DoD NewsBriefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD (PA)
Tuesday, August 1, 1995 - 2:00 p.m.
Mr. Bacon: After the shoot-down of the Black Hawk helicopters over NorthernIraq last year in April, the Secretary of Defense and General Shalikashviliordered a full investigation to find out what happened. They also promisedthat they would take remedial action and hold people accountable.
As you know, we went through the military justice process and that ended withthe acquittal of Captain Wang. After that, the Secretary asked DeputySecretary John White to follow up on the accountability issue. Secretary Whitelast week sent out a memorandum to the Secretary of the Air Force, theSecretary of the Army, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, asking them --directing them, actually -- to take certain followup actions in the Black Hawkcase.
Specifically, the Deputy Secretary asked the Secretary of the Air Force andthe Secretary of the Army to review all personnel actions taken with respect tomembers in their services involved in the incident. This applies almostexclusively to the Air Force, obviously, to look at disciplinary actions,administrative actions, etc., and to assess the adequacy and theappropriateness of any actions that have been taken and to recommend whetherthere should be additional actions taken. These reviews are currently underwayby both the Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of the Army.
The Army investigation will focus exclusively on personnel on the PROVIDECOMFORT staff. In addition, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is conducting areview of the actions taken to prevent this from happening again -- theremedial actions. He's focusing primarily on joint task force operations --their doctrine, the training, and the command of such operations.
We have a copy of Secretary White's memorandum, and also a copy of the releasefrom the Air Force dealing with their part of the followup action in thisregard.
Q: Did he give them any deadline to report?
A: Yes, the deadline is August 23rd, I believe. The Secretary of the Air Forcehas asked the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Fogleman, to report backto her by August 16th, and then the Service Secretaries are supposed to reportback, as I said, a week later.
Q: Is the idea of this whole thing to make sure that enough people have beenpunished, or is it perhaps, since there are reports that a lot of peopleescaped in the whitewash, that perhaps everybody ought to be absolved? Is thatthe idea?
A: The idea has never been to absolve everybody. The idea is to look at thefacts and to follow through with appropriate action. That's what is happeninghere. The Secretary and the Deputy Secretary felt that in a tragedy of thismagnitude it was important to make sure that every aspect had been consideredin terms of discipline, in terms of administrative action, and that's what willhappen.
You'll see that in the Air Force document, it cites a memorandum to all AirForce commanders from General Fogleman. This was issued July 11, 1995, twoweeks ago, saying, "We cannot tolerate actions which appear to condemninappropriate conduct one moment, condone it the next, or even worse, rewardit. Accountability is critically important. To do less will undermine goodorder and discipline of the force and destroy the trust of the Americanpublic."
So what we're looking for is to make sure that all actions -- bothadministrative and disciplinary actions, the meshing of performance reportswith whatever happened or didn't happen in the course of this situation -- areconsistent.
Q: We're talking here about possible administrative actions, not bringingperhaps new criminal charges in?
A: The criminal charges have run their course. That procedure is over.That's one of the reasons why this is happening now. We wanted to wait for themilitary justice system to run its course. That's happened, and now theSecretary wants to make sure that the system itself that deals with performancereviews, evaluations, etc., is in sync with the rest of the system.
Q: So this will not result in possible new criminal charges. This will be anadministrative...
A: It will not result in criminal charges.
Q: Have any additional administrative actions been taken so far since the lastround was announced?
A: No. They have not. I would expect some taken in the future, but none hasbeen taken so far.
Q: Can you tell us anything about whether the allies are nearing the pointwhere they will issue an ultimatum to protect Bihac with some sort of airthreat?
A: The North Atlantic Council is considering that even as I stand here. Idon't believe when I came in here they were still meeting. They startedmeeting at 9:30 our time -- 3:30 p.m. European time. The last time they met onthis, it took them a long while to reach a conclusion, and I suspect it willtake them a long while today. But they are examining ways to apply the Gorazdeformula to other safe areas, and that would include Bihac.
Q: Can you describe what the American position is in this?
A: The American position, I think, was articulated by Secretary Perryyesterday, but we are in favor of using the threat of air power to deterattacks against the other safe areas. That's the goal in Gorazde, and thatwould be the goal in Bihac, Tuzla, and Sarajevo as well. The exact formulationof this resolution is what's being discussed right now by the NAC.
As Secretary Perry pointed out yesterday, the safe areas aren't all the same.They pose different challenges to military operators. What may be appropriatein Gorazde isn't necessarily appropriate in Bihac, but the fact is, we still...We expect the NAC to issue a resolution that will raise the threat of militaryaction -- airpower -- to protect the safe areas from attack.
Q: Can I get another question back on the friendly fire incident, if you don'tmind?
Q: Back when this originally happened, Secretary Perry and General Shali madea very emphatic statement that they weren't qualified, or pending any furtherinvestigation, that a whole series of mistakes were made -- basically byindividuals in various positions. Now you're saying that the focus -- or theprimary focus -- seems to be on looking at the system, to see if the jointoperations and the interoperability of different kinds of units. This sort ofsuggests that the whole problem, back when this tragedy happened, was not theresult of human errors, but was the result of a bad hand, so to speak, thatthese individuals were dealt. They were working in a flawed system; and,therefore, the mistakes they made resulted in this tragedy. Is that amischaracterization?
A: I think you're misreading what I said. Yes. It is a mischaracterization.We have taken a number of actions to remedy problems in the system. Now whatwe're looking at is, we're trying to make sure that appropriate action wastaken concerning the people within the system. That's what we're looking at.This is outside the scope of criminal activity; outside... We've already gonethrough that.
But as General Sklute explained when he came here and talked after CaptainWang was acquitted, that there are a range of actions that can be taken todiscipline people within the military -- many of them far short of criminalcharges. Those actions can include the way they're rated. It can includeactions that are taken that will either stop or advance their promotion. Itcan include reassignment, it can include retirement, it can include the typesof awards or recognition they may have gotten and whether that was appropriate.There are a range of things that need to be looked at. That's what theSecretary has directed the Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of theArmy to do -- just to make sure there is consistency here.
So I don't mean to absolve people who worked within the system at all, nor doI mean to condemn them. This is a fair and balanced investigation or review bythe Service Secretaries to make sure that what happened was appropriate.
Q: General Sheehan mentioned the status of the EA-6Bs. Can you tell us ifthere are any other jamming aircraft that are being moved to the region inBosnia to augment the forces there? Specifically any EF-111s or other....
A: We're currently in the process of moving two EC-130Hs to the theater. Ican't tell you exactly when they'll go, but perhaps this week or next. It willbe soon.
Q: Are those electronic countermeasure, or are they command and controlaircraft?
A: They're electronic countermeasure -- mainly jamming aircraft.
Q: The six EA-6's, he didn't make clear. He said sending six for a total of12.
A: I'm going to have to check on that. I must say, I was frankly surprised bythat. The Secretary has said on a number of occasions that we will provideadditional forces as necessary, and we're looking at a series of requests rightnow. There are reviews taking place. We will get back to you with the exactnumber of EA-6Bs they have over there.
Q: But basically we're talking about planes moving from various bases in theU.S. to Aviano or to...
A: All I'm talking about right now... The only thing that I'm confirmingright now is that we're sending two EC-130Hs from Davis Monthan in Arizona overto Aviano.
Q: Can you make any comment on the New York Times article in the EarlyBird today regarding Beijing seeing the United States as plotting to thwart thePRC? Can you respond to that specifically with regard to the militaryconspiring to undermine China militarily?
A: We are not conspiring to undermine China militarily. Quite the opposite.We believe strongly in the one China policy. We see China as an emerging worldpower and a country with which we want to have constructive relations, andwe're working hard to have constructive relations with China. Of courseconstructive relations require constructive activity by both partners, and weare working to realize that on both sides of the relationship.
Press: Thank you.