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DoD News Briefing, Thursday, February 18, 1999

Presenters: Captain Mike Doubleday, DASD PA
February 18, 1999 1:45 PM EDT

   Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.

I don't have any announcements to make today, but I would like to start by anticipating at least some of your questions with regard to Kosovo.

I think that most of you are aware that this building is focused on two paths with regard to Kosovo at this point. On the one hand, last night the Secretary signed a deployment order which adds to the U.S. aircraft that are forward based in the European theater, and those aircraft included 12 F-117 stealth fighters, 10 EA-6B Prowlers, and a total of 29 refueling aircraft -- four KC-10 extenders and 25 KC-135 strato tankers.

Those aircraft will be moving to the forward bases in Europe over the next several days. Some of them will actually not arrive there until over the weekend or early next week.

They will join other aircraft, land-based, and also aircraft that are embarked in the aircraft carrier USS ENTERPRISE that are already over there.

This action is a readiness action -- readiness for U.S. forces to support any NATO decision that would be triggered by a failure of the talks in France.

There is another path that we're also focused on and that is the path that would be triggered by success of the talks now going on in France. In that path we are looking at what forces we would be deploying in the event there is a NATO decision to deploy NATO troops to implement a peace agreement.

So there are these two paths that we are focused on. The talks in France, of course, are continuing. I'm not in a position to predict how the talks will turn out. I think everyone is certainly hoping that the participants in those talks will choose a path of peace and that there will not be a requirement to use military force. But we here in the United States believe that the deployment was necessary as a precautionary and prudent measure so that we would have the capabilities in the European theater in the event NATO determines that it is necessary to take some action in the aftermath of failure.

Q: Mike, would you all rule out the use of Tomahawks in any NATO raids? And how many Tomahawk platforms do you have?

A: Charlie, first of all I don't want to specify types of weapons that might be used. I think you're aware that we do have ships that are deployed in the European theater that have Tomahawk cruise missiles. And beyond that I just don't want to forecast, because I don't want to give the impression that we believe that the talks are going to end in failure at this point.

I think it's very clear by the actions that the Secretary ordered last night that we're ready to respond whatever direction this thing goes. But I think it would be premature to get into that level of detail.

Q: The Tomahawks would spare threat to pilots, especially in initial raids. Would you rule those out? Would you rule out...

A: I would not rule out that particular weapon system being used if it comes to that. It is true that cruise missile capability is one that can be useful in a variety of scenarios.

Q: You said this was a readiness deployment or a preparedness deployment.

A: Right.

Q: You also said it might be until some time next week before all of these planes have moved. How soon would the United States be ready to act in conjunction with its NATO allies if there is no agreement by the noon Saturday deadline? Would you be ready on Saturday, or will it be a couple of days before you'll be ready?

A: We already have, that is to say we, the United States plus NATO in general, already have in position in Europe sufficient aircraft to take action should that be the course that is required by NATO.

The movement of these aircraft certainly adds to the capability and brings additional forces closer to the theater, but that is not to say that action could not be taken in their absence.

Q: Can you identify the forward bases that these additional aircraft will move to?

A: I don't have all of them. I think that, as you know, the 117s will be going to Aviano. We can get you more definition on where the other aircraft are going to be going. There are bases all over southern Europe and also some bases in Germany. The refuelers, for instance, will be located to some extent up at German bases, but the folks in DDI can give you more detail on that later.

I can tell you, though, that the 117s, I think most of you know come from Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. The 10 EA-6B Prowlers come from -- five of them are going to come from Whidbey Island in Washington, five of them will come from Cherry Point, North Carolina. The KC-10s come from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey and Travis Air Force Base in California. And the 135s come from McConnell Air Base in Kansas, Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington, Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia, and MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. As I say, they'll be departing over the next two or three days.

Q: Two questions. If these aircraft that you're sending now are simply to reinforce what's already there, I believe you said you have sufficient air power in the region to accomplish a mission already...

A: To certainly start a mission should that be the path that is chosen.

Q: Between what you have there in terms of air power and Tomahawks, if you take all that, then are these aircraft anything more than simply ratcheting up NATO's end of the bargaining table to try to convince Milosevic NATO really is serious this time?

A: No. I think certainly the stealth fighters have a role that is unique. Certainly the refuelers are required if you're going to keep aircraft up for extended periods of time.

I'm not going to get into details of the operational plan, but most of you are aware that each aircraft type brings a different capability to the force and certainly as General Clark has put together his plans, it has been done with great care and has drawn upon the assets that he feels will be necessary.

Q: What is the unique role that you envision, you speak about envisioning a stealth fighter fulfilling here?

A: Basically they can get in without being observed by opposing radar systems, air defense systems.

Q: One other separate question. Does the U.S. have any concern that Milosevic would try to stop the OSCE verifiers and observers from getting out of Kosovo if an evacuation order is given by the OSCE? And what would be our response or view if Milosevic did try and stop them from leaving the country?

A: First of all, I can't predict what would happen on the part of Milosevic. I think it would be a very foolish move on his part to make in that direction.

However, having said that, there is also a very capable extraction force which could be called into play if there is some need to do so.

Q: Turning to Iraq. The Iraqi...

A: Let me see if there's any more on...

Q: On the second, the peaceful part, you said you were looking at what forces we would be deploying. Could you amplify? I think looking at implies no decision as to the exact makeup.

A: Well...

Q: But in NATO, in Brussels, people are saying no, no, the U.S. has given very detailed accounts of what forces it will deliver.

A: Right. I'm not prepared to make an announcement at this point as to the composition since number one, we don't have an agreement at the talks, and we don't have a presidential decision that will actually deploy units.

What I can tell you, though, is that there is planning going on right now. There is -- I think the picture indicates that the force that NATO envisions will be somewhere under 30,000 troops. That it would be led by a European operational commander in a chain of command that, of course, is headed by General Clark who is the SACEUR and goes through Admiral Ellis at the southern component of NATO. Both of those individuals are Americans.

The U.S. component would be probably less than 15 percent of the total force and would include participation in what is called an enabling force, most likely by Marines from the 24th MEU that are presently operating in the Mediterranean.

The purpose of the enabling force is basically to move NATO units into the region very quickly, establish positions in a limited number of areas and then, as that can be done, bring in the forces, in this case, on the U.S. side, Army forces that would be there for a longer period of time.

Q: Can you give us any indication as to what the Army forces are that are going there for a longer period?

A: Today I cannot. I may be able to within the next several days indicate where those forces will be coming from.

Q: Have some of them already started training?

A: I am aware that some of the forces in Europe are certainly aware that they are likely to be called upon to participate in this action and that they may be taking some preliminary steps to be prepared, but at this point there certainly has been no final decision on exactly what units are going to be deployed if we go down this path.

Q: Would the Marines go ashore in Greece and move to Macedonia to await further instructions? Or are they going to wait on their ships?

A: For right now they're embarked in their ships. They certainly aren't going to move any place until one, there is an agreement, and secondly, there is a presidential decision for the United States to participate in a NATO operation. We are not at that point yet.

Q: So there's no plans to move them ashore in some sort of precautionary pre-deployment...

A: That's correct.

Q: Mike, isn't all this talk about a presidential decision something of fiction? In NATO you've gone as far as laying out a map with the sectors of the U.S. forces against...

A: Well...

Q: At this point if the President said no there would be chaos, I think.

A: Certainly in this country the President has the final word with regard to the deployment of U.S. troops. He has given two speeches so far. Both of them have indicated -- the first one indicated serious consideration. The subsequent speech indicated that if there is an agreement he is inclined to authorize the deployment.

But there has been no final decision. And the reason for that is A, there's no agreement; and secondly, there is a list of requirements that the President has outlined and others have outlined which will have to be achieved before the deployment can go forward. So what is actually going to trigger any kind of a deployment is certainly a presidential decision.

Q: Mike, how can NATO move forward with the threat of airstrikes or the reality of airstrikes? If that happens, then the permissive environment or the voluntary compliance of the Serbs is broken, and airstrikes would then lead to a situation non-permissive, I would presume. Or is the United States hoping that it will become permissive if airstrikes are used? What I'm saying is, you're blowing your whole deal of getting a deal with Milosevic if you strike him, right?

A: At the outset I said that I think everybody in this building and elsewhere throughout the United States as well as Europe is interested in seeing an agreement that leads down the road for peace rather than down the road that leads to airstrikes.

But having said that, on the 30th of January NATO did indicate that it was prepared to take steps in the event that the talks failed and the Serbs were responsible for that.

Q: Mike, presuming that the talks fail and we go into a mode where we're conducting airstrikes against Serb military targets, what will we do if the KLA used that situation to try to advance or enhance their position on the ground? Would we take some action to stop them as well?

A: Without forecasting exactly what's going to happen, we have said that we will withdraw support to the KLA if they are responsible for the failure of these talks.

Q: What about when, if Serbia is held responsible for the failure and we start hitting Serbian military targets and the KLA starts taking advantage of that by enhancing their position on the ground? What will we do? Hide and watch them?

A: I think that Secretary Cohen has made very clear that we are going to be very watchful that that kind of an occurrence does not happen, and we are not going to become an Air Force for the KLA.

Q: But he's asking what would you do if it did happen, if the KLA started...

A: I am not going to speculate on what might occur for two reasons. One, I'm not sure this is going down that road, and I think it is not productive to forecast that kind of an outcome. And secondly, I don't think it is helpful for the United States or anybody else to lay out exactly what we are going to do.

I think in this case being a little ambiguous is exactly the way we want it to be.

Q: Can I just say, related to that -- today on the ground you've got Serb forces and tanks moving toward, I think, the border of Macedonia. You've got the KLA putting the Serbs in their rifle sights. You've got Serbian soldiers quoted as saying if airstrikes come, we're going to start hitting the rebels. So it may be a lot of tough talk, but there is potential for an explosion there if there's airstrikes.

A: I think that everybody agrees that there has been a potential for explosion in Kosovo for many, many months, and that is the reason that the parties are presently in France talking about the possibility of working out a peaceful agreement that will lead to a resolution of the issue and will stop the bloodshed that is going on now in Kosovo.

Q: Should this be done on a deadline where violence is imminent?

A: There is a deadline out there, and I think that it's very clear what the deadline is.

Q: Change of subject?

Q: One more. You said some of the troops in Europe were taking preliminary steps awaiting a final decision by the President. What preliminary steps are those? Is it training?

A: Excuse me?

Q: Is it training?

A: I think they're getting ready for training. I don't know for a fact that they've actually started training, but certainly shots and that kind of thing need to be prepared for. There are a number of other steps involving contractors that are likely to be taken in preparation for a deployment like this.

As I say, once a decision is made, we'll be happy to share with you what that is, but it has not been made yet.

Q: Can you tell us which units then are... (Laughter)

A: No. Nice try, but I'm not going to do that today.

Q: Change of subject, Iraq? A military communiqué issued not too long ago in Baghdad said there were incursions on the northern no-fly zone today by U.S. planes and that they attacked one anti-aircraft site. I understand that that's, that you're saying that's not true.

A: From all I can tell on this, this may be a case of an over-zealous public relations person for the Iraqi military simply having prepared a press release, and when events didn't occur as he had forecasted, he put it out anyway. (Laughter)

We had no incidents in Operation NORTHERN WATCH today.

Q: Were there patrols in Operation NORTHERN WATCH?

A: There were some flights, but as I understand it, the weather up there was bad.

Q: Was there any sighting of anti-aircraft artillery fire or any other hostile acts observed by the pilots, even if they didn't respond...

A: Yes, I understand there was likely some AAA that was observed either by pilots or by other means.

Q: So if Iraq said, for instance, that it fired at planes with AAA and then the planes left, it might be technically accurate. If their statement is they fired at U.S. planes patrolling the no-fly zones, and the planes did witness anti-aircraft artillery fire, then the statement could be correct.

A: Jamie, I'm not sure I'd paint the picture exactly that way. As we talked about before, AAA is not exactly a serious threat to planes that are flying at 20,000 feet.

Q: Iraq also said in that release that an attack had been launched by the planes against a site on the ground.

A: I can be very definitive on that; that is that no such attack occurred.

Q: Can you tell us at this point how many targets have been attacked in Iraq since the end of Operation DESERT FOX and how many munitions have been expended in the effort since then?

A: I know you've asked that question before, and I don't have that tabulation. I think we've gone through pretty much every incident, but we've not gone through and tabulated each individual one.

What we have done is -- we have Iraqi violations of the no-fly zone since the end of DESERT FOX. In SOUTHERN WATCH that is about 90 and in NORTHERN WATCH it's about a dozen.

Q: Can you do that? Can you go ahead and tabulate those numbers so we don't have to keep repeating the question?

Q: Because it stretches to incredulity that nobody at the Pentagon has kept track of how many things we've attacked and how many bombs we've used up. Somebody has those numbers somewhere.

A: We will see what we can do for you on that.

Q: And the BDA...

A: I'm not going to predict at this point. I think Ken answered the BDA question last Tuesday.

Q: Was there a reason -- why if there's not a clear response to that, is there a reason why can't just right now say yes, we will. Is there some reluctance to do that?

A: I will do what we can.

Q: That didn't really answer the question. (Laughter)

Q: In a broad sense, did you hit most of what you aimed at?

A: In a broad sense, we've had a very significant impact on the Iraqi integrated air defense system since these violations and provocations commenced on the part of the Iraqis.

Q: This may actually relate to Tuesday's briefing, but let me ask again. Is there any indication presently that Iraq is making any preparations to go outside of its borders to the north and attack anywhere in Turkey? And is the United States keeping a vigil especially against these threats that were made a couple of days ago?

A: To answer the last part of the question first, certainly force protection is the primary goal of any commander, and our commanders at Turkish air bases are certainly aware of this threat and are taking appropriate measures.

Having said that, I've not seen anything that would indicate the scenario that you paint.

Q: Are AWACS deployed in the northern no-fly zone or in Turkey as a defense?

A: Yes. AWACS are part of operations in both the north and the south.

Q: New topic?

A: Yeah.

Q: Could you explain why Secretary Cohen is going to speak at Microsoft today when it's in the middle of these antitrust suits that the U.S. Government... (Laughter) Why do that?

A: Well, Secretary Cohen is embarked on a program to talk to people throughout the United States that the Department of Defense may not previously have talked to. He, as you may be aware, talked to the Illinois Statehouse. He is today talking to Microsoft.

He is delivering a message that talks about the Department of Defense. It's an important message that we feel that all corners of the country should hear. He is going to be traveling to other parts of the country in coming months, and I think you'll see other venues that are probably non-traditional for a Secretary of Defense to speak in.

But I think it's an interesting way to carry the message and one that is welcomed.

Q: Could you say whether consideration was given to the fact that Microsoft is engaged, unlike the Illinois chamber, in a massive suit with the government?

A: That certainly was not a major consideration. I think the major consideration is the fact that Microsoft is a high tech company. The U.S. armed forces of today are high-tech operations. They utilize a lot of software from a variety of companies that are on the leading edge of technology. And these are people who are looking to the future and being very innovative, and certainly people that we want to deal with and talk to on a continuing basis.

Q: Can you say, or if you can't say, can you take the question of whether this was cleared with the White House, and whether Justice Department's views were sought.

A: I will see what I can do for you on that one.

Q: Captain Doubleday, the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, today made some curious statements in which he said he warned President Clinton against bombing Yugoslav President Slobadan Milosevic, which the White House then later said they didn't know what discussions Yeltsin was referring to.

Is the Pentagon at all concerned that the Russian President may not be completely with it? He may be losing some of his faculties? His stability?

A: Jamie, I am not prepared to address the health and well being of the President of Russia.

Q: Well of course the question always comes up about the control of the Russians' nuclear arsenal. And if there was any sign of infirmity on the part of Yeltsin, is there any concern about control over Russia's nuclear arsenal?

A: Certainly we are always very attentive to that issue. We have a group in Russia right now holding talks with the Russians on a variety of subjects. One of those subjects, as Ken indicated on Tuesday, is shared early warning. And we continue to hold discussions with the Russians on those subjects as well as others.

Beyond that, I don't really have anything that I can offer you.

Q: Yeltsin's public statements have not raised any unusual level of concern here about control of Russia's nuclear arsenal?

A: Jamie, I'm just not prepared to answer that question.

Q: Can you say anything about the theater missile defense report on Taiwan? Has that gone to the Hill yet?

A: The theater missile defense report has gone to the Hill. We're talking to people up on the Hill about the report and about briefings that might be offered to both staff and Members if they desire. We haven't scheduled any, to my knowledge, yet, but we're certainly prepared to do that. That is a classified report.

We are hoping that there will be an unclassified version at some stage, and when there is, we'll look forward to sharing it with you.

Q: Mike, since the chief spokesman of this building and her supervisor won't do it, are you willing to discuss the health, well being, and job status of Linda Tripp?

A: Charlie, I think if you haven't seen it, we have provided some answers to the questions that were posed on Tuesday, and I would refer you to those.

Q: Those answers -- all of them seem to imply that the situation with her is status quo as it was exactly a year ago, just almost to the day since she started working at home. Is that the situation?

A: Yes. She continues as an employee of the Department of Defense. She is presently working in a flexiplace arrangement.

Q: Her attorneys, though, indicate that she wants to come back to work here, that she no longer is interested in working at home, and they claim that she is being prevented from doing that. What's your response to that?

A: I think that was very clear in the answers that we provided to you earlier, and I would refer you to those.

Q: What wasn't clear in the answers was what exactly are the U.S. taxpayers getting for the salary that is being paid to Linda Tripp?

A: If you'd like, we will take that question and see if we can offer you an answer on that, but I'm not prepared to give you an answer off the cuff here.

Q: Mike, has there been cooperation and has there been any progress made by the team, the DoD team, I presume, that is in Russia currently? Do you have anything to report?

A: I don't have anything to report. As Ken indicated, we hope to get Assistant Secretary Ted Warner to give a background briefing once he returns, but it will be awhile yet before he gets back.

Q: Just one more on Linda Tripp. Is there anything that currently prevents Linda Tripp, from the Pentagon's point of view, returning to work in this building?

A: I would refer you to the questions and answers that we have provided. If that doesn't...

Q: That question I don't believe was taken. So could you please take that question?

A: We'll see what we can provide for you.

Q: Mike, would you, do you think it would be fair to say that the Pentagon is treating this whole situation with kid gloves? (Laughter) Do you think that would be a fair assessment?

A: I would not care to characterize this. I will let you do that.

Q: How would you characterize the way the Pentagon is treating her, the situation?

Q: With a long pole, perhaps. (Laughter)

Q: Seriously, Mike, how would you say that the Pentagon is treating this situation? How would you characterize it?

A: Charlie, I am not going to offer any kind of an analysis as to how we're going about this situation. We are simply continuing to employ Linda Tripp. She is working in this flexiplace arrangement.

Q: On the flexiplace arrangement, my understanding is that's something that's totally at the discretion of the employer and doesn't require employees to apply for it even. Is that right? In other words, it's a Pentagon decision that she works at home and not the other way around?

A: In this particular case, I'm not sure that was the genesis of it, but we'll look into it and see if we can give you the history of how this came about. You certainly are key players in all of that.

Q: Does it require her to agree to work at home in order for her to...

A: Let's see what we can come up with.

Q: She has counsel, and they say she wants to return to this building. Have there been any negotiations, any talks between officials here and her counsel about her continuing to...

A: I think you're aware there was a meeting earlier this week with her supervisors, but those meetings between supervisors and employees happen all the time.

Q: Captain, do you have any cost estimate at this point for the -- for both the possible deployment of peacekeepers to Kosovo, if that takes place, and the possible air operations, if those take place? What would those cost?

A: I don't have any firm cost estimates, and I think that the reason for that is that it is still not clear exactly how these things would play out.

Q: ...cost estimates, guesstimates..

A: I'm not going to guess...

Q: Do you know yet what role the Russians might play on the ground in Kosovo?

A: No, I don't think that's clear yet. Certainly we have developed a very good professional relationship with the Russian unit that we operate with in Bosnia. We certainly have demonstrated there, as have the Russians, that this kind of arrangement can work. The Russians play a very important role in Bosnia along with all the other forces that are participating, and it certainly is a possibility that the Russians could play an identical role in Kosovo if they elect to do so.

Q: One more Linda Tripp related question, if I could.

A: Yeah.

Q: What is the status of the Privacy Act investigation into the release of her records?

A: It is still not completed as far as I know, but...

Q: When did that begin, do you know?

A: Excuse me?

Q: Do you know when that began?

A: We can get you the date. I don't know exactly when it began. We'll try and get you a date on that.

Press: Thank you.

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