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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD PA

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD PA
March 17, 1995 1:30 PM EDT

Thursday, March 16, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.

Note: Participants include Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs and Ms. Patricia Irvin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Humanitarian & Refugee Affairs

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Our briefing today is in two parts. First, Pat Irvin, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Humanitarian and Refugee Affairs will talk about demining efforts in Cambodia and other parts of the world, and then I will take your questions on other topics.


Ms. Irvin: Thank you, Ken.

Ken invited me here today to talk to you a little bit about my recent trip to Cambodia and how the trip relates to some of the key issues that my office is addressing.

I, also, thought you'd be interested in hearing something about how one of the combatant commands, the Pacific Command, has done a really effective job of applying my office's policy goals and has integrated several of our programs into the CINCs' peacetime campaign plan.

Just to give you a little bit of background on our office, my office was created in 1993 to address a panoply of issues that come under the rubric of humanitarian affairs. My responsibilities include overseeing our humanitarian assistance program. We provide transportation of non-lethal excess DoD property and privately donated goods to other countries. We coordinate the DoD response to foreign humanitarian emergencies, including those that involve refugees. We respond to international disasters. We also provide policy guidance to a program called the Humanitarian and Civic Assistance Program. It's a CINC program that they run that allows them to carry out civic activities in countries when they're otherwise deployed during regular combat training and exercises.

We also have policy responsibility for law of war issues and for land mine control policy, and we oversee a demining program which is relatively new to the Pentagon.

The principal reason for my trip to the Pacific theater was to review a number of programs that my office has oversight for, including the first up-and-running demining program which is run on our behalf by the CINC.

I flew into Cambodia on a C-141 that was loaded with ten pallets of humanitarian goods, mostly medical supplies, intended for the country of Cambodia that we were sending over as part of our Humanitarian Assistance or HAP program.

While I was in Cambodia, I had the opportunity to witness first-hand what the needs of the country were, and to brainstorm somewhat with the ambassador there about what our office could do to meet some of the needs the country has.

I also had an opportunity to tour a hospital in Phnom Penh that services wounded military personnel and their families. The needs that I witnessed in that office were so great, that almost anything we could provide to them would be of help. They need cots, they need sheets, latex gloves, X-ray film. As I said, the needs were really great. They need a lot of things that we as Americans take for granted as part of our medical care.

The demining activities that are being carried out by PACOM on our behalf are part of a $10 million program that was funded by Congress for the first time in 1994 to address a major international crisis that the international community has been grappling with over the last few years.

Severe humanitarian problems have been caused by indiscriminate use in recent years of land mines, principally in internal conflicts and developing countries. Particularly alarming has been the strategic use of land mines as a weapon of terror against non-combatants. This use is often intended to destroy the social and economic fabric of a country, and the effects remain long after combat is over.

The problem is brought home in particular when we consider three facts. There are about 100 million land mines in over 60 countries. There are an estimated 500 casualties a week from these land mines, and at the current rate it could take 2,000 years to demine the current land mines that have been in place, and new land mines are being laid every day.

Land mines impede farm work, marketing, relief deliveries, repair of needed infrastructure, herding of animals, use of vital water supplies, and the simple play of children. Land mines impede economic recovery, and they undermine public confidence in a fragile and emerging democracy.

The threat of imminent death or injury typically renders hundreds of acres of land untilled, and entire villages often uninhabited.

Beginning in FY94, Congress appropriated $10 million a year to DoD to establish demining programs to address the problems I was just describing. The Clinton Administration has placed a very high priority on addressing the problem. The U.S. is currently providing strong international leadership through a proposed land mine control regime, which would impose restrictions on the production, acquisition and transfer of land mines. This fall, formal negotiations will begin on the conventional weapons treaty with respect to very significant provisions, changes to the treaty that would strengthen the land mine provisions of that treaty. Our office is currently working with the Joint Staff and the State Department to develop the U.S. position in those negotiations.

We'd like to see new provisions that would govern a more humane use of land mines, particularly in internal conflicts such as those which Cambodia experienced.

Our demining program in Cambodia which began in September of 1994, as I indicated earlier, is carried out for us by PACOM, and that program has become a prototype for future endeavors. I'm particularly proud of the program now that I've had a chance to go out into the theater and see it close up.

With an estimated eight million land mines, Cambodia has one of the worst problems of any country. Every day two to three innocent citizens are being subjected to injury as victims of these hidden killers. One out of every 236 people in Cambodia is an amputee.

The hospital I spoke of earlier was filled with men, women and children who had one or more arms or legs blown off by a land mine. Every room, every hallway, every nook and cranny of the hospital was filled with one of these victims. Amputees lay one after another with their families alongside of them in 90 degree heat in a hospital that had no air conditioning; only 30 minutes of electricity a day; little running water; little or no medicine; and almost no medical equipment. For many, their lives are permanently ruined.

Our demining program contributes significantly to the international efforts that are currently underway in Cambodia to address the human suffering that is caused by land mines.

Our special forces troops who are carrying out our demining program in the field are doing an absolutely phenomenal job. They are now in the process of training their third platoon of Cambodian military deminers. The first two platoons that they trained are already out actually demining roads in Cambodia.

U.S.-trained mine awareness teams are going into villages and training civilians about the dangers of land mines and what to do if they encounter them. Another group of our servicemen are providing medical training.

Our special operations guys are really, really good at what they do. They're patient and innovative teachers, they're respectful of the culture of Cambodians. They demonstrate in many ways that they care about the people that they work with, and they have a love and enthusiasm for their work that's absolutely unsurpassed.

One special forces NCO that I met out in the field told me that this was the best experience of his career and the most challenging.

I actually got a lump in my throat as I went around talking to the Special Forces guys about what they were doing and the experiences they had, and as I heard them tell the stories, one story after another about some of the things they had seen and heard.

I'm not the only one who thinks these guys are great. The Cambodian people clearly appreciate everything that's being done for them. They've learned a lot and they're carrying out the programs, and there's real progress being made.

I also learned on my trip that there are important collateral benefits to the work that our special operations guys are doing. The RCAF, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, are learning leadership skills, they're becoming professionalized, they're getting exposed to democratic values, and they're gaining an understanding of the appropriate role of the military in a democracy.

The trip provided me with an opportunity to learn about PACOM's Cooperative Engagement Strategy and how my office's programs fit into it. The demining effort is a key ingredient in the strategy, and that strategy aims to maximize U.S. security in the Pacific region through positive partnership programs. PACOM has creatively packaged a number of my office's programs with other activities of the CINC; to have maximum impact in the countries in their AOR in a way that addresses important objectives of the CINC and the United States Government.

To take Cambodia as an example, I've already told you about some of the collateral benefits of the program. The command has also married our HAP program, our Humanitarian Assistance Program, with the demining one to provide mosquito netting and medical supplies to the deminers. Furthermore, the medical training that's being provided as part of the Humanitarian and Civic Assistance Program, another program that we have in our office, and that in turn will be done with a combat training deployment that's scheduled for deployment into Cambodia soon.

In another example, while I was there, someone from a team of combat engineers spoke to me about the fact that while they're there, they're going to use some of the equipment that we're sending in as part of our HAP program to do some construction work in Cambodia. While they're doing that, they're going to train the Cambodians how to use the equipment that we've sent in, how to maintain it and how to repair it.

Cambodia provides an excellent example of how a combatant command has done a tremendous job of combining a variety of humanitarian programs to address humanitarian concerns, to provide support to the U.S. country team, to develop rapport with the Cambodian military, and to enhance the visibility and image of the United States among [the] Cambodian people. It's also representative of how humanitarian programs conducted by DoD can be uniquely effective to achieve a variety of important foreign policy and national security objectives. And it helps explain why these programs are important to have at DoD.

Another significant benefit of the program is that they provide unparalleled training opportunities for our forces to participate in them. They provide influence and access for the U.S. to countries that otherwise we may not have access to.

All of this is done at a relatively low cost. The Humanitarian Assistance Program in the Pacific Command will cost about $1.5 million for the first half of the fiscal year, and for that relatively small amount, we sent goods to 13 Pacific countries that the CINC and the ambassadors identified as priorities.

The Humanitarian and Civic Assistance Program for the entire year for PACOM is intended to be less than $2 million, and it's being used by the CINC to help construct bridges, schools, irrigation systems, roads, and medical clinics in countries such as Thailand, Bangladesh, and the Philippines.

The demining program will cost about $2.7 million.

If I had to boil my experiences in the Pacific theater down to one lesson learned, I would say that our office has a lot to gain from working closely with the CINCs, who can act as our agents in carrying out our humanitarian programs while simultaneously meeting important national security objectives, important Defense Department regional objectives, and State Department foreign policy goals.

If you were to ask me what left the greatest impression on me from my trip, I would say it was how incredibly talented, skilled, and devoted our special operations folks are. They're highly skilled warriors, but they're also really important goodwill ambassadors for our country.

Thank you, and I'll take any questions you have.

By the way, these great people sitting in the back row over there are staff members, some of the really talented people from staff who are working in the Office of Humanitarian and Refugee Affairs, and Colonel Bailey is the person who is in charge of our demining program.

Q: Just a couple of questions. Number one, what were the dates of your trip to Cambodia, or to the Pacific? Number two, if this is the first demining program, are there others to get underway? If not, where and when will they get underway?

A: I left on February 21st and returned on March 3rd, I guess it was. We also went to Pacific Command Headquarters in Honolulu and stopped in Okinawa and Yakota because, as I said, we were interested in also looking at and speaking to people about our programs who are located in headquarters.

In terms of other programs, we have plans for Rwanda, Nmibia, Mozambique. There is already activity underway in Mozambique -- not run by the CINC, but we started a program with a contractor there last year because we needed to have some roads demined immediately. DoD policy is not to have military actually go into live minefields, so we hired a contractor to do that.

The CINC, EUCOM is now starting a mine awareness program in Mozambique as well. We will have programs starting in Eritrea and Ethiopia. We have a program in South America that we're doing through the Organization of American States.

Q: Any similar program for the former Yugoslavia?

A: We don't have any programs currently underway for the former Yugoslavia, but we have been talking about the needs of the area and I am fairly certain, but I could not tell you when, that at some point if Congress continues to fund our program, we probably will have a program underway there.

Q: You said there were eight million mines in Cambodia. How many have actually been cleared between U.S.-trained Cambodians and U.S. personnel themselves?

A: I don't know the number. We can take your question and get back to you on that. Let me say that the commands don't like to have their success measured by number of mines out of the ground. Because, you can have a 100 square acre area that has to be demined that ultimately may have only one mine on it and it could take you months to demine it. If there's only one mine, you have to demine the whole area. It's very tedious, labor intensive work. So, it may seem unsuccessful, to say that after six months you only got one land mine out, but you may have demined a huge area that can be used for farming and tilling. So we have to be careful what we use as measurements of success.

Q: What are your measurements?

Q: Do you have any idea how many acres of land have been cleared, as opposed to number of mines?

A: I don't have any idea of that either, but we can get you the information. I think you have to look at what the priorities of the particular country are. In some cases, they are to get critical roads cleared that are important for commercial purposes or that are important for returning refugees from another country home as in Mozambique where people were coming home to vote in elections and so forth. You have to look at the extent to which the priorities of the country for demining are being met. I think you need to look at numbers of acres being demined. But you also have to look at the extent to which particular goals of the command in setting up a program are met. For instance, how many people have we been able to train who in turn will be able to go out and actually demine their country? How successful have we been in developing leadership skills that will enable them to run their own programs independently of the rest of the international community, and to set up funding mechanisms for that and so forth. These all combine to make a package of measurements of success, and it's individual for each country. But we can get you more specifics about Cambodia.

Q: Is the $2.7 million for Cambodia for this year or...

A: Right.

Q: Can you address how significant or insignificant the mine trouble in the disputed area between Peru and Ecuador is? And since we're sending some forces down there, are we making any provisions for sending mine clearing teams?

A: I am not able to speak about the land mine problem between Ecuador and Peru. I just don't know the specifics of how many there are and how extensive. But I can get the information and get it to you. We have no plans to send deminers or trainers down to that area.

Thank you very much.

Mr. Bacon: I want to start with two announcements.

The first is that Dr. Perry, the Secretary of Defense, will host an awards presentation ceremony tomorrow at 10:30 in the Pentagon Auditorium to honor members of Operation United Shield and their efforts in Somalia. He will be joined by General Shalikashvili and General McPeak. If you need more information you can get it from DDI. It's in room 5A1070.

The second in the "all politics is local" department. Many of you have complained about the noise of the building renovation program, so I've come prepared to talk about that. Other people have also noticed the noise and the inconvenience of the renovation program and they've begun to ask some questions about it. Deputy Secretary of Defense John Deutch has established a steering committee on the Pentagon Renovation Project to review where it stands now and where it's going. The committee will be headed by Paul Kaminski, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, and there will be a number of Assistant Secretaries on the committee.

The main purpose of the committee is to look at the cost and design of the plan, and to decide whether we're headed in the right direction. To allow this committee time to review the renovation plan and to make new determinations if necessary on cost, on the impact on personnel, and on design, parts of the plan will be delayed for up to a year. Specifically the part that will be delayed is the first wedge... The plan was to divide the Pentagon into five wedges. You can figure out why. These wedges would run from the basement up to the top floor. The idea was to go in and renovate each wedge one at a time. The first wedge renovation, which I believe encompassed corridors 3 and 4, was to begin in April of 1996. That will now be delayed for at least a year as we step back and look at the renovation plans.

This is just what I would call an active, prudent stewardship to see if we need as much renovation as the plan calls for. The plans started I think in 1990 or 1991 during the Bush Administration, and it is running forward exactly on schedule right now, but it, as you know, is a disruptive plan and we want to step back and gauge whether the disruption is worth the benefits at this stage.

Q: Cost?

A: The entire plan? The entire plan was to cost $1.2 billion.

The building clearly needs renovation. This building was completed on January 15, 1943. Not much has been done to it. In fact the GAO in a report several years ago said that this building had been mismanaged by the General Services Administration which actually managed the building until I believe the early '90s. It was then that the Pentagon took it over and we've been managing it since. We began immediately looking at ways to renovate the building once we took it over.

So a certain amount of work has to be done, obviously. Systems have to be brought into the 21st Century. Wiring has to be repaired. Heating, air conditioning, asbestos has to be dealt with. Structural repairs have to be made. Many of those will be done, in fact the whole plan may eventually be done, but we're just stepping back to pause and review.

Q: Why the pause? If there was a plan, was it the thud, thud, thud, thud from the basement that went upstairs to Perry's office and somebody said gee, are we...

A: Actually, that part...

Q: I don't understand.

A: In a sense, that was the genesis of it. People began complaining about the noise. A group of people sat down one day and said what's going on here? What is this plan? When we looked at the plan we saw that it was a huge plan, and it seemed prudent to review the plan and decide whether that's the way we want to go. This is a plan that involves vacating whole wedges of the Pentagon at a time, moving people out of those wedges into other buildings or into other parts of the Pentagon, completing the work on those wedges, and then moving on to the next wedge. It's to take ten years.

So in light of that, we decided to look and see if there were a simpler way to do it, if there were a less disruptive way to do it, and a less costly way to do it.

I'm not saying that we're going into this with the idea that there necessarily are magic solutions to what's a very difficult renovation problem. A 52-year-old building built in 16 months out of reinforced concrete on swampy ground in the height of the war, obviously we would do things much differently today. It's not new technology, and there is much need for change. The question is, are we proceeding on the right path?

Q: Was the renovation, as people said, that it was to carve an entire basement, that there was to be a cut-through? Or do you have any idea of what that noise was for?

A: The floor of the Pentagon is disintegrating and it has to be replaced. In the course of replacing the floor, it was determined that by lowering the floor by several feet, we could gain essentially another story in the Pentagon. Some of this may continue to go on. Over $400 million of contracts have been approved. Money has been budgeted for $400 million worth of work. Many contracts have been let. Contracts will not be interrupted. What we will do is stop at places where contracts have not been let yet. That's where the pause will be, to find out whether we should move ahead with those contracts.

Obviously, the contract to deal with the floor has been let, and I can give you... Through FY95, approximately $412.5 million has been obligated for Pentagon renovations. This includes all the costs for design and construction as well as rental, operation, and other costs for swing space as we take people out of space and put them into new space. Approximately $80 million for replacement of the Pentagon heating and refrigeration plant and for a classified waste incinerator; $115.6 million to deal with the basement mezzanine. That's what I described.

The idea there is not only to get an extra story of space, but it's to consolidate all of the individual service command centers and the national military command center as well as some communications operations and computer operations in one area so they'll all be adjacent. Now they're spread out all over the building. We think this would lead to not only greater efficiency, but clearly a greater sense of joint operations.


Finally, of this $412.5 million, $108.8 million has been obligated for engineering, design, procurement, and procurement of telecommunications, information, and management equipment.

So a substantial amount of money has been obligated. That work will continue. Some work will be delayed and reevaluated.

Q: Is it possible or likely that this delay will in fact add to the eventual cost of the renovation? Usually whenever you delay a project it ends up being more expensive.

A: If the delay is a year, it could increase the cost by about $60 million, we estimate now, but we may be able to recapture some of that money. Of course, if we decide to come up with a less ambitious and less costly plan, the savings would far outweigh any additional cost and delay. But I think it's premature to say what sort of plan we'll come up with at this stage.

Q: Are you getting pressure from Capital Hill about spending that much money on this building at a time budgets are so tight?

A: We have received inquiries from Capital Hill, but this really started before that. This has been under consideration for some time. I think that there's a feeling within the building that at a time when the Secretary is trying to channel more and more money into military housing and quality of life, that we ought to look at all the money we're spending, and is spending $1.2 billion justified at a time when we have so many other needs for construction funds within the Department of Defense.

I would describe this primarily as an act of stewardship. If you had an extensive renovation plan for your own house that was going to take ten years, you might at some point decide to take a break and reevaluate whether you really want to be that ambitious.

Q: Ten years from when it began in '90, '91?

A: No, it's supposed to end, according to the original plan, it was supposed to end in 2005. I think it began in 1994 or 1995. It's about ten years.

Q: How much did it cost to build the Pentagon originally, do you recall?

A: I wasn't here then. (Laughter) $83 million in 1943 dollars.

Q: Could you tell us what came of the meeting with the Croatian Defense Minister?

A: Yes. It was a breakfast meeting, except that Minister Shushev doesn't eat breakfast. They basically focused on three things.

First, they asked him to clarify President Tudjman's proposal to rename the UNPROFOR forces in Croatia and to come up with a new mandate. They just wanted a fuller explanation of the Tudjman/Gore proposal.

Secondly, they discussed the prospect for the Croat/Bosnian Federation.

Third, they looked forward to what's likely to happen in Croatia and Bosnia in the spring and summer. The Croatian Defense Minister expressed hope that fighting would not break out in Bosnia again this summer.

Q: Do you have anything on the (inaudible) between Secretary Perry and the Minister (inaudible)?

A: (inaudible) I'm afraid I do not, but I can try to find out.

Q: Can you clarify for us or provide any clarification that might have been provided on the Tudjman/Gore proposal for changing the mission of the UN forces?

A: No. That will be discussed later. The general facts of that have been out. The force will be reduced in size by about half. President Tudjman has asked that there be a border force between Croatia on the one hand and Bosnia and Serbia on the other hand to protect its borders. Then there will also be a portion of the force that will do what the force has been doing, which is to serve as a buffer between the Serb section of Croatia and the rest of Croatia.

Q: The point that seems to need clarification is whether that border force would monitor the border or control the border. Can you give us any clarification on that?

A: That's something that we're discussing now in our meetings with the Croatians. Ultimately, you know, this is a UN force. There will not be any U.S. participation in this UN force. So the details of it will have to be worked out with the UN.

Q: Did the Secretary express the view that if you cut the force in half, and at the same time add to its duties, then it becomes a less effective force? Is that not true?

A: I think that the details of how the force will operate, as I said, are still being worked out. I wouldn't want to pre-judge the effectiveness of the force before the force is even designed.

Q: (Inaudible) U.S. military participation bilaterally?

A: I do not believe they did, but I do not know for sure.

Press: Thank you.

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