Thursday, June 1, 2000 - 2:45 p.m. EDT
Mr. Bacon: Let me roll right into the briefing.
Secretary Cohen is going to New Orleans on Monday for the opening of the National D-Day Museum. He'll be there Monday and Tuesday participating in a variety of events. And he'll leave from New Orleans to Brussels, and you've just been briefed on the rest of the trip.
We have here a group of Brazilian military officers who just entered. Welcome. Glad to have you here. They are here to look at how we operate our public affairs setup.
And finally, Tammy, after 8-1/2 years in the building, longer than most people spend here, we're bidding you adieu. Tammy, as you know, is moving to London to be a field producer for NBC. We'll miss you, and wish you very good luck over there.
And with that, I'll take your questions on anything but Tammy's future. (Laughter.)
Q: Ken, senior officials number one and two certainly didn't make it very clear on whether or not the United States might be willing, regarding the president's statements yesterday on protecting other countries, whether it's NMD or perhaps sharing technology.
Mr. Bacon: Well, the president talked --
Q: I mean, they talked about tactical missile defenses, but not NMD.
Mr. Bacon: Well, the reason to mention tactical missile defenses or theater missile defenses is because it shows, one, we are in a security dialogue with our allies; that security dialogue involves missile defense. What we have discussed with them in very specific terms is theater missile defense. We have a working arrangement with the Germans and the Dutch on the Patriot, and we are pursuing some other theater missile defense R&D projects with our allies, including with Japan.
Now, the question of national missile defense is the next step, and what the president said yesterday was that he would be prepared to share technology. We have begun extensive discussions with our European allies on national missile defense. Those of you who traveled to Munich with Secretary Cohen for the Wehrkunde Conference in February will recall that this was one of the issues. He spoke at great length about national missile defense at the Wehrkunde Conference in Europe. He also published an op ed piece in the Munich-based newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, on national missile defense. It was paired with a piece by Minister Sergeyev.
We have had an intensive dialogue with our European allies; we will continue that dialogue. What the president said was that we are prepared to help our allies meet their defensive needs, and we are open to discussion with them on how best to do that.
Remember, no decision has been made yet by the United States to deploy a national missile defense system. That's something that the president will do sometime this summer, or later. But we have had intensive discussions with our allies, and those will continue.
Q: Ken, we're talking about something a little bit different, I think, if I understand it correctly. We're talking about is the United States willing to share, for example, interceptor technology with Russia. Forget about the European allies for a moment. This is a question that's been pending for a long time, and I think Secretary Cohen himself has said that it's a matter under consideration but it hadn't been decided. Now it seems as if President Clinton has said yes, indeed, we are willing to do that. So are you saying that that's not the case?
Mr. Bacon: Bob, I'm not saying that at all, and I think it's very clear I'm not saying that.
The president is about to go into a summit with President Putin. The president has spoken about efforts that we are willing to take to protect countries that subscribe to arms control regimes and nonproliferation regimes. Those were the -- he used the term "responsible." He also used the term "civilized."
I have nothing to add to what the president said. The president, obviously, will have more to say about that prior to the summit, presumably during the summit, and after the summit, and I think we'll just let the president talk about that in due course, after he's had his discussions with the Russians.
I just want to make clear that we have had continuing discussions with our allies. They have been going on for some time. They're not something that started last week. We will continue those discussions. We have also had a series of discussions with the Russians. We have made various offers to the Russians over time. One is to perhaps pay for the development -- the building of the phased array radar. We've talked to them about the RAMOS satellite system, which stands for Russian-American [Observation] Satellite system, which is an experimental warning system that we would do jointly with the Russians. We are in the process of reaching closure on setting up a shared early warning center in Moscow. These were some of the issues that the senior defense official talked about.
So we have had a dialogue with the Russians, and that dialogue will continue. I think you want to freeze the program right here and to have people make definitive announcements on what we're going to do. It's premature to say that. We have not agreed to have a program yet. The president has not made that decision. These are all decisions that will come after the president decides whether or not to go ahead with the deployment of a national missile defense system.
If he were to make that decision, obviously we would continue and probably intensify a range of discussions with our allies and -- with the Russians, and with other countries. But that decision hasn't been made. So I think you should appreciate that there is going to be some questions that can't be answered until we get further along in this process.
Q: Ken, we're not trying to freeze anything. All we're trying to find is what the president meant. He seemed to raise expectations about what the United States might be willing to share, and we're just trying to clear that up, and I don't think you all have cleared it up. You've said --
Mr. Bacon: That's right, which is time to move on to another topic, because we're not going to go further.
Q: Another topic?
Mr. Bacon: Sure.
Q: No, well -- I was wondering if I could just ask another question about national ballistic missile defense?
Mr. Bacon: Uh-huh. (Assenting.)
Q: It would basically be this, and I asked this to one of the gentlemen that was just here: Ken, do you think that the ruckus that the Chinese is kicking up and that the Russians are kicking up, do you think that says they believe that the system's good, is viable, it could be deployed? Do you think they are ratifying our system?
Mr. Bacon: Bill, you went through this issue just several minutes ago. I have got nothing to add to what was said earlier. I think you got a fine explanation, and I have got nothing to add to it.
Q: Yes, on Vieques, there was another incursion on the range today. I am not sure if it was by sea or by land. Do you have any data that you can share with us?
Mr. Bacon: My understanding is that we have detained 34 (sic)  people who attempted to land in the live-impact area. And they arrived by boat. As they came ashore, they were detained, and they have been taken away.
Q: Have they been transferred to the main island of Puerto Rico?
Mr. Bacon: I don't know whether they have been yet. I'll try to find out. But they were detained this morning.
Q: Were they charged?
Q: Who were they detained by? Sorry.
Mr. Bacon: They were detained. Now, the Navy is running security in the live-impact area, so they were detained by the Navy.
Q: At sea? They intercepted them at sea?
Mr. Bacon: Well, they intercepted them as they came ashore.
Q: Are there additional Coast Guard cutters in the area or the same that were there when --
Mr. Bacon: Well, the Coast Guard stood down its operation in May, I think in the first trimester of May. And they have normal operations there. But the security zone that they were enforcing, and the force they were using it to enforce, has gone away. The Navy is now primarily responsible for the security of the live-impact area.
Q: Are the Bataan and the Nashville still detailed to, you know, provide surveillance or some assistance to --
Mr. Bacon: I believe they have returned home. And they did that last month.
Q: And then in terms of the Marines that had been assigned to monitor the range, what's the current presence?
Mr. Bacon: They have left. The Navy is responsible now for security of the range, and they are doing a wonderful job.
Q: Have there been any further bombing practices there?
Mr. Bacon: There have not.
Q: With the 34 (sic)  people who have been arrested, will they be detained and released, or will they be detained and charged?
Mr. Bacon: I think that the way the -- first of all, of course, the Navy typically turns them over to U.S. marshals. The decision is made based on their records -- if they're repeat offenders, first-time offenders, whatever -- and the marshals make those decisions.
Q: Ken, can you give us -- how many have been detained or arrested so far, including these 34 (sic) ?
Mr. Bacon: There have been three phases to this operation; the first phase was under the management of the Department of Justice. That ended on May 4th, and during that period, 216 people were detained. The second phase was the so-called DoD phase, which was a combination of Navy and Marine Corps security -- that phase began late on the 4th of May at 1700 -- 5 o'clock. And 68 people were detained during that phase, and I'm afraid I actually don't know when that phase ended, but I think it went on for about a week or so, maybe slightly less. Since then, the Navy has provided security and they have detained a total of 35 (sic)  people, including -- including -- the 34 (sic)  detained today. And they have, during this period of time, a total of 89 boats have been turned away, but no boats have been confiscated, as I understand it.
Q: The Navy's providing security -- is it providing it with active duty Navy people or are these civilian police officers, paid by the Navy, or --
Mr. Bacon: I believe these are Shore Patrol, active duty Navy people.
Mr. Bacon: Yes?
Q: New subject?
Mr. Bacon: Sure. Have we finished with Vieques?
Q: What can you tell us about a test that took place in April at Eglin Air Force Base, a Stinger test for the NTSB?
Mr. Bacon: Well, a test did take place, it was done for the NTSB, the test was carried out at Eglin Air Force Base, but it was carried out by contractor civilians, not by military officials, as I understand it. They attempted to fire a total of four Stingers, but one was a misfire, so they ended up firing three Stingers. And this was on April 28th, as I recall.
Q: Were you aware this was happening?
Mr. Bacon: Was I aware that it was happening? No, but Stingers are fired at Eglin Air Force Base a number of times a year --
Q: On behalf of the NTSB?
Mr. Bacon: No, but it's a Stinger firing range, and so it's not unusual for them to fire Stingers. My understanding is that they put out a notice -- I can give you a copy of the notice or you can get a copy from Bryan -- announcing that they were going to have a test.
Q: You mean the range put out a notice?
Mr. Bacon: Yeah, the range put out a notice, as it always does before they have tests.
Q: (Off mike) -- was talking, I guess, about the apparent extreme secrecy of the NTSB in not informing higher levels at the Pentagon that they were using a DOD range.
Mr. Bacon: Well, I don't know that that's the case. I wouldn't read -- I wouldn't read too much into that. I'm not positive it's the case that there was extreme secrecy. Clearly, there wasn't extreme secrecy, because there are stories in the Washington Post and the New York Times about it today.
Q: But what was the purpose of the test? Were they firing the Stingers at something, or were they firing it and trying to see what it looked like --
Mr. Bacon: I'm going to refer you to the NTSB on that. It was a test done for them. It just happened to be done on an Air Force range. And I think they should answer all the questions about why they wanted the test and what they hope to learn from it.
Q: Thank you.
Mr. Bacon: Okay. Thank you.
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