Thursday, July 6, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.
As you are aware, the Secretary is hosting the Defense Ministerial of the Americas, known as DMA, later this month in Colonial Williamsburg. We expect defense delegates from 34 countries to attend and to participate in the discussions covering defense and security issues.
I want to remind everybody who is here that there is a requirement for media members to have DMA press credentials in order to cover the events in the Ministerial. Applications are available in DDI from either Dan Philbin or Rick Scott. The DMA starts on July 24th, so we advise you to get your applications filled- out now.
With that, I'll be happy to take your questions.
Q: Mike, in connection with that, has there been a decision on whether they're going to get a regular block of rooms down there or anything?
A: I think if you check with them, I think they've got a little bit on accommodations, that sort of thing.
Q: Is the Pentagon going to make a written report to the White House on the recommendations of the Secretary on the base closings report, or is it going to be a face-to-face kind of thing like you had yesterday?
A: My impression is that there will be a formal recommendation.
Dr. Perry addressed this earlier today when many of you had an opportunity to talk to him, and I really don't have much more than that. We'll try and see what form that recommendation will take, but my impression is it will be something more formal than a discussion which occurred last night.
Q: And the timing of that?
A: Those of you who were there probably recall that he indicated that he was still considering the BRAC report here and what action he was going to take. He wants to make a recommendation in the very near future, but he gave no specific date when that may be done.
Q: The Secretary confirmed this morning that they're considering this plan to privatize the jobs at McClellan. DOD's initial objection to what the Base Closure Commission did on McClellan and Kelly was that the Air Force could not afford to make those closures, and it would cut too deeply into readiness. Have you now given up on that argument? Do you now agree with the Commission on that?
A: I think what I need to do is to refer you to what the Secretary said. We have transcripts on that. He talked a little bit about it, indicating that we're examining now how we can accommodate the difficulties associated with the abrupt and dramatic change associated with closing down McClellan, and the issues which we are considering at this point are the impact on readiness and the impact on efficiency. But again, the Secretary's own words kind of describe what it is that we're doing at this point.
Q: You didn't mention the condition of affordability. The Commission has argued that savings would pay for the closure and the Air Force, which DOD signed off on, said that they could not afford to close those two big bases.
A: Please don't read too much into what is not said. I think we have to wait until the full and formal recommendation is made and the President makes his decision before we can get into that kind of examination of the issue.
Q: What he's getting at is the Secretary said he still felt the Pentagon's original plan to keep all five bases open would be less expensive than the other.
A: That's correct.
Q: Is he shutting-off the alternative of trying to keep all these five bases open?
A: He has essentially ruled out nothing at this point, other than the fact that we are looking at this issue of privatization in place.
Q: He's not looking at any political considerations just because this base is in California, is he?
A: His approach to this thing has been to look at the issues that we've looked at all along which have to do with the impact on military operations, cost, and the cumulative economic impact. And those are the issues that have guided us. Other considerations come into play when our recommendations go over to the White House.
Q: How do you answer critics who say, despite your previous remarks, that this is nothing but a political decision designed to, if the President goes along with it, enhance his reelection chances in California?
A: First of all, there has been no decision yet. Secretary Perry has not yet made his formal recommendation to the White House, and certainly the President has made no decision. So I think it's a little premature to speculate on how that may come out.
Q: Do you know if the privatization proposal that the Secretary spoke of this morning... The impetus behind that is saving some of the jobs that are there from moving to other areas of the country. Does that proposal require whatever private company might come in to operate that to keep all those jobs there?
A: My understanding is that the proposal the Secretary talked about this morning talks about a change in the language that is in the BRAC report which provides, then, more flexibility to the Department of Defense and to the Air Force in exactly how they approach that issue.
Q: I know, but if you privatized it, some private company is going to come in and operate and employ a certain number of people that are left there.
A: That's correct.
Q: Are they going to be required to keep all those jobs...
A: I can't answer your question because, again, I think it's premature to get into a lot of the details that may be still under discussion.
What I can tell you is that privatization in place is something that Secretary Perry has been very interested in, and it was also a subject that he mentioned this morning that was discussed in the report of the Commission on Roles and Missions. It's certainly something that is supported by the Department where we can do that successfully.
Q: How would you differentiate that from privatization and privatization in place? How would you define the difference?
A: I define the difference in privatization in place involves just exactly what we're saying there. That is to say a facility which previously has been operated by the Department of Defense would be turned over, sold, leased, somehow conveyed to a private contractor, and that organization would then proceed to operate for profit the same operation that previously had been done by the U.S. government.
Privatization does not necessarily require that it be done at that particular location.
Q: So the installation technically stays open then? Would not close?
A: The installation would come off the books of the Department of Defense and would go onto the books of some private concern or private concerns.
Q: Would you think of it as being a GO-CO, government owned - company operated? What would they have to require by the...
A: Again, at this point I can't get into that level of detail simply because those issues are part of the ongoing discussion.
Q: Do you know whether the Secretary has any heartburn over any other parts of the report? Like some of the bases that they did not close...
A: I think he said today that the two things that were most of concern to him were the closing down of those Air Force depots -- the one at McClellan and the one at Kelly -- that's in California and Texas. But previously, he had addressed the fact that this BRAC Commission changed an unusually high number of recommendations that had been made by the Department.
Q: Is the Secretary consulting with BRAC as he goes along here, in the hope that he can, as he makes a recommendation to the President, he can say that the BRAC has agreed to go along with this?
A: Let me answer that in two different sections. First of all, the last part of your question first. The Commission is an independent organization. They do not operate at the direction of the Department of Defense. They have made that very clear in everything that they have done.
Q: I wasn't suggesting...
A: On the other hand, the Commission is also a public organization that is open to hearing from anyone. The Department of Defense has maintained contact with the Commission since the beginning of their tenure, and indeed, throughout this entire process including the time they were voting on the issues and since they've issued their report, we have been in contact with them.
Q: So the Secretary is feeling out the Commission on how it...
A: To my knowledge, the Secretary himself has not been involved in any kind of contact with the Commission, but there are officials in the Department who certainly have had discussions with the Commission or with staff members of the Commission.
Q: Discussions that would be feeling out the Commission for whether or not they might buy a counter-proposal?
A: Discussions which would convey to them a sense of what our analysis is showing, and the areas in which we have concern. The Commission, likewise, as they were going through the voting process, we were able to see what it was that they were doing, and in fact, receive some information from them so that we could get our analysis underway at the earliest possible opportunity, and have some kind of analysis assembled at an early possible date.
I want to remind you that the 15th of July is the date that the President is required to make his decision and to move the package forward, or to return it to the Commission.
Q: Do you know of any suggestion from the Commission that it's ready and willing to accept this proposal?
A: I know of no suggestion from the Commission, but I would refer you to the Commission for any kind of comment on that aspect of the issue.
Q: You said the Secretary favors keeping jobs with privatization of jobs locally.
A: Say that one more time.
Q: The Secretary favors keeping jobs in place.
A: This is an option that he is looking at in connection with, certainly with the depot closings at Kelly and at McClellan.
Q: Is it your contention, is it the Department's contention, that it would be cheaper to keep those jobs at McClellan under a new private setup than it would be to ship them to Pennsylvania under...
A: There are several aspects of this thing that I think I could share with you. One of them is that, in both locations, there are some very highly trained technical people who have lots and lots of experience doing what it is that they do.
Q: You mean Kelly and McClellan?
A: At both locations. People who have lots of experience and who are very highly trained. If there is a requirement to move the operation elsewhere, then one of two things has to happen. You have to either move the people, or find people, train them, and develop the experience base that already resides at the previous locations. So there is an expense involved in that, but at this point I'm not in a position to share with you exactly how expensive it may be.
Q: I understand the recommendation to move some of the jobs to Tobyhanna in Pennsylvania. That involves just 800 of the workers at McClellan of a total of about 8,500 who the Commission said under their proposal would have to be realigned. As I read the recommendation, the vast majority of those who would be realigned are still within the jurisdiction of DOD to decide where to send.
So it's unclear to me, really, how much more flexibility DOD needs. Would it be seeking under this option that the Secretary's considering simply the freedom to keep those additional 800 in place? Is that all we're talking about? Those 800?
A: Again, that's a level of detail that I'm not really, at this point, prepared to get into. I think after the Secretary has forwarded his decision and the President has made his decision on this issue, we may be able to deal with that one more extensively, but I am, at this point, not able to.
Q: One of the issues that has been brought up at the beginning about originally closing one of the depots was the environmental cost of cleaning up the areas. If you sell it off to a private company, they're not going to touch it until you clean it up. You'll have to clean it up one way or the other.
A: That is an issue that certainly is a consideration in this, and let me just say that the analysis that is going on in the building certainly is considering that aspect, but I don't have anything that I can provide to you at this point on exactly how that would be resolved. But that is a legitimate aspect of the thing that needs to be considered.
Q: Is that correct, either going with the Commission or Perry's proposal, it will have to be cleaned up one way or the other? The only way it's not cleaned up environmentally is if it stays open.
A: If it stays in U.S. government hands.
Q: Can you tell us about the Department's analysis of the impact on military readiness that the outright closure of Kelly and McClellan would have?
A: I can't get into too much detail except to say that any time you close down a facility and move operations to another location, there is a significant impact. Of course the requirement would be to do it in such a way to minimize the impact, but I don't think there is any way at all you can close down a facility and not experience some impact. That is another one of the considerations that is certainly being looked at here in the building now.
Q: The impact you're talking about would be the inability to service airplanes, or it would be...
A: It would be not only that, but also the fact that the servicing of aircraft at any of these depots is something that is programmed long in advance. What has to occur is essentially you have to rework your entire program for maintenance work, and figure out some way to accommodate all of the requirements that you have with either the reduced depot numbers or with the modification that may be in place at the time.
Q: There has been an incursion by Turkish troops into Northern Iraq. Do you have a situation assessment on that? Do you have any comment on whether or not that's something the United States applauds?
A: The Turkish General Staff has confirmed that a small military operation into Northern Iraq against the PKK has indeed been undertaken. And we don't, at this point, have any idea of how long such an operation may last.
Q: You're neutral on having them make an incursion into another country?
A: As we did during the previous Turkish incursion into Northern Iraq, we would again urge Turkey to make a maximum effort to protect the lives and property of innocent civilians. We would also stress the need to limit the scope and duration of the operation and to safeguard human rights.
Q: Another issue, the radar going into the Navy planes. Is the Secretary likely to make a decision on that today?
A: He talked about that today, and he has not received the package yet, so no decision has been made.
Q: When will he receive the package?
A: I can't predict that. I know that he asked for a very quick turnaround. He asked Dr. Kaminski and also the Chairman to take a look at it and to move it ahead very quickly. But at this hour he has not received the package. Although he anticipates that he will be able to make a decision quickly once he has.
Q: Will you advise us when he gets it?
A: I will try and keep you posted on how that is moving.
Q: The number of U.S. personnel on the ground in the former Yugoslavia. Taking account of the 90 people who went into Croatia a day or two ago, do you have up there a current roster of the number of people we have there and where?
A: Let me refer you to Chuck Franklin back in DDI to get that. I can tell you there are 79 people today in Split, Croatia, who are there in connection with the operation supporting the Rapid Reaction Force. They are, for the most part, people who are assigned to that tactical airlift control element that normally precedes any kind of operation like this that we put into place.
These people are from McGuire Air Force Base. My understanding is they are ready to receive aircraft, and that perhaps as early as tomorrow the operation should begin transporting at least the advanced party for the 4,700 British troops and 300 Dutch troops that will be going in as part of that force.
Q: Where does the U.S. stand in terms of setting up its intelligence cell in Albania, the Predator operation?
A: The Predator operation, as I understand it, all of the equipment is in place as of earlier this week at the Guidar Airfield, in Albania, in support of the operation.
Q: That's approximately 100 people. When will it start giving output...
A: I'm not going to provide a play-by-play for you on when the intel data is going to flow except to say that right now we anticipate that deployment will be for about 60 days.
Q: Has Perry spoken to Michael Portillo yet?
A: Indeed, he has. There was a call made to Defense Minister Michael Portillo this morning, and they talked briefly. The Secretary conveyed his best wishes...
Q: Any plans for an early meeting?
A: I am unable to give you anything on that, but we'll try and find out if there is anything we can pass along.
Q: On Split, how many more U.S. troops...
A: That's it.
Q: It will be 79, that's it.
A: I just want to point out that the overall operation is more than that. There are a total of about 180. The other 100 are located in the United Kingdom, and I think we've got about six people in Hanover, Germany, where they will be working to support the advanced party from the Great Britain forces that are going in.
Q: But the 180 cannot include the flight crews of U.S. aircraft that will be...
Q: How long do you expect it will take to get all the Brits in there?
A: I'm not sure that we have a good estimate on exactly how long it's going to take. Let me see if I can find out for you something further on that.
Q: How abut the RO-RO ships and their status in loading and...
A: The CAPE RACE was activated on June 23rd, and is currently scheduled to off-load the first load of UK equipment in Split on the 17th of July. The CAPE RACE will then go back to the United Kingdom to load more equipment at Marchwood for transport to Croatia. CAPE DIAMOND, which is the other military sealift command ship that's involved in this, is currently scheduled to arrive in Marchwood on July 24th to begin onloading equipment.
Q: Is there any information on this report about a Bosnian Serb jet that violated the no-fly zone and...
A: No. We've seen those reports and we've checked with NATO, and they are unable to confirm whether those flights took place.
Q: Also on this news about this chemical warfare lab in Iraq. The Iraqis acknowledged that it existed. Is there any evidence that anything from that lab may have gotten in contact with allied soldiers during the Gulf War?
A: The answer is no.
I just want to remind everybody that there was an extensive study done by the Defense Science Board, headed by a Dr. Lederberg, and the conclusion that they reached was that they found no evidence that either chemical or biological warfare was deployed at any level against us during the Gulf War, or that there were any exposures of U.S. service members to chemical or biological warfare agents in Kuwait or in Saudi Arabia.
Q: Do you have any comment on the disclosure by Iraq that it did in fact have a significant stockpile of biological weapons?
A: I think this is an indication that what we had suspected all along was, in fact, the case. That they made the same admission regarding chemical weapons and missiles about four years ago. They still haven't lived up to their obligations to the UN on any of these points.
Press: Thank you.