Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. I've got a couple of announcements here.
First, about Guatemala and the fires down there. The U.S. Southern Command will deploy today four helicopters and 21 personnel to help the government of Guatemala fight forest fires there. You can get details from DDI, but there are two Blackhawks and two Chinooks going down with special firefighting equipment to help. They will be there for several days at least. This is being paid for by the State Department's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. It costs about $500,000, we estimate.
Second, Secretary Cohen has designated the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command as the executive agent for conducting joint warfighting experiments within the Department of Defense. This new responsibility will start on October 1st. This is in response to congressional suggestions that we have a central agent to conduct joint warfighting experiments which, of course, are becoming an increasingly important part of our training. So the current Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Command is Admiral Gehman, and he will assume that responsibility.
We have, actually, for you a charter of the USACOM Joint Warfighting Experimentation Center if you'd like to look at that. You can get that from DDI.
With that, I'll take your questions.
Q: , you conceded in a deposition that you released information on Linda Tripp's personnel, or from Linda Tripp's personnel, or you authorized release of that despite the Privacy Act. Do you think that that's grounds for you to resign? Was that an illegal act?
A: Well let me answer that question. I'm probably not going to be able to tell you as much as you'd like to know because, as you know, the entire incident is under investigation by the Inspector General now, and that investigation still has some time to go so I'd rather not comment on any particular details until that's complete.
I'd like to correct one inaccuracy in the Washington Times story which is the assertion that I released or leaked Linda Tripp's personnel file. I want to be clear that nobody at DoD released Linda Tripp's personnel file. The issue here is whether it was appropriate to answer a reporter's question about how Linda Tripp answered one question on an application, about a matter of public record, and as I say, the IG is currently looking into that, and I think I'll defer further comment until the IG completes its work.
Q: But you did answer that question. You said the issue was whether to answer this reporter's question about one question on the form. You don't deny that you authorized the release of the information.
A: I was involved in a decision to release that information. The issue about the Privacy Act -- I at no point made a determination whether or not that release was prohibited by the Privacy Act or how the Privacy Act applied.
Q: According to the story you checked with others on whether or not it would violate the Privacy Act. What did they say?
A: I think we'll just wait until the IG investigation is complete. There's not anything more I can say about this.
Q: Have you been reprimanded by the Secretary about this at all?
A: I've had extensive discussions with the Secretary about this, and I think I'll just wait for the IG investigation to finish.
Q: He said he still has full confidence you as spokesman for the building?
A: I'm here. The Secretary's view is we should let the IG do her work.
Q: Do you owe Linda Tripp an apology?
A: In retrospect, I'm sorry that the incident occurred. I'm sorry that I did not check with our lawyers or check with Linda Tripp's lawyers about this. But the details of this will be sorted out by the IG.
Q: Did you offer a resignation to the Secretary?
A: I think that I'll leave my conversations with the Secretary private.
Q: Can I just clarify one other small point? When the information was eventually released, this one... Was it released officially? Was it a response to a query in the sense that any other reporter who then subsequently asked you the same question would get the same answer, or was it released on some unofficial background basis?
A: I think all of that will become clear in the IG's report.
Q: Did the White House direct you to release that information?
A: Absolutely not. That's been one of the major misconceptions, I think mischievous misconceptions about this, but I spoke with nobody outside of this building and nobody outside of -- nobody -- no superior inside this building or outside this building, about this incident until after it happened.
Q: You said you're sorry that you didn't look at the Privacy Act, in hindsight. Does that mean that it was a violation of the Privacy Act to release information about someone's arrest history?
A: That's exactly the type of information that the IG will be looking at.
Q: Are you confident that the IG report will eventually exonerate you?
A: I'll just let the IG do its work and we'll see what happens.
Q: When this question came up, was this typical of the kind of decision that you make in your job all the time in terms of whether to release information and put information on the record? Is it just one of hundreds of decisions like this you make all the time?
A: It's typical that I respond to reporters' inquiries all the time. I think I'll let the IG's report speak for the circumstances under which this decision was made.
Q: Can you give us an update on Tripp's employment?
A: She remains an employee of the Department of Defense.
Q: Still under that program where she...
A: The flexi-place, right.
Q: When is that being reviewed?
A: Well, it's reviewed from time to time. I can't remember when the next review period is.
Q: Do you still personally review that?
A: I have never personally reviewed it. It's always been reviewed by somebody in my office.
Q: Who does that now that Mr. Bernath has moved out?
A: Doug Wilson.
Q: Is her work still up to standards, as far as you're concerned?
A: She's been spending most of her time, as any newspaper reader knows, cooperating with the Office of the Independent Counsel, which is allowed under the flexi-place agreement.
Q: What percentage of her work day, work week is...
A: I'm not prepared to get into percentages.
Q: When you were deposed, was it your understanding that that testimony would be kept confidential?
A: I find that... One, I had no expectation that it would be kept confidential. In fact I had every expectation that what happened was going to happen.
Q: Have you retained counsel, Ken?
A: I have. But I did that some time ago, long before this incident occurred.
Q: Was it explained or suggested at the time that this information would be made public?
A: I've been around long enough to know how the world works.
Q: Without getting into the particulars of the investigation, can you shed any light on why you allowed it to go out, given that you had thought about privacy concerns?
A: I think that's the type of thing I'll leave to the IG to sort out.
Q: It was reported that four U.S. generals have visited Cyprus recently. May we know the purpose of this visit?
A: A U.S. general went to Cyprus?
A: I believe a U.S. general went to Cyprus the last time Mr. Holbrooke was there. As you know he's the special emissary looking for a solution to the Cyprus problem. He frequently travels with military representatives on his team. For instance when he was negotiating the Bosnia peace agreement, General Wesley Clark frequently traveled with him. As you know, later today General Clark will be here to talk about Bosnia. He did have a major general from the European command accompanying him on his latest trip to Cyprus.
Q: I was told that Turkey and Israel were developing a new antiballistic missile system, and that Arrow program with DoD approval. Is it correct?
A: I don't believe we've received any information from either Turkey or Israel that that's the case. Our arrangement with Israel is that they would have to request permission from us in order to engage in a joint program with another country. They have not sought such permission.
I think that we've made it clear in the past, though, to both Turkey and Israel that we encourage strategic cooperation and that theater missile defense might be one area in which they would cooperate, but we have no evidence that they are.
Q: DoD and DoS legal experts claim that the U.S. participation in the Turkish/Israel alliance is illegal, citing the U.S. noted to the point that the contracting party named Turkey against the territorial integrity of your ally Greece. Could you please say something if that is true. And if Greece is entitled to obtain a copy of this agreement, including the classified parts, in order to avoid any misunderstanding from this alliance.
A: First of all, I'm not aware that there is an alliance between Turkey and Israel.
Q: How do you (inaudible)?
A: I think they've cooperated in one joint exercise and they've agreed to discuss areas in which they can cooperate together strategically, but I'm not sure that constitutes a formal alliance. That's something that they would have to answer that I'm not prepared to answer.
Q: As far as your participation, how would you describe?
A: We participate with a range of countries in the area in military exercises. We have strong defense relationships with Greece and with Turkey and with Israel and with Egypt, and a number of countries in the Mediterranean area, and we have tried to maintain those relationships in a productive, even-handed manner.
Q: Different subject -- on missile and satellite exports. You know, now that this whole issue has come up about the role of various government agencies in approving the exports of commercial satellite equipment and missile technology, I was just wondering if Secretary Cohen had expressed to his policymakers in the building any wanting to have a review of DoD's role in the approval process, whether he wanted to have -- whether he was satisfied on the level of participation by DoD? Does he want to review it and have their role expanded, have them a greater voice in it? Has he said anything about wanting to improve DoD's role in the export control process?
A: I'm not aware that he has expressed concerns about that. The fact of the matter is that we do have an opportunity to comment on license applications, and we have in the past insisted successfully on changes or conditions to licenses that we believe protect our interests.
Q: It seems in this case, the national security apparatus, in this building at least, was overruled. So does that maybe lend itself to some review of the process here?
A: Well, I think that this is a very complex issue and I think you've conglomerated a number of parts of it into one question. The current issue before Congress and before the public begins in 1996 with a failed launch and comes up to the present day. We have been -- this government -- the United States government has been approving satellite launches by China since at least the Bush Administration. This isn't something new to the Clinton Administration. There is an excess of demand to launch satellites. There are more satellites to be launched than can be launched from this country, and therefore they are launched in other countries, China being among them.
I think that, though, if you go back to starting in 1996, there are a series of very separate issues. Some of those issues are now under review by the Justice Department. I don't think it's fair to say that we were overruled in all respects. I just listed one license application in which we achieved the conditions that we thought were necessary to protect the national defense interests. The question of what happened in 1996 is what's under review by the Justice Department now.
Q: Can you say what technology the Pentagon did not want to see go to China?
A: No, of course not. That's exactly the type of thing the Justice Department is looking into.
Q: When a U.S. company is allowed to send one of its satellites to China for launch, does the Pentagon play a role in, I don't know, escorting that satellite or providing any sort of security to make sure that...
A: We have observers at the launch site who watch the entire process. Exactly what sort of surveillance or monitoring they do, I'm not prepared to say, but we do have monitors on the site.
Q: Do they prevent, for instance, any sort of dismantling of the satellite or reverse engineering? Are there safeguards to prevent that...
A: My assumption is yes, but I don't know that for a fact. I don't know exactly the chain of custody of the satellite, but I assume that there is a chain of custody.
Q: When there is a failed launch, as there was in '96, what role does the Department play in recovering the components that may have survived the...
A: I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that question.
Q: Is it possible that some of those components might be in Chinese hands now?
A: My sense is that that's not the issue. The issue is what happened during a post failure review. But as I say, this is exactly the set of facts that the Justice Department is looking into and it's really up to them to comment.
Q: Do you have observers during all of the contacts between these contractors and the Chinese military?
A: That again is one of the issues the Justice Department is looking at but yes, I believe there are supposed to be observers in certain cases. Now whether it's all the cases, I don't know. But certainly in some enumerated cases there are supposed to be observers.
Q: Can you clarify the legal implications of this a little bit for me? If a contractor were found to have given China information it was not supposed to have, are there penalties for that contractor in terms of winning future contracts possible, or is it considered an individual kind of issue and individuals would be prosecuted?
A: I can't answer that question. That's more a question for the Justice Department.
Q: In a more broad sense, does the Pentagon ever try to hold contractors accountable if they hand technology over to our possibly hostile...
A: I think that's the issue before the Justice Department right now. That's what the legal process does, decide if people should be held accountable. If so, for what? And how?
Q: But there are mechanisms for doing that, if necessary.
A: Yes. But you asked me a specific question about corporate liability versus personal liability, and I can't answer that question.
Q: What is the status of the OSD/IG investigation into Army Major General Hale?
A: It continues.
Q: No change?
A: Well, it hasn't stopped.
Q: Has it gone to anyone, the Secretary for review, or the Deputy Secretary? Is it done being reviewed? Is it being written now?
A: I think I'll leave that up to the IG to describe it as not complete. I'll put it that way.
Q: Yesterday Secretary Cohen said there had been no decision made on the departure time scheduled for the INDEPENDENCE from the Gulf. Meanwhile the commander of the ship has told his troops that they'll be home on schedule at Yokuska, and the time is nearing when the ship would be departing if it sticks to its original schedule. Can you give us any more clarity on what's going to happen with that aircraft carrier?
A: No, I cannot. This is part of a broad decision about force levels and deployments in the Gulf that will be made by the President. I can't say anything about that now.
Q: If there's no decision made, will the ship just leave on schedule?
A: I'm confident that this will be resolved in time.
Q: Has a meeting with the Secretary and the President been scheduled yet, for the next couple of days?
A: Let's say that everybody's aware that a decision has to be made by a certain time and it will be, I'm certain.
Q: What is that certain time? What is the deadline?
A: I think the INDEPENDENCE has to leave next week, early next week in order to stick to her schedule.
Q: It was recently reported that the Department of Defense will start stockpiling vaccines for biological weapons. Why now?
A: First of all, we made a decision to do that some time ago and there was a contract issued last fall to a local company to begin the process of stockpiling vaccines. There was a fairly long list of vaccines that were laid out. I think we issued a news release on this in November, on November 7th, last year.
We've done this as part of a very broad force medical protection plan. The most publicized part of that plan is the decision to vaccinate the total force for anthrax that Secretary Cohen announced last year, and of course we've already begun with the forces in the Gulf. But there are other parts of that plan that range from creating better protective clothing, better detection devices for biological agents, and also beginning to stockpile vaccines that would be necessary to protect our troops from various biological threats, and some of these threats are smallpox, Q Fever vaccine, and there could be a range of other vaccines that we'll look at in the future if they can become developed and pass the FDA screening techniques.
But this is a military program and it's one that got underway last year with the award of a contract.
Q: So it is distinct from the story in the Post today about doing that for the civilian population?
A: I'm not going to comment on what the President will say tomorrow at his widely anticipated address at the Naval Academy. The Post story did talk about civilians. I'm talking about people in the military. The contract that we let last year dealt only with the military, and it was designed to stockpile a variety of vaccines for the military.
Q: About the anthrax, the single facility where it comes from which is being renovated and is not producing, as I understand it, anthrax vaccine at the time. I know you have said that DoD has enough anthrax vaccine to do the whole force in the Gulf, but ultimately you want to do everybody else. I wonder what your stockpiles of anthrax are now. Could you -- do you have enough to do them, or would you have to wait...
A: There are several million doses, I think maybe as many as seven million doses already available. I don't have the exact figures, but we can get those. We have enough now to do what we need to do.
The vaccination process takes 18 months and it involves six shots. There are 2.4 million people in the active and reserve military. Obviously they won't all be vaccinated at once, and there will be rules about people who are about to get out, may not begin the vaccination routine, etc. But those details are being worked out.
We're confident that the combination of the stockpile we have now, much of the stockpile has been rechecked and rechecked for purity, sterility, potency, etc. The combination of that existing stockpile and the productive capacity, we anticipate that we will be able to meet the needs.
I do not know for a fact that that plant is still closed. I know it was closed for some pre-scheduled maintenance in January, I believe. I don't know whether that maintenance has been performed or not, but we can find that out.
Q: It was a long renovation that was going to take some months...
A: Well, of course some months have elapsed since January. We can get the facts on that. But we have looked very closely at the combination of the stockpile and the projected productive capacity.
Q: Are you talking about anthrax or the...
A: I'm talking about anthrax.
Q: Can you elaborate, for us, on how the stockpile works? For example, are these vaccines now disbursed around the country at various military bases so that there's easy access if there was an attack in a particular part of the country? Is that contemplated?
A: I think that there will be some forward positioning of vaccines to fit various threat profiles. I'm not sure we're there yet. The contract that we let last year was a $322 million contract to begin stockpiling a list of vaccines, and the first tranche was for $25 million, so this is clearly something that's going to take -- the first tranche was less than 10 percent of the total -- this is clearly something that will take some time.
There's still a lot of scientific work that has to be done in a number of these vaccines in terms of developing them and achieving FDA approval. And that's part of the task that the company, which is called Dynport Limited Liability Corporation took on.
Q: But the Pentagon is putting a network in place, if you will, all over the United States where, presumably, vaccines might be made available.
A: I don't know the details of that, but tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 o'clock we're going to have a background briefing. Three generals will be here to answer precisely that type of question. They can talk to you about anthrax, they can talk to you about the vaccine program, and they can talk to you about other protective steps that are being taken.
Q: When you said (inaudible), you do mean domestically, though?
A: Our troops don't fight domestically, they fight abroad, so my guess is that we would look at some combination of domestic stockpiles and foreign distribution centers where we would keep troops -- near where our troops are.
Q: Is there any necessity for that place that's going to be producing the anthrax to get the contract done first for the military before there's any effort to make vaccine for the civilians?
A: That's a legal issue I can't answer. We have clearly dibs on a pretty long production run. I don't know how other demand would fit into that.
Of course the anthrax vaccine has been used by veterinarians and others in the population for decades. This factory has been producing vaccine for many, many civilians who used this, as well as some military people -- special forces and others who may need this vaccine -- long before we made the decision to start vaccinating people in the Gulf.
Q: When will inoculations of other troops outside of the Gulf begin?
A: That's something we might have more on in the next couple of days.
Q: Can you update us at all on the progress that's been made in implementing the announcement you made, I guess, late last year about creating special units in the Guard to assist law enforcement in response to chemical and biological... Is that anywhere near actually happening?
A: Yes, it is, and I anticipate the President will have something to say about that tomorrow, and I anticipate the background briefers will have something to say about that tomorrow as well.
Q: If they were to give vaccinations to civilians, who would be the first civilians to receive the vaccinations?
A: Well, I think you can appreciate that I haven't quite mastered all the facts of the military vaccination program so I'm a little hesitant to venture out into the civilian side. That's really something you should ask the White House or HHS.
Q: Reaction to the house actions on mixed gender training?
A: Well, first of all, it's only the House action, and Congress has not completed work on the Defense Authorization Bill or on the mixed gender training provisions. Secretary Cohen, President Clinton and others have said that they believe it's most appropriate to leave how training is done up to the individual services.
As you know, three services have chosen to have men and women train together in basic training, and one service has not. Each service has made that decision because they think it best fits their deployment needs and their training requirements, and Secretary Cohen believes that we should give the military that flexibility.
The Kassebaum Baker report made a whole series of recommendations, many of which were designed to improve the quality of training, and one set of the recommendations dealt with recruiting, with doing a better job in recruiting, training, and retaining and rewarding drill instructors. Another had to do with changing the way people were recruited into the military in the first place. Another set of recommendations had to do with improving the physical training standards for both men and women in the military. And we are adopting -- the services pretty much have adopted all of those recommendations. I anticipate we'll have a report on sort of a wrap-up of the Kassebaum Baker program relatively soon, sort of laying out for you where the services stand on those.
Q: Another House action-- an impending action -- is language in the Defense Authorization Bill to choose a backup contractor for THAAD. I was wondering if you can give us the Pentagon's position on that.
A: Well, first of all, it's one of the issues we're looking at ourselves. We are looking at ways to strengthen the THAAD program and one of the options is to bring in another contractor. That's under very active consideration right now. And I think that when push comes to shove we'd like the flexibility to run the program we think is best. But, given the problems that the program's had, we certainly think that another contractor might be one way to go, so we don't disagree with the idea of possibly naming a backup contractor or second contractor in the program.
Q: You mean a second second contractor, as opposed joint work?
A: Well, I think, the details would have to be worked out, but obviously we're looking at ways to improve the work that's being done by the current contractor and also the possibility of bringing in a second contractor.
Q: Can we return for just a second to the Hale IG report? When that is completed and when it has been delivered to the Army and I guess the Secretary of Defense, is there a plan to release it? What is the plan?
A: Well, typically we do release IG reports if they're requested. I can't say we do that in 100 percent of the cases, but I remember a number of IG reports that have been released, so...
Q: You would see no reason to suppress this, would you? Just hypothetically, if it were to have some bad news for the Army and some of the leadership.
A: I think we've released... I don't remember many IG reports with good news in them. [Laughter] So, I think, that that would not be a deterrent. I can't speak definitively for the IG. I'm probably the last person who should speak for the IG right now. [Laughter] But, the fact of the matter is, that I would anticipate that we would release it.
Q: Who would be the releasing authority?
A: I think typically in the past -- I know in specific cases where we have received requests for IG reports -- they have been released by the Directorate of Defense Information.
Q: About the IG... Will the IG be looking into the whole matter of Linda Tripp's record and what has allegedly been said that she signed on the dotted line saying she'd never been arrested but maybe she forgot, or maybe she intended to do that, but I would ask you, is that the purview of the IG? And you personally, do you believe Linda Tripp lied?
A: Why aren't you asking me questions about North Korea or Mexican drugs, some areas that I could discuss with more openness. I can't answer those questions. The IG is conducting the investigation and she'll complete it when she's completed it and it will cover the scope of topics she sets out to cover.
Q: Can you answer why you have not apologized to Linda Tripp?
A: I cannot answer that right now. I think I'll just wait for the IG to complete its work. I've said I regret that this incident occurred, and I do.
Q: I do have another topic.
A: Thank you.
Q: It's a topic of Khobar and Riyadh terrorist strikes against our military. The Iranian government has pretty much been caught red handed as engineering the bombings in Argentina. The Argentine government thinks they've got them cold. This is another evidence, this is something that was predicted by the Iranian Resistance, thanks to their intelligence. They said today, the Iranian Resistance representatives here in Washington, said they're confident that the orders for Khobar were given in Tehran at the highest levels of that government. They're still confident of that. Do you have any comment besides...
A: Who said they're confident?
Q: The Iranian Resistance.
Q: The Mujahadin.
Q: And the Mujahadin have said they predicted the outcome of Argentina. Now they're predicting the outcome of Khobar. And they say the orders were given at the highest levels, at the presidential levels in the Iranian government.
A: Well, this is something that the Justice Department has been investigating. We have not been handling the investigation. I cannot comment on that.
As you properly point out, it took the Argentinean government a long while to sort this out, and it's taking us awhile to sort it out as well. These are complicated cases and the Justice Department's continuing its work.
Q: Now that President Suharto has stepped down, will the BELLEAU WOOD and its ARG be moving on to COBRA GOLD?
A: That is our expectation, but let me tell you that no decision has been made. Admiral Prueher, the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Command, talked with Ambassador [J.] Stapleton Roy in Jakarta this morning about the security environment there. He will talk to him again this evening, our time, tomorrow morning Jakarta time, to review the security situation again. And we will base the decision on the movement of the BELLEAU WOOD and her accompanying ships on the reports that Admiral Prueher gets from Ambassador Roy.
I just want to point out that the BELLEAU WOOD is now about 270 nautical miles north of Jakarta, and within 12-16 hours steaming time from a place close to Jakarta. If she were to move and participate in this important exercise, COBRA GOLD, which has been planned for some time, she would be about three days from Jakarta, so she would be able to get there rather promptly if necessary.
We also have other assets in the area that could participate in an evacuation if necessary.
I want to stress two things. One, no decision has been made yet. We're working very directly with the embassy to evaluate the security environment. And two, our reports are that things have calmed down quite a lot in Jakarta, that there is regular access to the airport now, and that commercial flights are leaving with empty seats. That appears to be the situation right now. The question is, will that be the situation tomorrow or the next day.
Q: Excuse me, you said about three days from Jakarta. Did you mean the Gulf of Thailand, or did you mean three days...
A: If she goes up to participate in the exercise she can get back down to an evacuation point where she could be helpful in about three days.
Q: Right now she's about 12 hours steaming time...
A: Twelve to 16 hours, I would guess -- 270 nautical miles north.
Q: Is Admiral Prueher considering making that visit that he postponed to Jakarta?
A: As you know, Secretary Cohen put all military contacts on hold and that hold remains in place. We're looking at the situation. We clearly, over the long term, would like to maintain a relationship with the Indonesian military. We don't think this is the appropriate time to carry that out, but if conditions change we'll respond to those changes. But no decision's been made now to change the hold.
Q: The current things like JCET has been put on hold. What about foreign military sales? Is that program on hold as well?
A: I don't think we have much in the way of foreign military sales to Indonesia because there have been some congressional restrictions on our contacts, our military contacts with them over the years. But my understanding is that we have stopped bilateral military contacts within Indonesia. I'll have to get more specifics on FMS.
Q: The Governor of Okinawa has expressed some unhappiness with the negotiations towards removal of troops from Okinawa. He evidently met with Curt Campbell. Do you have anything on that meeting?
A: I don't have anything specific on that meeting. Governor Ota does visit the United States from time to time, but we are working in very good faith with the government of Japan to reduce the footprint of our troops in Okinawa. I think we've made considerable progress. The government of Japan has been extremely cooperative. We expect that cooperation to continue.
Q: Can you give us an idea of what the game plan is about Admiral Jeremiah's study or review or whatever you want to call it, about the intelligence community allegedly sleeping through the Indian nuclear tests?
A: I think you should ask my immensely open colleague Bill Harlow at the CIA about that. It was the DCI who commissioned Admiral Jeremiah to do that report and he's the appropriate spokesperson about the progress of the report.
Q: Could I ask about the House votes banning technology exports? Any Department reaction to that -- just the House yesterday -- overwhelming votes banning technology exports?
A: You're talking about China?
A: Well, I think, this would be a setback to our worldwide dominance in communications. As I pointed out, there's a greater demand to launch commercial satellites than there is a supply of rockets in the United States to launch them. And we do -- we have had a program dating back to the early '90s at least, maybe before that, to launch satellites in China and elsewhere. We think there are ways to secure the technology if proper procedures are followed.
Press: Thank you.