DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth Bacon, ATSD (PA)
Mr. Bacon: Yesterday the United Nations formally confirmed Major General Joseph Kinzer as the Commander of the UNMIH forces that will take over for the U.S. forces in Haiti. Today General Kinzer is visiting Haiti. In fact he'll be there until Friday surveying the situation. He's going to meet with President Aristide and other officials, travel widely around the country. He's traveling with Mr. Brahimi who is the UN official, the Secretary General's representative in Haiti monitoring the situation. This is just another step in a transition that will be taking place really over the next two months, replacing the U.S. forces with the UNMIH force.
Probably tomorrow the Secretary General will send basically three documents to the Security Council, all saying that Haiti is now a secure and stable environment. The first is a report by General Fisher who is the commander of U.S. forces there. The second is a report by the U.S. and the 29 other members of the multinational force saying that they believe the environment is secure and stable. The third is the Secretary General's report.
Then the Security Council will review this information, and it has to come up by the end of this month with a new resolution setting the parameters of operation for UNMIH in Haiti. The current Resolution 940 expires at the end of January, so they need basically a new authorizing vehicle to describe what the UNMIH force will be doing.
Our assumption is now that the UNMIH force will take over probably in the last two weeks of March, by March 31st. That's the current planning.
I would be glad to take questions on this or anything else.
Q: Can you give us the number of troops there, just to update it.
A: The number of troops there today, there are currently 3,954 Army troops... The total U.S. troop strength there is 7,127 as of January 16th, that's as of yesterday.
Q: That's ashore.
Q: Would you call that a milestone in the turnover process?
A: It's certainly a very important step in the turnover process. When you look at what's happened in Haiti since September 19th when we went in there, the dismantling of the infrastructure of political repression; the creation of a safe environment, a generally safe environment in a country that was known for violence; and efforts to rebuild the economy on top of the most important achievement, which was bringing back democratic government. Yes, I'd say this is another important step that we're taking along the way to bringing stability to Haiti.
Q: Apparently the soldier who was shot and killed was not wearing body armor. Has there been any change in the policy about whether U.S. troops have to wear body armor in the wake of that shooting?
A: There has not been. This is up to the discretion of the unit commander. It was before this event, and it remains so after the event. My understanding is that all American troops operating in Port-au-Prince do wear body armor. That's the rule that's been laid down by the commander. In some of the areas outside of Port-au-Prince, in all of the other areas, it's up to the unit leader, and it remains so.
Q: Somalia. Are the Marines headed for Somalia yet? The ARG from the Gulf? It was supposed to happen about the middle of the month.
A: You're asking me if the ARG has actually departed.
A: They're still participating in an exercise called Nautical Mantis '95.
Q: Do you have any concrete date on when they will depart and when the evacuation might begin?
A: I don't, but we'll find out.
This is a sequenced event. Basically there is a group of planners that have arrived in Mogadishu already, a small group of planners, maybe a dozen or so arrived yesterday or maybe they're arriving today, to begin planning for the operation. The U.S. forces in the Amphibious Ready Group will arrive off-shore, I think, on February 8th, I believe, is when they're supposed to arrive in the area. They won't actually go ashore for some time after that, but they will be in the area starting February 8th.
Q: Will they all go ashore eventually, or has that not been determined?
A: I think they'll go ashore as necessary.
Q: While we're in the Persian Gulf, could you comment on to what extent the Pentagon is concerned about the threat posed from Russian-built submarines now operated by Iran in those waters? Does that pose a significant threat?
A: Our view on that is very clear. We're against the build-up of Iranian forces. It's our desire that countries not arm Iran with submarines and other weapons that we think could lead to instability in the area.
Q: Can you confirm the story about the rescue of Americans by Poles during the Gulf War?
A: No. I'm not prepared to confirm or deny it. I don't know.
Q: You have nothing on it?
A: Nothing. No other way to put it.
Q: In Bosnia, General Sir Michael Rose is reported to be thinking of sharing NATO flight data with the Bosnian Serbs as a confidence building measure and there are some reports that he's even already done it. Are you aware of these reports, and do you have an opinion on the whole idea of sharing this data?
A: My understanding is that that idea is kaput.
Q: Has he shared information up until now so far as you know? Or has anybody in his staff or his command?
A: This was something that was considered among the UNPROFOR command or certainly by UNPROFOR officials as a potential confidence building measure. The idea, as it was broached, was to share information with both the Serbs and the Bosnian government forces. NATO never favored this because they believe it could endanger the pilots who are flying close air support and other missions over Bosnia and other parts of the former Yugoslavia, so they have not gone along with this. This idea was stillborn and has not been implemented.
Q: Has it ever been implemented in some fashion by his staff or his command?
A: I don't believe it has, but I want to be careful here, because, as you know, going back to September when the NATO Defense Ministers met in Seville, they considered a series of steps to make air strikes more effective if they were called for by the UN. And remember, as you know it's a two-key approach where they have to be called for by the UN and agreed to by NATO. One of the issues they discussed at that time was how much advance notice to give of NATO air strikes. So the question of notice with the idea of giving people time to protect civilians has long been an issue. This is a variation on that, obviously. As I understand it, and I certainly wasn't a party to this, and I don't believe even the U.S. was a party to this because I think this was something that was discussed among the UNPROFOR officials over there. As I understand it, this might have been somewhat more institutionalized. But the thing to keep in mind is, the policy has not changed, and we are not providing this information either to the Bosnian government or the Serbs now.
Q: Can you address the issue of the budget shortfall and the CBO estimate of $47 billion, given that that took into effect your savings and spending plans?
A: First of all, all the long term budgetary estimates are subject to second guessing. The President and the Secretary and Deputy Secretary Deutch have said that we will put forth a budget over time that funds our needs. You've probably read just recently, as I have, about talk of perhaps changing the way the consumer price index is calculated. In other words, relooking at future inflation and how it's described.
Inflation plays a huge role in determining what budgets and spending patterns are, particularly over long periods of time. Over the next six years, the Pentagon will spend over, by current plans, I don't have the exact number, but it's over $1.2 trillion. $47 billion is a lot of money, but it's not impossible to figure out ways to make up any such gap. I'm not confirming that we believe that gap exists right now, but it's not impossible to see that it could be fairly easy to make up that gap if one exists.
The other thing I want to point out to you is our history on this issue. All of you here were very interested in the Deutch memorandum that came out last summer. That was designed to deal with a budgetary shortfall. We dealt with that budgetary shortfall, I think aggressively. Part of that was the President's $25 billion top line increase over six years. So I think our record shows that we've dealt with those in the past and as they arise, we'll deal with them in the future.
Q: Concerning Japan, are you aware that any U.S. military facilities on Japanese soil has been damaged in any way, or any injuries to U.S. military personnel?
A: It is my understanding that no U.S. facilities were damaged and no U.S. military personnel were injured.
Q: Does the U.S. have plans, as far as the Pentagon is concerned, to provide any aid or assistance to the Japanese?
A: We've said we're available to respond to their requests. As far as I know, we haven't yet received a request. The President, I think, made a statement about this about an hour ago which I didn't hear, but he was going to reiterate his offer to provide assistance.
I understand that one of the roles of U.S. forces, part of the mission of U.S. forces in Japan, is to provide disaster relief when necessary.
Q: Senator Pressler expressed himself as very unhappy that the Secretary went to Islamabad (inaudible). In fact he suggested that there's a back door mentality beyond the Pressler Amendment. He also suggested that the Administration was unnecessarily raising false hopes of getting their (inaudible).
A: I'd say both of those impressions aren't correct. The first is that the consultative group that the U.S. and Pakistan are restarting has nothing to do with trying to get around the Pressler Amendment. It was very clear by Secretary Perry when he was over there, and by other U.S. officials, that he was not there to try to find a way to break the terms of the Pressler Amendment. That's the law and we're honoring the law. That means that the F-16s will remain in the United States. It also means that we have the money the Pakistanis have paid for the F-16s.
What the Secretary did say was that if the Pakistanis wanted him to, or wanted the Defense Department to, that he would, the Defense Department would, make an effort to help find another buyer for those F-16s.
The way it worked, the government of Pakistan paid the U.S. Government, the Defense Department, for those F-16s and the Defense Department passed the money on to the builder of the F-16s. So the Defense Department no longer has the money. The builder has completed work on 28 of the planes, and those planes are in storage because the Pressler Amendment bars their shipment to Pakistan.
But I think if you go back and look at the newspaper coverage in Pakistan at the time, there was no doubt among the Pakistani press that we were trying to circumvent, that we were doing everything we could to avoid circumventing the Pressler amendment.
Under Secretary Slocombe went up to the Hill to discuss this with Senator Pressler and his staff in December. This is not something that we've been hiding. We've been discussing this with Congress also in the last week. But I do think it's clear to stress that this was not an effort to circumvent the Pressler Amendment.
Q: The plan or offer to help Pakistan find a buyer has been on the table for well over a year, so that's not really new. This building has been trying to help Pakistan find a buyer for months now, and there hasn't been one. Do you have any sense that there's any interest anywhere in anybody buying those? Do you have any new ideas to offer on how to resolve that?
A: I don't have any new ideas to offer, but I can't comment on your characterization of the state of the market because I just don't know.
Q: I have a question raised by a comment from House Speaker Newt Gingrich. According to a videotape obtained by CNN in apparently a lecture to college students, Speaker Gingrich, on the subject of women in combat said, "If combat means living in a ditch, females have biological problems staying in a ditch for 30 days because they get infections and they don't have upper body strength."
I just wanted to ask you, without commenting directly on what he said, does this problem of infections pose a problem for women in the military from the Pentagon's view?
A: We don't have people living in ditches for 30 days. We try to avoid that. (Laughter)
Q: The difference that Speaker Gingrich seems to be pointing out here in terms of the susceptability of women to infections, has that posed any sort of problem for employing women in the field in the military, in the Pentagon's experience? Has that been a significant problem?
A: It's not my impression that women have a higher rate of infection than men. You know the entire... Women do not go into ground combat under our current rules. The number of jobs that are open to them was expanded in 1994 by changing the so-called risk rule, but women don't go into combat, ground combat units.
Q: That's not because of any higher incidence of infection among women, is that what you're saying?
A: Jamie, what do you mean by that? (Laughter)
Q: Not to beat a dead horse, but...
A: You're beating a dead horse.
Q: It would seem that the comment from Speaker Gingrich would imply that one of the bars to women...
A: I want to tell you what our policy is. Our policy is that we don't send women into ground combat units.
Q: I'll leave it with that.
Q: Could you recount the trip with the Secretary? Especially to Pakistan and India. And so far as negotiations that might reduce military tensions, that might in fact reduce the likelihood of some kind of nuclear exchange there. What progress was made in this trip?
A: It's a very interesting and good question. The trip basically had two parts. The first part to Egypt and Israel was basically to reaffirm our close security relations with those two countries, and also to stress that the Clinton Administration is requesting the same amount of aid, that's $1.8 billion in military aid for Israel, and $1.3 billion in military aid for Egypt in FY96, as is included in the current budget, FY95.
Then we moved on to Pakistan and India, and there the challenge was really quite a bit different. The Secretary feels strongly and said on many occasions on this trip, that after the Cold War ended, it was clear to him that there were three major powers with which we did not have very good, or any security relations. They were Russia, China, and India. He has set out to build security relationships with all three of those countries, and this trip to India was really the last chapter in that effort.
It's already been pointed out that we issued a communique in Pakistan saying that we had reestablished the consultative group which provides a forum for U.S. and Pakistani defense officials to consider a range of security issues, including how to deal with the sales of the F-16s.
In India, we signed what is felicitously called in diplomatic terms an agreed minute, which also established a mechanism for U.S. and Indian defense officials to meet on a whole range of issues, although those issues were basically characterized, it was a little more specific in the agreed minute that we'd have civil to civil defense relationships, military to military relationships, and then some talk about technology and co-production. That's very embryonic and there were no firm policies or programs discussed in terms of future defense production or technology transfers to India.
I think from the Secretary's standpoint, the most important development on the trip was his success in establishing or reestablishing defense relationships with both of these countries which, as you know, disagree on many issues, principally how to deal with Kashmir. These countries have had three wars in the past. Now they both have the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons. If they were to have a fourth war over Kashmir or some other issue, it could be potentially a much more dangerous and devastating war than the ones they've had in the past. So anybody interested in stability in this area that encompasses over a billion people, has to look for a way to try to find methods for defusing the Kashmir dispute and other disputes that might arise.
The first step to that is to establish relationships with the two parties to any potential future dispute, and I think that's what the Secretary accomplished on this mission. We have, I think, managed to go in there saying that we want to deal even-handedly with these two countries and convince them that we are interested in helping them in any way we can to deal with the Kashmir or other problems that might arise between them. We have to be asked by both sides to do that. Ultimately, the Kashmir dispute and other disputes between these countries has to be solved by them. It has to be solved with an eye to the will of the people in Kashmir. But we at least now have a foundation for talking to the two countries that we didn't have before, and serving in some role if they ask us to do that. I do think we have won the trust of leaders in both of these countries.
Q: Any progress on signing for Pakistan or Israel on the nuclear proliferation treaty?
A: The Non-Proliferation Treaty... That's an interesting issue. The Secretary basically faced, and the U.S. generally faced, a choice in making this trip. Neither India nor Pakistan have signed the non-proliferation treaty, nor has Israel. They have made it very clear that they don't intend to sign it right now. We would like all three of these countries to sign the non-proliferation treaty. We've been very clear about that before this trip; he was very clear about it on this trip; and will be very clear about it after this trip, that we would like these countries to sign these treaties. But none of these three countries seems very close to doing it right now.
So rather than just hold up a development of our bilateral relationships with these countries, and Israel is on the side, obviously, because we have very mature relationships with Israel. But Pakistan and India, rather than hold up development of relationships with them, we decided to go ahead and see what we could do beyond this, in spite of their refusal to sign the treaty.
One of the points that the Secretary made was that it's important for both of these countries in the interest of regional stability and world peace, is to avoid actions that escalate military tensions in south Asia, and he made that point in both Islamabad and New Delhi.
Q: Can I follow up on your response to my question? Did I hear you correctly that the United States has been accepted both by Pakistan and India as a future mediator?
A: No, you did not hear me say that because I didn't say it. I want to be clear that I didn't say it. What I said was that the U.S. has offered to provide what help it can, if asked by both parties. We have not been asked by either party.
Q: Did either party show interest?
A: Well, they didn't reject it, and the Indian Prime Minister did comment on this offer. The fact is, this relationship with both India and Pakistan is in a somewhat embryonic stage right now. More work will be done as we develop relationships with both Pakistan and India.
Q: On the subject of, is it the M-11 missiles that the Chinese have been allegedly supplying to Pakistan, was there any progress made on that particular topic of a delivery system for Pakistan?
A: Pakistan has long stated that it's not in violation of the missile technology control regime, which is the international agreement that limits transfer of certain types of missile technology.
Q: Did Secretary Perry raise this issue?
A: The issue was discussed, but I can't go into any more detail than that.
Press: Thank you.