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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
July 02, 1997 2:40 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

First of all I'd like to welcome 20 high school students here. I guess you're from all across the country and you're participating in the Next Generation Leadership Program which is sponsored by George Washington University. Welcome to our twice-weekly drama here in the Pentagon press room.

I want to start with one brief announcement, which is tomorrow morning at 10:30, Secretary Cohen, Samuel Berger, the National Security Advisor, and Strobe Talbot, the Deputy Secretary of State, will hold a briefing at the White House on the President's upcoming trip to the NATO Summit in Madrid. They will discuss not only the meeting in Madrid, but also the travel plans of the President, Secretary Cohen and Secretary Albright in the days following the Madrid meeting. Each one will be visiting other countries in Europe to talk about NATO enlargement. That's tomorrow at the White House at 10:30.

With that, I'll take your questions. Charlie?

Q: Can you give any comment on the final GAO report released yesterday on the exaggeration of military arms makers on the smart weapons in the Gulf War?

A: That report, of course, has been around for some time. What we've seen is the latest iteration, the unclassified version.

The report strikes me as the analytical equivalent of a dumb bomb -- it's off target and loud. It really makes a series of very strange comparisons and takes the sort of lead-eyed view that there doesn't seem to be much difference between precision-guided munitions and less precise munitions or unguided munitions.

From what I've read in the report and read about the report, it's as if they have not really compared different types of targets and the difficulty of hitting different types of targets -- some very heavily defended, some not defended, some quite small such as bridges, some much larger, some very hardened targets such as command and control centers or intelligence centers with softer targets. They made no allowance for the inherent differences in targets and they tended to treat them all differently, and therefore assume that they could be hit equally with precision or non-precision bombs. It strikes me that to the extent that's the case, it's like comparing a .350 hitter in the National Leagues with a .350 hitter in high school and saying they're both the same because they both hit .350 without taking account of the different pitching conditions they encounter.

Q: Back to my original question. What about their charges that the results of using smart bombs and the F-117Es and the cruise missiles were exaggerated? They didn't say these things weren't effective and they weren't used well and they weren't good. They say the results were exaggerated.

A: The letter that we sent to the GAO last September, and which I believe has been made available to you but was not included in the report, gives a different account of that and it questions some of the objections that the GAO raised about the accuracy of the precision-guided munitions.

I think maybe the terms of the debate have been somewhat exaggerated here. We never claimed one kill/one target. What we have claimed is that precision-guided munitions are significantly more effective than non-precision-guided munitions. I think the results of the war show that convincingly. What's more, I think that the bombing we did in Bosnia in 1995 also showed that convincingly, where there was very little collateral damage, where there were a relatively small number of weapons required against each target. I think many of the targets were destroyed with two or three weapons -- a significant change from what would have happened a decade or two ago.

So I think the worth of these precise weapons is beyond doubt. Whether the performance was described with total accuracy... Look, in the fog of war, in the enthusiasm of what happened with the performance of those weapons during DESERT STORM, I'm sure there were statements made by contractors and by people in the military that may have overdramatized their effectiveness. It doesn't diminish the fact that they are significantly more effective than non-precision-guided munitions.

Q: So you're saying in essence that there were exaggerations as they are alleging, which is sort of part of the core of their report?

A: I want to divide it into two categories. They included in their report a number of challenges to statistics on a percentage of weapons that hit. The letter that we sent from strategy and requirements last year to the GAO challenges some of the criticisms they raised about the percentage weapons on target. Talking in general terms, they also spend a lot of time in the GAO Group. That's one issue, is looking at those percentages. We challenge some of the comments they made about those percentages.

A lot of it depends on the base used for making an assessment of how well the bombs did. They tended to use as a base the number of missions planned or the number of targets planned to be hit -- not the number of missions flown in all cases, which can be different. If you plan a mission but don't carry out that mission because the weather's bad, those targets were not hit. They would argue that those are targets that weren't hit, that were missed. We would argue that we didn't attempt to hit those targets because the weather prevented us from hitting them, and therefore, we should have a different base. So there are legitimate base questions that led to different conclusions.

There's another issue which is how was the general class of these weapons described during or after the war; the GAO does spend a lot of time talking about this formula of one hit/one kill. The letter that we sent to the GAO makes it clear that we have never claimed that as the standard of performance or excellence for these weapons. In fact most of the targets are based on the idea that it would require more than one weapon to eliminate a bridge or a hardened command post or some of the other targets that we use these weapons against.

The central fact, remember here, is that the precision-guided weapons and the F-117 fighters were used against the most heavily defended targets and they were used against the hardest targets. It was because of their success in being able to eliminate or reduce the effectiveness of those air defense systems that the other planes, the F-16s and others, were able to come in and do as well as they did, because they were flying in a less threatening environment.

Q: Given the difference in definitions by the Defense Department and the contractors and the GAO, apparently, is the assessment of the Defense Department that there were exaggerations if you compared apples with apples? In the case of the F-117, for example, that it did not hit nearly the high percentage of targets that the Defense Department claimed immediately during and after the war?

A: I wasn't here immediately during and after the war and I haven't gone back and reviewed exactly what we did say on that. I know, however, that the letter that was sent, and I think you've gotten the letter, but the letter that was sent by Mr. Frostic from Strategy and Requirements does in fact state that the F-117s in particular, were highly accurate, and it uses a fairly high figure, and it specifically contradicts or argues against some of the lower figures that the GAO used in its report.

I think the important point here is that we have moved to a new generation of weaponry, and nobody denies that. We are not going to turn the clock back to an increased reliance on dumb bombs. We are going to continue to build an Air Force and a military based on precision-guided munitions. General Fogleman has said many times that these new planes and the weaponry they carry has changed the calculus of war. We used to talk about the number of sorties required to destroy a target. Now we talk about the number of targets that can be destroyed on a sortie. It's a completely different way of looking at the capability of the force.

Q: Two suspected Russian mobsters have been arrested in Miami on charges relating to the sale of nuclear and other weapons. They are being charged with at least negotiating a nuclear weapon sale. Have you any comment on that? And secondly, these nuclear weapons allegedly are coming, that were to be pedaled, were coming from Russia and/or Bulgaria. Does this Department know of any such, the Russian mob being able to obtain and sell nuclear weapons?

A: First of all let me point out at the very beginning that these people were arrested by law enforcement officers, not by military people. This was a case that was put together by the Customs Service.

My understanding is that the two men who were arrested in Miami were basically car thieves. The guts of their business was to steal four-wheel drive vehicles in Florida, where of course there's a lot of snow and people need four-wheel drive vehicles, and ship them over to the Baltics.

In the course of their discussions with undercover law enforcement agents, they also began to talk about their ability to ship weapons, including missiles, shoulder-fired missiles and tactical nuclear weapons, back into the United States. They made a lot of promises about their ability to be able to do this, but we never saw any signs that weapons had been purchased or were on their way to the United States. That may be, in part, because the case ended before it got to that point.

So I urge you to get from the Customs Department the affidavit that was filed by the chief Customs Service agent because it goes into a very detailed and actually quite amusing account of what's an extremely interesting case.

On the broader point, are we concerned that nuclear materials or weapons could be stolen from the former Soviet Union and shipped to other places in the world, particularly countries that may wish us ill such as Iran? Yes. We're very concerned about that. We've expressed that concern many times. In fact we have several programs designed specifically to stop that type of smuggling. The most notable one is the Nunn/Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program which has spent more than $1.8 billion to help Russia and other former Soviet states dismantle nuclear weapons, or to safeguard them by keeping them in secure locations or by safeguarding them through better transportation techniques that are less susceptible to accident or to theft. Also, it has a component that helps try to retrain people who were in the nuclear weapon development industry, retrain them into other jobs so they will not feel they have to sell their services to other countries or people in order to earn a livelihood.

Q: I take it then, Ken, that this particular case does not indicate that there are nukes readily for sale?

A: It does not. What it does indicate, I think, all you can conclude from this particular case, is that the two men who have been charged with car theft and other conspiracies, said that they were able to lay their hands on weaponry, and said that they were going to be able to ship it to the United States. I think it was actually going to be headed for Puerto Rico, which is obviously part of the United States, but not the continental United States. But we never saw signs that, in fact, they could deliver on these promises.

Q: This is being followed up on?

A: This is one of the most serious challenges we as a country face today, which is preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, whether it's on a state basis or whether it's done by people who used to work in the nuclear industries of nuclear powers who may try to sell nuclear materials for their own benefit, or whether it's done by organized crime. This is a serious challenge.

I must tell you that there have been a large number of... There's a lot of intelligence energy and effort devoted to following this threat, and there have been a number of newspaper articles about the threat as well. I think the conclusion of both is that we don't have firm information that there is an active and menacing threat underway. There's certainly a potential, but we don't have a sense that there has been a lot of successful smuggling operations. We're working very hard with other countries who share our concern about this to prevent such type of smuggling from occurring.

Q: There's a sense in Congress that some want to put more military personnel along the border, and I'm wondering what the Department's view on that is given the incident that occurred in May; and that the military sort of operates at the edge of posse comitatus in this issue.

A: Let me divide that into a couple of sections. First, we do not believe there is a need for 10,000 more soldiers along the border. At any given time there are 250 to 300 soldiers along the border supporting law enforcement agents in counter-drug and other operations. There is no desire in this building or in this Administration to increase dramatically the number of military personnel assisting law enforcement agents. My understanding is that this congressional resolution has passed the House but it has not passed Congress as a whole. It's been introduced several years in the past by Representative Trafficant of Ohio. It has not become the law of the land or national policy. We think that that is the right resolution. It should not become the law of the land or national policy. So we are against a large enforcement.

In terms of posse comitatus -- the 1878 law that prevents the military from participating in law enforcement activities -- we work very hard not to get involved in law enforcement operations along the border. The support provided by the military is in terms of providing monitoring, observation, surveillance. It's not arresting people. That's left to the Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies. It's not done by the military. We've been very clear about that division. The troops are very well trained not to get involved in law enforcement operations.

Q: On the specific May incident... Since that time do you know, has there been any communication between this Department or the Marine Corps and the family of the victim?

A: I know that the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Krulak, has sent his personal condolences to the Hernandez family, so yes, there has been very direct contact between the Marine Corps and the family of Mr. Hernandez.

As you know, the Marines have told law enforcement agencies that they were under fire from this person and that they were responding in self defense.

Q: A question about Boeing/McDonnell Douglas merger. Has any analysis been done into what the cost to the Pentagon might be in terms of reimbursing the companies for restructuring as a result of this?

A: Not that I'm aware of. I'm sure there's been some analysis. We do expect that over time this merger will be able to save the Defense Department money by reducing overhead, reducing duplicative costs between the two companies. Even though they didn't compete directly on a wide range of projects, we would expect that as they merge that there should be some reduction in costs, but I don't know how much that will be and I don't know specifically what we're contemplating in terms of savings at this time.

Q: Do you know what it will cost?

A: If I don't know the savings, I don't know about the allowable costs. The allowable costs, of course, are very contingent on savings. The allowable costs are only allowed if we can have auditable savings over a period of time. So without knowing the savings, we can't know the allowable cost.

Q: ...illegally de facto imposed the so-called confidence measures in the Aegean in areas under Greek and [inaudible] jurisdiction responsibilities, says DoD, the Under Secretary, Jan Lodal, is [inaudible]. Could you please comment on this Turkish action?

A: Did you say that...

Q: The imposed today [inaudible] confidence measures in the Aegean. Since Mr. Lodal is involved excessively with this matter, could you please comment?

A: I wouldn't say that he's involved excessively in this matter. He has been involved diligently in the matter. This is an important development. The Turks, as you point out, have unilaterally imposed on their own forces, confidence building measures for their operations in the Aegean for the summer. I have not seen the official reporting on this, but I have read a wire service account from Reuters as to what they've done. They have said that although the Turkish Navy and Air Force will carry out routine training and reconnaissance activities in the Aegean this summer, there will be no maneuvers during that period, and that their aircraft will not be armed when operating in the Aegean.

We applaud all steps by all parties to reduce tensions in the Aegean and we think this is a laudable step on the part of the Turks.

Q: [inaudible]

A: I just said we applaud it.

Q: And [inaudible] support this action because they [inaudible] partition of Greece in the Aegean Sea. Is unilateral. [inaudible] responsibility and jurisdiction. This is my question. What is your position to this particular issue?

A: Any step taken with the intention of reducing tensions in the Aegean is worthwhile. I have not seen the official communique from the Turks on this yet, but from what I have seen, from what we've seen reported, we welcome these measures by the Turks because we think they're being taken with the goal of reducing tensions in the Aegean.

Q: ...Island of Crete, and also here in the Greek Embassy [inaudible]. It's possible to have him here for a special briefing to ask that type of questions? Because it also affects your presence in the area.

A: Mr. Lodal is now traveling in Europe on private business and will not be back for at least a week.

Q: One more question. It was stated by [inaudible] that during his mediation to find a solution from Cypress all the way to Aegean is going to have also a DoD representative. Could you please comment about the role of this representative in these talks?

A: I assume that the representative will be involved in any discussions of security guarantees that might come up in the course of the talks being brokered by Mr. Holbrooke. As you know, in Bosnia, Mr. Holbrooke worked very closely with General Wesley Clark and also initially with the late Joe Kruzel in dealing with the formerly warring factions to reach the Dayton Accord. After Joe Kruzel was tragically killed in an accident on the Mt. Igman Road, James Pardue worked closely with him -- a civilian from the Defense Department -- and General Clark continued to work with him. So he has a long history of working closely with military people to help him review the security aspects of the packages he's negotiating.

Q: In what [inaudible]...

A: I'm talking about Cypress.

Q: Two clarifications for the record. Tomorrow apparently the Los Alamos National Laboratory is conducting these so-called subcritical nuclear tests. Could you just state for the record why those are not in violation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty?

A: I cannot. That's a question you should direct to the Department of Energy which is actually conducting the tests.

Q: A point of clarification on the Boeing/McDonnell Douglas merger. I know you said the merger would save the Pentagon money, but can you just clarify why the lack of competition that will result from merging these two big defense contractors is a good thing for the Pentagon?

A: I didn't say that the lack of competition was a good thing for the Pentagon. I think what you have to look at is the various segments of the defense industry. McDonnell Douglas has been a long-time producer of naval aircraft. It will continue to produce the F-18, for instance, which is a McDonnell Douglas plane, as part of Boeing. The main producers of fighter aircraft today are McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed, and Northrop/Grumman. Boeing has not been a significant force in production of fighter aircraft. As you know, it is one of the companies that has been selected to go ahead with the Joint Strike Fighter program, and some analysts have said that McDonnell Douglas failure to be selected to go ahead to the next phase of that program may have triggered its willingness to merge with another company.

I believe that we will continue to have robust competition based on three healthy, well capitalized companies in the fighter aircraft area. McDonnell Douglas also makes the C-17 plane, which is a plane that's been highly successful after a somewhat rocky start. It's probably right now the leading transport aircraft, power projection plane in the world. It will continue to produce that as part of Boeing. Boeing makes 747s and other planes, but it doesn't make planes that have the same capability as the C-17 does. Right now, frankly, the Pentagon is not in the market for another transport airplane, and given the generation of these planes, isn't likely to be for some time.

So primarily what you have is the premier commercial aircraft company in the world combining with one of a small universe of vigorous manufacturers of fighter aircraft. So their businesses don't overlap totally. Now McDonnell Douglas does make some commercial aircraft, but it makes a very small share of the market compared to Boeing.

Q: Is there anything you can tell us about the status of the recommended nominations to succeed Dr. White and Dr. Kaminski?

A: I hope for announcements relatively soon. As you know, the White House announced last week that Rudy DeLeon would be named as Under Secretary for Personnel. I expect that the nomination for Dr. White's replacement will come relatively soon. It's now being reviewed at the White House. It's no secret that Secretary Cohen's candidate for that job is Dr. Hamre, currently the Comptroller. And there is also work going forward on a replacement for Dr. Kaminski, and I would hope that an announcement would come relatively soon, too, but unfortunately, I can't give you firm dates for either one of those.

Press: Thank you.

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