Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.
Before we get started, I just wanted to welcome 30 Air Force public affairs officers from around the world. They're here for a week-long course which is designed to improve skills in leadership and knowledge about how to manage their public affairs activities at the base or wing public affairs offices that they come from, and we welcome all of you.
I have two announcements. The first one deals with flight safety. I know this has been much in the news. We're still in the process of compiling our flight safety statistics for FY97, but this has been one of our safest flying years on record since we began keeping statistics back in 1958. We estimate that the accident rate will be 1.5 per 100,000 flying hours, which is a rate basically unchanged over that of the previous two years. We expect to release the final DoD Class A accident rate in early November when we have the actual flying hour figures in from the field.
These preliminary statistics are based on projections. As I say, we're accumulating the data now which will give us the actual rates.
The final figures are in on the number of destroyed aircraft from all causes -- both on the ground and in flight. The number has dropped to an all-time low of 55. That's down from 66 in the previous years. Fatalities also have dropped from 108 to 70. That's the second lowest ever. In 1994, we had the lowest number of fatalities, 68.
I just want to remind you that Secretary Cohen on this subject said, about the 17th of September, "Perfection is impossible, but that perfection is our goal for aviation safety. Every member of our aviation community is working for zero accidents. The lives of our air crews and passengers are very precious, and each loss is a great tragedy."
The other announcement that I would like to make is because of cloud cover at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico last night, the MIRACL test did not take place.
We had also attempted a test of MIRACL on Saturday night, but because of some technical difficulties, that test also did not take place.
The data is currently being evaluated to determine if there are any other opportunities to conduct the experiment in the satellite's remaining lifetime, but there is some question that there will be any further opportunities.
With that, I'll try and answer some of your questions.
Q: I wanted to ask you a question about the espionage case that's arisen this week. On the matter of security clearances for Squillacote and Stand, who I understand worked for the Army, do you have any information about whether any questions were raised about their background, or whether they were given the standard background checks and so forth in the security review?
A: I have to be somewhat limited in what I can pass along, but I will say a couple of things. First of all, it's standard practice for the Department, in situations like this, to do a review of all of the aspects of processes and procedures that were followed in connection with individuals who worked in the Department who are subsequently charged with activities like these individuals. That review is being done, and the goal is, of course, to find out two things. One, what might have occurred in this case, if there were any unusual circumstances that resulted in the individuals being granted security clearances. And secondly, to see if there need to be any changes in the process that we follow in these cases.
The situation with Mrs. Squillacote was that she had a Secret security clearance. Just for your information, what is normally required for a Secret clearance is what is called a records' check. That is to say a review of government agency records that would indicate if there were any previous allegations or activities that might impact on the ability of the Department to grant a security clearance.
I want to differentiate that from a Top Secret security clearance which would involve what is called a background check. In a background check there are individuals from the Defense Investigative Service who actually go around to individuals who have worked with people, who know people, who have some knowledge of their activities over many, many years, and develop kind of a profile of the individual.
In this particular instance, in Ms. Squillacote's case, she had a Secret security clearance, but not a Top Secret.
Q: How does the criteria for the examination of one's background differ between someone getting a Secret clearance and someone getting a press pass? There are records checks on both. Are they approximately the same?
A: Frankly, I don't think I can answer your question. I just don't know enough about what kind of review is done on somebody getting a press pass. We can take a look at that and see if there is.
Q: I'm just curious if there's any difference.
A: It's an interesting question. I don't know the answer. We can see if we can shed any light on that.
Q: Just to be clear here, you're saying in the case of this employee that no background check was conducted because it wasn't necessary for Secret clearance? Just a records' check.
A: A records' check would be the normal situation with an individual who is granted a Secret security clearance.
Let me make the distinction here. I should refrain from talking about this specific case because this one is now in the hands of the Justice Department and the courts. But I can tell you in general, individuals who have a Secret security clearance have gone through a records' check. Individuals who have a Top Secret security clearance go through additional steps which include a number of interviews with individuals with whom they've been associated over the course of their lifetime.
Q: In general, then, can you tell us the difference between what kinds of material, generally speaking, someone with a Secret clearance would have access to, as opposed to somebody with a Top Secret clearance?
A: The names imply the kinds of materials they have access to. Individuals who have Secret security clearances have access to some information that is considered Secret. Individuals who have Top Secret, have access to Top Secret information.
But it goes a little further than that, because it is incorrect to say that an individual with a Top Secret security clearance has access to all Top Secret information. It is Top Secret information that they have some need to know in the course of carrying out their duties. The same would be true of a person with a Secret security clearance.
Q: Are there other levels of clearances on this scale, or are those the two... Is there a double Top Secret and less than Secret?
A: There are NATO classifications. There are also levels of compartmented information where individuals must be read into various programs, but I'm not going to get very specific about all of that.
Q: On the case of Stand, who worked for the Army for a time, he had previously been "security disapproved" by the CIA when he applied there. Shouldn't that have been picked up, or was anyone aware of that?
A: I can't answer your question on that one. I'm sure that will be part of the review that is ongoing now, though.
Q: What sort of clearance did he have at the Army?
A: I don't know what kind of a clearance he had. My guess is he had some kind of a security clearance, but I don't know for a fact what he was given.
Q: It's my understanding that not just the Pentagon but federal agencies in general, before this case came forward, were working on re-working the whole security clearance issue. I know there's a Security Policy Board that's made a lot of recommendations. Can you discuss that at all? Has there been kind of a review of the whole process?
A: Over the years there have been a number of revisions to the approach to security clearances. The most recent one that I am aware of did several things. First, it reduced the total number of people in the Department of Defense who were granted security clearances. Second, it required individuals, once they are granted a security clearance, to go back for a review on a periodic basis. I believe the basis is every five years, the individual must be relooked at to see if one, there is any requirement for the security clearance; and two, to see if there's anything in the record of the individual that would be a problem in continuing with that level of clearance.
Q: Does that go for both civilian and uniformed?
Q: Is there any sort of a day-after assessment as to the amount of damage done to the Defense Department, that might have been done from the kinds of documents that one of the defendants was trying to pass? Even though she was passing it to an FBI agent.
A: I think that you need to talk to the FBI on this. It's really their case.
Q: They're your documents.
A: The one thing I can say about the documents was that they were passed to an FBI agent. They were at the Secret level. They never fell into the hands of a foreign government.
Q: Were they potentially damaging, or information that would compromise national security in any significant way?
A: I believe that you need to talk to the FBI on their assessment of how they characterize this information. I'll just say that it was classified as Secret. And the FBI considers this a very serious matter.
Q: Do you know how many people, in the past how many employees in the Defense Department have been arrested for espionage activities?
A: No, I don't have the rundown on that.
Q: Have there been any changes made at the entryways to the Pentagon in terms of inspecting bags leaving the building as a result of comments that this woman apparently made, how easy it was to take stuff out of the Pentagon?
A: Not as a result of what this woman did. There have been some changes made over the course of the last couple of years regarding periodic checks that are done, but I am not aware of any changes just as a result of anything that she has said.
Q: Can you give us anything on the documents, even generically? Was it weapons' data? Was it planning documents that she was providing?
A: I can't give you any details on that. I think you're going to have to wait until this gets a little further along in the courts.
Q: Iraq. Can you give us, now that it's several days later, the official reason for why the NIMITZ is rushing toward the Persian Gulf? Is it Iraq? Is it Iran? Is it what?
A: I think the Secretary addressed this in Paris the other day. What he said, and I would like to quote him, "I'd like to clarify several press reports on the issue. I recently accelerated the deployment of our aircraft carrier USS NIMITZ to the Arabian Gulf by five days. I did this to send a signal to Iraq that the coalition is serious about enforcing the no-fly zone over Southern Iraq. As I explained to Minister Richard, the deployment order cited only Iraq. It did not refer to Iran."
Q: Has Iraq been violating the no-fly zone with impunity lately?
A: What I will say on that is that there have been violations of the no-fly zone by Iraqi aircraft, but that the coalition continues to enforce the no-fly zone and we will do so in the future.
Q: That sounds like a contradictory statement. You say they're continuing to violate it and the United States continues to enforce it. No planes are getting shot down. How can you square that?
A: I think you need to go back and take a look at what the purpose of the no-fly zone is. The no-fly zone is designed to keep the Iraqi aircraft in check. I think the signal of the aircraft carrier going to the region and the constancy of our flights over there make it very clear that the Iraqis are very restricted in their ability to carry out flight operations. If they do carry out flight operations they risk getting shot down. We've done that in the past. We stand ready to do it in the future. But I'm not in any position to predict if and when that will occur.
Q: How many violations of the no-fly zone have there been in the last week? And can you describe any of them and how they were... When they were...
A: I will describe them as primarily just skirting the no-fly zone. I'm not going to get into a play-by-play on where and when they occurred. I don't think that is productive.
Q: I understand the latest one that I read about happened either last night or this morning involving two Iraqi planes in the southern no-fly zone. Can you give us any details on that incident as an example of what we're talking about?
A: No, I'm not going to get into any details on the incident.
Q: Can you describe for us, apparently some of these aircraft have landed between the 33 and 32nd parallels in the no-fly zone.
A: I'm just not going to get into any details about what the Iraqis are doing. I'm just going to make it very clear that the coalition continues to enforce the no-fly zone and the Iraqis need to understand that.
Q: What are the terms of the no-fly zone? That no aircraft can fly period? Whether...
A: That Iraqi aircraft may not fly in the no-fly zone. That's it.
Q: You said the Iraqis have continued to violate... There have been violations. Can you give us any sense of quantity? How many...
A: No, I'm not going to give you a sense of quantity. There have been several.
Q: The NIMITZ at this point is still at least several days away from the Gulf.
A: Enroute, right.
Q: Enroute. We also sort of forget sometimes, there are significant numbers of Air Force aircraft in Saudi Arabia, and I think there's an AEF in Bahrain who are currently policing the no-fly zone. Has the U.S. asked these host countries whether or not we have their permission to use these aircraft to shoot down aircraft that are violating the no-fly zone? If you remember, last September that was a problem in OPERATION DESERT STRIKE. Saudi Arabia, and I'm not sure if Kuwait as well, but there were some problems there, that we couldn't get permission to actually launch offensive operations.
So A, have we asked them for permission? And...
A: But Bryan, I think you're making a distinction here that may not exist. We're talking about enforcement of the no-fly zone. We're talking about enforcing a zone that all of the countries in the area are well aware of. I am unaware of any objections that have been raised regarding the enforcement of the no-fly zone which remains in place and which we continue to enforce.
Q: It's sort of an open green light, you mean? The permission is there for these Air Force aircraft to shoot down planes that violate the no-fly zone. Is that correct?
A: The mission is there for us to fly flights that are going to enforce the no-fly zone.
Q: The B-1 extension, the two B-1s that are in Bahrain, was that also signed off on by Secretary Cohen, or was that an Air Force decision just to extend the training mission?
A: I believe it was a conscious decision to extend the B-1 for...
A: Well, let me take that question and see if I can find an answer on that one.
Q: Why are you reluctant to detail the Iraqi air movements?
A: I don't think I want to help the Iraqis know what we know about their movements. I think that it is counter-productive for us to delineate exactly when they fly, where they go, what we know about them. And some day when we're writing the history of this thing we may want to get into it, but right now I don't want to do that.
Q: You haven't been reluctant in the past.
A: I have been reluctant in the past. (Laughter)
Q: Can you tell us anything about the rules of engagement that American pilots are operating under in this area now? Have they changed? Is there some time limit that if an Iraqi plane comes across the line that it has a certain number of minutes to go back before it's engaged, or...
A: First of all, we don't get into specifics on rules of engagement, but they're robust, and they certainly allow the pilots to enforce that no-fly zone.
Q: How many Air Force aircraft are in the area?
A: Let me see... I'm not sure I brought that with me, but let me just see if I have it in the cards. I'm sorry, I don't have that. But we can get that for you.
Q: There are more than...
A: We can get you a ballpark figure.
Q: There are more than 100 Air Force combat planes in the area. Why do you need the aircraft carrier? Why do you need that additional...
A: I think it was determined to be a very prudent move given the situation in the area at the time.
The aircraft carrier, by the way, was scheduled to deploy to this area. It moves it up five days.
Q: Why the rush?
A: I think it was because of the overall situation. It was just determined that it was going to be a prudent thing to do.
Q: Are these Iraqi planes committing these violations because U.S. planes aren't in position to do anything about it? Or are they committing these violations because U.S. planes are in position but have been told, or make the decision themselves not to do anything about it?
A: I'm not sure that I can answer your question. You're asking whether it's because we're not there or because we choose not to shoot them down?
A: I'm not sure that I can answer your question.
Q: Can you get us an answer?
A: We'll see what we can do on that one. I'm not sure we want to answer that question just yet.
Q: Part of this whole issue also involves Iranian aircraft, as we all know. Is the U.S. confident that if Iran violates the no-fly zone, we would have permission to shoot them down, too?
A: Part of the overall equation was the fact that the Iranians had made a run over there. I think Secretary Cohen made it very clear that that was not part of his thinking.
Q: Can you clarify whether the no-fly zone in any way implies that restrictions in airspace applies to Iran?
A: As Ken Bacon mentioned last Tuesday, it's a matter of individuals who fly into the no-fly zone and do so at some risk to themselves.
Q: But the risk is of being accidently shot down?
A: That's the risk.
Q: Do you have any reason to suspect that what Saddam is doing is testing international reaction to violations of the no-fly zone now that he's got the justification of responding to Iranian cross-border attacks?
A: I would hesitate to ever do any thinking for Saddam Hussein. I think anybody who's made an attempt to do that has gotten into trouble, so I leave you to your own speculation on that one.
Q: Has the no-fly zone been enforced round the clock, or is this a daylight operation?
A: Primarily daylight.
Q: So we're not enforcing it during the evening, is that what you're saying?
A: I'd say primarily daylight which is the primary time that the Iraqis also fly.
Q: So the violations have been in daylight as well?
A: For the most part, yes.
Q: What's your assessment, the Pentagon's assessment right now of the Iraqis' integrated air defense system? Is it up and running from where it was before DESERT STRIKE or is it still in a depleted status?
A: Let me get somebody who can really talk about that. I'm not sure I'm prepared to answer that one at this point, either.
Q: Are there any changes in the way the no-fly zone has been enforced, either in number of sorties or perhaps in the way U.S. planes currently there are enforcing the no-fly zone? Or is it just business as usual?
A: The numbers have gone up. The numbers of sorties have gone up.
Q: In the last two days or the last five months or when?
A: The last week.
Q: There's some concern by people in this building that the situation could deteriorate further during the Iranian naval exercises that are planned.
A: We're always conscious of activities that are going on, but we don't anticipate anything in that regard.
Q: Are the French still flying in the no-fly zone, patrolling the no-fly zone in the...
A: To a certain area, but not as far as up as we recognize.
Q: Have there been any instances if Iraqi radars illuminating American aircraft?
Q: Have you seen any other activity on the ground -- troops out of garrison, troops moving south, equipment moving south, any of those many myriad of indicators -- that indicate that there's more activity in Iraq in the last few days?
Q: Has the Defense Department become aware of warnings given by Mr. Marc Perron, the Canadian Ambassador to Mexico, about the security threats to Mexico and the United States coming from the extreme corruptions in Mexico? Has this been heard of here, and do you have any comment?
A: I heard that story this morning. I think that is one best left to the Canadians to handle.
Q: Back on those safety figures, this decrease in the number of aircraft destroyed and the decrease in the number of fatalities, has there also been a decrease in flying hours?
A: There has been a decrease in flying hours, but the rate takes that into account.
Q: I understand that. But what has been the decrease in flying hours?
A: We'll have to get that for you. I don't have the flight hours here. I just have the rates here.
Q: Also on numbers, you said the number of sorties had gone up in the past week over the southern no-fly zone. Can you give us any figures?
Q: How about a percentage increase?
A: We'll see if we can give you some feel for it without giving you exact numbers.
Q: On another subject, the laser test. Is there something more you can tell us about how confident you are that they can do this again?
A: I don't know that the confidence level is very high. That's why they're taking a look at the data to see if there is another possibility. Right now there is nothing else scheduled.
Q: If you do determine that they cannot do it, what happens with to the MIRACL laser? Is there a plan B? Is there another satellite up there?
A: As far as I know at this point there are no further tests involving this satellite, or any other satellite which are scheduled. But the MIRACL laser is a laser that has been tested in the past and will continue to be tested in the future in a variety of ways. I don't have their projected experiments, but this satellite, the one which we have been talking about, the Misty 3, over the last few weeks, there is some question as to whether it will function much longer.
Q: Can you explain in layman's terms why the window of opportunity of doing this test appears to be closing? I know you said the satellite is losing power from the batteries, but doesn't it have solar collectors and... Why is it the window is shutting so fast?
A: It has to do with not only the power, but also the fact that the orbit is such that it cannot be used in this kind of an experiment except for very small windows when it is in the correct position near White Sands. Or over White Sands.
Q: Are you saying the test has been scrapped or what?
A: I'm saying that we, first of all, have not been able to conduct the experiment. We're looking at the data to determine if there are any other opportunities, but at this point we don't know the answer to that.
Q: So maybe?
A: That's a maybe.
Q: What was the technical difficulty that prevented it over the weekend?
A: It has to do with a software problem during the laser startup, and the laser could not be recycled in the very small window which existed to conduct the experiment.
Q: The last year or so I think, Misty 3, a similar situation where it was in orbit, where it's power was getting drained and they were able to revive it when an inclination with the earth changed. Are they waiting for this to happen again in like six months' time?
A: I don't think it's that long. I think they anticipate a answer in the near term as opposed to six or eight months out.
Q: They're not looking at recharging the batteries, they want to see if they have enough power to do this now as it is?
A: That's my understanding.
Q: Back on the no-fly zone. Have these violations occurred in both the north and the south?
A: There have been some in the north, but primarily in the south.
Q: To what extent is the U.S. patrolling the northern no-fly zone? Haven't the Turks put some restrictions on those flights because of their own cross-border operations?
A: The no-fly zone in the north is being enforced, but you are correct. There is some activity involving the Turks. We coordinate with the Turks, though.
Q: Does that mean our planes, U.S. planes, are patrolling the northern no-fly zone?
A: Our planes still are active in enforcing the northern no-fly zone.
Q: Are they patrolling the northern no-fly zone?
A: Yes, they are patrolling the northern no-fly zone to enforce the northern no-fly zone.
I have one piece of information. There are 120 U.S. aircraft in Central Command's area of operations. This includes approximately 20 aircraft deployed with the Air Expeditionary Force.
Q: Do we still have Air Force aircraft in Turkey, in Incirlik or...
A: Yes, we do.
Q: Can you give us a readout on what the Department's involvement was in the President's decisionmaking about the line item veto? A number of members of Congress were complaining yesterday that they weren't given any opportunity to justify or make a case for their projects for the White House, and their understanding was that the Pentagon wasn't asked about its position on any of these...
A: We provided technical information. The technical information was limited to the ability to execute the project. It had to do with whether the project had actually been designed or not. There is a form which is required on any kind of project like this, an engineering form, which is actually assembled by the service, and those forms were provided to the Office of Management and Budget. But we did not see the list before it was actually made public.
Q: And the Department wasn't asked for any recommendations then?
Q: Earlier this year when Secretary Cohen went over to the Hill and testified about the so-called plus-up issue, he made the statement, as did Secretary Perry the year before, that if they were to add money they should add money for programs that were already on the Pentagon's books and just accelerate them.
Q: A large number of these programs are exactly those cases. But didn't Secretary Cohen mislead Congress?
A: No, I don't think so at all. I think what it got down to is the President had to make a decision. That decision had to do with deficit reduction. He made it based on information that he had available. He outlined what his criteria were. It had to do with which projects could be executed, which projects were in his original program, and which projects impacted on the health and welfare of men and women in uniform. It was a tough decision. He made the decision and we certainly support the President in that regard.
Q: Just to follow that, those projects that are in the FYDP, the Department intends to go ahead with at some point.
A: That's correct.
Q: Isn't it fair to say that they'll probably end up costing more because they've been delayed?
A: But the program did not have them in this fiscal year. The program had them in some subsequent fiscal year.
Q: But if the Congress obligated the money, won't the projects end up costing more if they're built in two, three, five, whatever years, than they would have cost had they been built in 1998?
A: I couldn't speculate for you on how the cost data is going to come out. All I want to point out is these projects were not in the original budget.
Q: One more. On Thursday's subject, you mentioned that General Sergeyev was allowed to do some inspections at STRAC Headquarters in Omaha.
A: No, he wasn't allowed to do inspections. He was briefed on how we go about handling the security of our nuclear weapons.
Q: Oh, I see. So there is no agreement between Russia and the U.S. to actually inspect weapons that are in storage on either side, is that correct?
A: There are other regimes that allow a certain amount of that, but what you're talking about and what I was talking about last Thursday has to do with the fact that General Sergeyev asked for the Strategic Command commander during his upcoming visit to Moscow to receive a briefing on how they do it and make some sort of an assessment. This with an eye toward being able to reassure the public that indeed they do have a program which protects the security of their nuclear weapons, which is as good as that that exists for the United States.
Q: Could General Habiger ask to inspect, look for certain types of weapons that we have some questions about?
A: I can't tell you the details about what he will feel like he needs to do to satisfy himself, but I think we need to let the visit occur and see what his assessment is.
Q: Can you give us a rundown on the role of the White House Communications Agency, and whether or not they do taping of so-called political events...
A: I think you need to talk to the White House counsel's office on that subject. They are the ones that can give you a full rundown.
Press: Thank you.