Thursday, February 15, 2001 - 1:45 p.m. EST
(Also participating: Rear Adm. Stephen R. Pietropaoli, Navy chief of Information, and Tom Salmon, director, Operations & Ocean Engineering, Office of the Director of Ocean Engineering Supervisor of Salvage and Diving, Naval Sea Systems Command.)
Quigley: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have two announcements this afternoon. In the aftermath of Tuesday's second large earthquake in El Salvador, 20 servicemembers and three helicopters from the United States Joint Task Force Bravo in Honduras are providing search-and-rescue assistance to the government of El Salvador. The three helicopters -- and there's a cargo variant of an H-60, a medevac variant of an H-60 and one CH-47 -- three helicopters and 20 people will remain in El Salvador until at least tomorrow, and then we'll take another look and consult closely with the government of El Salvador and see what further assistance we might be able to provide based on their needs.
Q: Did they get there Tuesday?
Quigley: They got there, yes, yes.
And second, we're pleased to welcome to our briefing today a group of 10 journalists and editors from Belarus. They are participating in a Print Journalism in the United States program through March 4th, organized under the auspices of the Department of State International Visitor program. They're in Washington for meetings with various government and media representatives, and will travel for two weeks to several locations in the United States to examine the role of the print media in our society. Welcome to you all.
With that, I'll take your questions. Charlie.
Q: Craig, I understand the weather has held up starting to use the Scorpio in Hawaii.
Quigley: Yes, unfortunately yes. The weather is lousy right now in the area where the Ehime Maru went down -- about 30 knots of wind, 6- to 12-foot seas. And because of those lousy weather conditions, we have not been able to deploy the Super Scorpio or the side-scanning sonar to bring them into play. They're ready to go. They're on-board a vessel called the C-Commando. That's C-dash- Commando, letter "C"-dash-Commando, and they're ready to go.
But right now the vessel is in port because of the lousy weather.
A second system similar to the first is en route. It was being -- it is being flown from the East Coast of the United States. And it has a little bit deeper depth capability, but basically that's not the issue here. It has more than 1,800-foot capability. So you're going to have two ROVs and two side-scanning sonars that will be in position in Hawaii in the next day or so for redundancy purposes.
We hope that the weather will clear as quickly as it can, Charlie. The weather predictions are that that won't happen, however, until probably Saturday. And so these high seas and high winds are predicted to remain in place until then. We'll just keep our fingers crossed and get out there as quickly as we can.
Q: What are the plans of the Defense Department to release the list of names of the VIP visitors on the submarine?
Quigley: We have a process for that, John, that is in place and ongoing right now. I don't believe the names will be released at least until the investigative process is complete. But we have received several requests under the Freedom of Information Act for those names. The commander of Submarines Pacific has them. He is the proper authority to make that determination, and we'll let that process play out.
Q: Could you walk us through a few of the steps, the legal process of the investigation, the Navy's investigation, setting aside the NTSB, but the Navy's part? Admiral Griffiths, where is he in this --
Quigley: I'm sorry, say that again, Bob?
Q: Admiral Griffiths.
Quigley: Admiral Griffiths.
Q: Right. As to what the process is for his investigation, the steps, and who he reports to when he's finished and so forth.
Quigley: Admiral Griffiths is the office that's been assigned to do this investigation. He will present his findings to the submarine commander in the Pacific and then to the Pacific Fleet commander. Beyond that, I'm not sure. We'll just have to see where we go from there.
It depends on the outcome of his preliminary look, Bob. You could find yourself going in a couple of different directions here. You could go from this to a Judge Advocate General Manual investigation, a JAG Manual investigation, if that's where basically this quick look takes you. You could go to a board of inquiry. You could go to a court of inquiry. You could conceivably go to a court martial via the Article 32 process.
So the process that Admiral Griffiths is in charge of now is truly a quick look designed to take only a few days to accurately point you in the right direction for what the next step should be.
Q: And by "quick", do you mean literally tomorrow or the next day?
Quigley: I can't give you an exact time frame. But this is not going to have the level of specificity and detail that you would expect, for instance, from a JAG Manual investigation or something of a more formal nature. This is designed as the first step in the process to get you in the right direction as to where we go from here.
Q: Can you explain why the list of names is not being released? Can you go through that with us again?
Quigley: Two reasons, John. One, it is the request of the individuals that their names not be released. We try to honor their requests for privacy in this regard as much as we can.
But the second reason, I think, is one that the NTSB and we both agree to, and that is as long as the investigative process is in place, it's just not appropriate to release the names of the individuals. The investigations that are ongoing now, and those that might yet come, very possibly will want to interview and get information from the individuals, as well as crewmembers. But this is information that needs to be treated carefully, and we have a process in place for that, and it's a very deliberative, methodical process, and we need to stick with that.
Q: Did the people who participated in the interview this morning, then, ruin your deliberative process by stating their story?
Quigley: That was their choice and theirs alone.
Q: Wait a minute, you said that they couldn't -- it would interfere with the deliberative process for any of these civilians --
Quigley: For us to release the names is not a normal part of the process during an investigation at this stage. They chose to do what they did on television this morning. We're in no position to deny them that opportunity, if that's what they choose to do.
Q: Did they consult with anyone in the Navy prior to making that public disclosure?
Quigley: I don't know.
Q: Did they ask the Navy not even to release the fact that they were on the submarine? I mean, given the sensitive nature of this, why didn't the Navy say right away that there were civilians on that submarine? Why did they wait days to do that?
Quigley: I think as soon as the information was available, that information was released.
Q: It was released Saturday, right?
Q: Who made the decision -- was it Admiral Blair? -- not to release the names of the guests when they were requested?
Quigley: The guests made that request of the Navy right away, and --
Q: Yeah, but I want to know who made the decision not to release the names.
Quigley: I don't know if it was a single individual. This is, again, a process that you don't normally -- I mean, if you had asked me for the list of the crewmembers of a United States ship, I would not necessarily provide that to you, for different set of reasons. But you have a process in place to have an investigation that needs to be thorough and comprehensive. And ultimately the results of that investigation will be made public.
Q: I'm only asking you the simple question of who made the decision not to release the names.
Quigley: I'll see if I can find out.
Q: The other day, Craig, you mentioned the privacy rights of these people. Could you explain -- and now you're talking about a different rationale, that being concern about the investigation. Could you spell out what your understanding of their privacy rights are?
Quigley: Well, I mentioned the privacy rights on Tuesday. I said that today as well, okay? That's not different.
Q: But --
Quigley: But there's a second reason, and that's as I've explained. It's our position that an individual does not surrender their rights to privacy when they walk aboard a naval vessel. It's that simple.
Q: But what rights of privacy do those individuals have to begin with, given that they're not government employees?
Quigley: They are --
Q: I mean, people go out and have --
Quigley: They are precisely that. They are not government employees; they are private citizens. And if they choose to not make themselves available as the three did this morning, for instance -- again, that's their call -- we try to honor their request.
Q: Can you -- if you can't tell us the names of these people at this point, can you, in any way -- can you identify them in terms of who they are? I mean, are these -- when you say they're private citizens, are they employees of a defense contractor?
Quigley: You'll have to --
Quigley: Are they major contributors to a political campaign? I mean, can you characterize in any way who these people are?
Quigley: I can't. I'll see if I can get that information from the Navy.
Q: And how did it come about that they ended up on this orientation submarine cruise? We understand there was some involvement by the former U.S. Pacific Commander Richard Macke. Did he --
Quigley: I can't answer that one either, I'm sorry.
Q: Will the U.S. government formally ask us to either attempt to salvage or do body recoveries, and at that depth wouldn't it be rather difficult and somewhat unprecedented?
Quigley: You said U.S. government. You mean Japanese government?
Q: Japanese government. Have they asked us? Have they asked the United States?
Quigley: I think the prime minister has made his views pretty clear on that publicly.
Q: Have there been any others beyond that, though, like a formal written request come, or -
Quigley: Not that I'm aware of
Q: -- are we acting on that and moving ahead?
Quigley: That's enough. I mean, we understand their views on this and their preferences. We need to do this in the right order. First is to be able to get into the water with the ROVs and our underwater sensor capability to see the -- locate the vessel, determine the condition of the vessel, and then we'll take a look at the feasibility from there. But first steps first. We're very frustrated by the inability to get the ROV in the water right now.
Q: But nothing's off the table, so anything's in the realm of possibility, depending on what you find?
Quigley: Absolutely true. Absolutely true.
Q: Can you explain the significance of this submarine test training area that's indicated on maritime navigation charts for the area and whether or not that in any way affects -- whether this collision occurred inside or outside that area and whether or not that's significant in any way?
Quigley: I don't have those details, Jamie. I'm sorry. I'm sure that's an element that the investigation is looking at. I don't --
Q: Does the Navy spokesman over here know something about it?
Pietropaoli: I could answer the first one.
Pietropaoli: I don't know the answer, frankly, on the location of the -- I have not seen it plotted -- the location of the accident, vis-a-vis that small box on the chart that talks about a submarine test and evaluation area, but that should not be confused with a submarine's assigned operating area. A submarine's assigned operating area is far broader than that and is, frankly, not released publicly -- it's classified information -- but it is far broader. It was not outside its assigned operating area.
That box on the chart, which has been there for a number of decades, is informational. It doesn't reduce the commanding officer's responsibility to ensure traffic is clear before he surfaces. It doesn't burden the surface vessels in any way to stay clear of that area. It's not an exclusion zone. It's simply information so that if you are making the approach on that port in Hawaii and you saw on the chart that this was a submarine test and evaluation area and then you looked out and saw a submarine, you wouldn't be surprised.
Q: Can you explain Admiral Macke's role in this, since you --
Pietropaoli: Admiral Macke, as is often the case with active-duty or retired flag and general officers -- members of Congress, industrial leaders, Defense officials, others frequently bring to the attention of the Navy groups of individuals who are interested in getting out to sea to see our sailors, to see our Navy and what the Navy does. In this case, Admiral Macke did bring to the attention of the Submarine Force Pacific that a group of individuals from the Missouri Battleship Memorial Association were interested in getting out to see Navy submariners and our young sailors doing their job. We are very proud of our efforts to bring Americans out to see their Navy, including many of the people in this room.
No one outside of the Navy can arrange a trip to one of our ships. That is the province of our naval commanders. But if people on the outside, in the civilian world, bring to our attention groups of great Americans who want to see their Navy, we take that information aboard, and we process the request.
Q: Steve, I wanted to mention to you I misspoke earlier on the civilians. Why did the Navy wait for days to announce that civilians were at the controls when the submarine went to the surface, given the sensitivity of the situation?
Pietropaoli: Right. Agreed. We did -- we made it known Saturday, I think it was -- Friday night this happened, fairly late; on the East Coast, Saturday -- as soon as we had our first press briefing, that civilians had been aboard and that this was a not unusual cruise.
The issue of civilians at the control panel or at the control stations, rather, was not known, frankly, back here by me till early the following week. I don't know when it was known in the Pacific.
Clearly, in hindsight, we could have done a much better job of making that information known not only to you all, but to the NTSB. We had many, many things we were working on. The -- in -- you know, within the government, that information was briefed back. But I think people were assuming that the Navy would be the right ones to make that available, and we didn't do a good job of getting that out sooner.
Q: I just want to go back to the submarine training area, because that's what brought you up here in the first place. But as long as you're talking about in hindsight, in hindsight, wouldn't it be better to have a -- you said this is not an exclusion zone, it's not -- doesn't keep vessels away. But in hindsight, wouldn't it be perhaps better to have an area to practice these exercises in which surface ships would be alerted that there's a possibility of a submarine --
Pietropaoli: Here's the thing, Jamie -- and these emergency surfacing exercises, drills, are done with some frequency by our submarines.
You might expect they would. They may have to execute this procedure in an emergency with a few seconds' notice. It's the kind of thing, if you're a submarine -- you're a submariner, you need to be able to do without thinking, under pressure, on a moment's notice. So we try to practice it whenever we can. Is there a value in showing people that are on board the skill and dedication and some of the risks of submarining? Sure. But we need to practice it either way.
Your point about having it in specified areas of the ocean, one, would limit the times we could practice it. But most importantly, we do this on a regular basis. We do it safely. There are very, very comprehensive procedures. Are they foolproof? Clearly not. Are they comprehensive? Yes. What went wrong in this case is precisely -- precisely -- what both the Navy investigation and the NTSB investigation are trying to find out. But I think it's premature to start talking about restricting where this can be done. If it's done properly, by a long history of conducting these kinds of operations, we've been able to do them quite safely and quite effectively. We'll have to see what the investigation tells us about what happened here.
Q: -- is the number of --
Pietropaoli: This gentleman first, right here.
Q: I think it was on Jamie's network, Admiral Demars this morning said something about the control of the size of the group of visitors is sometimes a factor to be considered in the element of risk. Do you -- what are your thoughts on that?
Pietropaoli: It is an element to be considered, and I can tell you that on both coasts, the submarine force Pacific and the submarine force in the Atlantic, they do consider that. Clearly a submarine is cramped quarters. We have to meter the number of people we put on board. But it is by no means uncommon to have 15-20 people in a group on board for a day trip. Obviously more difficult to try to do a group that size overnight. Accommodations are simply not available to berth them. But for a same day in and out, 15-20 is not unusual.
Q: That was exactly what I was going to ask.
Q: First question, could you please identify the --
Pietropaoli: I will. It's Tom Salmon. He's here to talk to you about some of the diving and salvage operations. He is our expert from the Naval Sea Systems Command. He can talk to you about the systems we have out there, which unfortunately we have been stymied in our efforts to get into the water in the last 24 hours because of the bad weather, which primarily does not affect, so all of you know, the sea-keeping of the ship that's carrying these systems, but the ability to safely deploy the system without beating against the ship.
Q: Could I ask you just one other question? Can you tell me, since this incident has the Navy changed any of the procedures for emergency blows? Have you stopped them? Have you changed any of your procedures or policies on embarks --
Pietropaoli: Obviously we can't afford to stop practicing a maneuver that is critical to our safety.
I can say that both in a submarine force, Pacific and Atlantic, throughout the submarine force, they, as always you would expect them to do in the wake of an incident like this, even before we have all the facts, will review their procedures to ensure that they feel, particularly in the embarkation of civilian guests, that they can continue to do that as safely as possible. We have a long track record of many, many people in this room safely embarking our submarines and going through some of these same procedures.
That said, it's incumbent upon us to take a round turn. So yes, both the submarine force in the Pacific and the Atlantic are looking at the procedures and ensuring that -- on the side of prudence, that they are not going anything -- they're still continuing embarks; that program continues, but in the conduct of those embarks, they're going to take extra care to ensure that they're done completely safely.
Q: But, Admiral Pietropaoli, since you don't exactly know what happened in this incident, analogous to an aircraft incident or something, since you don't know what happened, have you changed anything in blow procedures --
Pietropaoli: No, ma'am, not in the procedures itself.
Again, the issue here -- first of all, on the civilians, as Secretary Rumsfeld said, there is no indication at this point in the investigation that the civilians had any impact on the outcome. We'll continue to look at that.
Secondly, on the blow procedures themselves, the emergency surfacing appears to have been conducted the way it should be conducted in terms of the submarine came to the surface in a hurry, which is what's supposed to happen in an emergency surfacing procedure. So changing that procedure is not indicated, at least by what we know now.
In terms of the review that you do prior to surfacing the ship, the extent to which that was done, the sufficiency with which that was done, and the effectiveness of that is what is precisely the meat of the investigation. Until we have some indication that here's what we need to fix it -- we do continue frequently to fly airplanes while we're investigating an airplane accident. Unless we have some indication of what the problem is, other than to take general precautions, extra care, due care, as we always do, it's premature to talk about stopping emergency surfacing drills.
Q: Admiral, you saw the interview on NBC with these two civilians who were on board, as millions of Americans probably did. What do you take away from what they said in terms of does it in any way fill in some pieces of what's an incomplete picture of what happened? And does it in any way point to explaining what went wrong in this situation?
Pietropaoli: Not for me. There were pieces of information that these individuals, by their personal experience, related that I didn't have.
As I think most of you know from our efforts on the USS Cole, the chief of Naval Operations and secretary of the Navy, both for good legal reasons of not interfering with ongoing investigations from Washington, and for practical reasons of the difficulty of adjusting things with a 7,000-mile screwdriver, do not reach out into the midst of the investigation and pull back information prematurely.
They will be in the chain of review that comes forward from the Navy investigation in the Pacific, but they do not reach out there and try to extract information on a daily basis. We don't think it's helpful to the investigative process.
There were facts that were brought out -- there were experiences that were relayed to America his morning by these civilians that were on board the ship that I thought were probably very helpful for many Americans in understanding what was happening inside that sub. So for those people coming forward at their desire, that's good. I did not know, for example, about the television screen that they talked about as part of the investigation. We have that capability; it is not necessarily engaged. I didn't know that that had been engaged. I had heard that there were no videotapes in the NTSB. Again, it's not unusual not to have tapes in unless you're gathering intelligence information. So there were some things.
And that's part of the challenge. Everyone wants transparency. Transparency's a good thing in investigations. The NTSB does a great job of providing daily updates. We're a little different in the Navy and in the military than the NTSB. NTSB is charged with finding out what happened and making some recommendations.
In the Navy, we not only have to find out what happens, we're responsible for making it work afterward. We're responsible for taking the accountability actions if any are appropriate. We're responsible for the procedures and the administrative actions that might be appropriate afterward. It's critical for us, as both the investigators and the people who have to make it right, make it work afterward, that we safeguard the integrity of the process or we could be constrained in what steps we can take later.
It's different -- I know it's difficult for people to understand. Craig is doing a great job of explaining on the list. We haven't made a decision. I've seen a lot of reports saying the Navy refused to release it. We haven't refused anything yet. We've received the requests 48 hours ago. They are being considered. There are privacy issues here for the people involved. There are investigative equities. They need to be measured. You have criticized people in the past for releasing information of a private nature about people without consulting the legal authorities to see if it was appropriate. We think it's a good idea to do that first.
Did I answer the question, before I got on a speech?
Q: On these civilians who were at the controls on the sub, were they actually controlling the submarine?
Pietropaoli: The function of a helmsman --
Q: Were they being told, second-by-second, what to do --
Q: -- or were they just sitting there and holding onto something and not --
Pietropaoli: Well, it's kind of all of the above.
In a technical sense, they had their hands on control surfaces at the control station. In a real sense, they were 100 percent the entire time, as always -- many of you have done this procedure yourself, although perhaps not an emergency surfacing, in driving the submarines when you've been brought to a submarine -- in a real sense, they have a fully qualified, very interested watch-stander standing directly behind them over their shoulder, with their hands on your hands, ensuring that you don't have a sudden spasm and do something you should not do.
In this case, the function of the helmsman, which controls both the rudder and the bow planes, is essentially, during the emergency surface, to do nothing. You maintain rudder in a neutral position, and you maintain the bow planes at zero in a neutral position.
So effectively you're holding this airplane-type steering wheel doing nothing with it. And the rest happens around you.
Pietropaoli: And the stern planesman has a very important role, which was a watch-stander in terms of maintaining the angle of ascent. The helmsman and bow plane position is to maintain neutral on both those control surfaces.
The emergency-blow switch, the other station which was manned by one of the civilians, is to, as he described I thought quite well this morning, push those switches, count out loud to 10, I believe he said, and then return them to the detent position under the close, direct supervision of a qualified watch-stander.
Q: Is there any way to tell where -- or the maximum distance away from the submarine that the Japanese fishing vessel was at the time the Greeneville surfaced to take a look around and look for it, based on the speed of the --
Pietropaoli: I don't know -- again, I have some information on this. I'm a little reluctant to talk about it, because I don't know to what extent the NTSB has even spoken about the actions of these Ehime Maru at the time in terms of her course and speed and that sort of thing. So I'm reluctant to get out ahead of both their investigation and ours. But suffice it to say, if you just understand how objects move on the face of the ocean, they had to be, you know, within a few miles, since the time between doing your last look with a periscope, diving to the depth from which you're going to start your emergency surfacing and coming to the surface is a very short period of time, generally less than 10 minutes, as the witness this morning described, often in as little as five or six minutes. And we do that -- we try to keep that time as short as possible clearly so that the surface picture doesn't change while we're under water.
Pietropaoli: Let me just get in the back here.
Q: I've been told that the range of the periscope is five miles. Is that correct?
Pietropaoli: I think that the range of the periscope -- the range of the periscope is greater than five miles. Where you're really limited is the physics of the earth. You have a horizon which is -- the height of eye about the surface of the water is going to determine how far you can see. So depending upon how high you get that periscope mast determines how far you can see.
I'm told that the visibility from the Coast Guard reports in the area at the time was about five nautical miles.
But that, again, doesn't mean that at five miles you can't see anything beyond that; it just means your visibility beyond five miles is degraded.
Q: Do you have any sense of whether the Japanese trawler was within that five miles area?
Pietropaoli: That is 100 percent core to the investigation, and I won't comment on that.
Q: Steve, in your run-through, if I tuned you in right, it would follow that the guys sitting at the controls that were in the neutral position during the emergency blow would have been still sitting there when they collided with the fishing vessel, is that correct?
Q: So in other words, there were people at the controls at the time of impact?
Pietropaoli: Correct. But remember, there is no control, really, at that point in the sub's transition from being submerged to being on the surface. It is an Archimedes' principle, 100 percent.
Q: Okay. So to get it right, we had one civilian at the helm's position, right?
Pietropaoli: Helm-bow plane, correct.
Q: One positioned in the bow planes?
Pietropaoli: No. That's the same position. Helm and bow plane are a combined position.
Q: Okay. So you said that the stern planes were operated by a regular sailor. What -- at the point of impact, what jobs were the civilians sitting at?
Pietropaoli: Again, the only seated person would be the helmsman/bow plane. The emergency blow switches are not at a seated position. I believe they're over at the side of the control panel. Somebody who's been out there more recently than me can help me on that. I don't think it's a seat.
Q: At the point of collision, there was two civilians --
Pietropaoli: No. The emergency blow switches would have completed their task. They would have -- they would have let loose the air to blow the main ballast tanks, put the switches back with the detent, surfacing would have begun. They would have been standing there, but not --
Q: The civilian helmsman would be still sitting, at the point of impact?
Pietropaoli: That's right.
Pietropaoli: Yeah, Pam.
Q: A couple things to -- just closing up on it. The number of civilians, is it 15 and a Navy shore-based officer, making it 16, or was it 16 and a Navy shore-based officer?
Pietropaoli: My understanding, and this is really something you should check with Admiral Fargo's office at CinCPacFlt. This is part of the reason we're trying not to run that 7,000-mile screwdriver, so we don't get it wrong and have to come back, as I have had to do recently, and put out releases about what we meant to say.
My understanding is that their list shows 16 civilians, 14 of whom, I'm told, were members of this -- Missouri. The other was a sportswriter.
Q: A sportswriter, and then one more?
Pietropaoli: I don't have -- (off mike) -- I think the spouse of the sportswriter. Yeah.
Q: And did the sonars on board, did they record everything? Is that something they'd --
Pietropaoli: That will part of the investigation. Normally there are means, and some of this is audio tape and some of this is digitally recorded into hard drives and that sort of thing, but I just don't have the details on that, Pam. Perhaps Pacific Fleet can help you on that.
Chris, then Tom.
Q: Yes. Has there ever been another collision like this when doing an emergency blow procedure? I know there either have been incidents with civilian ships --
Pietropaoli: I'm not aware of any collision during an emergency surfacing.
Q: There was a --
Pietropaoli: Now, you know, I am not a World War II historian. We've had submarines for a number years, but I'm not aware of any.
Q: Admiral, is there anything else you can say about the question of who made the decision not to comply with the request of the individuals not to have their names released?
Pietropaoli: Yeah, you know, I don't know. I certainly supported that decision until we have a legal scrub of both the privacy issues and the investigative issues. I think, in a technical sense, it would be Admiral Konetzni, at SubPac, to whom we had you all send your Freedom of Information Act requests.
But I think up and down the chain of command on the Navy side, at least, for whom I can speak, there was an awareness that although this may be releasable information -- and we have to balance your interest in finding these people and asking them questions, which is what we're really talking about here. I mean, you want to know who they were too, I understand that, but you want to find them and ask them questions so you can get the kind of first-hand account that they got this morning. That's a legitimate interest on your part.
They've asked us not to tell you who they are. Okay, that's not controlling. We also have our normal rules under the Freedom of Information Act about not releasing documents that are part of the investigation. We can balance that and waive that, we have some discretion here, but it shouldn't be something you say off the top of your head -- (snaps his fingers) -- "Oh yeah, set all those other values to zero, set your interest in finding these people to 100, and let's just, you know, put it out." That's not -- with a tragic incident and with nine people who are still missing and being searched for as we speak, we owe them a little bit more considered response to how we put out information.
Q: To the best of your knowledge, did Admiral Macke have any -- express any opinion on that question?
Pietropaoli: I can't imagine a circumstance under which Admiral Macke would be consulted on that, but I don't know.
Q: There is a story in the newspaper this morning that a large number of these people are major contributors to the Republican Party, indicating in that newspaper --
Pietropaoli: Is that a political party?
Q: -- indicating in that newspaper story that this -- well, that there's a different layer of politics involved in this particular group, more than just their contributions to the USS Missouri.
Pietropaoli: I can tell you from first-hand experience, Jack, that's not a question or a block we put on the questionnaire when we ask people to come out to sea. It may well be true. I don't know.
Q: But this is not a "selling of the Lincoln Bedroom" or something in this new administration?
Pietropaoli: We have a question in the back.
Q: The question is --
Q: So it's not -- I'm serious.
Pietropaoli: That is not -- I understand that -- that is not the purpose of our program. That is not how our program works. I thought I -- I tried to make it clear early on. No one can arrange visits to U.S. Navy ships except our operational commanders. People can refer them; we'd be fools not to take those references. We don't ask questions about political affiliation; I don't think it would be wise to start.
Q: The question is, you said you don't know -- you don't know when exactly you knew these civilians were in control room. So was that before you heard that report on Tuesday, about the civilians --
Pietropaoli: Oh, at the controls?
Q: Was it before or after?
Pietropaoli: The Navy -- I think the Navy leadership back here knew Monday about this.
I think that probably in Hawaii they got that report when the commanding officer came back in after participating in the search and rescue. I believe he came back on either Saturday night or Sunday morning.
Q: A related question to Jack's question on the embark. When were these -- when was this embark scheduled? Can you say that? In other words, when did they say --
Pietropaoli: My understanding is months ago. As you might expect, submarine schedules change some. In this case, the submarine had been scheduled to be under way for about a week. The submarine schedule changed. They got an opportunity to do some of that training elsewhere.
Normally, if they were going to take people out, they wouldn't take people out -- obviously, 16 people out for a week. You just can't accommodate that many people. It's hard to accommodate a few. The way they normally would do that -- and it's particularly fortunate in the Pacific, both in San Diego and in Hawaii, that we can do this more readily; you can get out to deep water fairly quickly in those two locations. So you would take the civilians out at the beginning of the day, take them out and give them their opportunity to see their sailors at work, bring them back in, drop them off in the harbor with a retrieval boat, and then go back into sea to complete your time at sea.
In this case, since their schedule had changed, they did that, but were going to come back into port that Friday afternoon, instead remained on the scene for the search and rescue after the collision.
Q: I'd like to know -
Pietropaoli: And I'll wrap up and let Mr. Salmon answer your salvage questions, if --
Q: I'd like to know whether the guests are allowed to try everything that the crewmember does.
Pietropaoli: No, clearly not.
Q: There are some --
Pietropaoli: Clearly not. There are things that we allow them to, under direct, constant, and close supervision, experience and control -- not everything. There are many things, quite frankly, that the crewmen do that would neither be comprehensible or exciting to your average American. Watching a sonar display, for example, is not a very exciting thing to do, for those of you who have been out there to do it.
Q: -- is very important, very delicate --
Pietropaoli: It's not particularly -- are you talking about the helm position? It is not a particularly delicate area. It is a steering wheel. You push it forward and back to adjust the bow planes left and right, to move the rudder. The qualified watch stander who is watching you is directly over your shoulder, and you have clear indications of any movement right on the screens in front. So it's very easy to detect any kind of motion.
I'll just take a couple more. I don't want to take up all his time. Yes, sir?
Q: Has the Navy or the NTSB interviewed civilians?
Pietropaoli: I don't know the answer to that question. The NTSB does have the names. We provided those, again, a little later than we should have, but we did provide those to the NTSB. And they have said that their standard procedure, as Admiral Quigley mentioned, is not to release the name of witnesses or people they're interviewing while the investigation is going on.
Q: One clarification, Steve, on the -- your helmsman, Steve. You know, I confess to having been on that position in submarines, but during an emergency maneuver, I would have thought that that seat would have been vacated.
But you're sure he was there in the helmsman job at the time of the impact; right?
Pietropaoli: You know, not having been there, George, I'm not sure of any of it. And that's part of the reason I'm as concerned as I am about saying things. And thank you for correcting me. I withdraw my last statement that he was in the seat. It's my understanding that that position remains in the seat during that emergency surfacing. But not having been there, and not having the benefit of having read the investigative report, I don't know that.
You want to keep that control. You don't want to, for example, let the bow planes go to some diving; you want to keep them at zero. Generally they should stay there. But that helmsman job would be, if they began to shift the bow planes, bring them back to zero; if they began to move the rudder, bring it back to the center position. Not a very difficult thing to do under the close supervision. I think the seat remains manned throughout the ascent, which is, of course, you know, under a minute. There's not really time to get out of the seat.
Q: But manned by an amateur, was the way he described it.
Pietropaoli: Sir, it's manned by a civilian out there with a close supervision of this, who really should have to do nothing in that ascent. In that 30 seconds, their job should be to do nothing.
And quite frankly, George, I would defy you under any circumstances to explain to me how anything that helmsman could have done would have materially affected the outcome of this tragedy.
Q: How about if I push the bow planes forward suddenly or backward suddenly, I screw it up?
Pietropaoli: I don't -- that might have put the submarine on the bottom. I'm not sure how it would have changed hitting the Ehime Maru.
Q: Has anyone from the White House contacted the Navy or the Pentagon regarding the list of the civilian guests aboard?
Pietropaoli: Not me. I have no personal knowledge of anybody being contacted by the White House or the --
Q: Or the Pentagon -- I mean, excuse me; contacted the Navy or the Pentagon regarding --
Pietropaoli: I don't know of any White House interest. And I'll just take one more, then I've got to let Mr. Salmon up here, because he has actual real information.
Q: It appears that NTSB found out that civilians were at these two control stations through news reports. Did the Japanese government find out through news reports about the civilian involvement?
Pietropaoli: Do not know. Do not know.
Q: You said in hindsight that the Navy could have done a better job of informing the public and the NTSB. You didn't mention the Japanese government.
Pietropaoli: I agree 100 percent. As all of you know, a lot happens in the first 48 hours in the aftermath of a tragedy like this, not the least of which, quite frankly, as is still ongoing, is looking for survivors, is trying to figure out what happened; overcoming your sense of confusion about how this happened.
And the initial instinct in my institution, I think not an unhealthy one, is to not talk a lot about what you're just discovering, but to gather as much information as you can.
At some point this becomes dysfunctional on some pieces of information. We may have reached that point with respect to the civilians at the controls and passed that point. But by and large, that instinct to find all the facts, analyze them, figure out what they mean and put transparency at the end of the process, not as a daily dosage, is a well-tested and, we think, reasonable approach.
These are the last couple. Yes, sir.
Q: Commander Fargo of the Sixth Fleet has indicated to a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee that an initial inquiry might be concluded as early as Friday. When do you expect that report or -- I don't know what are you -- when do you expect the final of this inquiry?
Pietropaoli: Yeah. The actual investigation, as Admiral Quigley mentioned, is called a Preliminary Inquiry and Litigation Report. It is one of the options specified under the Judge Advocate General Manual for doing a preliminary look at an incident, essentially to determine what follow-on form of investigation is most appropriate given the facts you develop. It is hoped that we'll have that information. But just like a JAG Manual investigation itself, if that comes forward from the investigating officer to Admiral Konetzni, the commander of our Submarine Force in the Pacific, and he has additional questions that he can't answer to his boss before he sends it forward, he will ask the investigating officer to resolve those few questions. So you can't predict with any certainty when it'll be done. But it is hoped to have it -- and he did tell the Senate yesterday that he hoped to have it by the end of the week.
Last one. No, I pick you, because you've been very patient.
Q: I just have one quick one. Is there a policy for when -- how much time should elapse between a periscope sweep and --
Pietropaoli: I don't know of a policy. The policy is to do it as expeditiously as possible to minimize the chance that the surface picture will change while you're submerged. In practice, generally less than 10 minutes. In this instance they were within that standard.
Q: Japanese vice minister of Foreign Affairs will arrive at Washington, D.C. tonight to express his disappointment to the U.S. government how it handled this accident and that --
Pietropaoli: I believe we've got meetings set up with him, the secretary of defense --
Q: Will be there any meetings between the vice minister and the secretary, or senior officials of the Pentagon?
Pietropaoli: I believe he has been certainly invited. We're ready to receive him here. But I'll let Craig talk about this.
And thank you very much.
Quigley: The answer to your question is yes, he'll be meeting with the deputy secretary of Defense, Rudy de Leon, tomorrow.
Don't have a time on that yet. Still working out that schedule. I believe he arrives at Dulles Airport tonight sometime, and be met there and set up meetings. I believe that he has meetings elsewhere in Washington tomorrow as well. But I know from the Defense Department's perspective, he has that meeting with Deputy Secretary de Leon.
Q: Why is he not meeting with Rumsfeld?
Quigley: I think that the schedule that was available in the other institutions in Washington, I believe -- and I'm not sure, I think he's going to State Department and elsewhere, I believe, okay? -- just didn't work. So trying to put all the parts together. And we made sure that that was okay with the Japanese government, and they were comfortable with that.
Q: Who are we talking about?
Quigley: He is the vice minister of Foreign Affairs, Eto. And I don't have a spelling on that.
Q: Is that the first name?
Q: The last name is Eto, E-t-o.
Quigley: Last name.
Q: His first name?
Quigley: Thank you, because I did not know his first name.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld will not meet him?
Quigley: I don't believe so. I think Deputy Secretary de Leon will. And again, it's an attempt to try to work out all the meetings during the course of the day that he wants to have while he is here in Washington. And I think he's only here for a day, I believe, and then either leaves back to go back to Japan either tomorrow night or first thing the following morning, I believe.
Q: Can you answer the question as to whether this group was made up of political contributors to the Republican Party or the Bush campaign, or whether that would be unusual, for a group of political contributors to go out on a cruise like this?
Quigley: I don't know. And I share Admiral Pietropaoli's comment. It is not something that is a criteria by which you go out and see the Navy in action.
Q: Well, whether it's a criteria or not, it's a question that's come up.
Quigley: Chris, it's not a question we ask, and I'm not going to start now.
Q: On the search and rescue operation. On Saturday, the secretary has expressed regret and apologized, and then only five days later, now the U.S. is about to stop the search and rescue operation. So could you just make it clear how the Pentagon, and on behalf -- how can you avoid a negative effect on our bilateral relationship with Japan?
Quigley: On the duration of the search and rescue?
Q: Yes. Yes.
Quigley: The search and rescue continues.
Q: They tried to -- the U.S. has tried to stop the search-and- rescue operation any time?
Quigley: We are continuing the search-and-rescue operation. As we speak, both surface vessels and aircraft are still engaged in trying to find the nine survivors from the accident. We have promised the government of Japan that would consult with them closely when the time came to move to a different phase of the operation. And that promise stands. But as we speak, we still have surface vessels and aircraft, both from the Navy and the Coast Guard, that are looking for those survivors.
Q: Could we have the briefing from Mr. Salmon from salvage?
Quigley: Absolutely. Yes, I was going to say. And would you start, please, sir, by spelling your name.
Quigley: From here, I'm sorry.
Salmon: I'm Tom Salmon -- S-A-L-M-O-N, just like the fish.
Q: And your title?
Salmon: I'm the director of operations in the Supervisor of Salvage Office within Naval Sea Systems Command.
Q: Could you start off by telling us what the -- it is technically possible to salvage this ship, to bring it up? And what are the considerations in that? And if not, what are the other alternatives in terms of possibly recovering any remains or identifying remains that might have gone down with the ship?
Salmon: That's a lot of questions. The feasibility of salvage is something that we're going to be looking at during the survey that will be done. It's a very complex problem. The ship is hundreds of tons. It's in nearly 2,000 feet of water. So it will be -- it would be a technically very challenging operation. And we haven't had a chance to see the ship, to see its configuration on the bottom, so there are a lot of details that we have to determine before we can made that assessment.
Q: If it's -- if the ship is intact, if it hasn't broken apart into pieces, is it technically feasible to bring a ship like that to the surface? And if so, how difficult is that and how expensive would that be? What would be required?
Salmon: If it's possible, and we'll determine that once we see it, it would be very expensive, and it would -- like I said, it would be a very complex operation.
Q: Are there any precedents for salvage at this depth of an item of this size?
Salmon: I don't know of an item of this size from that depth. I know that we have a commercial contractor that has salvaged a fishing vessel from 100 meters of water over in the European area, and they feel confident that they could probably do this job. But we have to see it before we can really make that assessment.
Q: What information are you looking for to get from the Deep Drone once it's able to go down and take a look around? What will that tell you about what you'd face with your --
Salmon: We have to see the way the vessel or pieces of the vessel are laying on the bottom, the type of bottom, the amount of damage to the vessel. It's just -- it's hard to really define everything we need to look for. We just have to look at everything we see down there, and we'll have some engineers on board that will be making assessments of how we might approach a salvage.
Q: How long would that likely take, once you're down there --
Salmon: To do the assessment? It depends on the weather, how well we're able to operate. The systems can operate 24 hours a day, so we can be very productive, if the weather cooperates.
Q: Well, a few days, or a few weeks?
Salmon: I would guess probably a week or two. We could have a good assessment done.
Q: In theory, how would you go about -- just theoretically, how would you go about raising a vessel like this? Would you bring in cranes or --
Salmon: It would most likely be a heavy -- what we call a heavy lift. There are lift resources in the world, shear legs that are capable of lifting thousands of tons. That's -- making the lift is not the hard part; it's rigging -- it's attaching to the object on the bottom that's going to be very complex.
Q: You wouldn't use, like, air bladders or anything to help float this -- these things up? I mean, to reduce the --
Salmon: Not in this operation, no.
Q: Mr. Salmon?
Q: Just so we understand, is the objective here to see if salvage is possible and therefore the second step would be to perhaps pull the ship from the depths? Or is it to look around what may be laying loose, and some kind of grappling would take place after you discovered remains or whatever?
Salmon: The first objective is to do a complete survey of what we find on the bottom -- an intact ship or pieces of the ship, possibly debris strung between pieces. We just don't know. We have not had a side-scan sonar out, which would give us a map that would show us the bottom and the targets on the bottom, and once we see that, get the Deep Drone or the Scorpio down to take a look at the debris on the bottom and do the assessment.
Q: Is there a way to recover human remains short of salvaging the entire ship? Is that something that's technically possible?
Salmon: If we have access to the remains, sure.
Q: What is the maximum depth that a human in a heavy diving suit can operate? I mean, is 1,800 feet way beyond your range? And how would you go about rigging something if you can't --
Salmon: It exceeds the conventional diving and saturation diving capabilities. It has been done in the past, but we have not found any certified diving systems that are operational at this point for that depth. There are one-atmosphere diving suits that are rated to 2,000 feet, and then we have the remote vehicles, which are obviously rated for depths in excess of that.
Q: The diving suits are those hard sort of bubble kind of things?
Salmon: Right. Those are the atmospheric diving suits.
Q: Those go down to 2,000 maximum, you said?
Salmon: There are some that will go to 2,000. Most of them are shallower than that, but there are some --
Q: What is the practical limit to what Navy divers would traditionally -- you wouldn't dive routinely, you wouldn't go to 1,800 feet.
Salmon: No, sir. No, sir, two (hundred) to 300 feet maximum.
Q: What are the possibilities -- say salvage of the whole vessel isn't possible. What do we have, since we can't put humans down there, that could go in and interrogate internal spaces of a vessel, either for investigative purposes or, you know, looking for remains?
Salmon: We'll have to take a look at the debris on the bottom and see if there's any way to access the internal parts of the ship. It becomes very, very complex to do that with remote vehicles, but we don't rule anything out until we get down and see it.
Q: I've seen a preliminary estimate of, you know, four to six months and possibly over $20 million. Has that number been batted around at all?
Salmon: Right now it's impossible to say what it's going to cost us to do this, until we get the engineers out there and see what we're really dealing with. I don't even know what the construction of the vessel is. And so we're still trying to get the plans for the vessel. There's just a lot of information that we don't have.
Q: Are there any vehicles that the Navy has that would actually be able to penetrate the interior of the vessel? For example, we've been told the ship sank in five to 10 minutes, which suggests that there was a pretty good-sized hole punched in the bottom of it.
If that is exposed, are there vehicles that the Navy has that could enter the vessel and look around inside?
Salmon: We don't have any in the Navy inventory. We're not saying that we couldn't -- some systems we could go lease; commercial systems. Trying to fly inside of a gaping hole in a shipwreck, it's not like you would think -- it's not as easy as you would think it would be to do. So we'd probably end up paying for that vehicle, once it went inside.
Q: Once you decide to have this operation -- lifting operation -- can you tell how long it takes?
Salmon: Could I tell how long it'll take? That's impossible right now.
Q: This C-Commando, is it a Navy or a Coast Guard ship?
Salmon: The C-Commando, I believe, is a contract ship under -- it's under Navy contract, supporting a Navy program over in Hawaii.
Q: How big is --
Salmon: I'm not familiar with its characteristics.
Q: Would you eventually envisage calling on civilians to help, like people like Mr. Ballard?
Salmon: We have civilian contractors that maintain and operate some of the systems that we're sending over there. The systems that are mobilizing today from this area are operated by a civilian contractor that supports my office. The equipment is owned by the Navy, but it's maintained and operated by contractors. We also have salvage contractors that could be brought into play to bring heavy-lift shear legs and cranes and barges; that sort of thing into play.
Q: Thank you.
Salmon: Thank you.
Quigley: Thank you, Mr. Salmon, very much.
Charlie, go ahead, sorry.
Q: Can you tell us the latest on the helicopter that crashed in Hawaii?
Quigley: I have a little bit of additional information on that, but not too much. I do have information that both -- one helicopter, the one that held the 11 soldiers, had done a hard landing on a road, and remained upright. Now, that had a under-helicopter sling of equipment that it was carrying, again, as part of the training that was going on at the time. The other helicopter was -- and this was the one with the total of six people on board -- and these were the six that were killed in the accident -- this crew had a humvee slung underneath the helicopter.
This helicopter was in the air. It is still not clear how the two helicopters came in contact or what part of them came in contact. But they did at some point. The aircraft that was flying then veered over to the side and tumbled down a gulch that was to the side of where the other helicopter, which had done the hard landing.
Q: I'm sorry, did a hard landing as a result of the collision, or --
Quigley: No. No. No. Prior to. For some other reason, and that is not clear to me what that reason is, Bob. But it had --
Q: But it's -- it just kind of slammed down, but it wasn't -- it wasn't --
Quigley: Yeah. It didn't crash. But it was a hard landing, okay? And it was not a landing as you would normally think of normal helicopter landing.
Q: Was it supposed to land there, or --
Quigley: I don't believe so, Charlie. I don't believe so. And the other -- the second helicopter was in the air, had a humvee slung underneath of the body of the helicopter. And again, some part of the two helicopters came in contact. The one that was in the air then veered to the side and tumbled down this gulch. There was no fire associated in either helicopter with the accident. However, there was fuel that was present, but there were no fires, luckily, in either helicopter.
Just minutes later that we were fortunate enough to have three medevac helicopters that were there as part of the training exercise. And the first medevac helicopter arrived within minutes after the accident because it was easily seen, it was instantly reported, and we were fortunate enough to have a medevac helo right there, virtually on top of the thing. And this was before the casualties were even ready to be moved. And then there were three that were actually a part of -- grand total that were a part of the training mission and that were involved in transporting the injured to Tripler Hospital.
Four of the injured remain at Tripler Army Medical Center in stable condition, and two could be released very soon. And then after the soldiers were removed, then the site was secured and the -- kind of a halt in place at that point for the safety investigation to commence.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Another subject? There was a --
Quigley: Excuse me. Anything on -- anything more on that? I'm sorry.
Q: There was a court of appeals ruling last week that military retirees over 65 had a contract with the government for free health care for life, and that by not providing that care, there has been a breech of contract. Do you know if that decision's going to be appealed to the Supreme Court?
Quigley: I don't know. The Justice Department would have the lead on that, Dale. I would send you their way.
Q: Have they sought any recommendation, any input from the Defense Department as to whether it should be appealed?
Quigley: Not to my knowledge yet, no.
Q: Craig, this relates the contacts between the Pentagon's chief African affairs officer and a representative of the UNITA rebel movement from Angola. Were any of the meetings that occurred held with the approval or the knowledge of the secretary of Defense, either current secretary of Defense or the past secretary of Defense, or the approval of any other government agency?
Quigley: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q: In that case, does the secretary -- the current secretary -- approve of these in light of U.S. policy about not have contacts and the UN sanctions against UNITA?
Quigley: Well, this is a pretty senior official in his own right, very experienced in this regard. And he feels very strongly that he's on solid ground here. This is not in contravention of the prohibitions that are put in place for official interaction with representatives of UNITA. This is a person that he's known for many years, and his meetings with him have been to get his perspective on how we can continue to move the peace process forward in Angola. But because of the prohibition -- he's very sensitive to that -- they've been done not during normal working hours, not in the Pentagon. And with those restrictions in place, he feels he's on solid ground.
Q: Does that suggest that he's -- this official is pursuing a personal diplomatic initiative with the approval of other government agencies?
Quigley: I wouldn't read that into it. I mean, his desire is to meet him because the person is familiar with conditions in Angola. He is a private citizen of the United States. He's married to an American. And he has a good perspective on conditions in Angola. And if he can use these informal discussions as a means to further a peace process in Angola, that's his motivation.
Q: Would you say -- are you saying that the U.S. government agrees with that, that the U.S. government is anxious to solve the situation in Angola, and at the same time not violate the prohibition by both the United States and -- I mean, is that not the case? I mean, you're not --
Quigley: That's exactly the case. That is exactly the case.
Q: Thank you.
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