Secretary Cohen: Good afternoon.
Over the weekend John Dalton advised me that he plans to step down from his post as Secretary of the Navy by the end of the year. I wanted to come here this afternoon to say a public word of thanks for what he has done and continues to do for the Navy and the Marine Corps team.
Secretary Dalton has served longer than most of the 70 individuals who have been Secretary of the Navy, and during his tour he has made major contributions to the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Department of Defense, and the United States. He and I intend to continue to work closely together the remaining months of his tenure to complete some very important tasks including the ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty, and the development of the National Navy Ethics Center.
When he took office in July of 1993, Secretary Dalton inherited many difficult challenges. Among them, the integrity of the Navy's promotion system was under attack following the Tailhook episode, and the standards at the Naval Academy were in question in the wake of the cheating charges that occurred at that time. John Dalton addressed both problems with speed and energy. Rebuilding credibility is a difficult job, and John Dalton did it very well, drawing on the lessons that he learned as a midshipman at the Naval Academy in the 1960s.
And one of the hallmarks of John Dalton's tour is his commitment to finding the best person to fill every job. He expanded opportunities for women in the Navy by opening combat aircraft and other jobs to all of them. This year alone, five women are going to take command of combat ships.
He also has worked hard and successfully to recruit more minorities into the officer ranks of both the Navy and the Marine Corps.
Finally, John has strengthened the Navy/Marine Corps team. Two symbols of the efforts to integrate the two institutions more completely stand out in my mind. First, he moved the Marine Corps headquarters into the Pentagon, allowing the Commandant and the CNO to work shoulder to shoulder. Second, his own family demonstrates the closeness of the sea Services. His son John is a naval officer; his other son, Chris, is an officer in the Marines. And of course Margaret Dalton, who is here with us today, has been one of the Navy's most effective ambassadors that we have.
He has been instrumental in making the case for additional BRAC rounds. The Navy and Marine Corps of the 21st Century need the DD-21, the Super Hornet, the AAAV, the LPD-17. We can only afford these modern weapons if we cut unnecessary costs, and John has worked hard to help educate the public and the Congress about the need for greater efficiencies.
As Winston Churchill said, "A warship is the best ambassador." Secretary Dalton has made sure that our Navy/Marine team is always ready to protect the nation's interests, whether in the Gulf, off the coast of Africa, or in the Adriatic.
In the next few months we're going to have ample opportunity to celebrate all that he's accomplished for the Department and for the Navy and the nation, but today I wanted to take this opportunity to thank him publicly for his efforts, and invite him to make a few comments.
Then after he makes a few comments to all of you, I have a second announcement pertaining to gender-integrated training.
Secretary Dalton: Thank you very much.
I'm a man who is richly blessed. To be a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, serve on active duty in submarines, then the Reserves. To have worn the Navy uniform for 12 years, and then to later come back and serve as Secretary of the Navy -- the best job in government, in my opinion. To have been supported by the best first lady the Department could possibly imagine ever having. Then while here, to have our two sons choose to serve our country as officers in the Navy and Marine Corps is more than any man could hope for.
I'm very proud of this Department and what our outstanding sailors, Marines, and civilians have accomplished during my tenure as Secretary of the Navy. When I assumed office five years ago this Department faced two major challenges: to enhance our reputation and to adapt to the changes in the international security environment.
To achieve this we began a process to upgrade our standards of conduct across the board and enhance our operational readiness. During this same period we reduced our force in people, equipment, and infrastructure.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Department of the Navy has been transformed, and I am proud to have participated in that.
Today the Navy/Marine Corps team enjoys an unquestioned reputation as a total fighting force without equal -- forward deployed and ready any time, anywhere.
We achieved this success by investing heavily in our four priorities which I've talked about a great deal during my tenure -- people, readiness, technology, and efficiency.
First our people. Our greatest asset and my number one priority. Our most important investment has been to restore the dignity and respect with which our people treat each other. We went back to the basics, emphasizing our core values of honor, courage, and commitment in everything we do. We made it clear that we had no room in the Navy Department for anyone who treated their shipmate with anything less than dignity and respect. We enforced accountability and responsibility.
The return on our investment has been enormous. Today we simply have the finest men and women ever to serve in the Navy and Marine Corps. And it is their reputation as outstanding warriors and citizens of which I am most proud.
We have opened tremendous opportunities for our people, especially for women and minorities in Department of the Navy. This year alone five women have been assigned to command combat ships.
We have truly become a Navy/Marine Corps team, as the Secretary mentioned, beginning with the moving of the Commandant of the Marine Corps and his staff into the Pentagon for the first time in history, and enhancing our teamwork operationally.
And we've enhanced quality of life. I'm very grateful for the sacrifices that our men and women make on a regular basis. Being away from home six months at a time. We've worked to ensure that they and their families are well treated for that dedication. I will continue to be their advocate.
Second, our readiness. From reacting to crises in the Arabian Gulf to influencing events in places like the Taiwan Strait, to contributing to stability and peace in places like Bosnia and Korea, to non-combatant evacuations of our citizens around the world from Albania to Sierra Leone to the former Zaire. From A to Z and everywhere in between, the Navy/Marine Corps team has been there and responded with professionalism.
I recently met with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. He thanked me for the Navy and Marine Corps presence that he said helped him negotiate the latest agreement with Iraq. That was gratifying to hear from our Secretary General.
The Navy/Marine Corps presence is truly felt around the world and our hallmark readiness is what achieves that impact.
Third, we invested in technology. We have moved forward with programs and delivery systems that are truly harnessing the future and giving our sailors and marines the best chance to dominate and win. In many cases the Department of the Navy is the leader in challenging industry to provide technology with the most combat effectiveness while remaining affordable, flexible, and survivable.
Finally, we focused on efficiency. We have worked to lead the way in acquisition reform teaming with industry, public and private partnerships, and off the shelf technology. Our people are more successful in everything they undertake because efficiency is now part of our culture in which we work.
Major weapon systems procurement demonstrates our success. For example, the FA-18E/F Super Hornet is on time, on budget, and under weight -- the first time in decades this Department has added a major new weapon system that has met those criteria.
Our investment in those four areas over the past several years -- people, readiness, technology, and efficiency -- has changed our culture, enhanced our reputation, and made us operationally ready to face any challenge for the future.
A prudent mariner knows that constant vigilance is required on watch, and my love for the naval service is such that I did not want to have the Navy Department without a Secretary at the helm. Therefore, I decided to make my plans known now, to leave government service at the end of this year, so that the President can name my successor, that person can then be confirmed, and an orderly transition can take place to allow the proper continuity.
Given my love for the Navy, this was not an easy decision. At the same time, it is the right one for Margaret and me. Early this year we began reflecting on and talking about the next phase of our lives, and balancing our commitment to public service with opportunities of the private sector.
For the balance of this year, I will be fully engaged with the major challenges that remain for this Department. I have the honor of serving as the Chairman of the National Oceanographic Partnership Program. We've gained the support of the Congress and we have a major agenda for this year showcased by the International Year of the Ocean. This week the Navy is co-hosting a major conference at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California in which both the President and the Vice President of the United States will participate. I will then go to Lisbon for Expo '98 where we will once again showcase our Navy's commitment to maritime leadership.
We are a maritime nation and the Year of the Ocean is a great opportunity for our Navy to demonstrate the importance of the ocean.
I will work hard to ensure the ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty. The treaty is one of the most important pieces of foreign policy legislation facing this nation. It is in the best interest of our country, and I want to ensure that it is ratified. We should be the leaders in this arena, and ratification of the treaty gives us that opportunity.
I intend to work closely with the Naval Academy to make the newly established Ethics Center there a great thing not only for the Naval Academy, but for the naval service as a whole, and I'll be devoting considerable energy to that project.
Recruiting is another challenge that we face in the naval service. The Navy and Marine Corps today represent a tremendous opportunity for our young people to contribute to their country, and I'll be devoting a great deal of energy to the recruiting effort as well.
I love this job. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have served in this capacity. I'm grateful to the President for the opportunity he's given me and the support that he has been to our naval service as President. He has been an outstanding Commander in Chief. I am grateful to the Congress also for their support of the Navy/Marine Corps team.
Let me say in closing that I am most grateful to the outstanding men and women of the Department of the Navy -- our sailors, Marines, and civilians. I am impressed on a daily basis by their professionalism, their enthusiasm, and their willingness to dedicate themselves to the defense of this great nation.
Before I take the first question, I'd like to ask the first lady of the Navy to come up and just tell you that she has been, I think, the best first lady the Navy Department could possibly have. When I go to sea and aboard ships, she's out visiting hospitals and day care centers and housing to enhance the quality of life. She's chaired the Quality of Life Committee.
She set the standard for what it means to be the sponsor of a ship. I asked Marg to sponsor the Seawolf, and she got up to christen the ship and swung the first time and missed. She said, you don't think they're going to cover that? I said, Margaret, that's a classic case of man bites dog. Of course they'll cover it. Well, it led the evening news on Saturday night. On Monday morning I went in to thank our guys for the great job they did. I said look, I told you guys to make this ship stealthy, but you not only made it stealthy, you made it so stealthy and so quiet Margaret couldn't even see it. (Laughter)
I'll be happy to take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could I ask, if you love the job so much why are you leaving it? And what about reports that you and Secretary Cohen do not get along and that he, in fact, thought there should be new leadership in the Navy.
A: (Dalton): Well, I do love the job and it's been a great job, but it's time for me to go back to the private sector for my personal reasons, to take care of my own situation with respect to retirement. But I have served for five years, it will be five and a half by the time I leave. The average time of service in this job is less than three years, and I love it but for everything there's a season, as the good book says, and there's a time to come and a time to go. The end of the year it will be time for me to go. It's been great and I've loved every minute of it.
Secretary Cohen and I enjoy a fine professional relationship. I have great respect for him, and I think he's doing a fine job as Secretary of Defense.
Q: So he did not press you to...
A: (Dalton): No.
Q: Mister Secretary, can you tell us any more about your plans, what kind of private sector opportunities you might be pursuing?
A: (Dalton): I really haven't begun to focus on that. I will by the end of the year, but I really don't have any specific plans. A few people have approached me, but I've told them I'd like to wait to discuss that sort of thing toward the end of the year.
Thank you very much.
Q: Mr. Secretary, would you respond to that question about whether you get along?
A: (Cohen): We have a very good relationship. In fact we just discussed this matter most recently a couple of days ago. But we have worked very closely together, and as the Secretary indicated, the two of us are going to be working together with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to see if we can't get the Law of the Sea Treaty passed. We have a number of other issues the Secretary just talked about -- recruitment, that's something else I have to focus on with him in the coming months. So it really was an accommodation that he wanted to be able to finish out these critical issues, and I'm more than happy to accommodate that, so it was really quite a mutual matter. He came to me and discussed his plans for the future. And as he indicated to you, he was very concerned that he not leave a gap, so that we have this confirmation process that we have to go through, so there will be no gap as a result of his recommendation...
Q: ...be in session. Do you think the Administration will come forward with a nominee in time for them to ratify it before...
A: (Cohen): We hope that will be the case. There are not many working days left, but we're going to try to get all the nominees for the Service Secretaries completed by the end of the year. Hopefully there will be enough time between now and October when we would expect that they would go out, but that remains to be seen, but we're hoping that will be the case.
Q: Some months ago, Mr. Secretary, we were told that you had spoken to at least one other possible candidate to be Secretary of the Navy, Congressman McHale. Is there a list you've developed at this point? Can you tell us anything more about who might be on it?
A: (Cohen): There is not a list. I think I will leave it to the President to make a nomination at the appropriate time.
Q: Did you want Secretary Dalton to stay or did you urge him to stay?
A: (Cohen): Secretary Dalton indicated at the beginning of the year, as he said before, he was looking at other options. Most of the Service Secretaries do not stay beyond four or five years. In his case, he will be, I think, the second longest Secretary who has served in this capacity in naval history [correction: since the creation of the Department of Defense]. But he understood also that he had to look at some other factors involved in terms of his own life. Some of these discussions that he was having started back in the early part of the year, but he came to me I think it was last weekend, just before the weekend, and we discussed it at that time. It was the first conversation I've had with him.
Can we get on with the second issue?
Few jobs are more important than the training of the men and women in the military to protect our national interests, and as Secretary of Defense I want to make sure that we set high standards and that we meet those standards and measure up to them.
When I took office last year I set out to review the quality of the initial training in each of the Services. I wanted to see first hand how our men and women were being trained, and to talk to the trainers and the trainees about ways to make the training better. As a result, I visited Lackland Air Force Base, Fort Jackson Army Training Center, Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot, and the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. As all of you know, I also asked former Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker to chair a panel to study the effectiveness in the way in which we train our gender-integrated force.
Her panel strongly recommended gender-integrated training be continued, but she also had a list of some 30 ways to improve the rigor and discipline of that basic training. I asked the Services to review the panel's recommendations and on March 1st [March 16th] I reported the Services had accepted most but not all of the recommendations.
As a result, the Services are now improving their procedures for selecting trainers. They are increasing the number of female recruiters and trainers. They are placing greater emphasis on core military values. And they're making training standards more consistent for men and women. But then again, I asked the Services to do more, and on March 1st [March 16th] I instructed the Services to make training a more attractive job and to do more about rewarding the trainers, to improve the rigor of training, to do a better job of making sure that men and women remain separated in barracks and that the barracks are adequately patrolled and supervised.
The Services have met these challenges. Today I'm going to be releasing a summary of the actions they've taken, as well as a memorandum to the Service Chiefs and Secretaries announcing that I'm asking the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to create an ongoing mechanism to monitor how well we're meeting these higher standards.
One thing is clear: We cannot run the military today without women, and our goal is to find ways to make men and women train and work better together.
The Services believe they need the flexibility to design training to fit the needs of the deployments and the missions and I am giving them this flexibility. But I also want to make sure that the standards are high, and so the actions that I've taken have guaranteed that.
Our training is working today and with the changes that the Services are making, I believe it's going to work better even tomorrow.
With that, let me entertain your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I take it that the Services have indicated to you that they're going to continue joint training in small units at the start, and that you agree with that.
A: (Cohen): They would like to do that and I've agreed with that, yes.
Q: What about the barracks situation? You are recommending more separation in the barracks, but every step of the way after that, with the exception of the Marine Corps, they will be together, right?
A: (Cohen): They will be together unless it's dictated otherwise. As you know, Congress is looking at this matter, a commission has been created, and the House has taken action that would dictate that there be separate barracks throughout the Services. The Senate has taken a different approach, and obviously some accommodation will have to be worked out in the House and Senate bills. But as far as I'm concerned, we will look at all of these measures that have been taken, and I'm satisfied that having taken these measures about getting better trainers, about providing a career enhancing reward for the job that they do as trainers, insisting upon stricter standards, all of these combination of factors will contribute to making a more effective force. If they don't work...
Q: If imposed upon you by the Senate or the House, do you feel that will have a negative impact on your training, greater separation?
A: (Cohen): That is the judgment of the men and women I've talked to in the service, not only the officers, but the NCO corps leaders as well. They feel that they have to train in basic training together so that when they are deployed they have accommodated themselves to working together, they'll be in a better position to more effectively carry out their jobs. If you separate them at that level then the question would be are you putting them into an environment in which they suddenly have to work together? Can it be done? The answer is yes. The Services feel that they are the ones who have the responsibility for ensuring the safety and the adequate training of these individuals. They believe they can do a better job for the country by having the integrated training at the basic level with the exception of the Marine Corps and with the exception of the Army units that are combat specific.
So I defer to that. I accept that judgment. I've listened to them very carefully, and I believe they have made a persuasive case to me. So I hope that will continue to be the case.
Once again, I have reserved judgment. If all of these changes that we have recommended and are now being implemented don't work, we can always take another step, but I frankly think this is the right course to take.
Q: Mr. Secretary, will you actively lobby your former colleagues in the Senate to vote against the amendment to order separate barracks for men and women in training?
A: (Cohen): I intend to obviously continue to testify on the Hill. I've been asked to testify before the House. I will testify at some point before the Senate. I will continue to support the Services in terms of what they believe to be the best course of action to produce the most effective fighting force. I don't intend to engage in a massive lobbying campaign personally, but I intend to communicate the views, the studies. I've encouraged the NCO leaders to go to the Hill, to testify before Congress, to give their views, so that it's not seen simply as some kind of politically correct measure that is being posed from the top down. It's anything but that. I have found that those from the very bottom up, all the way to the top, feel that this is the most effective way to train our force today.
Q: If it wasn't done top down, why was not this change enacted prior to 1993?
A: (Cohen): I'm not sure what change.
Q: Through the gender-integrated training.
A: (Cohen): The gender-integrated training has been going on for some time now, and it was from, I believe, the top down. What I'm saying is that the forces from the very basic levels all the way to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs believe this is the right course of action.
Q: A moment ago you said the difference between the House and the Senate had to be reconciled, but the Senate hasn't even passed theirs yet. Do you think it's a foregone conclusion that the Senate will, in fact, pass the amendment along with the budget?
A: (Cohen): I don't know what the Senate will do. I do know that Senator Kempthorne has indicated he'd like to see a continuation of the commission that's been established to review the matter before taking action. There may be other views that will prevail in the Senate. We'll have to wait and see on that. But I assume there will be some, there usually is some difference of opinion in the House and the Senate, and those views will have to be reconciled.
Q: Secretary Cohen, what is your response to the CNN/Time report that during the Vietnam War U.S. forces used Sarin nerve gas in a secret operation that was aimed at hunting down and killing U.S. defectors in Laos?
A: (Cohen): Well, I've read about the report, and I have found no evidence, at least that has been presented to me, that would validate that report, but it is a serious allegation, obviously, and something that I have asked now the Service Secretaries and those acting in their place to conduct an investigation and to find out whatever information that could validate these charges. At this point I've seen no such information that would support that, but it is always possible. So we will continue to look at it and I will follow up with the information that comes from the Service Secretaries.
Q: How extensive will that investigation be? Will it be a full-fledged investigation, or will it just be an informal inquiry?
A: (Cohen): No, it will be an inquiry to see exactly what [is] the basis of the charge, is there a valid basis for it? I'm not that familiar with the details of this particular matter, but I was advised, for example, that one of the key sources for the story itself had written a book back in 1982 or 1983 and there was no mention at that time of Sarin gas. It may have been an oversight. It could have been edited out. It may not have been included. I just don't know the reasoning behind it. So I think what we have to do is go back, we'll have to talk to Admiral Moorer who has been quoted, other people have been quoted. I would like to have the benefit of that information directly coming from them to the Services, then I can review that and perhaps even meet with those individuals as well.
Q: Do you think it's possible that this happened?
A: (Cohen): Anything is possible. I've seen no evidence that would substantiate it, and there are a number of factors involved that would tend to mitigate or to argue against it in terms of the use of this, but anything is possible, and I wouldn't rule it in or out. I simply indicate I have no information that has been presented to me that would corroborate that story.
Q: If it turns out that this report is true, would it constitute a war crime, if the United States had used nerve gas?
A: (Cohen): I don't know if it would constitute a war crime. I do know that it would be in violation of President Nixon's declaration that the United States would not be the first to use either a chemical or a biological agent in the field, as such. That was the policy that he had articulated, so it would certainly be a violation of that. In terms of whether it would constitute a war crime, I'm not in a position to make that judgment yet.
Q: You talked about the folks in the Services supporting this policy, but the Chairman of the House subcommittee, for example, came out and said well, they say that publicly, but privately all of the service leaders and officers tell us that they really don't support mixed gender training. I'm sure you saw those quotes in the press.
A: (Cohen): I didn't see those quotes, but maybe we're talking to different people. But I've had the NCO leaders come to my office for lunch, for example, and asked them to a person, what do you think? This is off the record. You're talking to me now. What is it that you really feel is the right thing to do? And to a person they were so strong in their statements, as a matter of fact, that I was so impressed that I said you really ought to call this to the attention of the Members who are now conducting hearings on this. If you feel that strongly about it, I think you should testify to that effect. But it was a passionate defense of the system of trying to integrate the training at the earliest level. And this did not strike me as someone who is either twisting their arm or trying to encourage them to be politically correct.
I don't want to be politically correct on an issue involving national security. If our military leaders... I find it somewhat incredulous to think that someone like the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs or the Vice Chair or all of our Service Chiefs or those who are in the field who are in charge of the lives of these young people would feel they had to be politically correct if they're going to sacrifice those lives on the line or our country's interests. I just don't believe that. And I won't accept that because I don't think that, if you asked the Chairman to come up here, given his war record and those of the others, that they would stand up here and tell you something they didn't personally believe. No one is imposing any kind of political correctness standard.
The fact is that women make up an important part of our military today. We could not function without the women in our military today. The question is, that being the situation, and we're going to have more women in our military, how can we best train men and women to continue to be the best fighting force in the world? And our key leaders and our NCO leaders believe that the way in which they are doing it today is the best way to achieve that.
Now if somebody else has a better opinion, I'm sure there are bound to be some differences of opinion. It's a democracy, after all, and you're bound to have even within the military ranks people who disagree on these issues. But the people that I've talked to going out into the field and meeting with the young recruits and their commanders, most of them, the overwhelming majority, feel this is the best way to do it.
You may recall, you were with me, I think, when we went to the Naval Training Center, as such. I went down to a table of the young recruits and I asked each one what did they think. One or two said no, I like it separate. The overwhelming majority, I would say eight out of ten, said they want it to be integrated.
Q: If that's the case and if they are so strong in it, why aren't you supporting them on that. Why are you...
A: (Cohen): Supporting who?
Q: The military leaders. You say to a person they were so strong... they believed in this. Why do you not agree with them more strongly than you do?
A: (Cohen): I think I made it about as clear as I can.
Q: You said you think they made a persuasive argument, but you hadn't totally decided and that you weren't necessarily going to be lobbying on the Hill...
A: (Cohen): I said when this all started there were a lot of questions being raised, that I would bring an open mind on this. But I would defer, at least initially, to the Services who have the responsibility. I have been persuaded, in spite of the arguments to the contrary, that they have made a persuasive case on this issue, a powerful case, that caused me to reject two of the recommendations coming from the Kassebaum committee.
I couldn't have been more clear on that. That's the reason I'm here today, to reaffirm that. I believe that this is the right course of action. I've communicated that to Members of the Hill. And I will continue to do so.
I think the question came, am I going to engage in intense arm twisting, and the answer is no. I believe we can make a case on the merits, and I will continue to speak out for the current system that we have.
Q: You earlier said that you had not actually made up your mind on it, I thought you had said. But you are as strong in this belief as the military leaders are?
A: (Cohen): Yes. And what I've said is that we are going to do it this way unless it's overruled by Congress. And if the situation should somehow not prove to be productive, in other words, there continue to be abuses that cannot be rationalized and explained in a way that satisfy me, we can always go to the separate training. I do not believe that's the right course of action. I am satisfied personally that the system the way we're doing it is the right course. That's the reason why I made it, I thought, pretty clear during the Kassebaum Baker panel recommendations. I looked at them, I listened to the panel, I thought it was an outstanding panel, I thought it was a great report. But I also looked at those two recommendations and concluded that I could not support those two. So that's my position. I don't think that it's inconsistent with anything I've said for the past year or so, year and a half.
Q: The Services' main concern on the separate barracks was the limited MILCON [Military Construction] budget they had, they didn't think they could afford it. Has that been resolved? Are you going to try to...
A: (Cohen): Again, we have recommended ways in which there can be separation without necessarily going to separate barracks. One of the problems -- one of the recommendations coming from Capitol Hill is that we mandate separate barracks and facilities. I would hope, at a minimum, if that's going to be the case, that the $168 million that will be required will also be appropriated.
But secondly, with respect to the separate housing, the problem is one of how do you manage the flow of recruits coming in? You may find a situation where you have completely empty barracks after having been constructed. They may come in at different levels at different times. So the management of that certainly presents some problems.
If Congress is going to mandate separate barracks, then I hope they will also appropriate the dollars to fund it. I indicated before I thought as much separateness as possible. If we can arrange for a system whereby we get separation with strict oversight, that would be an adequate course to follow.
Q: On the training issue, the physical standards for men and women, the Kassebaum Baker report wanted to narrow the gap in physical training. When the Services responded in April, they all responded for increasing training for men and women both. Do you think you'll see the gap narrow between what you demand of men and women in the service?
A: (Cohen): I think it will narrow in critical areas. I have [here] Under Secretary Rudy de Leon who is going to give you more briefings after this session to fill you in on what has been done with the report.
Q: Kosovo. Generally speaking, what happened at the NATO Ministers Conference this past week on the Kosovo issue? Can you bring us up to speed on that? And specifically, when George Robertson was here he said, and I quote, that "the British position is the same as the American." I don't know if he's referring to preparation, but his -- Mr. Tony Blair said to his Cabinet reportedly, according to AP, "The only question that matters is whether you are prepared to use force, and we have to be." Not only is Mr. Blair speaking in those terms, but the Pope is also asking for some kind of action, and Mr. Lott has said it could happen. Where are we with Kosovo?
A: (Cohen): I can't speak for either the Pope or Senator Lott. I suspect that Mr. Blair has a bit more to say as far as the defense policies of Great Britain.
Right now, where it is, is that we are still seeking a diplomatic solution. I don't think there's anyone who disagrees that that is the best outcome that could possibly be achieved. We're also accelerating NATO's examination of what military options would be desirable or feasible. That will continue. I believe what the Prime Minister was suggesting is that in this situation, as explosive as it is with all the consequences that would flow from a continued deterioration of the situation in Kosovo, that every option should be at least examined. Because every option is examined means that we will look at the full range of things. But there's been no decision in terms of any particular type of military option, but simply say if it becomes necessary what would be feasible and doable under these circumstances. That's only prudent planning.
Q: Is the U.S. prepared, as Britain says they are preparing to use force? Are we moving in that direction to join the British in some kind of...
A: (Cohen): We continue to talk with the British, but we believe that any consideration of military operations should be through NATO itself.
Q: Would you support a UN Resolution calling for all necessary measures to stop the violence in Kosovo?
A: (Cohen): I think we will continue to talk with the British and other allies in terms of what would be a desirable statement coming out of the Security Council and the United Nations.
Q: Military options in Kosovo, were they on the plate today at discussions at the White House? I presume they're on the agenda this week in Brussels as you meet your fellow Defense Ministers.
A: (Cohen): I assume there will be a good deal of discussion in terms of the options when we meet together in Brussels and we continue to talk on a daily basis as far as what policies seem to be productive and which are not productive as far as Kosovo is concerned. That was true today as well.
Press: Thank you.