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

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
July 03, 1997 1:30 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Those of you who are traveling with the Secretary I hope have been informed by now that the departure time has been moved up to Sunday night from Monday morning. So if you haven't already learned about that, you should learn about it soon or you'll miss the plane. This is because the President has asked the Secretary to participate in some events on Monday afternoon in Madrid, particularly meetings with the Senate NATO Observer Group and the Secretary is changing his plans to get over there in order to participate fully in those events.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: A question about the Lockheed/Martin merger. Talk about the process and about your comment on Tuesday that you guys were satisfied with approving of mergers that had just been approved, given that you had sufficient other manufacturers including Lockheed/Martin and Northrop/Grumman.

A: Sometimes things change. We were informed this morning by Norman Augustine, the Chairman of Lockheed/Martin, that they were planning to announce this is a short period of time, half an hour or so, maybe an hour. It was simply a courtesy notification -- nothing more than that.

Once we see the proposal from the two companies or the proposed merger, we will sit down and analyze this. We'll meet with representatives of both companies.

One of the things we'll do immediately is to compare their two businesses and look at where they overlap and where they don't, look at the areas where a merger of those two companies may eliminate significant competition in the aerospace field, and how it would change the competitive environment for the remaining companies that have to compete with, that would have to compete with, the new company. We'd also look at the impact of the proposed merger on the Pentagon's ability to find competitive markets for its products at all levels, not just at the final plane level but also at the component level. Both these companies make components as well as planes.

This will take some time. I can't predict how long, but it will take some period of time. Then we send a letter to the FTC or the Justice Department, whichever is handling this merger, advising them of our conclusions, how we think this helps or hurts the Defense Department. They take this into account in making their decision on the merger.

Q: The Pentagon doesn't have someone in Dr. Kaminski's slot yet, that hasn't been filled. Is that going to protract the process in the Pentagon, or...

A: My hope is we'll have somebody, we'll have Dr. Kaminski's replacement on board long before this is completed. But much of the basic work, basic analytical work in mergers is done by John Goodman, a professor, former professor before he came here, and expert on... I guess an expert on investments and on industrial structure. He's the one who will do the bulk of the analytical work. In the past, also, the Deputy Secretary has actually written the letters to the Justice Department so he's gotten fairly involved in the review, as has the General Counsel. So it's not limited to just one person. There is a team of people who look at these merger proposals.

Q: Do you have Mr. Goodman's title?

A: He is the -- I think he's a Deputy Assistant Secretary, but I can get his exact title for you.

Q: Also, is there a point at which you believe these mergers have gone too far? Are things becoming too congealed? Secretary Perry had expressed an interest in seeing companies shed areas that they were, they were just too big, given what was needed from the Pentagon and he was in favor of these mergers as a cost saving measure. But is there a point at which...

A: That's exactly what the lawyers and the economists and the industrial specialists will determine. But I can't make that determination now. In theoretical terms, obviously at some point, you could imagine mergers going too far. But let me point out, and I don't say that in reference to this particular proposal or any other particular proposal, but procurement has declined 70 percent in real terms, nearly 70 percent in real terms from its peak. We are buying now far fewer fighters and other types of military equipment today than we were buying ten years ago.

There are a number of reasons for that. One, the Cold War is over. Another reason is that the equipment we're buying is much more capable than the equipment of 10 or 20 years ago. If you're buying planes that are stealthy and can evade radars or evade significant detection by radar, you need far fewer planes to deliver the same amount of ordinance. If your ordinance is much more precisely guided than it was in the past, you can get by with smaller forces.

I think I used the term last Tuesday, General Fogleman's statement that the new technology is changing the calculus of warfare. 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 in a sortie. So there's an entirely different calculation. Technology has allowed us to get by with smaller forces.

But that's all sort of a philosophical discussion of weaponry. In this particular case it will be examined very, very carefully and rigorously, and we'll do what's best for the Defense Department and what we think is best for the taxpayers in making a recommendation to the Justice Department.

Q: How long before you formulate your recommendation?

A: It will be several months, at least. This can take quite awhile. We were just alerted to this today, and we're going into the summer period when sometimes it's harder to match up schedules than in the fall. We'll get to this as soon as we can, but it will take a long time. This is gritty, hard, economic analysis. It's not something that can be done easily or quickly. It's very difficult -- conceptually difficult, and it's difficult in terms of resolving disputes or different interpretations in terms of what affects competition and what doesn't affect competition.

Q: The companies said they hope to close the end of the year. Do you consider that too ambitious?

A: I can't comment on that now. I just don't know enough about it. I haven't done more than read a wire service story on this, so I don't know how long this will take.

Q: I understand you're ready to discuss the rules of engagement that were in effect for JTF Six when that teenager was shot on the border. I was wondering if you could discuss that or if you're going to make that available to the press in general, or...

A: We will make the rules of engagement available to you. You can get them from Colonel Bridges' shop, the Directorate of Defense Information, after the briefing.

Let me just say this briefly about the rules of engagement. Remember, we are operating along the Southwest border in support of law enforcement agents. And we do not operate as law enforcement agents. In other words, we do not detain people, we do not make arrests, we do not perform law enforcement tasks.

Q: The rules allow you to detain someone, though?

A: The rules allow us to detain a person who poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm, and to release them to civilian law enforcement agents at the soonest opportunity. The rules also very clearly allow the soldiers involved in support of the counter-drug operations to use force in self defense -- to use deadly force in self defense.

Q: Unless... That's the only other defensive measure available to them? Number two says, "Do not use force if other defensive measures could be effective."

A: Right. They say use only the amount of force necessary and proportional to the threat.

One of the things that will be determined in the course of the investigations of this unfortunate incident along the border in May was exactly what the circumstances were. The Marines have said they were under fire and they believed that they were about to be fired on again when they responded.

Q: Has there been... I want to know what the investigation process is. Obviously, there is one being conducted by the Texas Rangers. Is there a parallel investigation being conducted either by the Marines or the Defense Department? Have any determinations been made?

A: There has been a preliminary investigation done by Joint Task Force Six. Additionally, the Marines are conducting an investigation and the investigation by Task Force Six is being reviewed at a higher level. So...

Q: Are their findings in?

A: Well, the preliminary findings of Joint Task Force Six were that the Marines acted appropriately given the circumstances they were facing, which is their account that they'd been fired upon twice and believed that they were about to be fired upon a third time.

Q: There was a 20-minute lap between the time they were fired upon and the time they fired back. Wasn't that enough time to do something else other than...

A: As I said, they believed they were about to be fired upon again. All of these facts are being investigated, but the Marines have told the investigators quite clearly what transpired, the degree of threat they felt they were under, and why they acted the way they did. They did not act without contact with their superiors. They were in constant radio contact with their superiors. They were reporting all the way along what was going on.

There is extensive training given on the rules of engagement before soldiers are assigned to the border. They're very aware of what the rules are. As I said, they were in contact with their headquarters during this incident, so they were able to report on what the circumstances were and receive advice and information back, and they did.

Q: One final question, because I don't want to dominate the briefing. Is there any kind of commitment, is there any kind of concern that the rules of engagement as they have been written are inadequate? And is there any study being made of the rules of engagement in order to change them? Or are there still U.S. soldiers operating on the frontier elsewhere under these same rules of engagement? Something went wrong. Either the soldiers didn't follow the rules of engagement or the rules of engagement aren't proper because there's a dead guy up there who...

A: I think that's a completely premature conclusion and I hope you won't make that conclusion about something went wrong. It was a tragedy. We wish this tragedy had not occurred. But we do not know now. I don't think you know or I know exactly what the circumstances were and we don't know... Therefore we cannot, you and I, cannot comment on what the Marines felt they were dealing with at the time they acted the way they did.

The Marines' account is fairly explicit, that they had been fired upon. The rules of engagement are very explicit, that they are allowed to respond in self defense with deadly force, if necessary. The Marines had reason to believe that they were acting in accordance with the rules of engagement. Our standard rules of engagement allow the use of deadly force in self defense. So I do think it's premature to make any conclusions about something going wrong here, but let me answer your question more broadly.

Any time there's an incident like this, it's an occasion for us to review procedures, and those procedures are now under review for JTF Six. If an airplane, if you have an airplane malfunction you review what might have caused that malfunction. We are reviewing, now, this incident. But I think it's premature for anybody now to jump to a conclusion about whether something went wrong or not.

Q: And no stand-down orders for anybody other than in that area?

A: The JTF Six people are continuing to support law enforcement operations along the border.

Q: You referenced the JTF Six investigation. Can that investigation be made available since it's been completed?

A: First of all, all I've seen is a draft and I'm not sure there is a final copy. At the appropriate time, I'm sure all these investigations will be made public, but I'm not sure it's appropriate right now.

Q: You said they were in contact with their superiors during the incident.

A: Yes.

Q: Did their superiors advise them or give them the okay to return fire?

A: I have not read the radio conversations, but they felt they were operating in accordance with the advice they were getting.

Q: Is there any reason why they wouldn't identify themselves in the 20 minutes between the time that he first shot at them and they returned fire as being Marines? Since they do have the authority to take someone into custody, why would they...

A: All of these issues are currently under investigation, but let me just state my understanding of the situation. They were between 125 and 200 meters away from the assailant at any given time, maybe more than 200 meters away. There was a wind of approximately 30 to 35 knots blowing. Very difficult to have a conversation over that distance with winds of that force. So I think identification may have been difficult, but this is exactly the type of thing that's being looked into.

All these issues are complex and, as I said, this is being very, very carefully investigated at a number of levels -- domestic law enforcement as well as by the military.

Q: Can we just get your comment on a report today from Bosnian/Serb television which seemed to indicate that they believe that some sort of new arrest order had been given to NATO troops last month to arrest Mladic and Karadzic. Can you comment on that?

A: I'm not aware that there was any new arrest order given to the NATO troops last month.

Q: Is there any consideration of expanding the authority of NATO troops to arrest war criminals?

A: The specific report you asked me about, as far as I can determine, is just wrong. There's been no change in our procedures, and those procedures are, first of all, the Dayton Accord makes it very clear that the formerly warring factions are responsible for turning in war criminals. Second, our job, because the detention of war criminals is an act of law enforcement, for law enforcement activities, our rules have been very clear from the beginning, which is that if we encounter war criminals in the course of our patrols we would detain them and turn them over to authorized law enforcement agencies. There has been no change in that rule.

Q: There's a report that General Sheehan is going to retire from the military come October. I wonder if you could give some confirmation as to whether, indeed, he's going to be leaving the Marine Corps.

A: I have not personally checked out that report. We'll find out for you.

Can I go back and answer your question? John Goodman is the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for industrial Affairs and Installations. As you can tell by that title, he's exactly the man who's qualified to examine these mergers or proposed mergers.

Q: Speaking of the last potential or one-time potential candidate for Chairman, where is the Secretary on that search? Has he spoken with anybody, or does he intend to deal with it... What are his plans over the summer?

A: He's spoken to many people, and he plans to have it completed this month, and assumes that an announcement will be made this month.

Q: A question for you on the federal court ruling yesterday on the "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" policy. First of all, do you have a general comment, and have you altered any part of your operating procedures as a result of this?

A: The first comment is that the Attorney General, Janet Reno, announced this afternoon that the Justice Department will appeal this ruling.

The second is, we have not changed our policies based on this single court ruling. Three courts of appeals, federal courts of appeals, have upheld the constitutionality of the law and the Supreme Court has denied petitions to consider the law twice. We are watching this case, obviously, closely, and we will challenge this ruling. But so far the constitutionality of the law has been upheld and we have every confidence that it will be upheld again.

Q: When the Judge writes in his ruling, "The Constitution does not grant the military special license to act on prejudices or to cater to them," that kind of language, obviously you reject that language.

A: This was one Judge ruling, as I said. Three courts of appeals and three circuits have upheld the constitutionality of the law and the Supreme Court has denied twice applications to consider the law. So this case will be appealed and will be argued like the other cases. So far the courts who have had a chance to consider... The appeals courts who have considered our arguments, have agreed with us.

I might say they also upheld the earlier law for the Pentagon procedures that existed before this law was passed. That had never been overturned definitively, so we will keep making our case. We think this policy is generally working. We try to enforce it as fairly as possible. I think we generally succeed.

In cases where problems have been called to our attention, we have looked closely at those cases and tried to make sure that the procedures are well understood and consistently enforced throughout the military.

Q: Do you know where the panel that is reviewing the overall policies of the different military services on fraternization, where that panel stands?

A: That panel, actually, has been incorporated into another panel. Last month we announced three actions. One of those actions was to look at the rules involving good order and discipline. We want to make sure that the rules are clearly understood and that they're enforced as consistently as possible throughout the military, and that they're, in fact, the right rules for the time. And the fraternization part is just a factor, an element of that broader study. I'll have to go back and look, but we actually set a deadline for a preliminary report from that review panel, and I think it was either in late August or early September, but I'll have to check on the exact date. So I guess it would be September sometime.

Q: I need to ask you about an Army general who's been in the news this week for inappropriate behavior. I'm referring, of course, to General Amos Halftrack who appears in the comic strip Beetle Bailey. [Laughter] He is heading for sensitivity training next week at the direction of his creator.

I just wanted to ask you, based on the fact that General Halftrack will be undergoing sensitivity training, does that boost his chances as a possible candidate for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? [Laughter]

A: The Secretary has not interviewed General Halftrack, so I have to conclude from that that he's not an active candidate.

As you know, the pool of candidates is defined by law and it's basically the service chiefs and the commanders in chiefs of the various area and functional commands such as the Strategic Command or the Special Operations Command or Atlantic Command or Southern Command, etc. I'm not aware that General Halftrack is among that group. I supposed if he did extremely well in his sensitivity training he could be named CINC Sensitivity, but I think that the process will be over and the name of the new Chairman will be well known long before General Halftrack completes sensitivity training.

Q: I just thought maybe since he was one of the longest serving generals it might... [Laughter]

A: Secretary Cohen is not going to recommend the longest serving general to the President. He's going to recommend the best general or flag officer to the President for selection as Chairman.

Q: Can you explain how Camp Swampy has escaped four rounds of BRAC? [Laughter]

A: Well, when a camp is based on quicksand, it disappears during every BRAC round and then reemerges when the BRAC Is over. That's my only explanation.

Q: The article by Jeffrey Smith about Administration concerns that the Russians aren't keeping their deal with us on nuclear cooperation with Iran. I believe Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Einhorn has said there's a discrepancy between the assurances of Yeltsin and the Russian activity. Specifically helping the Iranians be able to use their own indigenous uranium, thereby giving them the potential for unaccountable fissionable materials. Do you have any comment to this article?

A: I'm afraid I'm not going to be very satisfactory, but that's really something that the State Department should comment on. You might ask Nick Burns or Mr. Einhorn himself about that.

In general, we've made it very clear to the Russians that we believe that military assistance to Iran threatens them potentially. I think they agree with that. They have made various representations to us about controlling the flow of technology to Iran. I can't comment right now on where they stand. Some of these representations are open to interpretation. But it's really a State Department issue.

Q: Does the Defense Department, or this government, have the capability of tracking nuclear weapons that are in transit, either by satellite or otherwise? Can you say?

A: We have fairly complete intelligence capabilities and we do try to track a variety of weapons including nuclear materials should they be moving from one country to another or just within a country. But beyond that, I don't want to get into details.

Q: Nuclear weapons, you couldn't comment on ?

A: We monitor the movement of nuclear materials very carefully. That's one of our primary concerns today, so we are very concerned about the movement of nuclear materials.

Q: ...a warhead could be tracked? Is that what you're saying?

A: I think I'll just leave it where I left it.

You asked about the Pang Panel? The deadline is the 1st of October.

Press: Thank you.

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