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DoD News Briefing: Captain Mike Doubleday, DASD PA

Presenters: Captain Mike Doubleday, DASD PA
December 04, 1997 2:00 PM EDT

Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon. I have no announcements, so I'll stand by and hopefully answer some of your questions.

Q: Before you get into something that's going to take awhile, do you have anything on the helicopter crash down at Fort Hood? Any casualty figures or anything?

A: I don't have any further details, no.

Q: Can you give us an update on the replacement for Secretary West?

A: Like all previous nominations to fill presidentially-appointed, senate-confirmed positions, those announcements come out of the White House and I've not seen any announcement on that position yet. I can't forecast for you at this point when that will come.

Q: Does the Defense Department have any record, in your checks, that Ambassador Lawrence did in fact serve in the Merchant Marine? Have you been able to find any confirmation that he served at all?

A: What we know at this point is that the waiver which Secretary West granted which enabled Ambassador Lawrence to be buried at Arlington was based on the normal process and documents that had been presented to the superintendent at Arlington, which included a request from the State Department that the waiver be granted.

Secretary West received the request after it had gone through the normal chain of command, and he granted the waiver based on not only the service which was mentioned in the State Department request in the Merchant Marine, but also because of his position as an ambassador.

Q: He was one of four sitting ambassadors since 1967 who has been granted that waiver, is that correct?

A: My understanding is yes, there have been four that I am aware of who have been granted a waiver.

Q: And the other three all died violent deaths as heroes in violent situations in their posts. Is that equated to the same sort of situation in which Ambassador Lawrence...

A: I don't have details on their deaths. I just have a list of the names of the individuals and when they died. But I'm sure if you check with the Army there may be further details on that.

Q: The Defense Department or the Army regarded them as equivalent cases?

A: No. In this particular case, I think that it was the totality of the request and of the service that Ambassador Lawrence had provided over a number of years. I think that as you may recall from Secretary West's visit down here a couple of weeks ago, his approach to this is always on a case-by-case basis and he looks at the information as it's presented to him.

Q: I'm not clear, was he in the Merchant Marines or not?

A: This is an issue which has been raised by Congressman Everett today and I cannot answer your question. But clearly it is an issue that is going to have to be researched by the State Department and others in the government.

Q: Does that mean that when a request is made for a waiver such as this, there's not a normal review of the service record that is taken as part of a review that Mr. West, or any Army Secretary...?

A: Certainly all of the documents pertaining to the individual who is the subject of the waiver are reviewed. As I say, in this particular case there was not only a request but also a memorandum that outlined the service that Ambassador Lawrence had during World War II which was included in the package. I think that the Army will have copies of those documents for your review later this afternoon.

Q: Is there ever a procedure whereby they vet the information that is given to them? They review it, but do they go back and try to vet it and make sure it's accurate?

A: During the course of the waiver request, my guess is that there is not a great deal of time to do a lot of research during a waiver request. As Secretary West indicated last week, there is an urgency attached with coming to a decision on many of these. So it's necessary to deal with documents that are presented.

Q: Are you going to try and determine on your own whether indeed he served in the Merchant Marines, or do you consider that issue past and you're not going to get into it?

A: I can't at this point say who is going to do the research on this. Certainly the Coast Guard which maintains records of that sort will be a player in it. There has been a letter which has been sent to Secretary Cohen by Congressman Everett asking for further research into this matter, and what the division of labor will be to come to a final conclusion I can't outline for you at this point.

Q: Worst case. If the documentation shows that it was false, will there be any disinterment?

A: I'm not going to speculate on that because at this point we simply don't know.

Q: ...disinterment, would Arlington let you know?

A: You'll have to check with the superintendent on that.

Q: Isn't the Coast Guard under the Department of Transportation? Or was it during the World War II time period?

A: This service that Ambassador Lawrence -- as contained in the documents we received relates to World War II service. That was more than 50 years ago, I'm not sure how complete the documentation is. These are all questions that are going to have to be addressed, but at this point we just don't have the level of detail to answer questions.

Q: Do you have any feelings or any sort of statement from Secretary West about this issue, given the fact that it has taken a hard left-hand turn here?

A: I have no statement from Secretary West at this point. I think the Army is putting together documents and may have something for you later this afternoon on that.

Q: So a statement from Secretary West would not be forthcoming at this point?

A: I wouldn't expect one on this issue. I say that because Secretary West was acting on documents which were presented to him and which had been approved at every point up the review process that exists before the documents even get to him. Everyone had also recommended approval in this case.

Q: He was so passionate in describing the war record of this individual. And that passion, obviously, was strongly felt, and that was part of the reason that he granted the waiver.

A: I can't speak for Secretary West's decision making process on this. I think that he explained to everybody how he approaches these issues when he was here last week. If you'd like to get a comment from him, I'd recommend you ask the Army for such.

Q: Do you have any evidence that the supports a theory being put out by an Air Force pathologist that, potentially, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown was shot in the head?

A: What I know about that is that the head of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and also the pathologist at the scene who conducted the autopsy [postmortem examination] have both said that in the first place the individual who is quoted in that article as not there at the time; and secondly that it does not represent their views in this case.

Q: Is there any reason to go back? Does anyone take these accusations seriously enough at all that there might be a disinterment of Secretary Brown's body?

A: Excuse me, go through that one more time.

Q: Would there be any reason to take another look at the remains given this individual's...

A: I know of no...

Q: He evidently didn't see the body, but he was at the scene of the crash.

A: Five days after the crash, as I understand it, this individual was at the scene, but he did not participate in the autopsy [postmortem examination]. I know of no move at this point to do any kind of further examination on the remains of Ron Brown. And I believe also that there has been an investigation which involves multiple volumes on this subject that anyone who is interested in pursuing could take a look at.

Q: Iraq. Do you have any deployment cost data yet?

A: No, we don't. In fact I think at this point it not only is premature, but also dangerous to provide any estimate of cost based on our past experience.

Q: That actually brings up an issue which is, you've spent an awful lot of money over the years trying to keep Saddam in a box and it hasn't worked.

A: I beg to differ with you. I don't accept that premise at all. I think that indeed our efforts over there have been well worth the overall effort to ensure that Saddam Hussein does not further develop weapons of mass destruction. We have been supportive of the UNSCOM effort in this regard. We have a very robust presence in the Gulf area which we have maintained there ever since the Gulf War and even before the Gulf War. And I think that based on the track record to date, that we can be very proud of the job that those who are presently deployed to the Gulf have been doing.

Q: It was announced by the Iraqis that they are going to reserve some sites, it doesn't specify which ones or how many, from inspection. What is the reaction...

A: Our reaction on that is that there must be full compliance. This is something that they've said in the past. Our belief is that Iraq needs to do what they signed up to do in 1991 which is to comply with the UN sanctions.

Q: But they're apparently not going to comply.

A: We are awaiting signs on the ground as opposed to words through the air.

Q: Can you estimate -- the latest statement by Boris Yeltsin about nuclear arms reduction and navy reduction and army reduction in the west -- north part of Russia that he made in Sweden a couple of days ago.

A: This has to do with the troops reductions?

Q: Nuclear arms reductions and troop reductions and as I remember, navy reductions, 40 percent.

A: First of all, our knowledge of this, of course, is based on the statements that we have been reading in the news media also. But basically, we believe that this is a good thing. We believe that as soon as the treaty ratification by the Duma, that we should move ahead with further negotiations. And as I said on Tuesday, we look forward to the time when we can further reduce our strategic weapons.

On the troop side, I just want to point out that the United States has in recent years decreased the number of personnel in uniform by over a third. That has been quite a process, but we did it because we believe that the world situation was such that we could do so without any undue defense requirements on the United States. We think that same situation exists for Russia and that this in the end will prove to be a very beneficial move.

Q: I have heard that this statement of Boris Yeltsin was unexpected for many Russians themselves. From these points of view, is the Russian policy, military sphere, is it predictable for the United States?

A: Excuse me?

Q: Is it predictable for the United States, Russian policy in military sphere?

A: On the troop reductions, I'm not sure that we were so surprised. We've been talking with various Russian officials for some months now, and certainly the press has been reporting the requirements and desires of the Russian leadership to downsize the Russian military. So to those who have been reading these accounts and who have been involved in meetings with Russian officials, I'm not sure that part of it came as a surprise.

Q: Can you give us a readout on Secretary Cohen's trip so far this week?

A: Let me wait for his return. He is in London today in bilateral meetings with his counterpart there. He's been in Brussels. There are some transcripts that I can provide you from both of those locations, but I think until he gets back I should refer you to the transcripts.

Q: Anything on the ground in Iraq that you'd like to tell us about? Any troop movements, any illumination of aircraft, any violations of the no-fly zone? Any of those categories?

A: To my knowledge in all of those categories there is nothing to report.

Press: Thank you.

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