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

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
February 29, 2000 2:10 PM EDT

Tuesday, February 29, 2000 - 2:11 p.m. EST

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Let me start with a couple of announcements.

First, on the terrible flooding in Mozambique, in South Africa, we estimate that the flooding in Mozambique has affected more than 500,000 people and that 105,000 are still in need of immediate rescue. We have a team, a so-called HAST team, which is a Human (sic) [Humanitarian] Assistance Survey Team, in Mozambique, in South Africa. It's been there since February 21st, moving back and forth between Mozambique and South Africa. And they have reported to us the needs for some materials, so we have two planes scheduled to arrive tomorrow, one in Mozambique and one in South Africa, bearing tents, blankets, food, rolls of plastic sheeting which can be used for shelter. And we will then, of course, decide if we can or should send other goods as well. That's one of the things the HAST team will be doing, reporting back on other steps that we might take if necessary.

So aid from the U.S. will be arriving tomorrow, and our team will remain on the ground reporting on the conditions. Sadly, the conditions keep worsening, and they're expected to worsen still because there are other storms coming along, according to the meteorologists in the area.

Second, I'd like to --

Q: Excuse me, while we're on the subject, Ken. Why not send in helicopters? Aren't they badly in need of helicopters?

Mr. Bacon: We've had no request for helicopters. But one of the things the HAST team will do is assess what the needs are. But there have been no request for helicopters at this stage.

I'd like to welcome 13 students here from the National War College, if you're still here despite the late beginning of the briefing. Welcome. They are military officers and civilians from several agencies.

Dr. Hamre, the deputy secretary of Defense, will leave for Europe tomorrow, visit Italy, Macedonia and Kosovo, the Netherlands and Norway. Obviously, he'll be visiting U.S. troops in Kosovo and doing diplomatic business in the other countries.

The secretary will be leaving for Texas on Thursday. He'll go first to San Antonio, where he'll address the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. He'll go to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio to review some housing modernization programs. And he will do a recruiting event with David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, and then go to Fort Hood, Texas, to review some of the Army modernization efforts before coming back on Friday.

Finally, the secretary of the Navy, Richard Danzig, announced today that he will name the 41st Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer the Pinckney in honor of Petty Officer Third Class William Pinckney (sic).

This is the last day of Black History Month. And Petty Officer Third Class William Pinckney (sic) was an African American who served as a cook on the USS Enterprise during the Battle of Santa Cruz, where he received the Navy Cross. The Navy has more information on that. But the 41st Arleigh Burke will be named after him.

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

Q: Ken, there have been reports from Europe that U.S. commanders in Kosovo have told the overall military command there that U.S. troops will no longer be allowed to go to Mitrovica. A NATO commander denied that in a hearing this morning. Could you fill us in on this, including the letter that the chairman apparently sent to General Clark, expressing concern about drawing down troops in the American sector in order to send them to Mitrovica?

Mr. Bacon: Sure.

First of all, there is no ban on American troops going to Mitrovica. In fact, we have some American troops there today, supporting a Greek company doing patrols in Mitrovica. I think there are about 18 or 20 Americans supporting the Greek company.

Second, the chairman has sent a letter to General Clark, reiterating the circumstances under which American troops would participate in so-called out-of-sector operations. And let me tell you what concerns the chairman and the secretary have. I think these concerns are shared by General Clark, as well.

Every country that is heading a sector force has sized its force in order to do the job that's necessary in that sector. And our force in our sector is of the proper size, working with other countries -- troops from Russia, Greece, Turkey and others in our sector -- to do the patrols and the monitoring and enforcement that's necessary in that sector.

The chairman's concern is that, if troops are sent into out-of-sector operations, that it will create vacuums in their home sectors and, therefore, increase the chances of mischief by either the Serbs or the Albanians in parts of the sector that don't have full patrols in them. So his concern is that each country man its forces appropriately to achieve the jobs that are necessary in their sectors.

And that is his primary concern, and that's what he expressed to General Clark.

Now General Clark, as you know, has made some recommendations to NATO, and NATO is in the process of processing these recommendations.

The recommendations have led to an analysis of what the proper force levels are in each sector, and whether those force levels are being met adequately by the nations in charge of those sectors. In response to this analysis last week, the French volunteered to send another battalion to their sector, which includes Mitrovica.

Now NATO is evaluating whether there are proper force levels in each sector. It's also looking at whether there are too many restrictions on the use of forces in each sector that restrict the commander of KFOR's ability to use troops in the way he thinks they should be used.

In his letter to General Clark, General Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, made it very clear that, one, he didn't want to draw troops out of the American sector and create vacuums there, and two, that he didn't think it was appropriate for troops to go into outer sector operations to make up for shortfalls in the receiving sector. In other words, it should be the primary responsibility of the countries in each sector to make sure that its forces are up to the right level and that other forces don't need to be called in to fill in for shortfalls.

There is a very extensive three-tiered reserve system set up by NATO and KFOR to make it possible for the commander of KFOR to call troops in. There are tactical reserves, operational reserves, and strategic reserves. And as you know, NATO has been studying the strategic reserve situation. The chairman in his letter made it clear that he felt that the normal reserve -- in-sector reserve should be used, first, to fill in for shortfalls or to meet extraordinary situations, and then moving forward up to the strategic reserves, if necessary.

Q: Is that letter available?

Mr. Bacon: The letter is classified, so it's not available for public release.

Q: So, just to understand this, American troops from the American zone are still free to go to Mitrovica in size components that went last week, but it has to be thought out more?

Mr. Bacon: Well, first of all, I started out by saying that there is no blanket proscription on American troops going to Mitrovica, and that is illustrated by the fact that there are American troops in Mitrovica as we speak here today. A small number.

The chairman made it clear that he doesn't think it's appropriate for American troops to go to out-of-sector operations on a regular basis to take up police work that should be done by the forces in those other sectors; that every sector should be brought up to its proper level of requirements, including military and, eventually, police, so that they can do the job that's there for them to do.

We have a job to do in our sector. We have forces that are adequate to perform the jobs in our sector. On an extraordinary emergency basis, obviously we will consider a request to move troops into another sector.

Q: Was the last go-around an extraordinary request?

Mr. Bacon: Yes, it was.

Q: It was.

Mr. Bacon: And let me tell you why. We had very specific intelligence that there was a movement of some weapons and possibly some people into Mitrovica and therefore, the KFOR commanders decided that it was appropriate to mount a special police operation, a search operation, to look for these weapons. That's, in fact, what we did. We send about 350 troops up there for a very limited mission, four or five days, to help other KFOR participants to complete the searches. When the searches were completed, we came back.

Q: And you got 26 weapons from this extraordinary threat?

Mr. Bacon: Well, I think that we got a small umber of weapons, but that's not the point. The intelligence was that we would find a larger number of larger weapons. We did not. So now you have to ask yourself why. Did we not find them because the intelligence was wrong? That's one possibility. Or didd we not find them because the intelligence was right but the fact that we mounted the search operation either prevented the weapons from flowing in or, when they learned that NATO was going to mount a fairly extensive house-to-house search operation they moved the weapons out?

Either way, I think we achieved the same goal, which was stability. We sent a message that we weren't going to allow unauthorized weapons to flow in, that we weren't going to leave unauthorized transport of weapons unchallenged, and that we were fully prepared to go in and search and stop weapons flows.

So I think we achieved the goal whether or not the initial intelligence report was correct.

Q: Did General Clark --

Q: (Off mike) -- when was this letter, just -- the letter --

Mr. Bacon: February 20th.

Q: Did General Clark request any permission to move the 350 U.S. troops out of sector? Was he under any obligation to request permission? And was the Pentagon and the White House informed in a timely manner of the plans for this operation?

Mr. Bacon: Yes, they were informed, I think in a timely manner, about the plans for the Mitrovica operation. And the letter itself is not a detailed letter that lays out a road map, it expresses general concerns. And I think I've relayed those general concerns to you.

Q: Our question was did Clark before he moved his troops out of sector to Mitrovica, did he ask the U.S. whether that -- did he need -- did he ask any permission for that, and if not, did need to ask permission?

Mr. Bacon: He informed the chairman and had concurrence.

Yes.

Q: Ken, did anyone on the National Security Council or anyone at the White House raise any objections to that after the fact?

Mr. Bacon: Well, I can't answer the question if anyone raised objections. Just let me tell you that it was understood that we had intelligence that pointed to a threat, and that we were responding to a specific situation.

Q: Well, I mean, why can't -- you want me to start at the top and go down and list every individual? I mean --

Mr. Bacon: You could do that, but it wouldn't be profitable. I'm only going to give you the same answer.

Q: Does this letter, does this --

Q: Is it -- excuse me. It -- so you -- it's quite possible then Sandy Berger or somebody else in the National Security Council raised objections with the chairman or Defense Secretary Cohen about the deployment of those troops.

Mr. Bacon: I think it was understood that these troops went to Mitrovica to satisfy a particular requirement. It was a short-term requirement. Their mission was short-term. They completed it in the time allotted and came back. The issue here is how often do we dragged into a situation where we have to perform out-of-sector operations that can diminish our ability to operate within our own sector and to perform the patrols that we have set out to do there. That's the issue.

And the chairman made it clear that on a day-to-day basis, he wants American troops to stay in their sector doing the job they were sent there to do.

Q: But does this letter lay out concerns --

Mr. Bacon: And this doesn't just reflect the chairman's view, I think this reflects everybody's view.

Q: Does this letter lay out concerns, or did it send an order to Clark, as commander of U.S. Forces in Europe, that forces will not be sent into Mitrovica or in other -- other than under extraordinary conditions and that they will have to get approval here before they do it. Is that in effect what the letter does, or does it simply express concerns?

Mr. Bacon: The letter, I think, says exactly what I said it said.

Q: Well, no, you used -- wait a minute. You used the term here that the letter relates to conditions under which troops will be sent. Does it lay out conditions or does it express concern --

Mr. Bacon: I think I've been very clear. The letter makes it clear that it's the preference of the national command authorities in the United States that American troops should do their job in the American sector, in the sector where they've been sent and where they've been told to patrol and to maintain order. That's what the letter says. It does not rule out beyond a shadow of a doubt -- it does not say troops will never deploy elsewhere. It makes it very clear that our troops should stay in their sector doing their job. Obviously, we are willing to support our NATO allies when appropriate, and appropriately today we are supporting NATO allies in Mitrovica.

Jim?

Q: In the future, will General Clark have to get approval from the chairman or from somebody else before ordering or approving the movement of U.S. troops from the U.S. sector to other sectors?

Mr. Bacon: Well, General Clark didn't move U.S. troops from the U.S. sector to Mitrovica without checking with the chairman. He understands the chain of command. He informed the chairman of what he was doing. This is a clarification of the chairman's views about what should happen in the future.

Q: But apparently he had the authority to do it on his own, and so the question is, is whether in the future he will have that same authority, or whether he will have to get further okay from somebody higher up?

Mr. Bacon: He understood that the chairman and the secretary and the national command authorities in Washington would want to know about an outer-sector operation, and he informed them of an out-of-sector operation. He will continue to inform them of out-of-sector operations, and we will continue here in Washington to make decisions about whether those out-of-sector operations are appropriate.

As I explained to you before, there was widespread understanding that this out-of-sector operation earlier this month and a week or so ago in Mitrovica was appropriate, based on the intelligence we had.

Q: So that would include the chairman -- he endorsed that operation? Is that -- ahead of time?

Mr. Bacon: Yes.

Q: If everyone was on board with this, why the letter? Why -- has Clark overstepped his bounds in sending these troops somewhere? I mean, what has raised the red flag that would elicit such an --

Mr. Bacon: Well, I don't think there's a question -- I don't think a clarification should be seen as a red flag.

Q: Why does it need -- why did they think he needs a clarification?

Mr. Bacon: I think you have to go back and look at the entire context of this operation here. The situation in Mitrovica stirred up a lot of concerns in NATO and among NATO members. And now the situation is calm in Mitrovica, and we hope it remains calm. One of the reasons it may be calm is because NATO did act quickly and aggressively, based on the intelligence that it had.

But Mitrovica, as Lord Robertson, the secretary-general of NATO, has said, is a wake-up call. And it's forced everybody in NATO to look at the procedures for dealing with extraordinary situations or intelligence that would require extra effort. And NATO itself is coming up with new ways of doing that, and I think that the chairman felt it was important for everybody to be clear about the circumstances which would govern U.S. participation or lack of U.S. participation in out-of-sector operations. That's what the letter does.

Q: Does the letter go to any other countries, so that they know not to call on those troops?

Mr. Bacon: No, it does not.

Bill?

Q: Another subject?

Mr. Bacon: Sure.

Q: Okay. Thank you. Mr. Bacon, could you comment on the purported article from the Liberation Army Daily that Mr. Gertz has published about, specifically that the Chinese, if confronted over Taiwan militarily by the United States, would target our -- take out our cities with long-range missiles, nuclear missiles?

Is there accuracy to the article -- from the Chinese in the first place? And is the Kitty Hawk going into that section?

Mr. Bacon: First of all, there is nothing in the article that suggests a change in Chinese doctrine. The Chinese have said, certainly since the days of Deng Xiaoping, that they do not have a policy of first-strike attacks; they will only strike in response to attacks. And there is nothing new in that article that changes that.

Second, the Kitty Hawk is on a standard long-scheduled predeployment or post-repair cruise. It's been under repair for the last six months. She is out testing her boilers and other things. She is southeast of Japan, not close to Taiwan. She has 10 airplanes on board, not the full carrier air wing by any stretch of the imagination. And this is a short-term, long-planned exercise that has nothing to do with the situation between China and Taiwan.

Q: Ken, did the Chinese make a threat of use of force against U.S. in this newspaper that I mentioned? Was that accurate, genuine, as far as you know?

Mr. Bacon: I said earlier there is nothing new in what they have said in that article.

Yes?

Q: Back to Mozambique for just a moment. You said there had been no requests for helicopters. If there is a request, is the U.S. likely to favorably consider that? And can you describe the logistical difficulty of moving even one American helicopter from Europe to Mozambique?

Mr. Bacon: Well, first of all, I can't predict how we are going to respond. We have not received a request. We have the HAST team there evaluating the situation.

Clearly, moving helicopters from the United States or Europe to Mozambique, or Eastern South Africa, is a long flight. We can move helicopters over long distances. I don't want to signal that we are about to, because we haven't gotten a request.

But I think we'll have to see what develops. It could well be much more sensible for us to help other nations in the area use their helicopters to do the same job. They could get there more quickly, they could be in use more quickly. And maybe we could support them with fuel or maintenance or something that would enable us to get there much faster.

Q: Are we in negotiations with the South Africans to help defray the costs and concerns that they apparently are having on precisely that issue?

Mr. Bacon: Well, I wouldn't say "negotiations." I don't know how specific our talks have been. But our support in the first place emerged from Secretary Cohen's visit to South Africa earlier this month, where he offered to provide water purification units, called ROWPUs [reverse osmosis water purification units], the same type that we sent down to Venezuela, because at the time, the biggest problem seemed to be lack of pure water.

The South Africans said that they very much appreciated that, but they were in the process of doing their own assessment of the needs in the eastern part of South Africa on the one hand, and Mozambique on the other. And when they finished their assessment, they came back and said that they didn't need water purification units, but what they needed was other support, principally tents. We're sending down bottles to hold fresh water and, as I said, the sheeting, blankets, food et cetera.

Now, we're continuing our work with the South Africans and with the Mozambicans to focus on what the needs are and what we can do. We are not the only country -- we may be the first country that offered support, but we're certainly not the only country to have offered support here, and now other countries are doing the same, and international aid organizations. So there will be, I hope, other -- there will be other support coming in.

Q: If your estimates are correct that there's 105,000 people who are in imminent danger at this moment, there's seven helicopters that are currently operating to rescue them. Does that appear to be an adequate number, just off the top of your head?

Mr. Bacon: Well, I would guess that if people are isolated by water, the best way to rescue them is by boat. It probably makes more sense to do that than by helicopter, so I assume that there are boats helping them as well. And I think that we are clearly aware of the problem and we are working with both the South Africans and the Mozambicans to find solutions.

Yes, Jim?

Q: Ken, does DOD have any reaction to the deaths of three German motorists, apparently at the hands of three young military dependents?

Mr. Bacon: Well, first, I understand now the number is two. There has been some confusion.

Secretary Cohen issued a statement about that, and I have nothing to add to the statement. He has spoken with his German counterpart, Minister Rudolf Scharping, this afternoon about an hour and a half ago to express condolences and his sadness over the event, and Minister Scharping was very gracious. He assured the secretary that that this would not have an impact on U.S.-German relations, which remain very strong.

Q: Could I -- as military dependents, are they afforded any special protection overseas? And does DOD have any responsibility in terms of any subsequent defense of those three young men?

Mr. Bacon: My understanding is that they are not covered by the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA. Dependents are not covered. It's active-duty military people who are covered, and it's my understanding that all of the accused have asked for court-appointed counsel. They will be tried, if there is a trial, in German courts, and that's according to the SOFA. And it looks as if they will be tried with German counsel, since they've asked for court-appointed counsel.

Yes?

Q: Has the secretary recommended to the president that Admiral Clark be nominated to the CNO job?

Mr. Bacon: Yes.

Q: And how far -- how much farther has it gotten, and what can you say about his qualifications?

Mr. Bacon: Well, first of all, I can't speak for the White House, but the secretary has recommended to President Clinton the appointment of Admiral Vernon Clark as the next Chief of Naval Operations. As you know, Admiral Johnson's four-year term expires this summer, and therefore, you have to start the process long ahead of getting somebody into office.

There were a number of highly qualified admirals in the Navy for this slot, and the secretary interviewed a number of them. And I think he chose Admiral Clark because he felt that he had a sterling record, that he has a very firm commitment to joint operations. Remember, Admiral Clark was the director of operations for the Joint Staff and then the director of the Joint Staff. But he felt that throughout his career he had displayed a commitment to operating in an integrated way with other services, and this is the way we operate increasingly.

And he also in the course of picking service secretaries, since service chiefs have four-year terms, and one of the legacies that Secretary Cohen will leave are the service chiefs that he's chosen while he's been here. He's looked for people who will bring innovative solutions to their service's problems and sort of look to building their services for the 21st century. And I think if you look at what General Shinseki is trying to do with the Army redesign, what General Ryan is doing with the Aerospace Expeditionary Force, if you look at some of the reforms that General Jones is bringing to the Marine Corps, he believes that Admiral Clark will fit into this pattern.

Admiral Clark not only has a strong commitment to jointness, but he has a strong commitment to streamlining Navy operations in a way that keeps the Navy the world's premier naval force while recognizing that it's becoming increasingly difficult to recruit people to operate ships, and therefore the Navy has to be more efficient in all its operations, not just in the way it deploys, crews the ships, and operates those ships, but also in the way it runs its day to day operation.

Q: When did he make the recommendation?

Mr. Bacon: He made it -- I would -- weeks ago, I believe. Several weeks -- at least several weeks ago.

Q: Could you give us the Defense Department's definition of "a Gulf War veteran"?

Mr. Bacon: "A Gulf War veteran"?

Q: Yeah.

Mr. Bacon: I can't give you a legal definition of "a Gulf War veteran". But -- this sounds like a trick question because it's so simple. (Laughter.) I find that the simplest questions, the simplest questions are the hardest to answer. So I'm not going to take a step down this path.

I will get you the legal, I'm sure multi-line definition of who "a Gulf War veteran" is. Why do you ask this seemingly simple question? (Laughter.)

Q: And that sounds like a trick response. (Laughter.) But recently --

Mr. Bacon: It's the IG response, not a trick response. (Laughs.)

Q: The reason I ask that is because there was some television show which we've all heard about in which a young woman who married a millionaire -- (laughter) -- claims to have been a Gulf War veteran. And there seems to be some dispute about whether she actually is a Gulf War veteran.

Mr. Bacon: Well --

Q: You know who we're talking about.

Mr. Bacon: I do. I do. (Laughter.) Who could not follow this -- (laughter) -- national television romance, or un-romance? I'm not sure how to characterize it. But -- well, we will get you the definition of "a Gulf War veteran" and then you can decide whether it appears to -- it applies to the formerly blushing bride or not. (Laughter.) And I'll let you make that determination.

Any more questions?

Q: Thank you.

Q: Yeah, there was -- on the chemical protective clothing issue which came up I think yesterday, Defense Logistics Agency said that they had no way to track them once they left their warehouses, the protective suits and clothing. Has there been any indication since the order went out into the field of where the suits went and whether there are any still in war stocks?

Mr. Bacon: We had a briefing on that yesterday, and I'll make the transcript available to you. Maybe you were there. I don't believe we know exactly where these suits are.

Now, as part of our Defense Reform Initiative we're developing focused logistics which will make it easier for us to track all these things with bar code readers, et cetera. So maybe in the future we'll be able to track every one of these suits just like Federal Express. But we're not there yet.

Q: Thank you.

Mr. Bacon: You're welcome.

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