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DoD News Briefing - Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA

Presenter: Kenneth H. Bacon ASD PA
February 01, 2000 1:40 PM EDT

Tuesday February 1, 2000 - 1:38 p.m EST

Also participating: Frank Rush, ASD, Force Management Policy and P.J. Crowley, PDASD PA

MR. BACON: Good afternoon. I know that all of you have incredible news holes today for Pentagon news in your papers and broadcasts, so I'll try to -- although I have a lot of ground to cover, I'll try to cover it quickly.

First, I want to bring you up to date on the Department of Defense involvement in the efforts to recover and rescue people from Alaskan Air Flight 261 and also in the salvage and recovery effort of parts of the plane.

As you probably know, the Coast Guard has announced that it's found one of the two black boxes. These were actually detected by a Navy underwater demolitions team. The black box was -- to the best of my knowledge, the black box has not been recovered, but it has been located, at this stage.

We've devoted a number of planes and ships to the rescue and recovery effort. There is a Navy fixed-wing P-3 Orion and S-3 Viking aircraft, some Sea Hawk helicopters are patrolling the area. The Destroyer USS Fife and the Frigate USS Jarrett, both of which are based in San Diego, are on the scene patrolling. And there is a support vessel, an ocean-going tug, called the U.S. Navy Ship Sioux, on its way to the scene. There are also two salvage ships, which are under contract to the Navy, although they're civilian ships, in nearby ports. One is the Motor Vessel Independence, which has side-scan sonar and diving rigs attached to it, which is nearby at Point Mugu. This area may be difficult to search, it's hard to know. But the depth in the crash area ranges from 300 feet to 1,900 feet. It's over a canyon area. So I assume that Navy divers and support will be involved over the next couple of days in looking for parts of the plane and assisting in other ways.

I've got a couple of other announcements here. At 2:30 today, we'll have a background briefing on Secretary Cohen's trip to Germany later this week. He leaves Thursday for Munich, where he's going to the annual Munich conference on security policy called the Wehrkunde Conference. And he will be back on Sunday. We'll give you a briefing on that later.

We've put out a blue top on our schedule of budget briefings. But basically, the background briefing, always a highlight here, will be at 2:30 on Friday, the 4th, and it will be followed by individual briefings by each one of the services, approximately at 3:30 on the 4th. And all that material will be embargoed until 8:00 a.m. on Monday, February 7th. Then, on that day, the big day when the budget actually comes out, Secretary Cohen will have a press conference here at 3:00 p.m. to talk about the fiscal year 2001 budget.

And we have a blue top that lays all this out in great detail.

Thursday will be Army Recruiting Day, and the Army will come down and announce two programs to boost recruiting. So stand by for that on Thursday.

Today, let me just welcome one group of Indiana University program students. Welcome to our briefing. You can ask all the tough questions as the briefing goes on.

And finally, the news you all have been waiting for involves our "don't ask, don't tell, don't harass" policy. As I announced shortly before Christmas, the services were on the brink and expected soon to do two things: one, each issue a very tough statement from the leadership of the service, both uniformed and civilian, pointing out that the policy is in fact "don't ask, don't tell, don't harass" and stressing the need for fair application of the policy and stressing the need for policies that are strictly anti-discriminatory and don't involve harassment against people who are suspected of being homosexual and not -- also instructing the leaderships -- the people in the services not to create climates that are hostile to people who may be homosexual.

That has been done. Each service has issued such a statement, and they'll be available for you after the briefing.

Second, each service came up with new training requirements to instruct not only people entering the service in basic training, but also people training to be commanders, and then providing periodic training throughout their careers into the policy.

This is the Army package right here. We aren't providing one of these packages to everybody, but they are available in DDI. You can go back and look at them. But what I really recommend is that you talk to the individual services and go to them if you want explanations of the packages or you want copies of the packages.

But this Army package, for instance -- and this is just representative; I happened to pick it because it was at the top of the pile -- not only includes the syllabus for training at each level -- Basic Training, Officer Candidate School, et cetera; training of legal officers, judge advocate general's officers -- but it also includes information that's on a Web page on the Internet. And it includes the text of a trifold, which -- a pamphlet that will be distributed to people in the Army, and the cover of an upcoming issue of Soldiers magazine that will contain an article on the "don't ask, don't tell, don't harass" policy.

Finally, let me just say that we have the figures hot off the press for the number of discharges under the policy in fiscal year 1999, which, as you know, ended on September 30th, 1999. And the number of discharges under the "don't ask, don't tell, don't harass" policy fell to 1,034 in fiscal 1999, from 1,145 in fiscal 1998.

Frank Rush is here and will answer questions in more detail about this, if you'd like, about all aspects of this policy.

But let me just highlight one aspect of this, which is that as in the past, the overwhelming percentage of discharges occur after people make a statement that they -- he or she is homosexual. And in fiscal 1999, approximately between 83 and 84 percent of the discharges -- in fact, 83.5 percent of the discharges -- came about in statement cases. This is approximately the same as fiscal 1998, when it was around 85 percent, I think, as a result of statement cases.

As you know, there are two types of cases: statements and acts. Marriage -- homosexual marriage would be considered an act.

QJust statements -- if they don't make statements, there may be other kinds of indications?

MR. BACON: They could be other kinds, but I think primarily they're verbal statements. Sometimes they may be followed up with a written statement. But they frequently start as verbal statements.

Finally, in this -- on this topic, as you know, Secretary Cohen asked the inspector general of the Department of Defense to review the enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell, don't harass" policy throughout the military, and the IG's people are currently surveying 38 bases at home and abroad.

They've created a very long questionnaire, which they are then giving to a random bunch of people. The first base they went to, the random bunch of people included a four-star general, so they are getting a sampling of people from all ranks. And they are asking questions about how effectively -- how well the policy is understood at all levels in the military, from E-1 up to O-10. And they are also asking how well the policy is implemented, and trying to get a sense of the general climate under the "don't ask, don't tell, don't harass" policy throughout the military.

That report is due in mid-March, as I recall. They had a 90-day deadline on meeting that report.

Yes, Pam?

QYou say -- you gave us the 83.5 percent figure. And the sense I get from you, that that's sort of good news for DOD. Can you explain why you think that's a significant statistic?

MR. BACON: Well, I said that it hasn't changed much from the past year or two. I don't understand -- I can't tell you why people would necessarily make a statement about their sexual orientation, but it's an all-volunteer force, and if people wanted to announce that they were homosexual, they could feel free to do it. People throughout society are declaring their sexual orientation with more freedom than they were in the past, and there's no reason why the military would be exempt from that.

I will point out that -- and I think it's only fair -- and you know this -- that the Service Members Legal Defense Network has said that the reason such a high percentage of these discharges are made in response to statements is that people are declaring themselves homosexual in response to an oppressive atmosphere within the services. Our studies have not shown this to be the case. But this is one of the reasons Secretary Cohen has ordered an IG investigation; he wants to make sure that the rule is being followed well, that it's understood, and that it's being implemented fairly. So we will have better information about this after the IG investigation is over.


QKen, in the number of these people who are going to go to this training, who is supposed to have it, essentially everybody in the service?

MR. BACON: Yeah. I mean, you should talk to the individual services about it. But the Army package, it involves training at the basic training level.

It involves training for people who are becoming commanders, officers, as well as warrant officers and sergeants. And it involves specific training for people who are judge advocate generals or in the legal corps of the military. And it also provides for refresher training.

And it gives -- in here there are actual training slides or training materials that are supposed to be used so that the training is regularized throughout the service; that is to say, that you are getting the same training at Fort Jackson that you'd get at Fort Benning or Fort Hood.

QDo you feel that this training is bringing a great deal new to the services? because some of the service people have described it to me as basically restating what they were already doing. Do you regard this as a big new thing for the different services?

MR. BACON: I think the idea here is to make the training more uniform, to make sure that it's uniform, and to first stress that this policy is part of a nondiscrimination policy in the military. It's to make sure that everybody understands exactly what the policy is and what it isn't, what it allows and doesn't allow, and to make sure that this is being communicated uniformly throughout every service.

QBut it does not mean that any more people will actually be exposed to this; you are just trying to regularize it? In other words, if only -- your new recruits were exposed before, one might have thought, "Well then, thousands more will be exposed to this program and to the regulations." I gather that it's not more people?

MR. BACON: I think when you read the directives that are being put out by the service chiefs and the service secretaries, and these directives are jointly signed by the top-uniformed and top civilian official in each service, you'll see that a lot of high-level attention has been paid to this. And they are stressing the need for everybody in the services to make sure they understand the policy and that they follow the policy clearly and fairly.

So our hope is that it will in fact lead to better education of more people about what the policy is.

QSo you think there might be -- people that hadn't gotten the message before, might be getting the message now, even though some services say we're training exactly the same number of people; we may be doing it a little better --

MR. BACON: There is certainly anecdotal information that the service was -- that some commanders spent more time on the training than other commanders did. And this is designed to make sure that everybody devotes the same amount of effort to it. I mean, you'll see that in some of these -- in some of the Army syllabi, it actually specifies how much time is supposed to be devoted to each part of the training program. So the idea is to make sure that this is done in a complete way.

QIs it safe to say in a nutshell -- the SECDEF told us in a recent interview upstairs that emphasis on this training will be put on the fact that harassment simply isn't going to be tolerated?

MR. BACON: That is --

QIs that something new on this, that emphasis is going to be put on the harassment part?

MR. BACON: Well, the secretary has said from the very beginning that harassment won't be tolerated, that there's no room for discrimination in the military. So that's not a new policy; it's not new about homosexuals, and it's certainly not new about race.

What this does is try to make the training more regular and to emphasize, from the top down, that this is a priority of all the services, and to make this emphasis stronger and clearer than it was before. It's the same policy.

QEmphasis that harassment will not be tolerated.

MR. BACON: Nothing's changed about the policy. What has changed is the emphasis that's being given to the policy.

QThe emphasis on the fact that harassment is not allowed?

MR. BACON: Right.


QKen, does this restatement of policy include any specific guidelines or penalties for those who may violate the "no harass" policy?

MR. BACON: It does not.

QAnd also, in the 83.5 percent, is there any indication on how many of those 83.5 percent were voluntary statements as opposed to statements that may be coerced or --

MR. BACON: Well, we maintain that we aren't coercing people to make these statements. And we maintain that, in fact, the policies have changed to become much clearer about not harassing people to make statements.

We don't think we were doing that before, and we're certainly not doing it now.

But let me ask Frank Rush to come up and address that very specific issue.

MR. RUSH: Well, that's a difficult question to have specific data to answer, because if someone makes a statement, they -- we don't -- the services do not go beyond that statement and say, "Well why are you making this statement?" If they say that they are a homosexual or have a homosexual orientation, then that is usually a limited or no inquiry, and there is an opportunity in every case for an administrative board before the member is separated. But there is -- we don't look behind the statement.

Now in the case of emphasizing threats and harassment in the new training program and the programs at all levels, for new officers, for basic trainees, for recruits, for officers at the various professional military education levels, for NCOs, at the staff NCO and the senior NCO training courses, which you'll see in the materials that the services have laid out, that the basic rule which was established in 1997, to make clear that if there is -- if a service members comes to the commander and says, "I'm being threatened or harassed because people suspect or allege that I am -- that I'm gay," the response to that is, that's not, and all the service training plans make it clear, that's not credible evidence to inquire against the soldier or airman or service member. What the commander's responsibility is is to investigate the threat, and if they find that there is a threat or harassment, to take the appropriate action against the threat or harasser, because that not only violates the specific direction from the Department of Defense and from the services, but it's not conducive to good order and discipline for any service member for any reason not to treat other service members with dignity and respect.

QIf I could follow up, how many such complaints have been lodged, and how many investigations into that kind of harassment have been conducted?

MR. RUSH: That's something that we have not tracked. And with both the Department of Defense inspector general out looking at the climate and looking at the extent to which disparaging remarks about gays or homosexuals are tolerated within a command, and with the Army inspector general also, at Secretary Caldera's direction, making a similar Army-wide review, we may pick up some information on that.

But it is not something that's terribly easy to track or that -- that we have.

QWould it be safe to say that the number is very low? Or do you know of any cases?

MR. RUSH: We believe that they are low. But we also believe that there are instances where there have been. And we just don't have -- we don't maintain data on that.

QThere's some suggestion that some folks have volunteered that they're gay as a way of getting out of service, because it's hard to separate, once you've signed on, until your enlistment is up. What evidence have you seen or what indications do you see of that?

And if someone is separated because of this, what kind of discharge do they get? Is it general? Honorable? Dishonorable? What effect does it have on --

MR. RUSH: It depends. Statement cases -- someone comes forward and indicates that they are homosexual. The typical case -- they're counseled by the command and by an attorney. And then they are separated, because that's the law and that's the policy.

In the typical case and in the directions and directives for each service, it's very clear that there would normally be no detailed inquiry more than a quick administrative review.

QAnd the discharge is a general discharge, or dishonorable, or --

MR. RUSH: In the -- about half of the discharges are of service members that are still in the training days. And so in those cases, if they have less than 180 days of service, by policy it's an uncharacterized discharge. But about 97, 98 percent of all discharges under the policy are for either an honorable discharge, an uncharacterized discharge, or a general discharge under honorable conditions.

QIf someone comes to you and voluntarily makes a statement that they are homosexual, why would you not ask if harassment has been involved? Why don't you go down that road?

MR. RUSH: That hasn't been done. And basically again, the statement is accepted. And, however, if they say they have been harassed or threatened, then there would be follow-up on that.

QWell, I understand that. But I am -- (inaudible) -- I am just trying to take it a step further; I mean, there has been, of course, the Fort Campbell case now where it went very, very badly. So what has made you decide not to go ahead and ask people, because otherwise, how are you going to discover harassment, especially in very hostile circumstances?

MR. RUSH: Well, two things: First, we haven't, as a general course, done that. Secondly -- when the Department of Defense inspector general comes back and reports by the 13th of March to the secretary, the findings and recommendations, that may be a recommendation in which case -- and the same way in the Army; I don't know. But I think we'll be informed by what both the Army and the DOD inspector general --

QJust two other questions. Is it your personal feeling that the department or that the military needs to be more assertive in asking people whether harassment has been involved? It seems to be very much a hands-off attitude at the moment.

MR. RUSH: Well, our view has been that, while harassment is destructive for whatever the reason for the harassment, "to good order and discipline," that this, in the homosexual policy area, has not been a widespread problem. But once again, that's why the secretary has asked the inspector general to go out and make that assessment. And that will inform their policy, I believe.

QAnd what is the penalty for harassment in the military?

MR. RUSH: The penalty for harassment would be the same as for harassment under the UCMJ. And -- I can't tell you exactly what the range would be, but it would depend upon the extent and the destructiveness of the harassment.

Yes, ma'am?

QIf you do not keep records on the reports of harassment, do you have a record on how many people have been found to have harassed someone for homosexuality? Do you have a record for that in the services?

MR. RUSH: No, we don't -- if I understand your question, we do not have data on that.

QIs there a reason for not having it? Is it --

MR. RUSH: Because we haven't tracked or asked that question, as we just discussed.

QCould you tell us a little bit about how you define "harassment," which seems to me it might be something a little difficult to define? For example, the situation, two people are in an argument and somebody calls somebody a name; is that harassment? Or does it take something more than that?

MR. RUSH: Well, I think that's really a situational call. But at the same time, what all of the services -- what the secretary's intent is and what all of the services' training -- is -- if someone comes to a commander or comes to the first sergeant, and says, "I am being harassed because people think that I am gay," or, "I am being harassed because I won't go out on a date with this guy," and then the question is for the commander -- the responsibility of the commander is to investigate what the threat -- it was a harassment.

QWell, just to follow up on that, it seems to me that it would -- at least in a lot of cases, it would be difficult for the commander to investigate that threat and not come across some evidence as to whether the person was gay. I mean, even if you weren't necessarily looking for it, it would seem to me that the -- you'd look into where the harassment originated and why it was forthcoming, and at some point, when somebody would say, "Because I saw him or her at this establishment or with this person" -- I mean, it just seems to me that would be evidence that would flow almost naturally in a lot of these cases. When that happens, are commanders not supposed to act on that, or --

MR. RUSH: If in the course -- and again, all of the training materials will say -- if the course of the inquiry, you do come across credible evidence because the reporting -- the service members reporting the threat or harassment is not credible evidence, it does not, under the policy, form the basis for an inquiry into the sexual orientation of the service member. If you come across it, and you're -- then there is a responsibility to act. But the focus, under the policy of every service and under the department's policy, is to focus on the threat and on the harassment, and to deal with those as you would with a threat or harassment for any reason.

QSo -- just to follow that, so someone who feels they're being harassed and makes a complaint of that, and -- who is gay, at least runs the risk of being outed.

MR. RUSH: Potentially, that clearly -- it would be possible.

QIs this not a contradiction in your policy?

MR. RUSH: Well, the policy is based upon the law and --

QIs the law not contradictory, then?

MR. RUSH: -- and the -- I'm sorry?

QIs the law not contradictory, then?

MR. RUSH: I think that the law, one, is the law, and two, the objective of the Department of Defense and of the services is to fairly and evenhandedly implement the law.

QBut would it not have a chilling effect on someone who was harassed if, in fact, he were gay? Would not the possibility of them being hounded and discharged from the military, would not that -- would that not have a chilling effect on his ability to come forward and lodge a complaint of harassment? And therefore, doesn't that just perpetuate the atmosphere of harassment?

MR. RUSH: Well, I think that's, again, what the inspector general is looking at is to look at the climate, look at the atmosphere, look at the extent to which threats and harassment of any kind are tolerated, or whether discouragement of sexual orientation in language is tolerated in a community. And I think that's how you get at the basic issue of trying to ensure that there are not threats or harassment based upon suspected or alleged homosexuality.

QI would go back to the statements, if I could. Did you say that half of the statements filed are done so by people early in their careers, in the first six months of their careers?

MR. RUSH: That's right.

QSome have suggested that they're just doing it as a way to get out of the military. Do you think that's true? Do you read anything into those stats?

MR. RUSH: I think that that's true, but they're mainly statement cases. The question -- once again, we don't look behind the statement, and 83-84 percent of the discharges are based upon a statement. We -- if there is some reason to suspect that the statement is made in order to avoid the service commitment, then there are provisions to look into that. But again, under the new policy, if that one often --

Q (Off mike.)

MR. RUSH: I'm sorry?

Q (Off mike) -- to look into it?

MR. RUSH: Well, then you would have to have a substantial inquiry. And --

Q (Off mike)?

MR. RUSH: As to what the evidence is to suspect that the statement was made. That is very rare. And under our policy it has to be approved. And under each of the services' policy, it has to be approved at the military department-secretary level.

QHow often does that happen, that you would look into whether or not a person's trying to get out from his --

MR. RUSH: It is not common. And so the answer is we seldom go back again, and we seldom look behind the statement.

Yes, sir?

QI just wanted to clarify. If there is an accusation or evidence brought that a person is gay or acting out as a homosexual, either with a member of the service or outside of the service, or if there is a harassment complaint made, does that commander then have the -- can then that commander go forward and ask -- and start to make the inquiry directly of asking the accused is -- does asking them become operative, I guess is what I'm asking.

MR. RUSH: What the basic rule in that point is, is for a commander to make an inquiry into the sexual orientation of a service member, there has to be, first, credible evidence that the service member is a homosexual. And that credible evidence -- in all of the service training plans, you'll see laid out very clearly what credible evidence is and what credible evidence is not. For example, reporting a threat is not credible evidence.

QBut eye-witness from credible witnesses, is that credible evidence?

MR. RUSH: An eye-witness from a credible witness, someone who is known to be reliable, would, in those situations, be credible evidence.

QJust to understand, since the murder at Fort Campbell, you have not gathered any data about the number of occurrences of sexual harassment charges, you've not gathered data about the number of times that those harassment charges have been investigated? None of that's been done?

MR. RUSH: The secretary of the Army has asked the inspector general of the Army to review, Army-wide and at Fort Campbell, the issues surrounding threats and the harassment of service members.

QBut that's not been done in any other services?

MR. RUSH: At this point, it has not been done; that's right. But it's being done defense-wide by the DOD inspector general's review.

QThank you.

QIf I could have one more. During this review process, was there ever any consideration, discussion or sentiment to dropping "don't ask, don't tell," to allowing gays to openly serve in the military?

MR. BACON: This is the law of the land, which we are implementing. And the answer is in this department no such consideration was given. But it's a congressional decision.

QA new subject?

MR. BACON: Sorry?

QA new topic?

MR. BACON: Yeah, a new topic.

QThere are reports that last week, when the British secretary of defense whose name I can never remember -- (cross talk) --

MR. BACON: Secretary Hoon


Q-- (inaudible) -- asked -- (laughter) -- they say -- (inaudible) -- raised with Secretary Cohen the issue of whether Britain -- if the U.S. were to ask it to place a substantial elements of the U.S. National Missile Defense System on British territory -- the issue was raised whether Britain in turn would want to be protected by those defenses. Can you amplify that -- comment on that?

MR. BACON: No, I think it's up to the British to describe what they have raised or didn't raise in that respect.

Yes, Jim?

QIt's been almost a year and a half since UNSCOM inspectors were forced out of Iraq. Is there any evidence that Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis have been able to reconstitute any of their weapons-of- mass-destruction program?

MR. BACON: There is no firm evidence that they have been able to reconstitute their weapons-of-mass-destruction program.

We do know that they have rebuilt buildings; we don't know what goes on in those buildings. We know that some of the machinery we destroyed, such as very large sophisticated metal presses in their missiles manufacturing or repair facilities, are costly and would be very difficult, if not impossible, for them to replace or rebuild under sanctions. And they do remain under sanctions.

So we do -- have no firm evidence that they have rebuilt their WMD, weapons of mass destruction, capability. It clearly is a worry. And it's clearly a reason why we think that a good tough, fair inspection regime should be reestablished and sent back to Iraq to follow through on the U.N. Security Council resolutions.


QYou said "firm evidence." What suspicions does the U.S. have that in fact the Iraqis may be rebuilding their WMD program?

MR. BACON: Well, "firm evidence" means "no firm evidence." And I am not sure that it's profitable to talk about suspicions.

We know they have rebuilt some buildings. We don't know -- we can easily tell when somebody rebuilds a building. We can't tell what goes on inside the building, if anything. You have to assume that, if somebody rebuilds a building, they rebuild it for a reason.

We know that Saddam Hussein has spent a lot of time and money in the past trying to develop weapons of mass destruction and in fact did succeed in creating thousands of gallons of weaponized anthrax, which were actually put into Scud warheads and other artillery shells. We know that he created -- he filled thousands and thousands of 155 millimeter artillery shells with chemical weapons, VX and other types of chemical weapons. We know that he was working on a nuclear program. And we know certainly that he has developed missiles and built Scuds.

So we know what he did in the past. We know that he has not turned into a nice benign fellow since Desert Storm, so we have to assume that this remains the goal.

It is much more difficult for him to achieve a goal of rebuilding sophisticated weapons of mass destruction capability as long as he's under sanctions. It's not impossible, but it's much more difficult. That's one of the reasons we've been so determined to make sure that the sanctions remain in place until inspectors can go in and confirm that he has, in fact, dismantled his weapons of mass destruction programs as called for by the U.N. Security Council resolution.

QCan you in any way quantify, percentage-wise or whatever, what he's been able to rebuild physically? Understanding, of course, that you can't tell what's under the roof.

MR. BACON: No. He's -- I cannot quantify that. I just don't know the figure.


QKen, can you tell us how soon the department expects the range in Vieques to be cleared now, and whether department personnel will be assisting? Would police units, for example, be going down to assist them in clearing the range?

MR. BACON: I have a Vieques expert ready to take the stand and answer all those questions, but I -- so I want to make sure that we're through with Iraq before we move to Vieques.


QBack on Iraq. As I recall, the things that were targeted in Desert Fox were basically aeronautical infrastructure, potential delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction. To what extent do you think they've rebuilt that kind of thing? And am I right in recalling you didn't actually target any weapons of mass destruction or places where such things could be stored or made?

MR. BACON: You're generally correct in that we targeted missile repair and production facilities. And a number of those buildings have been reconstructed. We don't know what's happening inside the buildings.

QBut in the -- I'm sorry. If I could just follow on that, isn't it true or wasn't it said from this podium after Desert Fox that the target list didn't really include WMD production or storage sites, because of a variety of concerns, and that it was focused on delivery systems?

MR. BACON: It is true that we never announced targeting a WMD storage site. That's correct.


QDid you target -- (laughter) -- you said it's true that you never announced --

Q (Off mike.)

MR. CROWLEY: I think, on Vieques, we believe that it is in both the interest of the people of Vieques and the interest of the Navy to move quickly to implement the directives that the president issued yesterday. There's no specific timetable for that implementation. However, we expect, as the governor said yesterday, that he will appoint a commissioner for Vieques in the coming days. We expect that Admiral Kevin Green will be dispatched to Puerto Rico in the next few days to begin the Navy-Vieques consultative process.

And then -- but as both the president has indicated and as the governor has indicated, authorities in Puerto Rico and federal authorities will cooperate fully to make sure that the range can be safely opened and training resumed.

QP.J., do you expect that federal officials or Puerto Rican officials -- police, et cetera, or whatever -- would lead the way in any clearing that has to be done -- and involuntary --

MR. CROWLEY: I think, as you saw from the documents that were released yesterday, that will be a cooperative process. It'll be done both by federal authorities together with authorities in Puerto Rico.

QYou said training's to begin in time for the George Washington Battle Group -- April?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we are -- let's -- we have to wait and see. Basically -- you know, for example, the Eisenhower Battle Group deploys in the next couple of weeks. We'll have the opportunity to evaluate the training that Eisenhower receives at Cape Wrath, evaluate the training that it undertook back in December in preparation for the deployment. We have a few weeks yet to determine, based on the progress made in Vieques, how that will affect George Washington.

QThank you.

QAre you all confident that Governor Rossello can deliver what he says he'll deliver and that they'll -- that you'll be able to do this peacefully?

MR. CROWLEY: You know, I think that obviously there's a recognition that, you know, there are needs that the -- the clear needs that the people of Vieques deserve.

I mean, if you compare the situation of Vieques to what other training locations -- say, in the continental United States, you'll find that the people of Vieques have for a number of years borne the burdens of hosting a training range without many of the rewards. If you compare that to training ranges, you know, around bases here in the United States, for example, you'll find that these states host a large number of troops. These troops live in the community. They buy cars at the local dealerships. They eat at the local restaurants. They go to the local schools. That draws impact aid, you know, to those communities so that there's a clear benefit to having a base in your state, for example. The people of Vieques do not host the same -- you know, a volume of Navy personnel.

So I think during the course of the last nine months we came to recognize that there really is a need to compensate the people of Vieques for this burden. And the agreement that has been reached we think meets the environmental, economic, health and safety concerns, the legitimate concerns that they have expressed during this process. And we believe that this is a very good opportunity for both the people of Vieques and the Navy to move forward, and it's in everyone's interest to do that expeditiously.

QThank you.


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