Tuesday, May 23, 2000 - 2:08 p.m. EDT
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Sorry for being tardy. With Charlie here, it's almost no fun being late. (Laughter.) Without Charlie here, I should say.
Tomorrow morning at 10:45 Secretary Cohen will address more than 300 business leaders at the World Economic Forum Meeting 2000 hosted at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce across the river. He'll talk about the effect of globalization on national security. It's open to the press. As I say, he'll be speaking at 10:45 tomorrow. We'll attempt to pipe it back here.
This morning Bernard Rostker, well-known to most of you as Mr. Gulf War Illness Solution, was sworn in as under secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. He had previously had been the under secretary of the Army. And he has been replaced by Gregory Dahlberg as under secretary of the Army. Mr. Dahlberg spent 20 years working on Capitol Hill before coming to the Department of the Army as under secretary.
This afternoon at 3:00 the State Department will hold a background briefing on defense export controls. This is something that we've worked very hard on in this building. Secretary Cohen, Dave Oliver and Jim Bodner have all worked extremely hard to find a way to make it easier to share unclassified defense information with our allies so that we can improve cooperation in the arms business, weapons development and construction. And the State Department, as I said, will have a background briefing on some changes that are being proposed today at 3:00. And our hope is that we can pipe that in, technology willing, from the State Department to the Defense Department. So if you don't want to go across the river, you don't have to.
Finally, we welcome 12 journalists from 12 different countries, so I won't mispronounce their names or even their countries. But we welcome you here. They're all part of the State Department International Visitor Program.
And I'll take your questions, if you have any. Bob.
Q: What -- can you bring us up to date on the question about additional U.S. business to Israel in connection with its pull-back from southern Lebanon --
Mr. Bacon: I don't really have anything to say about that right now. The assistance that we've been looking at primarily has dealt with a possible agreement with Syria involving the Golan Heights. Obviously, we will discuss Israel's security needs, and we have, but I don't anything to announce about a package dealing with southern Lebanon at this stage.
It's -- the U.N. is focusing extensively on that right now, but we will work with Israel to help Israel meet its security needs as it pulls out of southern Lebanon.
Q: What about assistance to the U.N. peacekeeping force there? There's been -- the U.N. secretary-general has recommended, I believe, doubling the size of that force. Is that something that the United States would participate in, in any way, or provide any kind of assistance to?
Mr. Bacon: We certainly are prepared to provide assistance if we get specific requests. I don't believe we have at this stage. We have not talked about committing manpower to that force. A number of other countries have. But we are willing to provide assistance if we find we can help and if there's a need for us to do so.
Q: Ken, I just wanted to ask --
Mr. Bacon: Yeah?
Q: -- if I could, this withdrawal of Israel -- of Israeli troops from the buffer zone is going to bring Hezbollah fighters in closer to the boundary, to the Israeli border, is it not? Is not going to make it easier to use rockets against Israeli settlements and to be able to reach further into Israel? Is this not a military consequence of what they're doing?
Mr. Bacon: It is a possible military consequence. Israel has addressed this in several ways. First, it's made it very clear that it will respond to attacks. Two, as you know, in 1995 and 1996, during a period of time when Israel was enduring Katyusha rocket attacks from the Hezbollah across its northern borders, we offered to Israel -- and they accepted -- the tactical high-energy laser system, which they have been working on, and it is a system that's designed specifically to deal with Katyusha rocket attacks from across the border. It is a system that Israel and the United States have worked on, and that is one system that they should be able to use if they experience Katyusha rocket attacks.
Q: But basically it's getting -- it's going to be more dangerous to live in northern Israel, is it not?
Mr. Bacon: Well, I think that Israel is very aware of the risks and the benefits of the pullout from southern Lebanon. It's pulling out in part because of the risk it was enduring over the 18 years when its troops were in southern Lebanon.
Israel has made it very clear that it will protect its people along its northern border. And as I said, the United States has worked with Israel in the past to meet its security needs, and we'll continue to meet with Israel in the future.
Q: And has the THEL, I think it's called --
Mr. Bacon: Right.
Q: -- the laser, has that been deployed yet? Are there any plans to deploy it soon --
Mr. Bacon: Well, it's up for Israel to talk about deployments of its own weapons and how it plans or when it plans to use them. But it was -- Israel sought the weapon precisely to deal with this type of threat.
Q: Is it ready to go, though?
Mr. Bacon: I think Israel should talk about the readiness of its own weapons.
Q: Why was General Inge made deputy IG, instead of Smith, who's had it --
Mr. Bacon: Well, that's really up for the Army to explain, except there hasn't been a deputy IG for some time. So the Army chief of staff announced on Friday that Major General Inge would take that job.
Q: But I mean, is it because the -- is the probe into this thing continuing, or has there been any resolution of it, or --
Mr. Bacon: Well, I'm in a little odd position because the Army has never conceded that there is an investigation under way. Suffice it to say there was a vacancy in that job, and the Army filled the vacancy or is moving to fill the vacancy.
Q: But somebody had been named to that vacancy earlier, so --
Mr. Bacon: But had not taken the job, so there was a vacancy.
Mr. Bacon: And now the Army's filled it.
Q: But had not taken the job because that person was being investigated. And is that investigation --
Mr. Bacon: The Army will have to talk to you about any investigations it has under way.
Q: Is the Army investigating General Smith? Is that investigation concluded?
Mr. Bacon: These are all questions -- great questions for the Army -- great questions for the Army to answer.
Q: But the Army won't answer any of them.
Mr. Bacon: I'm shocked, shocked! (Laughter.)
Q: Have you spoken to the Army about this?
Mr. Bacon: I have spoken to the Army about it.
Q: And what has the Army told you?
Mr. Bacon: The Army says refer all questions to the Army. (Laughter.) I'm dutifully trying to comply with that instruction.
Now, any more questions? Yes?
Q: JSF --
Mr. Bacon: Yeah?
Q: -- any schedule update on when Cohen -- Secretary Cohen or Rudy de Leon might have a new acquisition strategy or old acquisition strategy for us?
Mr. Bacon: No, I can't give you any guidance on that. Last week I said that this review could be completed in weeks. I'm not -- I don't know whether that is likely to happen that soon now or not. It's a very complex issue, and it's important for us to find the best solution, and that in part means a solution that doesn't do violence to the cost of the program or the schedule of the program.
So these are some of the issues that will have to be considered over the next few weeks or months.
Q: Now, with the Israeli pullout under way, does the United States consider Israel to be in compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 425?
Mr. Bacon: I am not an expert on Resolution 425, but they'll certainly be closer to compliance with it than before. And it's in that context that the U.N. is looking at enhancing the peacekeepers in that area.
Q: On the peacekeeping thing, does the U.S. support increasing the size of that peacekeeping force?
Mr. Bacon: Well, the U.S. supports an adequate force that will meet Israel's needs and Lebanon's needs. And what size that is -- I know that there has been some discussion about that at the U.N. today, and I don't know how that discussion has turned out. So rather than comment on it, I think I'll just wait and find out what the details are.
Q: Can you tell us anything you have on Pakistan's preparations for another nuclear test? Do you see any evidence of that?
Mr. Bacon: There is nothing I can tell you from this podium about that.
Q: There is a press report that the United States presented the idea to reduce U.S. bases in South Korea. Do you have anything on that?
Mr. Bacon: I believe the press report is wrong. We have no plans to restructure our forces in South Korea that I am aware of.
Q: Yes, on Vieques, do you have any reports of new incursions into the range? And what is the department's position in terms of the presidential directives and action by the Senate?
Mr. Bacon: I mean, our position hasn't changed: We hope the Congress will pass a package that allows us to follow through with the terms of the presidential directive. And we are working to keep the range free of demonstrators so that training can resume on a regular basis.
Q: But do you have the latest account in terms of --
Mr. Bacon: I don't have the latest account.
Q: Thank you.
Mr. Bacon: You're welcome.
Q: Thank you.
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