Thursday, April 13, 2000 - 2:18 p.m. EDT
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. I have nothing to say about Elian Gonzalez.
Q: (Joking) Okay. Over. Thank you.
Mr. Bacon: So if you guys want to call this off --
Q: Can I get an early question -- I've got a short fuse -- when you get finished with your announcement.
Mr. Bacon: Short fuse? Well, I have one announcement. It won't take very long, but this is a very important announcement. The Deputy Secretary of Defense, Rudy de Leon, is about to embark on his first out-of-town trip as deputy secretary of Defense. He will visit Fort Wainwright, Alaska on Saturday for a groundbreaking ceremony of the new Bassett Army Community Hospital. And he will be out there with Senator Ted Stevens. So for all of you who want to follow the deputy secretary's travels, that's the first one.
Q: I thought you said out of the country?
Mr. Bacon: "Out of town," I said, not out of country. Now be careful, don't offend Alaskans. This is a proud and very valuable state to the United States.
Q: Thank you, sir. Yesterday's story in the Washington Post that the missile defense system won't work because of countermeasures. Official reaction, please?
Mr. Bacon: Well, the official reaction is, I think it's overly simplistic. This was based on an analysis done by a scientific group. And Lt. General Kadish, who is the head of the Ballistic Missile Defense Office, talked about this at some length yesterday on Capitol Hill, and what he said was that countermeasures are difficult to make work effectively, and in order to have confidence in countermeasures, the country has to do a lot of testing. And once the country does a lot of testing, we have ways of picking up what they're doing and having -- learning what their program is and, therefore, have time to make our own adjustments. Obviously, the program is being designed to deal with countermeasures of certain numbers and certain types. We understand that our adversaries may try to use countermeasures.
And you've seen some test results already of the ability of the warhead or the RV to -- I mean the kill vehicle -- to discriminate between balloons which were sent up to duplicate countermeasures and the actual reentry vehicle.
So this is something we're aware of. We're working on it. We have done as much work on countermeasures as anybody else, and this has taught us both the offensive sides of countermeasures and the defensive side of countermeasures. So we're very aware of the problem. We still have confidence in the program we're developing.
Q: What's the latest on the Russian tanker that's been detained in the Gulf?
Mr. Bacon: The analysis continues of the -- there are 40 or more lots of oil that have to be tested. The testing is ongoing, and I've nothing to report on that.
Q: What are their preliminary results thus far?
Mr. Bacon: Well, I think I'll wait for the final results, rather than getting into the preliminary results.
Q: Can you tell us if there's been any discussion or contract with the Florida National Guard or any other military units in relation to what's going on in Miami now?
Mr. Bacon: I'm not aware that there has been, no.
Q: Is the Department of Defense providing any --
Mr. Bacon: But I'll double-check that. I'm not aware of anything.
Q: Just so that this doesn't come up later, is the Department of Defense providing any assistance, advice, or observers to law enforcement in Miami?
Mr. Bacon: I'm not aware that we are, but we will double-check that.
Q: Can we go back to the Russian tanker?
Mr. Bacon: Yes.
Q: There are reports today that the oil on board is Iranian in nature, with traces of Iraqi oil. Can you confirm those?
Mr. Bacon: No. I'm just going to wait until we have the final results.
Q: When will that be?
Mr. Bacon: I would expect relatively soon, without defining "relatively soon."
Q: Also, Tass reported today that a British ship carrying Iraqi oil was allowed -- was detained, but allowed to pass through. Is that true?
Mr. Bacon: There was a detention of a British ship several weeks ago or a week or so ago, as I recall, of a British-registered ship called the Myrina, I believe. And I believe it was waved off from taking additional oil from the Akademic [Pustoyov], which is the Russian ship that's been detained. I'm not aware that there was Iraqi oil in the British ship.
Q: Mr. Bacon, are you planning to send additional forces to Kosovo since there is a new tension in the Presevo area between Serbian forces and the Albanian rebels?
Mr. Bacon: Well, I'm not aware that we have any plans to send new forces to Kosovo beyond those that I announced several weeks ago; that is, one, a company, a long-range reconnaissance company, basically scouts of about 100 people, and they will be arriving this month and they will -- these are basically ranger-trained soldiers who can station themselves along the border and observe what's happening both in traffic across the border, but also on the other side of the border; that is, in the Presevo Valley area, and I suspect that's where they'll be deployed. In addition, I announced that we were sending some tanks and artillery, Paladins, 14 tanks and, I think, six Paladins, to Camp Able Sentry in FYROM, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and they're expected to arrive in the next few days by train.
Q: And also, may I have your assessment about the exercise, an exercise which has been completed in the area under the code name "Dynamic Response"?
Mr. Bacon: You're talking about the reserve force exercise?
Mr. Bacon: Well, I think it went according to plan. It was designed to make sure that the strategic reserve force that's deployed there for both Kosovo and Bosnia can in fact get into action quickly, perform its tasks and come out, and that's exactly what they did. The U.S. contribution consisted of American Marines.
Q: About the troop-to-task analysis being done by Clark. Have you received any information about that? Is that completed?
Mr. Bacon: It has been completed, and they have sent out the analysis to member countries, and they have basically stated the requirement and the member countries have, I believe, until April 20th to respond to the requirement.
Now, there are currently 31 maneuver battalions required in Kosovo.
Q: Thirty-one what?
Mr. Bacon: Thirty-one maneuver battalions. A maneuver battalion would be infantry, light armor, armor. That basically is a maneuver battalion. The current statement of requirements calls for 31 of those. The new troop-to-task analysis confirms that NATO needs 31 maneuver battalions.
However, the picture is a little more complex because two battalions are about to leave. A Canadian battalion and a Dutch battalion are about to leave. So the first thing the troop-to-task analysis does is say NATO needs to replace those two battalions.
Second, there are two battalions temporarily deployed to the French sector. One is a French battalion, and one is an Italian battalion. They will not stay there permanently. So those two battalions, one French and one Italian, have to be replaced.
Finally, there is an operating reserve in Kosovo, a requirement for an operating reserve. But currently that requirement is unfilled, I understand. It's included in the requirement for 31 battalions, but it's not there. And this would be a swing battalion that could be deployed in emergencies to various areas within Kosovo.
Q: (Inaudible) -- strategic reserve?
Mr. Bacon: Right. This is an operating reserve that's directly under COM KFOR's control.
Q: Is it physically in country?
Mr. Bacon: It's not in the country, but it would be in the country. Now, my understanding is that what the troop-to-task analysis has concluded is that five battalions will be necessary to fill in the gasps that I have just mentioned. Remember, three categories: first, the two battalions that are leaving, Canadian and Dutch; the second category, the temporarily assigned French and Italian battalions that are operating in the French sector; and the third is the operating reserve.
Q: So the number will still be 31?
Mr. Bacon: The number will still be 31. And it's not anticipated -- there is no specific call for -- additional battalions or people in the U.S. sector.
Q: And what is the kind of number you are using to describe what a "battalion" is? Is it a thousand people or 200 people, or what?
Mr. Bacon: No. That is a tricky question, or it's an easy question with an unclear answer.
An American battalion in Kosovo now is probably 700 people on average. Battalions -- I think you could use that as an average, 700 -- some are lower; some are higher. I think it's impossible to say exactly. There is no NATO definition of a battalion, as I understand it.
Q: So again, being journalists who like simple answers, 700 times five is the approximate number of soldiers that you are going to need to fill in the holes.
Mr. Bacon: Yes, the holes that don't -- only one hole currently exists, as I understand it, and that's the operating reserve. But two holes are coming, and they'll have to be filled in. And so what's happened is that a letter has gone out to the countries, asking them to offer up units to fill the five required maneuver battalions that have to be supplied.
Q: Didn't I remember that at least the French temporary battalion that's in the French sector that you just talked about -- didn't that come from the strategic reserve?
Mr. Bacon: It did.
Q: Is it going back to the strategic reserve?
Mr. Bacon: I don't know. You'll have to ask the French.
Q: But I mean, are you down on the strategic reserve, too, or is that accounted for in the 31?
Mr. Bacon: No, the strategic reserve is a different body, a different total.
Q: Did you say that the analysis confirmed that there would be no need for a change in the U.S. sector?
Mr. Bacon: Well, the analysis calls for battalions to go to specific places. The Canadian and the Dutch battalions that are coming out are not in the U.S. sector; they're in other sectors. They'll have to be replaced in their sectors.
The two battalions in the French sector clearly aren't in the U.S. sector, and they would be called into the French sector to replace those on temporary duty. I think the Italian battalion that went in is the San Marco Battalion -- is out of the San Marco Brigade, as I understand it.
So there is nothing in this plan that calls on the U.S. to add to the six maneuver battalions currently in its sector.
Q: How many --
Q: So then -- wait, I have to ask the same question a different way. So there's no -- is there any possibility that U.S. troops would be participating in this other -- as part of these battalions?
Q: The operational reserve --
Q: In other words, what I'm trying to say is, wouldn't U.S. troops go?
Mr. Bacon: I think it's highly unlikely that the U.S. will be contributing more troops under this plan.
Q: So what is the total number of U.S. troops today?
Mr. Bacon: The total number of U.S. troops is, I think, around -- well, let me -- I'll get it for you. I can -- we'll find that. I don't have it on the top of my head here.
Q: Does the analysis ask for additional troops above and beyond the five battalions that are sort of in flux right now in any of the sectors?
Mr. Bacon: It does not. It asks for five specific battalions.
(Answering previous question) There are 5,900 U.S. forces in Kosovo.
Q: And why is it highly unlikely that additional U.S. troops would go?
Mr. Bacon: Because this troop-to-task analysis is very specific about where the battalions are supposed to go: two battalions into the French sector, one battalion to replace a Canadian battalion not in the American sector, another battalion to replace a Dutch battalion not in the American sector, and then the reserve battalion, which presumably would not be deployed in the American sector.
Q: Ken, my understanding is there are actually a couple of companies, I think an Australian and I'm not sure what the other one is -- currently reinforcing U.S. troops. Is there any requirement to replace those out-of-sector forces?
Mr. Bacon: No. The COMKFOR has come up with a plan to move some units around from sector to sector as he decides they're necessary. Some have gone into the U.S. sector. As I pointed out, we are in the process of adding to our own sector the scouting company. And I wouldn't anticipate that they would have to be replaced by U.S. troops in another sector.
Q: The requirement has been 31 maneuver battalions.
Mr. Bacon: Right.
Q: And so far -- am I understanding you correctly in saying that there has never been an operational reserve battalion, that they've been under strength by one battalion?
Mr. Bacon: Well, my understanding -- that is my understanding; yes.
Here comes a note. (Reads note.) It's on another topic. I'll get back to that later. (Laughter.)
Q: Mr. Bacon, the letter it has been sent by NATO for the new battalions? You mentioned a letter.
Mr. Bacon: Yes, right. A letter stating the requirements.
Q: Just so we understand what's happening here, they're asking for more troops. But at the end of the day, if these troop -- roughly 4,500 troops is agreed to by the different countries, the number of NATO troops in Kosovo will not change; right?
Mr. Bacon: That is correct.
Q: Okay. So you're not asking for above and beyond.
Mr. Bacon: That is correct.
Q: Wouldn't it go up a little bit because you'd be adding in that operational reserve?
Mr. Bacon: Well, if they fill the operating reserve, yes, it would go up. But the number -- the required number of the battalions remains constant at 31.
Q: Okay. And what is the total number of NATO and non-NATO peacekeeping troops in Kosovo today? And that will stay the same?
Mr. Bacon: There are 39,000 troops in Kosovo.
Q: And after this, there will be 39,000 troops?
Mr. Bacon: Well, it depends what happens with the operating reserve, but basically, the requirement remains the same, 31 battalions. To the extent there's a deficiency of one battalion, that is the operating reserve, and to the extent that deficiency is filled, the number would go up by approximately 700. If the deficiency is not filled, then presumably it will stay at approximately the same level.
Q: Did General Clark's analysis have a projection on when the requirement might be lowered?
Mr. Bacon: No, it did not. Not that I've seen. Not in the letter that went out to NATO members. There may have been a codicil to it that I haven't seen, but I'm not aware that they're talking about lowering requirements at this stage.
Q: So, if I grasp this correctly, at the moment there are 39,000. If the reserves come along, it will go from 39 to 39.7 or something like that.
Mr. Bacon: That is my understanding, yes.
Q: And you don't anticipate that any U.S. troops would fill the operational reserve requirement?
Mr. Bacon: I do not.
Q: Do you know when the requirement for five additional maneuver battalions must be met?
Mr. Bacon: Well, they've asked countries to respond by April 20th, I believe, to the letter that was dated yesterday.
Q: And to actually supply them when?
Mr. Bacon: I don't believe that that's in there, but presumably, they would then supply them as soon as possible after they've responded.
Q: Has China provided assistance to Libya's long-range missile development program?
Mr. Bacon: Before I answer that question, could I go back to an earlier question? I will get to that question.
I was asked is the DOD providing any support to the Department of Justice for law enforcement efforts in Florida? Did somebody ask me that question?
Q: I did.
Mr. Bacon: The answer is no.
And then I was asked What about the Florida National Guard? The answer is no. There have been no requests made to the Florida National Guard.
Q: Now the question is --
Mr. Bacon: Yes, now the question is -- all right, Libya. Let me tell you about Libya.
Libya has an aging Scud B missile force. Scud B missiles go approximately 300 kilometers. They have made no secret of the fact that they would like to build longer-range missiles, perhaps with a range as long as a thousand kilometers, which would enable them to reach countries such as Israel and Italy. They do not have the indigenous technological capability to do that, so they have been trying to work with other countries in the world in order to gain that capability. And beyond that I'm not going to comment on specific intelligence reports. But those countries are in Asia, and other parts of the world. (Laughter.)
Q: Does one of them begin with "C"? (Laughter.)
Q: So you can't say if any Chinese companies provided any technology transfers.
Mr. Bacon: Well, I'm not going to comment on specific intelligence reports.
Q: If China was providing technology delivery, would that violate any pledge that China has made, or -- ?
Mr. Bacon: Well, first of all, China is not part of the Missile Technology Control Regime. But it has said that it would not transport entire missiles. So the question is if China were providing help, what would the help be, and how would it compare to the pledge not to transport entire missiles?
Q: And what do you view the status of Libya's chemical and/or biological arsenal at this point?
Mr. Bacon: Well, I think they have desires to build these arsenals. You can read where they stand in "Counter Proliferation Threat and Response." As you know, there was a flap with Libya back in 1996, when they appeared to be building a chemical facility at Tarhuna. Secretary Perry made it very clear, speaking on behalf of the U.S. government, that this was unacceptable, and we believe that they stopped doing what they were doing at Tarhuna.
But it still requires watching their effort to build chemical or biological weapons.
Q: The Pentagon was supposed to have delivered at the end of February a report to Congress on China's military strength. Why has that been delayed, or why hasn't it been delivered yet?
Mr. Bacon: Good question. I assume that it's -- I know that it's an ongoing project and I assume it will be delivered in due time.
Q: I thought due time was over?
Mr. Bacon: Well, it depends on your definition of "due." (Laughter.)
Q: Has the Pentagon just agreed to disagree with Israel on the sale of this radar plane to China? I mean --
Mr. Bacon: I think that's an inaccurate description. I think it's clear in everything that Secretary Cohen has said that we think supplying the Falcon radar to China is a bad idea, and he has said that publicly and we have certainly said it privately. We have not started saying this privately in just recent weeks. We have known about this since 1996 and we have been continually expressing our concern about Israeli technological transfers to China since 1996.
So it's not new as a matter of concern to the United States, and it shouldn't be new to Israel that we are worried about technological transfers to China.
Q: Their characterization all along has been that they have been telling you all along what they are doing and keeping you abreast of what they are doing and that only recently have you started squawking about it. That is not your interpretation of the way the dialogue has been?
Mr. Bacon: My interpretation is that we have made it very clear that we think that transfers of military technology to China are not in our interest and not in Israel's interest. And the reason they're not in Israel's interest is that China is, in fact, transferring technology to countries in the Middle East, and not all of these countries are friends of Israel. So what goes around comes around, and we have tried to make that very clear to Israel, that it is difficult to segregate technology and that the increase in China's military capability and its technological know-how can come back into the Middle East in ways that could be threatening to Israel over time.
Q: They seem -- I mean, not to belabor this -- it just seems like they're determined to go ahead with the sale and now they're saying, you know, there may be future negotiations on future sales, but this is a done deal and --
Mr. Bacon: Well, I mean, we'll have to see what happens.
I have read what Israeli officials have said. And I have heard what American officials have said. I wouldn't characterize that as "agreeing to disagree."
Q: So the current deal just deals with one of these Falcon units that goes on one aircraft, and there would be future follow-on things that are being talked about? Are multiple ones of these are just -- are you understanding?
Mr. Bacon: Well, I think Israel should explain its own program.
With President Jiang Zemin in Israel today and for the next several days, I am sure there will be lot of commentary in the Israeli press and among Israeli government officials, about this. But, yes, it's my understanding that there is -- what Prime Minister Barak said is that they had signed a contract for one and there could be follow-ons. And the situation could come down to the total number of planes, if any, that are transferred.
Q: Does the secretary support efforts by Sonny Callahan up on the Hill to hold back some of Israel's aid money on this matter?
Mr. Bacon: I don't know because I haven't asked the secretary that specific question.
Q: Could you?
Mr. Bacon: Yes. Could I ask him?
Q: Would you?
Mr. Bacon: Not today.
Q: Do you know if that is something that is under consideration in this building as a response to --
Mr. Bacon: Well, first of all, responses will have to be government-wide responses, administration-wide responses. There wouldn't be a Pentagon response, but it would be a government-wide response.
Mr. Bacon: Yes, Chris?
Q: The American businessman Edmond Pope, who was arrested in Russia last week, has now apparently been officially charged with espionage. Do you have any response to that? And did this man have any links after leaving the Navy, with the U.S. Defense Department or intelligence?
Mr. Bacon: Well, let me just say that we are trying to seek further details from Russia as to the precise nature of the charges.
The U.S. consular officer has visited Mr. Pope in his prison. He appears to be in good health; he is not complaining of mistreatment. And beyond that, I have no more information. This is something that is being handled by the State Department.
Q: Are you saying that he did not have any links to the Defense Department or intelligence after --
Mr. Bacon: I said I have no more information to give you.
Q: What, if anything, can you tell us about the arrest of some NATO peacekeepers for drunk and disorderly conduct?
Mr. Bacon: Well, first of all, there were some American soldiers in Skopje, Macedonia, on leave or R&R, as I understand it, from their units in Kosovo, and there were three separate incidents, in which seven people were detained. I believe they have all been returned to their units and are in the care of their units at this stage.
Q: What were they detained for?
Q: They said there were six --
Mr. Bacon: I believe there were seven. For --
Q: All Americans?
Mr. Bacon: All Americans. They're American soldiers. And there was a confused report about this, and the report was confused because the FYROM authorities apparently interviewed a total of 30 soldiers, but only seven were ever detained. And all of the incidents were separate. And they have, I think, taken blood samples for tests. But the last I heard was just shortly before this briefing; the tests had not come back yet, so we don't know what they found in the blood samples.
Q: What are they looking for?
Q: But why did they need a blood sample?
Q: What was the nature of the incidents?
Mr. Bacon: Oh, well, the nature of the incidents -- one happened at the ZZ Top Club in Skopje. (Laughter.) I don't know whether you have visited that club personally or not. But police were called there in response to a report that a soldier was breaking glass, and a soldier was detained.
At another -- another incident involved a group of soldiers in the vicinity of Bull's Restaurant in Skopje. And there soldiers claimed that they were spit upon by a Macedonian national, and an altercation ensued. The police came, and four people were detained.
And in the final incident, there was a report of an altercation between some Macedonians and some U.S. soldiers in the vicinity of the old mall in Skopje.
Q: The what?
Mr. Bacon: Old mall. And two soldiers were detained. That is -- I think these are incidents that are now in the hands of U.S. authorities. Obviously, we hope that all soldiers will act as good citizens when they're on leave. These all happened around midnight, and as I say, they're all being taken care of now by U.S. authorities.
Mr. Bacon: No. These actually happened in various times. One was the 4th of April. One was the 5th of April. And one was some other time in April. But they were all in the last several days.
Q: So it's not one bad night.
Mr. Bacon: Pardon?
Q: It's not one bad night in --
Mr. Bacon: No.
Q: -- in Skopje. (Laughter.)
Q: Have any leaves been cancelled or has there been any change in the leave policy as a result of these incidents?
Mr. Bacon: Well, I'm not aware that there have been, and I, frankly, don't know exactly what the leave policy is. In Bosnia, we do have a policy to allow people to have long weekends in Budapest, and some actually go back to Germany. I don't know what the policy is in Kosovo, but obviously, there is a policy to let some of them out. As you know, General Order No. 1 applies in both Bosnia and Kosovo. That prohibits drinking by U.S. troops while they're in those countries.
Q: (Off mike) -- they didn't go Thessaloniki, which is much better than Skopje. (Laughter.)
Q: Why the blood test?
Mr. Bacon: It's to test alcohol content.
Q: I have one more law enforcement question to ask you about.
Mr. Bacon: Sure.
Q: And that's about the arrest of a recent -- a former U.S. Navy person who apparently has been detained in Detroit as a possible suspect in a serial murder. Is the Pentagon looking into whether he's connected to the deaths of women in various cities of ports of call when he was in the U.S. Navy?
Mr. Bacon: The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is cooperating fully with the FBI and the Detroit police in this case. I understand that no one has been arraigned yet, but there has been a confession. And the Navy is in the process of trying to look at the facts.
That's all I really have to say right now.
Q: And just a general question. If it turns out that a U.S. service member, you know, carried out a crime in a foreign port while a U.S. ship was on port of call, does the U.S. provide any compensation or reparations in a case like that?
Mr. Bacon: I don't know the answer to that question. I think it might depend on the facts.
Q: Who would have jurisdiction on that?
Mr. Bacon: Well, we do have agreements with many countries that deal with law enforcement issues, and I assume that every one would be decided according to whatever status of forces-type agreement we have with that country.
Q: Is it possible that he'd be subject to UCMJ also?
Mr. Bacon: I suppose it's possible. It would be, as I understand it, redundant punishment. But yes, he could well be subject to the UCMJ as I understand it, if there is adequate evidence. From what I've read, and all my information basically comes from reading wire services, wire service reports, he has been -- may well be charged with a number of murders in the Detroit area. But I don't believe there's any -- any charge has been --
Excuse me, could you stop playing that? Although it is great to hear my voice replayed in the middle of a briefing, it's distracting.
So I'm not aware that the charges have been brought yet, but I would anticipate that charges would be brought soon.
Q: Are you aware of a situation in the past where we may have extradited someone to Singapore or another country in this? I mean, does that depend on the SOFA with the individual countries, or -- ?
Mr. Bacon: Rather than speculate about this, I think we have a situation where a person is likely to be charged with multiple crimes, at least some of which occurred in the United States. And I think we just have to wait for the charges to be filed against him, and then we have to wait for the legal process to do its work. It could well be that there are crimes that were committed outside the United States, but I don't think we have firm evidence on that yet.
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