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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
December 18, 1997 1:30 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

First, I'd like to welcome some guests. The first is Bruce Harter, the Director of National Security and Foreign Affairs for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Welcome. Also there's a group of journalists here from China -- ten journalists from various parts of China who are here as part of a two-week USIA-sponsored study program. We welcome you as well.

A note on Guam. As you know, a typhoon of ferocious strength -- winds approaching 300 miles an hour -- struck Guam and inflicted a considerable amount of damage. In response, the Defense Department has sent five C-5 transport planes, or is in the process of sending five C-5 transport planes of equipment to Guam. Three are carrying equipment, primarily electrical-generating equipment and communications equipment such as portable telephones to replace the infrastructure that has been destroyed by the typhoon. Two other planes are carrying 100 tons of blankets, water, and food, mainly in the form of Meals Ready to Eat. They should arrive within 48 hours. Earlier, the Coast Guard sent some food and water in some C-130s.

Two other announcements here. The first is to call your attention to the fact that the Air Force is declaring the initial operational capability of the Joint STARS system, which is the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System plane. Three of these aircraft have been assigned to their wing and ten more are currently projected for delivery. As you know, this is a plane that sort of does on the ground what the AWACS does in the air. It tracks activity on the ground to give us a good look at activity on the ground in all weather conditions.

Finally, let me bring you up to date on travel plans for Secretary Cohen and Deputy Secretary Hamre over the Christmas holidays. Secretary Cohen will leave for Bosnia on Tuesday, the 23rd of December and he will make several stops along the way. He will go first to Naples. The morning of the 24th of December he will visit several ships and have breakfast with 150 sailors and marines from the ships, the USS GUAM, the USS SOUTH CAROLINA, and the USS APACHE.

He will be accompanied on this tour by the singer, Mary Chapin Carpenter, who will give performances along the way, including one morning performance on the day before Christmas -- Christmas Eve day -- in Naples, and then performances at the two other stops he plans to make.

After he leaves Naples, he will go to Macedonia where he will have lunch on Christmas Eve day with the soldiers in Task Force Able Sentry who are protecting peace and stability in Macedonia.

Q: How many are there now?

A: I'll get the exact number, but I think there are about 500-600 now. But we'll get the precise number. 350 -- it's down to 350 -- it's been coming down.

So he'll have lunch with the forces there. There will be another performance by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Then he'll go on to Tuzla. He'll arrive in the evening and have dinner with the troops. Mrs. Cohen will travel with him. They will both have dinner with the troops. Mrs. Cohen may participate in some activities with the troops at local orphanages or other institutions working with programs that troops have already established in the area. We're still working out the details of that part of the schedule.

Then on Christmas morning he will have breakfast with the troops, attend a non-denominational church service in Tuzla, and return on Christmas day.

While he is in Bosnia, Macedonia and Naples visiting troops, the Deputy Secretary, John Hamre, will visit U.S. forces at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and also in Haiti. He will do that on Christmas Day and return. He'll visit approximately a thousand troops on his trip.

I want to remind you and everybody else, that on Christmas day, there will be approximately 106,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines on deployment away from home.

Q: (inaudible)

A: He leaves on the 23rd, returns on the 24th, so he'll do this just before Christmas. We can give you the precise... The details here are that he will go to Haiti and visit members of the U.S. Support Group there on the afternoon of December 23rd. He'll stay overnight in Haiti -- I believe that's correct. Then he will travel on to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba the next morning, the 24th, and return on that day.

With that I'll take your questions on this travel or anything else.

Q: Is there any indication from the SACEUR and the NATO Military Committee yet on whether the new force in Bosnia is likely to be smaller than the one that's there now? And do you expect the proportion of U.S. troops will be about the same percentage-wise as the current proportions?

A: I think it's too early to talk about that right now because NATO is working on the details.

The President said this morning that he anticipated that the U.S. participation in the follow-on force after June would be smaller than the current participation. There are now about 8,000 American troops in Bosnia.

Q: Out of 31,000 which is...

A: The total mission is now 31,000. The authorized limit is 32,000 -- slightly below that. The authorized U.S. participation is 8,500, and we're down close to 8,000 at this stage?

Q: So you would expect it to be less than 25 percent, which is about where it is right now? U.S. participation.

A: I think it's too early to tell right now what the U.S. share of the new force will be. This will be worked out in the next five or six weeks by NATO and in the various capitals as we review what the NATO military authorities come up with.

All I can tell you is that the President anticipates that the U.S. share of the new NATO force will be smaller than it currently is.

I should point out, as you all know, this is not just a NATO force, it's a NATO-led force, but there are troops there from a number of other nations. The Russians have indicated that they plan to participate in the force beyond June of 1998, and a number of other non-NATO countries have indicated that as well. I would fully anticipate, for instance, that Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary will remain actively involved in the Bosnia peace mission.

Q: About Secretary Cohen's visit to Bosnia, how did it come about that Mary Chapin Carpenter is going on the trip? Is Secretary Cohen a fan of her music, or did she volunteer, was she approached? How did that come about?

A: Well, he's definitely a fan of her music. I believe he knows her. I will get the exact details. She's actually performing in Europe and is going to meet Secretary and Mrs. Cohen on their plane in Shannon and fly from Ireland down to Naples and then the rest of the trip.

Q: About the follow-on force, is there a name for this force yet?

A: No, not that I know of. The same people who named the President's dog can come up with names for the follow-on force. This will be a contest for the next several weeks. (Laughter)

Q: Would it be the Luke force, by any chance?

A: I think I wouldn't speculate on any name right now.

Q: But seriously, this follow-on force, to what extent is there a concern as the mission for this force is drawn up, that it would possibly involve U.S. troops in functions that should be handled by a police force? Is that one of the concerns as planners start developing this next mission?

A: One of the main concerns that Secretary Cohen has, and he fully supports this decision by the President. One of the main concerns that he has and that other members of the administration team have, is that we have to have a clear, coherent transition strategy.

As the President made clear today, he does not anticipate that we are going to have forces in Bosnia for a long period of time. He does not see this as an extremely lengthy deployment or mission. We have been talking -- we in the Administration have been talking over the last several weeks about the need, for instance, to develop a new police infrastructure in Bosnia to help take over some of the law and order missions, or to perform law and order missions and therefore relieve pressure on SFOR.

So one of the things the President, General Clark, Secretary Cohen, General Shelton and others will be looking at, will be how that infrastructure gets factored into the plans -- the transitional strategy gets factored into the plans that NATO is drawing up.

Q: Is there pressure for the NATO troops to perform functions that the United States believes should be done by police forces rather than military forces?

A: I think that SFOR has been quite clear on the dimensions of its mission and it's worked very hard to perform, primarily, a mission that involves separation, disarmament, and maintaining general area security or to prevent a resumption of fighting in Bosnia. SFOR has worked hard to avoid very specific tasks such as escorting refugees back to their homes. We think that is a job that should be performed more appropriately by police forces, local police forces.

What SFOR does do is provide broad area security in cases such as refugee return. That will remain, I believe, one of the signal concerns of the policymakers as they look for the new mission of the follow-on force that comes after June.

Q: The President said also one of his concerns, he's going to insist that the force that is there is able to protect itself. What does that say about the type of force, then, that is needed to be there?

A: Force protection has been one of our primary goals, has been a primary goal from the very beginning. It suggests that we won't move down to a tiny force, certainly, in the next phase. It suggests that we will continue to pay an awful lot of attention to maintaining the security of the forces we have there. But I don't think right now it's possible to extrapolate from that statement what the size of the next force will be.

Q: If not the size, what does it say about the composition of the force? What type of force?

A: We'll have to have a number of combat soldiers -- they'll be well armed, well trained, well led, that they will continue, to presumably, dress for danger as they do now, and they will continue to be alert through their own patrols and also through the intelligence they get to the local situations and to respond to them as necessary.

Q: The President at his news conference was asked how Secretary Cohen was brought on board with this decision, and he didn't answer it. I wonder if you could, given the Secretary's past concern about keeping his deadlines,...

A: First of all, the Secretary has never believed in setting deadlines. He said that when he was a member of the Senate. He inherited a deadline for this mission.

His concern for the SFOR force, and U.S. participation in particular in this force, has always been that we not stay there forever, that we have a strategy for getting out of Bosnia. He has always wanted to perform the mission and to get out as soon as possible. That's still his goal. What's changed is his realization of when possible is. Why did he change? Why does he think it's going to take longer than June of '98? I think there are a number of reasons.

The first is, he's been to Bosnia twice; he's spent a lot of time talking with General Clark and other military commanders; he's met extensively with his colleagues from our fellow participants in SFOR, most recently with George Robertson the UK Defense Minister, he's met with Alain Richard in France, he's met twice with General Marshal Sergeyev of Russia. As I said, the Russian forces plan to stay. All of them stressed the need for SFOR to remain, some SFOR type force to remain in Bosnia, and all of them stress the need for U.S. leadership of that force. So I think those had a...

I think his personal observation led him to believe that we are making great progress in Bosnia, but there's a lot of room left for progress. We aren't there yet. We need more time.

I think he paid a lot of attention to the calls he got from his colleagues for continued American leadership. He saw that it was necessary. I think there's one other factor. Yesterday he talked with nine members of Congress, including Senator Warner, with whom some of you spoke earlier today, and briefed them on what the President was planning to do, and found that these members from both parties were generally supportive of the President's decision to continue in Bosnia beyond June of 1998. He's always felt that congressional support for continuation was absolutely crucial. I think he realizes, after his conversations, that that congressional support will probably be there.

Q: (inaudible)

A: I'll see if we can do that.

Q: Will U.S. troops undertake any new missions past June of '98, or will they be limited to the mission they currently have now.

A: That's exactly the type of issue that the NATO military authorities are considering now and will make recommendations on in mid January. Then the governments will have to decide.

Basically, our goal is to try to shrink the size of the force and the mission of the force as much as possible as we create transitional strategies and structures to take the place of the military force. That's not going to happen immediately.

I think the question of defining the mission will be one of the crucial questions -- there will be two crucial questions. One is defining the mission. Is the mission the same, is it less, or is it broader? I don't anticipate it will be broader than the current mission. Two, sizing the force to fit the mission.

Because one of our primary points throughout this has been to send a force that was adequate to do the job and adequate to protect itself while it was doing the job, and those two goals will remain.

Q: Has the Secretary kind of ruled out anything like policing functions or escorting refugees like you mentioned? Or are those things now on the table?

A: Secretary Cohen does not believe those would be appropriate, but he will look at the facts as they develop from the military authorities. I think that there's a lot of room for debate on what the needs are in Bosnia and what the role of the force should be right now, but I do think there's general agreement and unity among the allies in SFOR that our goal is to get out of Bosnia eventually. That eventually the Bosnians have to be responsible for their own future. The U.S. certainly doesn't anticipate leaving a garrison force there forever. I think the President made that very clear this morning, and I don't believe that our fellow participants in SFOR envision leaving a garrison force there forever, either.

Q: The President did say the benchmarks were nebulous, were going to be nebulous for some weeks, as you have already mentioned. Does the Secretary favor making those benchmarks very specific and defining the parameters then whereby troops would be withdrawn? Since there's not going to be a deadline.

A: We will strive -- I think the U.S. Government will strive for as much specificity as possible. I can't predict right now how much that will be, but, I will take you back to the initial mandate for IFOR, the implementation force that went in, followed by the current force, SFOR, the stabilization force. This is a point that General Joulwan has made many times in briefings from this platform, and others have made it as well. That the tasks of that force were very carefully laid out in the Dayton Peace Accords. We wanted to make sure that everybody was clear about what this force was supposed to do. I wouldn't anticipate any muddling of that clarity. I think everybody wants to have a clear mandate for this force and a clear division between what the military is supposed to do and what local authorities are supposed to do. Our goal is to grow the number of tasks that the local authorities can perform on their own so there can be a compensating reduction of what the military force has to do.

Q: You said a minute ago you felt the mission would be broader.

A: No. I did not say that. I said I did not anticipate it would be broader. I said there are three possibilities -- that the mission will be the same, it will be narrower, or it could be broader, and I said specifically I don't anticipate that it will be broader. But just to make sure, I'll repeat it again. I do not anticipate that the NATO military authorities or their political directors will accept a broader mission.

Q: Earlier Senator Warner mentioned that he believed that Karadzic and others have been a major stumbling block to implementing the rebuilding of the country and getting the people to cooperate with the allied forces and with the non-governmental organizations, and he even suggested that the United States and others put prices on their heads to get rid of them.

Would our new mission involve some kind of action to get the indicted war criminals out of the way since they do seem to be a stumbling block?

A: First of all, the international community is completely unified behind the proposition that indicted war criminals should be brought to trial in the Hague. I think we've seen some good progress in that regard in just the last couple of months. Two war criminals were captured in Prijedor; one was captured, one was killed in Prijedor in July; ten war criminals -- these were indicted war criminals, alleged war criminals -- turned themselves in October in Vitez, the so-called Vitez 10. This was done largely because of good, solid work by Robert Gelbard who is the special State Department assistant for Bosnia. And just, as you know, last night, two more were detained by Dutch forces in Vitez and a nearby town. So there has been... There are now, I believe, 22 indicted war criminals under detention in the Hague, and of that number, 13 have been sent there since July. So there's been considerable progress on this.

Q: Are we going to put on more pressure to get at people like Karadzic?

A: I think the lesson of what's happened so far is pretty clear. The international community is serious about getting indicted war criminals to trial at the Hague, and it is working hard to do that, and beginning to succeed. I think all indicted war criminals who remain on the loose should look at what's happened over the last couple of months.

Q: Did the latest arrests signal an intensified campaign by SFOR to get war criminals?

A: I think they signal the ability of SFOR to react when they run across war criminals in their normal course of business, and to detain them in a way that is prudent and effective.

Q: Senator Warner suggested that we ought to put a price on some of those folks' heads. Does Secretary Cohen think that would be a good idea? Does the Department think that would be a good idea?

A: Well, that's a suggestion that I've just heard from you, recounted by Senator Warner. I can't comment on that right now.

Q: Was there any U.S. participation in this operations?

A: There was U.S. support most primarily in terms of communications, providing a communications infrastructure for the operation. We also provided some logistics support, primarily transportation. It was in U.S. C-130s that the detained indicted war criminals were transferred to the Hague.

Q: Any helos or special ops?

A: There was a British helicopter involved in the operation at one point.

Q: Do you also have a readout on the figures of the support for the Bosnia operation that's in Hungary? The number of aircraft in Aviano? Do they still...

A: We can get you all that stuff. I'm not sure I have the number of aircraft in Aviano. But I can tell you right now that we have 8,064 troops in Bosnia; 593 in Croatia; and another 2,583 in Hungary and Italy. Now a group of those, of course, would be at Aviano, would be connected with the Air Force in Aviano. So that totals, if they've added correctly here, 11,240 involved in the whole mission right now. But of those 8,000, slightly less than 8,100 are in Bosnia.

Q: Are they still flying air patrols...

A: Yeah. I'll get you a complete update on that. I don't have the exact figures on the number of planes or exactly what their operating tempo is out of Aviano.

Q: I wanted to ask about the report that was done on gender integrated training. Can you clarify for us that under the recommendations of this special advisory panel, if they were implemented, to what degree it would result in segregating training that now is integrated? Is there some way to clarify or quantify that for us?

A: It's difficult to do, but let me approach that from the other direction. Some of the reporting on this, I think, has leapt to an unwarranted conclusion. Let me read you the lead in a newspaper account from yesterday. "A civilian panel's unanimous recommendation Tuesday that the armed forces keep men and women separate for most of their basic training drew a barrage of criticism." That's not what the panel recommended. The panel's recommendation would not lead to separating men and women in the Army, Navy, and Air Force for most of their basic training.

According to calculations that were done by the panel, and you should probably talk with panel members or their staff to get these, but we can actually hand out some charts that were prepared and maybe weren't handed out on Tuesday, but according to their calculations, this is what their recommendations would mean.

In the Army, approximately 70 percent of the training would be mixed gender -- if their recommendations were enacted. In the Navy, that figure would be around 60 percent mixed gender training. In the Air Force, because of the way the training is currently structured, it would be in the 40-50 percent range mixed gender training. That's in part because, I believe, a comparatively larger section of the Air Force training actually takes place in the barracks, so to the extent that the barracks separate the sexes, and they're separated now either by floor or by wing in the Air Force as they are in the other services, but to the extent they're separated and you do a lot of the training in the barracks, then by definition that training will be separated.

Now this could all change depending on how the services react to the report, and it could change depending on how the services would implement -- if they bought the recommendations, how they would implement the recommendations. But I think the bottom line is that there's plenty of opportunity, and in fact a very strong expectation that there would be a lot of mixed gender training, even if men and women were to live in separate barracks.

Q: You say that some of the reporting leapt to an unwarranted conclusion. It would also seem from what you've just said that some of the statements made by the panel members to the effect that they were only talking about segregating housing and not training, also don't seem to be...

A: I thought that Senator Kassebaum was pretty clear when she pointed to the chart she had up here, that there would be some changes at the bottom level of training, and that, in the Army, is the platoon; in the Navy the division; and in the Air Force the flight. These are the smallest units into which people are grouped.

In the Army, the four platoons of about 60 people each come together to make a company. Most of the training in the Army is done on a company basis rather than in platoon formations. So to the extent that you brought together several platoons of men and a platoon of women, you would have, to some extent, mixed gender training.

Now you can ask yourself, and it's a very legitimate question: Okay, you have one platoon of men and three platoons of men, how much do they actually mix together? Do you have the women at one end of the rifle range and do you have the three platoons of men in the rest of the rifle range? Those are details that can be worked out by the service, and the services have plenty of flexibility to work those details out. But I don't think we can be clear on exactly what the format would be, if it would change at all, until we hear how the services respond to the report.

Q: On Sunday, voters in Okinawa are going to be participating in a referendum on whether or not to build a heliport in Nago, Okinawa. If that fails, what will that do to our relationship with the Japanese military?

And on Korea, Kim Dae-jung is declaring victory in the presidential election there. Any comments on that?

A: First, in Japan, our relationship with the Japanese military is extremely strong and I would anticipate that it would remain strong, despite the vote. I can't predict, I'm not an expert on Japanese politics and I can't predict, how that vote would come out, but I think the government of Japan very strongly supports the proposal to move the Futenma Air Base to an off-shore facility as a step toward reducing the American footprint in Okinawa. I think the government's working hard to win that vote.

In terms of Korea, I'm not going to make a prediction on how the election will come out.

Q: What do you plan in the way of briefings for the next two weeks?

A: I haven't decided yet. Obviously I'm not going to brief on Christmas day, a week from today. Sorry. And I have not decided yet on Tuesday. We should take a vote. Who wants a briefing on Tuesday? Who doesn't?

I think, actually, I'll probably respond more to the news than to this vote. I will make a decision on Monday and let you know.

Q: Europe and the United States (inaudible) qoute, unqoute Macedonia instead of (inaudible). Which is the (inaudible) name. Any comment or clarification?

A: Sorry?

Q: In your opening remarks, you said twice, Macedonia instead of (inaudible) which is the (inaudible) name as you know.

A: I, of course, was speaking in understandable and abbreviated terms.

Q: Any information on the upcoming exercise among U.S., Israel and Turkey? Where and for how long?

A: The final details of that exercise, which has the wonderful name of Reliant Mermaid, have not been announced yet. But my understanding is the exercise is likely to take place in January; that it will involve naval forces from Israel, Turkey and the United States. The focus will be a humanitarian search and rescue operation, and it will be structured on a real life scenario or set of facts. The exercise will be of fairly short duration.

Q: Did you sign any agreement for those exercises? There will be I think eight of them in 1998?

A: I don't know the answer to that, but we'll try to find out.

Q: Could you comment on a report that came from the deployment of U.S. troops in the Greek Island of Rhodes or (inaudible) Islands?

A: You keep asking me that question. Rhodes, of course, is a beautiful island and many Americans would like to visit Rhodes, but the fact is we have not deployed or stationed U.S. troops in Rhodes. It is true that, from time to time, American ships dock at Rhodes or make port calls at Rhodes. I can tell you that in December -- to date there have been two visits -- one by the USS ASHLAND which is one of the ships that will have some sailors dining with Secretary Cohen next week; and the USS BARRY have both made port calls to Rhodes, and in November, three American ships made port calls there.

Q: ...In the next two hours that Secretary Cohen is going to meet the Turkish Prime Minister here in the town, and I wonder if you have any kind of the agenda?

A: They'll talk about a broad range of U.S. and Turkish concerns. Operation NORTHERN WATCH will be one, certainly. Turkey's continued support and important support for the continued sanctions against Iraq, until Iraq complies with the UN resolutions. I think they'll talk about a number of other issues of mutual concern.

Q: Will the U.S. recommend to the UN, to Mr. Butler, to go ahead and test the access that's being denied the UN inspectors by the Iraqis? Have you heard anything from Butler on that?

A: We're not in favor of tests, per se. We're in favor of complete access. We've made it clear and the Security Council has made it clear. Foreign Minister Primakov made it clear the other day, that we expect Iraq to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions and that is to allow inspections of its weapons of mass destruction sites.

Q: Is it clear that access is denied, formally denied?

A: Well, certainly, Mr. Butler issued a fairly discouraging report. It's available from the UN and he is now discussing that report with the Security Council. That report is available to I'm sure anybody who asks for it. It's publicly available, and I think it was made available to the press this morning.

Q: Has the posture of U.S. or Iraqi forces changed since that report came out?

A: No. It has not changed.

Q: Any violations?

A: Not that I'm aware of. The U-2 flew successfully last night without incident; spent four hours over Central Iraq on a seven hour mission.

Press: Thank you very much.

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