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

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD (PA)
June 22, 1995 2:00 PM EDT

Thursday, June 22, 1995 - 2:00 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

I have a couple of announcements.

The first is that I'm happy to report that John P. White was sworn in as the Deputy Secretary at approximately 11:25 this morning. He was sworn in by the redoubtable Doc Cook, and the ceremony was presided over by Secretary Perry.

Secondly, I'd like to announce that later today at 4:30, here, Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall and Air Force Chief of Staff Ronald Fogleman will announce a contract selection in the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System Program, which is a new training aircraft to replace the T-38. That will be later this afternoon.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: A couple of points left over from this morning. First of all, Secretary Perry at one point misunderstood my question when I was asking about the Army investigation into the North Korea helicopter shootdown, and indicated that he thought I was asking about the Wang case. And in his response to that question, he indicated that there might be -- in fact he said it was entirely possible there could be -- further administrative action in that case, the Wang case. Could you at all clarify what he was referring to?

A: Yes. He was not trying to forecast one way or another whether there will be additional actions in the Wang case. The criminal proceedings are over in the Wang case. He has been tried and acquitted. There is a possibility that there could be administrative action. I don't know if there will be or there won't be. That's up to the discretion of his commander. That's all he was trying to say. He was not trying to signal that there will be, he said it is possible there could be.

Q: Is it also possible there could be further administrative action directed against senior leaders involved in this...

A: I think right now the Secretary has said he supports the way the investigation has gone, the way the Uniform Military Justice System has acted, and I don't think it's worth speculating at this time what will happen. There's been an extensive investigation. The Air Force has looked at the activities of a number of people. It's leveled administrative actions against a number of people -- letters of reprimand. Those were all detailed on Tuesday.

More importantly, however, the Air Force has taken, and the Joint Chiefs have taken, a number of steps to reduce the possibility that a tragedy like this will happen again. They range from changing rules of engagement to changing command and control, briefing techniques, etc.

Q: The question we were actually asking about -- which was the Army report that was released today on the helicopter incident in North Korea. He indicated, again there, that the door was open to further administrative action. Can you amplify at all...

A: No, I think the Secretary spoke very clearly on that. He said he would review the results, and I don't want to go beyond what he said. There again, I don't think you should look at it as prejudicing the case one way or another. Administrative actions can take many forms.

Q: This Army report would suggest that no individual received any sort of disciplinary action at all in this incident. Does it raise some kind of question about accountability?

A: Apparently it does in your mind, but I'm not sure it does in other people's minds. Administrative actions can involve changing training procedures. They can involve changing flight patterns. They can involve changing equipment on helicopters. Many of those changes have already been made, as you know, and in fact they're detailed in the Army report.

Q: But if these two pilots were sent on that mission with inadequate training, inadequate maps, inadequate equipment, is no one responsible for that?

A: Jamie, you've read the report. The report says very clearly that it was a combination of factors, each seemingly minor in themselves. Frequently disasters occur because of a long string of small failings or because a whole series of fail-safe mechanisms collapse at once.

The Army has investigated this. The Secretary has said he'll take a look at the Army's report. I don't think I can go beyond that.

Q: Just to carry the analogy one step further. This is one in a series of events that taken all together -- this case, the Wang case, other past investigations of accidents -- would seem to indicate there is an unwillingness or inability to find any responsibility up the chain of command. Many of these recent investigations have stopped after determination of the person most directly responsible and there's never any finding that anybody else was held responsible.

A: Jamie, I think that's a completely unwarranted assumption on your part.

Q: The Secretary is going to review the Army case, and if he holds open the possibility of further action in the Wang case, does he have authority to take action on his own, or...

A: I want to clarify one thing on the Wang case. His comment on the Wang case dealt with administrative action dealing with Captain Wang. That is something that would be up to Captain Wang's commander. It is not something that the Secretary would be involved in. It is up to Captain Wang's commander. I'm not aware that Captain Wang's commander has made a decision to impose administrative action or not to impose administrative action, but I want to be clear on that. It's a command decision. A local command decision.

Q: My question is, does the Secretary of Defense have some options on his own to force some sort of administrative action in these cases?

A: I think there's a very unfortunate assumption here: that nothing's been done in either of these cases. The Black Hawk shootdown was intensively investigated. There was a 24-volume study of what happened there. A number of actions have been taken to correct what was reported to be errors and mistakes -- found to be errors and mistakes -- in the study. A number of actions have been taken in Korea to prevent a navigational error from occurring such as what happened with the helicopter late last year. The assumption that nothing has been done is a wrong assumption. You should dismiss it. You should look back at these reports.

Q: I'm not assuming that nothing has been done. I'm asking whether the Secretary of Defense can insist that additional action be taken.

A: I think it's not profitable to pursue this any further than we've pursued it. He spoke about the Hilemon case, and he spoke earlier this week about the Wang case. I'd like to leave it at that.

Q: Base closures. So far the commission has begun voting and so far they have voted to close two air logistic centers that the Department had sought to keep open; they had sought to keep all five Air Force centers open.

To what extent do decisions like this foul up the Department's plans for downsizing the infrastructure? Do you have any reaction?

A: I think it's premature to react to the base closing, the preliminary decisions. I understand that the BRAC Commission will vote today, tomorrow, and probably Saturday, and they've reserved the time on Monday to continue voting. So until we see the entire package, I don't want to pull out an individual part of it.

I can give you, or you can get back there as you leave, a letter that the Air Force sent to Allen Dixon, the Chairman of the Base Closure Commission. It was from General Fogleman and Secretary Widnall discussing this very topic, which is how to deal with the depots.

Obviously, when we review the final package, we'll look at a whole variety of topics in deciding how to judge the impact of the package. One will be the impact on our military mission, the ability to perform our mission. Second will be impact on cost, particularly balancing short term versus long term costs and savings. There are costs, closure costs associated with many of these actions. A third factor, and there are many other factors, and they're all laid out in the law, but a third factor will be the cumulative economic impact of various actions on areas around the country.

Q: More broadly could you discuss the Department's view on whether there needs to be a further round, or how many further rounds of base closures to get down to where you think you need to be?

A: The Secretary has said that he thinks we could well use another round toward the end of this millennium. I think we'll wait and see what's produced from this, from the commission's actions, to find out whether we need to go further. But the Secretary is on record as saying that we'll probably need another round to bring the infrastructure down to the proper size and cost.

Q: Are you suggesting that the votes today are somehow not final? That they could be changed between now and Monday?

A: I'm not suggesting that at all. I'm saying that we should look at the entire package. In other words, they have set aside four days for voting. I think they hope to get it all done in three days. I don't think it's appropriate to comment on the first three votes or five votes or six votes they take out of a long string of votes they're going to be taking over three or four days, because we want to see the geometry of the entire package. We don't want to just look at one angle. We want to look at the entire structure.

Q: One of these depots is in California and the people out there are already hurting. Senator Feinstein has called on Clinton to reject the move and so on. Is there going to be no comment from the Pentagon today on the people in California, people particularly around Sacramento who have been hit by this decision by the base commission?

A: The comment from the Pentagon is that we'll look at the entire package when it's complete. You know how this works. The next decision is for the President to make. The package will go to him when it's complete, and it will be written up, and there will be explanations of what they've done and why, and then he has three choices. He can accept the package, he can reject the package, or he can remand the package back to the commission for further consideration. The President will make that decision.

I'm sure he'll ask the Secretary for his advice. The advice the Secretary will give him will be based on some of the factors I talked about earlier. One of the factors is cumulative economic impact. But the primary factors have to do with impact on our ability to carry out the military mission and our impact on readiness and on balancing the cost and savings.

Q: You mentioned remanding. The law, though, only allows the President to remand the entire list, correct?

A: I believe that's correct. He can send the entire list back for reconsideration. The law is very specific about what the next steps are.

Q: Bosnia. Can we talk a little bit... The No-Fly Zone. This morning the Secretary was asked about it, and he said he was happy that a couple of planes had been turned back because of the fact that NATO aircraft had flown by them. Yet isn't there some frustration on the part of the Pentagon? Leighton Smith did ask for airstrikes, and was turned down by the UN. Is there some disconnect here in the way this operation is running on No-Fly?

A: It's a dual key approach. It's been a dual key approach from the beginning. It remains a dual key approach. This is not the first time that NATO and the UN have disagreed and reacted to different concerns.

Q: A little while ago the Secretary said that we would be providing for the Rapid Reaction Force some sort of intelligence cell. Where does that stand? Has the U.S. deployed anything? What's going?

A: We've been in contact with our allies. We have a plan for setting up an intelligence center that will support the Rapid Reaction Force. We are prepared to train some officials from our allied forces to participate in that. I do not believe it has been set up yet... It has not been set up yet, but we are in the preparatory stages for doing that.

Q: And we're sending some sort of surveillance aircraft over there as part of that?

A: I think I'd better wait until more details have become clear on exactly what we'll provide, but certainly we'll be sharing information from our surveillance assets with them as appropriate.

Q: Back to Admiral Smith's request. Is the U.S. taking any steps to reinforce that request? To make it again, maybe in stronger terms to the UN?

A: Remember, the request... Admiral Smith was acting in his capacity as the NATO Commander. He's the Commander of Allied Forces South. We provide 95 out of approximately 194 planes in Operation DENY FLIGHT, but it is a NATO operation. The request chain basically is to, NATO makes requests and they're reviewed by the UN or vice versa. The UN makes requests and they're reviewed by NATO. The dual key is a true dual key in that NATO can refuse to turn it as well as the UN can refuse to turn it.

Q: Right. But if the U.S. weighed in saying we agree with what Admiral Smith requested, it would give extra weight, of course, to the request. Is that happening?

A: I think this is an issue between NATO and the UN and they'll sort it out.

Q: Have you been able to figure out what it is the Rapid Reaction Force is going to do? When it's actually going to do something?

A: I think the best person to cite on that is Malcolm Rifkind, the Minister of Defense of the United Kingdom who has been here over the last couple of days. I think he left yesterday. He said that the Rapid Reaction Force will provide added protection for the UN force. He said it will enable the UN to carry out its mandate more effectively. He also made it very clear what it's not going to do. He said it is not going to wage war. The UN is no closer to taking sides in this combat or becoming a partisan in this conflict or seeking to enforce by military means solutions with regard to the conflict. So the two things he focused on were protecting UN forces and helping the UN to perform its mandates. Part of its mandate is to perform humanitarian aid.

Q: Does that mean it will ride shotgun on convoys and not stop at roadblocks?

A: I think all this remains to be seen. This is not a force that's being put together by the United States. It's a force being put together by our allies. That's why I wanted to refer to Malcolm Rifkind's comments, because he's a leader in this force.

Q: But it will involve American air cover if it is requested.

A: If it is requested. It will involve NATO air cover if requested.

Q: What would the conditions for that air cover be, if we were to go into an area to try to provide them with air cover?

A: The conditions would be we would want the air cover to be as effective as possible within the parameters set by the Rapid Reaction Force and by the UN.

The Secretary has made it clear that we are willing to provide close air support to the Rapid Reaction Force. He's also made it clear that the commanders on the scene have the right to not take actions to put our pilots at risk.

Q: One thing the Secretary also said at one point is that the U.S. was prepared to provide strategic lift for this Rapid Reaction Force. Has the U.S. done any of that yet?

A: I don't believe we have, but we will, I'm sure.

Q: Do you know when we would start providing lift for the RRF?

A: We'll do it when we're requested to do it. I think we have received a request from one of the allies to provide some lift in July.

Q: Do you know when the Rapid Reaction Force is going to be ready to go to do something?

A: You keep thinking I'm British or French or Dutch and can answer all these detailed questions about the allies' Rapid Reaction Force. The allies Rapid Reaction Force... I wish I could answer these questions in Dutch. Maybe the answers would be clearer...

Q: American aircraft are going to participate in close air support, so I thought perhaps the country that is providing the close air support, the majority of it...

Q: Not only that, we're being asked to pay for some of it.

Q: ...might be interested in when this is going to swing into action.

A: That is a question that's best left up to the participants in the force. The force is, I have read, being deployed, that sections of the force have already been deployed.

Q: How much money at the moment do you think Congress will have to provide for this force now that efforts are being made to get contributions from some G-7 members and others who had not originally been thought of as contributors?

A: I think it's premature to talk about that right now. We're still working out the dimensions of our support package. We will be consulting with Congress. We have been consulting with Congress and we'll continue to consult with Congress over the appropriate amount of support.

Q: Is there a way in the end, do you think, that might be found that would obviate any need for congressional funding for this?

A: There are certainly elements of the support that could be provided without specific congressional authority or action. But our goal is to consult fully with Congress, and we've been doing that.

Q: Who does the request for strategic lift come from? I thought you said that you believed the United States had received a request.

A: We have received a request, but I'd rather not reveal who made the request until it's accomplished.

Q: Do you have any other details, or can you give any other details on what the request has to do specifically...

A: You mean you want to know where they're leaving from.

Q: Yes.

A: If I told you where they were leaving from, then you'd know who made the request. We have received a request. We will honor the request. It hasn't been honored yet because the request is for a time in the future.

Q: Is that the only request you received since this began in Paris a couple of weeks ago?

A: This is a process. We talk to these people. They're our allies. We talk to them every day. Minister Rifkind has been here for several days. He met with Secretary Perry over breakfast. We're in discussions with him at a variety of levels. It's not... We're in discussions and we respond to what they ask us to do. We're still working out the parameters of this.

We're dealing here with very mature countries, with powerful military forces who are well trained and well equipped. We're dealing with the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands. These have been our allies in NATO since NATO was created. They have ability to transport themselves. They have the ability to protect themselves, and they have the ability to carry out the missions that they will assign to themselves in the Rapid Reaction Force. We are prepared to help them as they request, but we're not talking about people who aren't prepared to carry out military missions -- quite the opposite.

Q: Immediately after that Paris meeting, General Shalikashvili and Secretary Perry both had a list of 30 specific things the United States was prepared to offer, but said this was, of course, depending on what was requested.

A: Right.

Q: I'm wondering, it's been a few weeks. I'm wondering whether in fact there have been essentially no requests or...

A: There have been requests, and the requests have been pretty much along the lines that we had negotiated with our allies months ago. Night vision devices, airlift, sealift, the provision of close air support. One of the things that was mentioned in Paris was the use of AC-130 gunships if requested. Those are in the package.

Q: That's been requested?

A: There have been requests made for those, yes.

Q: For all of those things?

A: Yes.

Q: Helicopters? That was mentioned also initially.

A: I don't believe helicopters are in the package.

Q: Do you have a situation report or assessment on the offensive by the Bosnian government that began several days ago, attempting apparently to break the siege of Sarajevo. Do you have a sense that you can share with us as to what has happened in the following day?

A: I don't have a sense that goes significantly beyond what you've been reading in the press. I think it's been pretty accurate reporting of the ebb and flow of the military action in Bosnia.

Q: To what extent is the Pentagon concerned about the transfer of missile technology from China to Iran and Pakistan that was first reported in the New York Times?

A: We are concerned about any actions that encourage or produce the proliferation of weapons. We are monitoring the situation very, very closely. We have been for some time. The Secretary has discussed this with his counterparts in China and his counterparts in Pakistan.

I think it's important to note that while we are looking at it very carefully, we do not currently have evidence that the missile technology control regime has been violated by any ongoing or recent transactions.

Q: So you do not have...

A: We do not have firm, conclusionary evidence that the missile technology control regime has been violated at this point.

Q: Is that a technical determination? You're not saying there's been no transfer of any technology.

A: Everything to do with arms control is technical at some level.

Q: Has any U.S. component, missile technology, been delivered or passed to China that has its way back to Iran or Pakistan?

A: That is a good question, and I do not know the answer.

Q: The argument on this has to do with what is a threshold system and what is not. Is that where the confusion comes in? The countries involved argue that the systems that we're talking about do not violate the missile control regime. The U.S. does argue that the systems involved do violate the missile control regime. Or are you saying you have not seen components of anything?

A: There are a number of considerations here. One is what do we know about what services, supplies, or parts they're providing, or entire missiles. The regime, like all arms control agreements, is very complex. It has category one and category two, and lists of things that can and can't be done defined by range and other factors. So there are a number of issues here. One is, what have they done? Two, if they have done something, does it comply or not comply? Those are the two primary factors.

Based on both of those factors, we're not ready to make a judgment right now on whether their relationships with those two countries are treaty compliant or not.

Q: Can you take the question as to whether any U.S. Components or technologies have...

A: I'll take the question. I won't promise an answer.

Press: Thank you.

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