percent, but increasingly close to 100 percent -- over the next two days.
MR. BACON: Yes.
QIt seems kind of ironic to me that you guys wouldn't plan an outage of this thing to test it to make sure it would work and then suffered an outage that was unplanned later. Has there been any discussion that, heck, if we have a situation like this in the future, maybe we should instead plan when we're going to go out instead of just being surprised by it at a time when the Russian president is stepping down and potential terrorist --
MR. BACON: We are, in the Pentagon, by nature aggressive and almost obsessive planners, but we have not yet started planning for Y3K. (Laughter.) But when we do, I'm sure the people following us will take this -- will go back and check this issue.
QDo you agree it would have been a better approach to plan an outage and plan an end-to-end test and have an outage when you can plan to have those assets covered by other assets, as opposed to just having it happen when you weren't planning on it?
MR. BACON: I think it's -- I can't answer that question. All I can tell you, I'd like to just go back to the fundamental point here. John Hamre said this glitch had insignificant results. He was right; it had insignificant results.
QIs that a function of luck in the world situation, or something else?
MR. BACON: No, it is not a function of luck; it is a function of having highly reliable, redundant intelligence-gathering systems that give us an ability to monitor events around the world in near real time a variety of different ways.
QDifferent ways, but are there redundant systems that do exactly what these satellites do -- take pictures from the sky?
MR. BACON: Well, first of all, we never talked about what this system is, publicly, and I don't plan to do it today. Second, I can just assure you and the American public again that we have highly redundant systems designed so that if there is a temporary glitch in one of them, we are not blinded or incapacitated in any way.
QIs it correct --
MR. BACON: In any significant way. I mean, obviously, you'd always like to have everything operating 100 percent all the time. Life is hardly like that. Sometimes tape recorders and cameras fail. They're pretty low tech compared to some of the things we're talking about. But we believe that the system we've set up gives us a high degree of reliability that we can monitor events around the world to give us the types of warning we need to put our forces on alert. And that type of warning was never compromised by this event.
QIs it correct that the faulty intelligence computer processing which -- was processing information from more than one kind of intelligence gathering system? In other words, there are a variety of kinds. Was it more than one kind that was being processed by the computer with the problem?
MR. BACON: The answer is yes and no. And I won't go any further.
QMay I change the subject?
QOne more on this?
MR. BACON: Sure. Let's finish with this.
QWhen Dr. Hamre said that some data was irretrievably lost in this, was that data on New Year's Eve from the time when it really went down, or was it from sometime over the whole weekend?
MR. BACON: It was most notably on New Year's Eve. There was some on other times because as we pointed out very forthrightly at the time, when the manual fix was put into place, it did not give us 100 percent of what we had before; it gave us around 50 percent to begin with, and we got it up to 90 percent. So by definition, since we weren't getting 100 percent of what we'd normally get; something was lost.
That's not the right question, though, the question you asked: Was something lost? The right question is: Was significant product lost? Did we lose product that jeopardized our ability to provide the types of information and warning we need to carry out our national defense responsibilities? And the answer to that is no, we did not jeopardize our ability to carry out our national defense responsibilities.
QI'm sorry. Logic check. If you couldn't see the data you were getting, how do you know if it was significant or not?
MR. BACON: As I said, we have redundant systems. We have a variety of ways of getting the type of information we need. Intelligence, as you know, is -- like this briefing -- is a highly iterative process. (Laughter.) Things move incrementally over a small period of time. And much of what intelligence analysis involves is comparing long series of information, information gathered over a very long series of time. And when you have a variety of ways of gathering information, the inability to collect one particular type of information for a very small period of time frequently is not significant.
QKen, it's difficult to pose questions when we're not officially acknowledging the system involved. But the system involved is not primarily involved in early warning, as I understand it. The systems involved -- you can't acknowledge it from the podium, but they're not primarily early-warning, you know, nuclear-attack-in-progress systems. They're -- you know, they're image-gathering devices, the product of which is slowly and methodically looked at over time for a whole variety of reasons. So I don't -- you seem to be taking a shot at something that wasn't asserted. It was never asserted, in anything I wrote anyway, that we were exposed to nuclear attack because we were blind. The intelligence material we're talking about is long-term analytical stuff, and a picture of an --
MR. BACON: That's precisely why such a temporary interruption was insignificant. That's precisely why. And that's precisely why the obsessive interest in this is so incredibly puzzling to me. (Laughter.)
But I wanted -- the reason I mentioned early warning is I think it's important to reassure the American public, who have an expectation that our systems work that they are protected, that they, in fact, were protected. Because of our multiple redundant systems, we have a variety of ways of monitoring what's happening around the world. Some, such as the satellites that monitor missile launches are, in fact, designed to give us instant, near-instant, evidence of an attack against the United States. That system was never in jeopardy. We have other ways of monitoring what's going on around the world, and one of the reasons we have these ways is it's important for us to see if a country is assembling divisions of troops and armored equipment to move in one direction or another. That ability was not compromised by what happened in this particular situation. That was not compromised. We could still do that.
That is important to know, not because it means that -- a missile attack, of course, we have 20 or 30 minutes to respond. If a country were putting together divisions of armor to move against another country, we would have longer to respond, but we would still like to know that as soon as possible. Our ability to know that as soon as possible was not affected in a significant way by what happened to this system.
So that's why I said that American people can be confident that we, as the Department of Defense, as the nation's military, had the ability to continue the type of monitoring that we spend a lot of time and effort doing.
QOne final point, Ken. One of the things you're saying here is that it was the artificial lung and you didn't want to turn the lung off. It was so important that they didn't want to shut down the system, and yet why wouldn't they, if you have all these fabulous redundant systems?
MR. BACON: Well, I mean, it's because we just made a calculation, one, that we thought the fix was going to work. We were surprised and disappointed that it didn't work. And two, everything else being equal, we would rather have the system working. We didn't shut down other systems either. The whole idea of intelligence systems is to have stuff coming in.
But I want to point out, just repeat one more time, that there are temporary glitches in systems that occur from time to time. And this was not out of the ordinary by those standards in terms of duration, and it was not seen as a particularly significant event.
In fact, when I asked Vice Admiral Wilson about this, the head of the DIA, he described the impact as "very, very marginal." And I, in my discussions with a variety of officials involved in this, have seen nothing that would change my view of it. And I think "very, very marginal" is another way of saying what John Hamre did on January 4th, "insignificant"; "it had insignificant impact."
You know, I think one of the reasons for the fascination with this is clearly that we are not able to stand up and describe precisely what happened and precisely what impact it had. And I am sorry about that. But I just think you have to understand that there are certain things we don't want to say, certain capabilities we don't want to give away, about our systems. And it's very difficult to talk about it, even in a half-intelligible way, without giving away details that we don't want to give away.
There is a big difference between having facts, so-called facts, printed in articles or TV reports that may or may not be accurate, and having people in the government stand up and talk about them from the podium. So I am just not going to do that, and neither did John Hamre.
But I think there is another reason that the press may be fascinated by this, and that is the whole way it was revealed. And I think this is not widely understood by the public, and I am not even sure it's widely understood by all of you.
It was revealed by John Hamre. John Hamre, at a reception in his office on New Year's Eve, mentioned to a group of reporters that there was one glitch that had raised concern and we were working on it and he was not in a position to give out much detail. He made this comment approximately 45 to 60 minutes after he himself had learned about the glitch.
Of the half-dozen news organizations' representatives from which he made this comment, one news organization decided to pursue the story. We cooperated with the representative from that news organization, which ran a TV account, at approximately 1:30 in the morning on January 1st, with full cooperation -- well, I would say full cooperation, giving partial facts -- but we did cooperate on getting the story straight. And the most important part of the story, from our standpoint, was that a fix was in place, and the system was working again at some capacity. And we cooperated with that news organization. The story ran.
We got phone calls from one newspaper and two wire services and one other TV network after the story ran. We cooperated with the representatives of those news organizations.
And one other TV organization ran a story on the -- early in the morning on January 1st. Two wire services ran the story. And the newspaper ran the story two days later.
Despite this, this somehow has gained the fantasy that we were holding back information. We were not. It was Dr. Hamre who revealed that there had been a problem in the first place. He spoke about it at great length on January 1st, at a briefing he gave here at noon -- at noon -- and he has spoken about it at great length since. And I am speaking about it at great length today because I hope it'll go away. (Laughter.)
To my mind, the most fascinating aspect of this is, it's a story about how the press operates. It's a story about jealousies among members of the press. It is a story about people not acknowledging how this came out in the first place, and that we have been working hard, within the admitted limits of our ability to discuss intelligence systems, exactly what happened here. And our primary responsibility, as Dr. Hamre said, is to protect important systems that protect our security, and that's we've tried to do.
But within the context of Y2K, we did talk about one particular temporary glitch in one of several intelligence-gathering systems.
QChange of subject?
QI'd like to say something first, before we change the subject.
MR. BACON: Sure.
QYou did overlook one important fact about the sequence of events that night, which is that Admiral Willard, who was in charge of the Y2K monitoring, stood right where you are at 9:30 that night, after this event had happened, and made no mention of it, and assured everybody that there had been no glitches --
MR. BACON: Right. First of all, as we said, as Dr. Hamre said on January 1st, Admiral Willard did not know that the event had taken place until after his briefing was over. Within an hour of Dr. Hamre's knowledge of the briefing, he had admitted -- he had revealed it in a conversation with several reporters, and we were answering questions to anybody who called and asked about it. We did not --
QWhy did not the admiral in charge of giving out Y2K information know?
MR. BACON: Typically --
QWas he not briefed deliberately so he couldn't tell us?
MR. BACON: No. That is a churlish and I think objectionable suggestion.
Typically, if a glitch like this were to occur in the system we're discussing, it would not be reported until the next day. In other words, if a glitch -- this glitch -- we discovered this glitch at approximately 7:00 in the evening -- 1900. They knew -- they had sort of figured out -- they knew for a fact that it was a glitch by about 7:30 -- 1930. They reported it two hours or so after that. My understanding, from talking to people engaged in the system, is that normally they would not report a temporary glitch like this until the next day when it would be reported in just a sort of the average daily after-action report.
Now, if I'm wrong on that, I'll correct it, but that's what I've been informed by members of the system. The reason this was reported, and the reason it received the amount of attention it got was precisely because we had stood-up a Y2K operation to examine how all our systems were operating. So the report came, as Dr. Hamre said. The team worked aggressively to fix it; that's what they were concentrating on. The report was made in a relatively timely manner; it wasn't made instantly. But the report didn't reach the National Military Command Center until Admiral Willard had nearly completed his briefing, and he didn't learn about it until shortly after his briefing.
Now, then the question you could ask is, okay, given that, should we have called everybody back and had another briefing at 2:00 in the morning when we knew what had happened, when we had figured out what was going to happen, because as John Hamre said, we clearly were not going to stand up and announce that one intelligence system was temporarily blinded; it would have been dumb, and we try not to do dumb things. So we weren't going to say anything about it until we knew we had in a fix in place, and indeed, that's when we did talk about it, when we had a fix in place several hours after we discovered what the problem was.
If you want to fault us on not calling everybody up at 2:00 in the morning and saying, "Oh, by the way, we're going to report to you on a problem we fixed," I will accept the blame for that. But I don't think that that was a conscious effort to cover this up.
And to deal with your question, I think John Hamre and Admiral Willard both dealt with it on January 1st and again on January 4th when they briefed on this. They made it very clear that at the time Admiral Willard briefed, he did not know about this incident.
QDo you think Dr. Hamre made it clear on January 1st that the problem was not totally fixed yet, leaving us to find out Monday morning that it hadn't been fixed till Sunday night?
MR. BACON: Well, I've gone back and read the transcript, and I believe what he said was -- I don't have it here -- that we had a manual fix in place and we were continuing to work on the total fix. And I'll go back and review that, but of course you can review it, too. But I think that he was pretty clear that we were working on getting a permanent fix in place.
QYes, one final thing. If I can sling an arrow back at you, the reason that I worked on this story and why it came up on my screen two weeks after is not because I'm churlish and jealous, but because people who were actually working the problem say it's far more serious than what the Pentagon let on, and indeed the impact was insignificant, but that was a fact of the way events unfolded that night. And there is a lot of concern that the money isn't being spent to upgrade this stuff.
So, you know, don't stand up there and tell us that we're all, you know, motivated by completely selfish things. I report. That's what I do for a living. I don't sit around --
MR. BACON: Oh, I understand that.
Q-- (inaudible) -- everyone else is doing.
MR. BACON: I think that the -- I don't think I described anything you said as churlish and objectionable. It was in response to something that -- (laughter) -- that John said, which was that -- (laughter) -- and maybe I should talk about you in the same sentence, but I don't think I was referring to anything more than what John said. And I --
QJust let the record show that I object to the idea that we're all just jealous of --
MR. BACON: I stick by my description of his comment as churlish and objectionable, that particular comment. That's not to say everything he says fits into that.
But I think, again, you know, John Hamre, I, anybody who talks about national security, we have to try to find a balance between openness, on the one hand, and protection, on the other hand. I think we found the right balance here. This is a very complex system. It was a complex incident. It was one where people worked very hard to cure the problem quickly and did. The bottom line is that it did not have a significant impact on our intelligence-gathering capability. I've tried to put that into perspective.
I've tried to explain to you that there are times when there can be interruptions in service, and this was not, in terms of the time itself, out of the ordinary. There were things that were out of the ordinary. The fact that it happened because of a Y2K switchover. The fact that we weren't able immediately to return to our main line automated system did cause us some inconvenience. We've admitted that we did lose some product, but we don't think it had a significant impact on our ability to monitor events around the world.
MR. BACON: Yes?
QFrance Presse is reporting out of Taipei that the Taiwanese have deployed Chaparral missiles on a disputed island in the South China Sea. Have you got anything on that?
MR. BACON: They've had Chaparral missiles for a long while. We don't monitor the deployments of missiles like this on a regular basis. All I can tell you is that we have not taken a position on the sovereignty of the Spratly Islands. What we have said is that disputes over the ownership or control of the island should be solved diplomatically and peacefully. And we have also said that attempts to militarize the islands in any way would be a step in the wrong direction, would be a move away from peaceful settlement. We think the only way for the various countries that lay claims to these islands to resolve these claims is diplomatically.
QSo you don't know, in effect, if they have to pull that Chapparal?
MR. BACON: I'm not commenting on the AFP report. I'm not going to comment on the AFP report one way or another.
QWhen Mr. Rostker goes up to be the undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, is he going to maintain that Persian Gulf War Illness portfolio?
MR. BACON: Yes. He will still be OSAGWI, as he is now, which is the Office of whatever OSAGWI is -- special assistant for Gulf War Illnesses.
QKen, could you state the policy on recruiting soldiers younger than 18 -- what's going on with these resolutions to stop child soldiers and get the age raised to 18 -- why the U.S. wants to recruit soldiers younger than 18?
MR. BACON: Well, first of all, we prefer and largely do recruit soldiers with high school diplomas. Many people graduate from high school before the age of 18, and we have argued that we should have the right to recruit people who want to join the military. Remember, it's a volunteer military. If people want to join, if they're 17, right out of high school, that they should have the right to do that.
I understand very much the pressure to end the use of child soldiers. We agree with that, but what we're dealing with is really countries that frequently press into service 11- and 12-year-old children who have no choice about whether to serve in the military. These are frequently swept up off the streets or forced into service against their will at an extremely young age, and armed. And so there are countries in the world where you have 12- and 13-year-olds wielding AK-47s and other weapons. We do not do that.
We also have a very well-commanded, well-trained military that is overwhelmingly comprised of soldiers over 18, but there are a few who are under 18.
MR. BACON: You're welcome.
THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS PREPARED BY THE FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., WASHINGTON DC. FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE IS A PRIVATE COMPANY. FOR OTHER DEFENSE RELATED TRANSCRIPTS NOT AVAILABLE THROUGH THIS SITE, CONTACT FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE AT (202) 347-1400.