DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.
I'd like to start the briefing today with a tribute to my colleague at the State Department, Nick Burns, whose last briefing was today. A lot of people ask what makes Nick Burns so good. Is it that he was a brilliant student? Is it that he's fluent in French, and therefore learned all the diplomacy of the French nation and history? Is it because he's a Middle Eastern hand who's fluent in Arabic? Is it because he's a Russian/Ukrainian expert who handled these accounts on the staff of the NSC? All of these are, of course, elements of his success, but I think the primary reason for his success as the State Department spokesman is that he grew up in Massachusetts with a passion for the Boston Red Sox. (Laughter) I also grew up in Massachusetts, although not near Boston, so my passion for the Red Sox is probably diminished by distance, but Nick's is not. It's direct and it burns brightly every day. But any passionate Boston Red Sox fan one, lives on hope; two, is experienced with dealing with disaster; and three, becomes very articulate at explaining why things didn't happen the way they were supposed to. All of those, I think, have served Nick very well. He's done a wonderful job. I wish him well in his new post as an ambassador.
Q: ...Chicago Cubs fan ex-spokesman?
A: Who knows? He, of course, followed Mike McCurry, and those were big shoes to fill; and Jamie Rubin is going to follow Nick. I don't know what Jamie's baseball passion is, if he has a baseball passion, but I'm sure he'll do a fine job at the State Department.
At any rate, I'd also like to welcome 25 students from George Washington University -- the next generation leadership program. Welcome to the Pentagon. Welcome to our briefing. If you have any good questions or suggestions, don't hesitate to ask or suggest.
With that, I'll take your questions.
Q: Could you bring us up to date on the Special Forces mission in Uganda and Senegal? The training operation that began...
A: Yes. As you know, under the African Crisis Response Initiative, we are going to train peacekeepers in Africa. Seven countries have volunteered forces to participate in a new African peacekeeping force. This is not a defensive force. It's a peacekeeping force.
We have deployed 60 Special Forces people over to begin training, and that began, I believe, this week and will continue until we train the complements of forces from all these seven countries. The first are, I guess they are Uganda and Senegal. That's what we're working on now. We will continue until we train all seven countries.
Q: What kind of tasks are they teaching or training the others to do, the Africans?
A: It's standard peacekeeping tasks -- how to deal with crowds of civilians, how to man checkpoints, how to set up operations, basic command and control, humanitarian skills. A lot of what we're going to be doing is working on creating interoperable units among these seven countries -- not all of whom have worked together in the past. The Special Forces have had a lot of experience doing that around the world. It's one of the things we as Americans and we as members of NATO have done very well in Bosnia, for instance, creating interoperable forces.
They will provide some compatible, interoperable, communications equipment so the forces will be able to talk to each other. We're working very closely with the OAU, the Organization of African Unity, to make sure that what we teach them is compatible with what the OAU foresees is the role of this peacekeeping force.
If you'd like sometime, we can bring somebody in here to talk to you about the training that we're providing under the African Crisis Response Initiative, if there's interest in that, because this is actually a rather important program to try to create an indigenous peacekeeping force in Africa that can move quickly from crisis to crisis and we hope alleviate some of these problems.
Q: Do you know what the total cost is?
A: I'm afraid I don't, but I can try to find that out. You want the total U.S. cost?
A: We'll try to find out what that is.
Q: Who are the other countries?
A: Ethiopia is one. I don't have a list of all the countries. We can get that for you, though.
Q: How many battalions or how large a force are they planning on training?
A: I think it's going to vary from country to country. Countries are putting in various amounts of forces. I think Ethiopia is actually contributing a fairly large number of people to this force, but we can get you the exact figures on that.
Q: There are 60 that have arrived total in Africa this week? Or there are 60 in Uganda and some more in Senegal?
A: I believe that we've sent a team of -- a total team of -- 60 over to begin the training. That's my understanding. And this team or a replacement team will then move on and train in other places.
Q: The Pentagon's position on the Senate amendment to elevate the National Guard Bureau Chief to a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?
A: Secretary Cohen has sent a letter to Senator Thurmond, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, opposing this. We'd be glad to make a copy of that letter available to you if you haven't gotten it already.
Basically, we believe that under the total force concept that now governs our services -- in other words, where the Reserves and the Guard work together hand in hand with the active duty forces -- that the Guard and Reserve are well represented by the members of the Joint Chiefs already. In other words, the Chief of Staff of the Army can represent the interests of the Guard and Reserve as well as the active duty force.
I think the total force concept has proven itself to be very workable and very important, both in the Gulf War and now in Bosnia as well. There are certain specialties such as civil affairs that exist primarily, and perhaps only, in the reserves these days. There are other support, I think civil affairs is one, public affairs is another that have largely been taken over by the reserves. Reserve units moved in to perform public affairs functions in Bosnia. Mail handling is another -- sorting letters and delivering them to the troops is another that's done largely by reservists.
Q: One of the reasons why (inaudible) the amendment is they say the National Guard was not given a strong voice in the QDR -- they were cut out. Does the Pentagon have a position on whether or not the National Guard Bureau was given a fair shake in the QDR?
A: I think the concerns of the National Guard have been well heard and well considered during the QDR process and after. As you know, there were some disagreements between the active Army and the National Guard and there was an off-site meeting held at Secretary Cohen's direction, and I believe that produced a plan that the Guard supports. I think they feel they've been well heard. But the main reason for opposing the addition of a four-star person to represent the Guard is, as I said, we already have a total force concept and we think it's working well with the current arrangement of the Joint Chiefs. This letter from Secretary Cohen to Senator Thurmond, as I said, is available to you and you can get it from Colonel Bridges at DDI.
Q: Dr. Hamre's confirmation hearing is scheduled for Thursday. I was wondering if you could tell us whether or not he plans or is willing to kind of use that as an opportunity to make the Department's case that it really is counting on additional base closures, changes in depot maintenance laws, etc., etc., to come up with the funding to actually execute the Quadrennial Defense Review? Or is this kind of a done deal for the year and does the Pentagon plan to just cut its losses and either find another way or wait until next year?
A: We continue to explore ways to achieve another two rounds of base closings. The Secretary was in Alameda, California, yesterday looking at facilities that have been closed under earlier BRAC rounds. He was very impressed by the way businesses had moved in and created new jobs in the Alameda/Oakland area.
It's important that we continue with base closings in order to realize savings. As you know -- probably more than most because you've studied this -- initially, of course, base closings cost us money. We realize the savings in later years, and that's why we have to start soon, so we can get the costs over with and start realizing the savings in the out years to begin paying for the new procurement that we need for modernization.
We're still working on this. I can't tell you whether Dr. Hamre plans to use this hearing as a platform to make that case. My suspicion is that he'll spend most of his time answering questions posed by the senators. He'll make a brief opening statement expressing his humility and sense of honor that he feels for being named to this job, and being able to work closely with both members of the Senate and with Secretary Cohen, more closely than he does already as Deputy Secretary of Defense, and then stand open for questions.
Q: The GAO has issued a report which says the Pentagon has not done all that should be done or that it can do to protect U.S. troops overseas. What's the Pentagon's reaction to this?
A: First of all, the GAO report does state that the Pentagon has done a lot. And it says, "Many deployed U.S. forces are better protected today from terrorist attacks similar to the one that occurred at Khobar Towers." It recognizes, I think, that we've made considerable progress on force protection in the last 13 months since the Khobar Towers attack.
Let me say, first of all, that there is no absolute, complete level of force protection. We recognize that. More can always be done. We have done an enormous amount in the last 13 months. We will do an enormous amount in the next 13 months to perfect force protection and make it as strong as possible.
We will take the advice of anybody who gives us good advice -- whether it's the GAO or anybody else -- on ways we can improve force protection. The Secretary has made this a top priority; General Shalikashvili has made it a top priority; you've been briefed on force protection initiatives that we've taken since Khobar Towers.
We realize, as the GAO pointed out, that there is no absolute level of force protection. You can never say we've done enough. We've done everything we can do. You can always do more.
Specifically, the GAO makes a number of recommendations and we concur with four out of five of those recommendations. The one recommendation we don't concur with involves the recommendation that we adopt very detailed, prescriptive security standards such as the State Department has. The reason we do not believe that's appropriate for the Pentagon is, first of all, our force protection mission is much more complex than the State Department's -- in that they're basically protecting embassies and some houses. We have to protect airfields. We have to protect staging areas. We have to protect hospitals. We have to protect headquarters. A much wider variety of installations than the State Department has to protect.
Secondly, we believe that because of that variety, that prescriptive standards may be more harmful than helpful. We have already issued a whole series of standards for commanders that involve setbacks, building standards, installation protection standards, guarding standards, sentry standards, etc. But basically, it's the commander that has to look at all these standards, look at the intelligence, look at the installation he or she is responsible for, and decide what best to do to protect those installations in the face of whatever intelligence threats the commander sees.
We have, as you know, taken the Downing Commission report of last year, which had I think 26 basic recommendations, and we divided those into almost 80 separate force protection recommendations -- 79 in all. The Joint Staff has completed 78 of those. We expect to complete the 79th by the end of this month. The 79th recommendation is that we provide special protective vests that are appropriate to very hot weather conditions. We're in the process of doing that now.
Q: Secretary Cohen met this morning with the Secretary General of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party. Do you have anything you can report?
A: I'm afraid I don't. I'll try to get a readout for you on that, but I don't have a readout.
Q: Do you know when a replacement for Dr. Kaminski is going to be named?
A: I hope soon. Somebody's been selected for the job and we're in the process of working through the clearance.
Colonel Bridges has given me figures for the African Crisis Response Initiative. The cost in fiscal 1997 is $15 million, we estimate; and we have requested $20 million for fiscal 1998. Right now the plans call for training eight battalions and we are discussing possible participation by other countries beyond the seven. We actually have deployed 120 troops from Fort Bragg, that is 60 each, to Senegal and Uganda. So the training teams are 60 each going to these countries.
Q: Can you shed any light on a decision apparently made by the United Arab Emirates to purchase 80 F-16s?
A: I'm afraid I can't. There's been no official announcement by the UAE on that, and I think we have to wait for them to announce whatever their decision is.
Q: Chinese naval maneuvers. Taiwan says they're nothing to worry about. Beijing says they're the biggest since 1964. Does the Pentagon have an assessment of whether these are just routine or if these are, in fact, larger than we're accustomed to?
A: I haven't reviewed Taiwanese naval maneuvers going back to 1964,,,
A: Mainland Chinese maneuvers going back to 1964. I know they are carrying on very extensive maneuvers now. We've stated our case many times, our position, that we have a one China policy, and we expect a peaceful resolution of disputes between Taiwan and China. We have urged both sides not to take provocative acts that would complicate the long march toward a peaceful resolution of their disputes.
Q: General Shalikashvili's in Central or South America. Can you tell us whether or not it's on his agenda to discuss the Latin American arms policy? It seems to be coming to a head.
A: I'm not aware that the President has made a decision to change the arms transfer policy. I'm sure it will come up in discussions with individual countries down there, and I'm sure the President will listen closely to the information that the Chairman brings back from his trip. But a final decision to change that, as you know, there has been a lot of debate about it, there's no secret about that, but the policy right now remains unchanged.
Q: Has Secretary Cohen had a chance to read the Khobar Towers report? And if so, is he going to announce his decision this week or next week?
A: Probably next week, towards the end of the week, I would guess. And yes, he has read it and he continues to review it and to work on it. I would hope there will be a decision next week.
Press: Thank you.