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DoD News Briefing, Thursday, May 14, 1998

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
May 14, 1998 2:15 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

I'd like to begin by welcoming Cathy Bell who is a political and defense reporter from New Zealand. She's part of a USIA-sponsored program from the Dominion in Wellington, New Zealand. I would like to point out that she and Susanne Schafer and maybe one or two others -- Tammy -- were actually covering the Secretary's testimony on the Hill yesterday. So she's already done a fair amount of work. [Laughter] And I actually saw that there wasn't a report on this on ABC, but there were reports in other media.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: Can you tell us if Admiral Prueher is going to Indonesia with a delegation?

Q: I was just wondering if he was going to be on Seinfeld tonight, or...

A: Admiral Prueher?

Q: Yeah. Is he going to Indonesia or...

A: You put your finger on the story, that he's postponed his trip in order to appear on Seinfeld. No. One, Admiral Prueher is not going to appear on Seinfeld, and two, he has postponed his trip to Indonesia. As Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth explained on the Hill today, the conditions did not seem appropriate for the trip. The disturbances have increased in magnitude, so there were some problems about whether he could achieve access to the places he needed to get access to. And secondly, there were questions about whether he'd be able to see the right people in the government in light of President Suharto's return today from Cairo.

Q: Was the United States in contact with the government there or the Indonesian military? And what was their reaction to his plan to go?

A: This was a decision made primarily upon the recommendation of our ambassador to Jakarta, Stapleton Roy, one of the most experienced ambassadors in the diplomatic corps. He felt that the time was not appropriate for a visit, and we took that advice.

As you know, the State Department just announced an ordered departure of Americans from Jakarta -- from Indonesia -- which means that non-essential government employees and their dependents will leave and the State Department is currently investigating the possible use of chartered aircraft to get Americans out of Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia now. That will be worked out by the State Department as soon as possible.

Q: Is there any chance that a military aircraft might be used?

A: I think that's unlikely at this stage. Generally, chartered aircraft are used in situations like this, but we are working with the State Department. It's their call. We respond to their request to provide protection and support as necessary.

Q: Rolf mentioned that one reason why Prueher wasn't going was because of problems getting in from the airport. What if there are problems getting out from the airport? Would that then increase the chance that the military might use helicopters...

A: I think it's premature to speculate right now, but we are working closely with the State Department to take whatever action they deem appropriate to carry out the ordered departure. But I would expect that this would be done primarily by commercial charter aircraft or commercial scheduled aircraft.

Q: Is there anything being put on standby or moved?

A: Not that I'm aware of.

Q: Will you keep us posted if an ARG does move?

A: We will keep you posted to the extent we can. We've just started our discussions with the State Department today. I think this afternoon was the first round of meetings with the State Department about the situation over there, and what our contingency plan should be.

Q: What would have been the purpose of a trip by Prueher? Was there a particular message that the Administration wanted to...

A: He would have gone over there to reinforce the government's call -- the American government's call -- for restraint by all parties in Indonesia -- the military, the police force, students, and other demonstrators.

Q: Has the group of special operations personnel left Indonesia that were involved in the training exercise?

A: Yes, they have left.

Q: Are there any DoD personnel involved in the non-essential departure?

A: I don't know how big our military mission attached to the embassy is. I'm sure there will be certainly some dependents, and maybe some DoD personnel as well, but I don't have facts on that now.

Q: Do you have any round figures on how many that means from the State Department?

A: There are between 10,000 and 15,000 Americans in Indonesia now. We don't have a precise fix on that. We believe most of them are in the Jakarta area. There's a large U.S. business presence in Jakarta. Obviously, there are some tourists in Bali and other places. Indonesia is a favorite tourist attraction because of its natural beauties and historic temples. But the State Department will be gathering more precise information.

I do not have a fix on the number of U.S. government employees in Jakarta or other parts of Indonesia. The State Department would be the source for that information.

Q: This only covers the U.S. Government employees and their families?

A: The State Department has already issued a travel warning urging Americans not to visit and the implication is that those who are there, private citizens who are there, might want to start coming out. I assume that many people are leaving on their own already because I've been informed that all the seats are booked out of Jakarta now. My guess is that many people have already started to depart on their own.

Q: Will there be any coordination with other countries?

A: In the past we have coordinated when appropriate. I don't think we've reached that stage yet.

Q: Are there any U.S./Indonesian military programs that are being either scaled down or set aside during this period other than the special forces?

A: First of all, we had rather limited military-to-military relationships with Indonesia. One of the programs we did have were these JSET programs, combined training programs, that were basically set up for the benefit of our troops to help U.S. forces get to know how other forces around the world operated and to build military-to-military relationships. What Secretary Cohen canceled was a JSET program that was in the works, it was supposed to have lasted all throughout May, it started May 1st. Those people pulled out. There were about 17 people there. More were expected to go in this week, and of course they were stopped from going in. There would have been about 100 people there in all, and they would have been practicing some parachute operations and other things, working with the Indonesian military.

What they had done until the end of last week -- through the end of last week -- was classroom training. I believe that classroom training was completed on Friday and then they came out on Saturday. All other programs have been suspended and they'll be subject to a case by case review.

I think when a country is in considerable turmoil, it's not a good time to be carrying out normal military training programs with that country. They're distracted, and wouldn't be helpful to us. Our message that we've delivered through military channels, through diplomatic channels, from the President on down through political channels, is that they should show restraint and it appears appropriate for them to begin a political dialogue in order to resolve the clear political problems that they're facing in Indonesia today.

Q: There were six more scheduled this year. Do you know when the next one was supposed to start?

A: I don't know, but it's not really relevant because it's not going to happen. But we can find out, we can get a schedule for you on what was planned.

Q: The India nuclear tests, now that there's been a little time passed since those explosions, can you tell us anything about what these five nuclear tests tell us about India's capability, how far along the program is, what type of weapons it appears that India is trying to develop?

A: I don't think it's worthwhile for me to get into that. India has spoken about its own nuclear program. They're the best source of information on it. We're continuing to evaluate the information we have gotten and will continue to get.

As you know, there's a general intelligence overview taking place under Admiral Jeremiah now of events leading up to these tests, but for now I think we need to wait and complete some of the analysis we're doing.

Q: What about the prospect of Pakistan possibly having its own test in the next couple of days, perhaps weeks. Are you in a position to monitor that?

A: Yes. We are in a position to monitor any activity that takes place in that area, but we've made it very clear that we hope Pakistan will forego nuclear tests and take a positive and bold step to reduce tensions in the Indian subcontinent rather than to increase tensions as India has done.

As you know, Deputy Secretary of State Talbott and General Zinni are on their way to Pakistan. They're supposed to arrive this evening to make that case personally to Pakistani officials.

Q: Are there any signs on the ground that Pakistan is preparing to conduct a test?

A: I think you've been able to read what Pakistani officials have said in the press, and I'll just leave it at that.

Q: article that says that the Indians have tested small atomic devices that could be missile mounted or artillery propelled, etc. Can you make any comments, all the way up to hydrogen type fusion devices. Can you make any comment about the utility of what was tested?

A: I think that's a clever way of asking the same question I didn't answer from Jamie. The fact of the matter is that what they've done is destabilizing on the Indian subcontinent. Any development of a nuclear weapon by India or Pakistan is going to increase the arms race. I think we're already seeing that that's happening and we believe will make the area less stable rather than more stable. Less peaceful rather than more peaceful. We think this is going in the wrong direction. We've been very clear about that.

Q: Is there any indication that production and possible deployment of these types of weapons was tested?

A: If you look at both India and Pakistan, it's clear that they're working on delivery vehicles as well as things to deliver. I think I'll just leave it at that.

Q: Do you have any evidence or any idea who has aided the Indians over the years in their nuclear program? Russia? Has the U.S. given any aid?

A: I don't believe we have. I'll have to check further on exactly where the...

Q: As far as Russian aid?

A: I didn't say that. I'll have to check further the facts on that.

Q: A logistical question on General Zinni in Pakistan. How long do you expect them to remain in country?

A: I think they're going to be there a relatively short time, a day or two at most.

Q: Why is General Zinni part of that group?

A: First of all, General Zinni has been to Pakistan a number of times. He is a military officer who is responsible for that area of the world in our organization of commands, is well known to officials, military officials in Pakistan. He's developed a good relationship with his counterparts there. I also think he will be able to discuss the military implications of an unbridled arms race in that area of the world. So he's going there because he has contacts, because he's interested, and because he's knowledgeable.

Q: Will there be any discussions on F-16s with the Pakistanis as a way to help them, encourage them to not...

A: The President has made it clear that he thinks that the Pakistanis should be repaid for the money that they've already invested in the F-16s they didn't get. The law makes it impossible for us to provide the F-16s now, and if they go ahead with a nuclear test I think there will be even less congressional support for helping to resolve this F-16 problem with Pakistan.

Q: Has Secretary Cohen been on the phone with any of his counterparts, either in India and Pakistan or in Indonesia?

A: I'm not aware that he has, no. I know he's talked to Admiral Prueher fairly regularly, and Admiral Prueher is the military commander who's responsible for Indonesia and India.

Q: Secretary Cohen is scheduled to give, I guess, a somewhat major address this weekend on the anniversary of the desegregation of the armed forces. Can you tell us, will he be proposing any new initiatives, policies, or programs or anything in that speech?

A: That's a good question. I have not read the speech yet, but we will try to get you a copy of the speech early if we can. This is a very important commemorative moment because it did lead to the integration of the armed forces and President Truman's order. We believe that the armed forces has been a model for the rest of society in integrating people of all colors and races and providing equal opportunity for people irrespective of race. He'll certainly be talking about that. I'm not aware of any new initiatives now, but I'll find out.

Q: A couple of weeks ago I think CBS did a piece on saying that there was a problem with the number of African Americans who were receiving promotions. Will he be addressing that issue at all? Can you comment generally about whether or not there's a problem with the promotion rate for African Americans...

A: First of all, that particular story dealt only with one level of promotion, and that's the promotion from lieutenant colonel to colonel, as I recall. What it said was the promotion rate of whites in the last promotion round was about twice what it was for African Americans. That event was of extreme concern to the Army, to Secretary Cohen, and to Deputy Secretary Hamre. The Army has gone back and reopened all of the files of the African Americans and I believe the non-African Americans as well, to try to learn what their career path was that took them up to the point where they either received or were denied promotion, to see if there are any differences in their assignments, their training, their mentoring, etc., that could explain this difference.

We regarded this as an aberration in a military that works very hard to provide absolutely equal opportunity to everybody. We regarded clearly as a matter of great concern and it's one that we're working very hard one, to understand; and two, to correct. We want to make sure that there's not a pattern that begins very early in a soldier's career that might deny people of some race the command opportunities or career opportunities that would be necessary conditions for their promotion to O6 or full colonel level.

There have been reviews also of other services to make sure that their career paths are equal, provide equal opportunity for people of all races. As I said, the Army and the Secretary of Defense and the Deputy Secretary are very concerned about this. Under Secretary deLeon has been working on this as well, to see if there's a systemic problem that needs to be fixed here.

Q: But would there be any change in the... Does this review hold any potential for change in that advancement list?

A: First of all, it holds no potential for change in the people who have already been chosen for promotion. I don't believe that list will be reopened. The question is how do we prevent this... If it's a systemic problem that's likely to happen again, what steps can we take to make sure that we don't get these disparate promotion rates between blacks and whites? And as I say, that means going back and looking at what happened to people as lieutenants and captains, how they were trained, how they got into the service, what sort of mentoring they received, what sort of assignments they received, what sort of education they received, to make sure that everything is scrupulously equal throughout. If we find that there is some disparate experience early in a person's career that tends to prevent African Americans from getting the types of assignments they need for future promotion, we want to correct that. If that is just a question of changing assignments, if it's a question of changing training, if it's a question of the types of specialties that people go into and that leads them more quickly to dead ends later in their career, we want to make sure that we understand what's happening and try to correct it.

Q: Are you also looking at the people who make those selections? Could it be that all things are equal, but that there may be potential bias on behalf of those who are...

A: We don't think that's the case, but certainly that would be extremely disturbing if it turned out to be the case, but we don't believe that's the case at all. We think what we're dealing with here is we're dealing with perhaps some structural problems early in a person's career, and that's what the Army and Under Secretary deLeon are looking at.

Q: You said you viewed this disparity as an aberration . How do these rates compare to historical rates?

A: This was a much greater gap, difference than has occurred in the recent past. That's one of the reasons it stood out so dramatically.

Q: Is the goal equal opportunity or equal outcome?

A: The goal is equal opportunity, but to have equal opportunity you have to have it at every stage of the career. What we want to make sure is, that that in fact exists.

Q: To be clear, when you were answering Susanne's question, are you saying then that you haven't found any evidence of overt racial discrimination, but rather that there's some much more subtle factors that might be influencing the outcome?

A: I didn't say that we found subtle factors. I said we were looking for institutional problems or glitches that may be able to explain this one particular disparity in promotion rates between African Americans and Caucasians. So I'm not saying there are subtle problems here. We're looking at what the explanation is right now.

Q: But you haven't found any evidence of clear racial discrimination?

A: To the best of my knowledge we have found no evidence of clear racial discrimination.

Q: On the removal of the remains today at Arlington, have all of the nine families involved in it, who have potential, people who might be identified as the unknown, have they agreed to DNA testing yet, or have they even been queried yet on whether they would agree to it?

A: My understanding is, the last I checked on this which was late last week, that eight of the nine families have said that they would provide samples, if asked.

Remember, no one has been asked to provide a sample yet because as was explained to you a week ago here by the officials from the Central Identification Laboratory and also from the Armed Forces DNA identification operation out in Rockville, they have to go through a series of steps before we reach the point of asking people to provide DNA samples. The first is getting the biological report that the anthropologists do at the Central Identification Lab, and then the people at AFDIL, the Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab, have to get a DNA sample from the remains. We have to make sure that we can get a good sample before asking people to provide samples of their own. If we don't get a good sample, then it stops.

Q: Any update yet on how long this might take...

A: I think people last week estimated that it would take from 90 to 120 days at a minimum to complete the process. Nothing has changed that yet.

Q: Can you tell us which family didn't...

A: I think I'd rather not right now. What we found here is that as people begin to understand the process and understand the goals of the disinterment better, that their views have changed. So I think we should let today's event sink in, the importance of it and the goal of it, and hope that everybody will understand what we're trying to do and support it.

Q: The issue of COSCO, the Chinese shipping company came up again in the House, in the National Security Committee's markup of the authorization bill. Congressman Hunter moved to strike the President's ability to waive the restriction on the transfer of Long Beach to COSCO on national security grounds. His argument was that the Secretary never made the report to Congress that was required on whether COSCO is a national security threat.

I recall the date that you all did some kind of report on that, but maybe you can...

A: First of all, this topic may have recently emerged in Congress but it hasn't emerged in my briefing book. What I can tell you is there were extensive briefings by naval intelligence to members of Congress last year. We provided briefing charts and papers to them. Whether that could be called a formal report or not, I don't know, but we certainly did brief them on what our views of the COSCO situation were.

I felt that we were very forthcoming and that we made an effort to go up and talk to everybody who asked for information on this. I'll go back and double check if there was some formal report that we sent or didn't send as well.

Q: Hunter seemed to indicate that it was supposed to have been a formal report that they have not been given. It took people by surprise.

A: Well, it's conceivable that he didn't like the briefing he got or he didn't feel that it met the letter of what he thought the requirement is, but I'll go back and double check on that.

Q: Back to Indonesia. Is there an ARG anywhere in the area that could be moved in if things take a decidedly bad turn? Is there an ARG within...

A: I don't believe there is, but I'll double check on that. Obviously we're not going to hide an ARG. If we have an amphibious ready group in the area, we'll tell you it's there, but I am not aware that there is one in the area now.

Q: Back to Indonesia and Pakistan for a moment. In addition to the national technical means that might be used to monitor activities there, are you using any aircraft to conduct surveillance of either country?

A: I think you can be sure that we're using our full array of assets, and I don't think I'll go beyond that.

Q: Does that include any U-2 flights?

A: It includes whatever assets we believe are appropriate to employ.

Press: Thank you.

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