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DoD News Briefing - SecNav England and Adm. Clark

Presenter: Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England
September 13, 2001 2:00 PM EDT

Thursday, Sept. 13, 2001 - 2:00 p.m. EDT

(Also participating: Adm. Vern Clark, chief of Naval Operations, and Victoria Clarke, assistant secretary of Defense for public affairs.)

Clarke: Folks, we'll get started here. We're going to do two things. First up, the secretary of the Navy and Admiral Clark are going to make some brief statements and take some questions on the casualties in the Navy. And then Brigadier General Vaughn from DOMS [Directorate for Military Support] will be here to talk about the support the military is providing on the civil side.

So, Secretary England? If we could get you to start us off?

England: Okay. Torie, thanks. Thanks very much, Torie. Thanks for the opportunity to be here today.

This has been a difficult couple of days for everyone here in the Pentagon, and I know for everyone in New York, particularly, and everyone across America. I do appreciate this opportunity to be here to express my condolences, my deep sorrow, my prayers for all the families in America who have suffered such a great tragedy, and in particular for all the Navy families. As President Bush commented in his press conference, this is the first war of the 21st century. And now this is going to take the long-term commitment of everyone here in the Pentagon, of our military services, and of all Americans. This is not going to be a short program.

I do want to thank and particularly commend all those who have worked so hard, so diligently these last few days assisting all the rescue efforts here at the Pentagon. I also want to particularly thank those unknown heroes who were directly responsible for saving so many lives after the incident here at the Pentagon, because there were people who showed up and led the way for a lot of other people. And without their help, this would have been a much worse tragedy for -- so for those unknown heroes -- and we don't know who those people are. But to them I, on behalf of myself and all the people who walked out of this building in good shape, I just want to give them my special gratitude. And again, for all America, our prayers and thoughts are with you. And thanks to everybody in America for all the support that you provide everyone here in the Department of the Navy.

With that, I'd like to turn it over to Admiral Clark.

Clark: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Good afternoon. As has been previously announced and we are releasing to you this afternoon, 42 Navy personnel were working in the Pentagon at the time of the attack and have not been accounted for. [ news release ] These 42 people were serving their nation and -- when they were attacked. And in my profession, I always talk to those of us in the Navy and to our Navy family about service. It is what our profession is about. These men and women committed their lives and have committed their lives to be lives of consequence and lives of service. And they have been wearing the cloth of the nation, and I'm talking about those who are wearing the uniform and those in civilian clothes, because this involves both military people and civilian individuals who are serving our Navy.

As many of you know, the Navy has an established system to notify family members about the status of their loved ones during a time of tragedy, when a tragedy like this strikes. We have a process where we assign casualty assistance officers, and we have done so in this case. And they have personally met with family members and become the personal conduit for information to the families and in support of the families. This process was put into place immediately after the attack and as soon as we began to gather the information about those who we could not account for. This is a process that is routinely applied to military personnel. In this case, we are -- we have applied this program to both military and civilian people that I have identified. And they are in contact with the families.

I would just say that on behalf of the entire Navy family, we extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the loved ones of those who -- in New York and here in Washington. We especially talk to our Navy family today about those that remain unaccounted for. This is a -- these are the sons and daughters and moms and dads, aunts and uncles of the nation, and they're our Navy family. So we are all pulling together to support one another together.

And we so appreciate the support that we are getting, the work that is going on here in the -- at the Pentagon, working at the scene of action -- the support that we're getting in the interagency process and the fact that -- and the support that our families are getting, where people are reaching out to our people who have been affected by this attack.

Q: Mr. Secretary, when do you expect to be able to start releasing names of those who have been unaccounted for?

Clark: We have a list that is to be released to you now, and it has the list of the 42 individuals that we are speaking to that were working here in the building. And that is available to you now.

Q: Could you tell us, were they -- any civilians, were they all military personnel?

Clark: Oh, yes, absolutely. I thought -- let me make this more clear.

Q: Perhaps we should have the list.

Clark: I thought it had been released, but it is available to you. There are 33 military members and there are nine civilians on this list. The civilians include people who are permanently working for the government, and some contractor personnel who were under contract in support of work going on in the Pentagon and were working here at the time. And we have been working to refine this, and this is the best information that we have at this time.

Q: Admiral Clark, can you -- we've seen some of the U.S. Navy ships deployed on both coasts. We've got some pictures of them on CNN. Can you describe a little bit about what their mission is? What are they there to do?

Clark: Well, Jamie, you know from previous discussions that I've had here that every day we have a large number of ships at sea. There are approximately 95 ships deployed overseas, as we speak, and there are, on an average day, 150 ships out of the 317 that we have in the Navy operating off of our shores and forward-deployed. The same is true today. There are ships operating at sea today off of our coasts. Secretary Rumsfeld talked earlier that we don't talk about the specific nature of those operations, and I'm not going to speak to their tasking or their mission or the orders that they have received. But I will certainly confirm that there are ships operating at sea.

Q: Secretary England, if you could just speak -- either of you could speak generally about what the Navy is doing to support the civilians in the time of this crisis, either in humanitarian response, or what is it that -- how is the Navy supporting the civilians?

Clarke: We'll have General Vaughn take those questions.

Q: I just wanted to know about the Navy's specific role, thought maybe you could comment just briefly.

Clark: I would just say that we are prepared to respond to, and have responded to requests for support. It has been previously reported that the [USNS] Comfort is underway and headed for New York. And these -- I won't talk to specific taskings, you know, the units have at sea.

But just say that we're prepared to respond to any requirement that comes to us from the secretary or the National Command Authority, or channels in -- requested through the DOMS and FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] support channels.

Q: Admiral, your overworked CHINFO [Chief of Information, Navy Public Affairs] staff has been in different parts of the building now. They were in the new -- they were in the new wedge. What's the state of their office? Is it total disaster or is it recoverable?

Clark: I don't -- I don't have specific information on all of the offices in that area and that -- in fact, the area is closed off right now, so I can't speak to the specifics of that. Those are things that will have to be examined as the area is opened up for that kind of examination and inspection. We have relocated these individuals so that they can carry out their duties.

Q: Can you tell us which -- what types of Navy offices were damaged? It's hard to tell from reading this list, what these folks do exactly, A; and B, how will this affect any preparations for what may be to come down the road?

Clark: The second part of your question -- it will not affect any preparations for things that are to come. We have relocated individuals. We have people that are moving back -- some people that have already moved back into the building. And we are working at alternate sites so that we -- obviously, some places are -- because we have a number of offices in that area -- that's pretty straightforward. And we have people that are working -- determining the exact square footages that are going to be required, but we haven't -- back to the previous question -- we do have to determine the requirement.

Q: I'm sorry, but can you give us a sense of what types of operations were damaged in the attack?

Clark: I really can't do that because I don't know all of -- a number of these people had -- people had moved in the last few days. Some of these offices I had been to, and some that I literally had not been to the offices yet, and so I can't -- I don't have personal knowledge of that. We'd have to get somebody else to provide you that information.

Q: Admiral Clark, I think the Navy Command Center is -- as I understood it -- is fully and completely destroyed. How has that impacted your operations here? And what alternative arrangements have you made?

Clark: The Navy Operation Center was in this area. It is not correct that -- it is correct that it was damaged.

All of the -- it is not correct to assume that all the people that work there are on the unaccounted-for list.

We have reestablished our operations center at another location, and we are functioning.

Q: Is that in this building?

Clark: We have reestablished our operations center, and it is functioning.

Q: Admiral, have you gotten any even anecdotal reports of an increase, a spike in recruiting numbers since this incident took place? We've been hearing some of that. Have you heard any of that?

Clark: I haven't focused on that, Jamie. I will tell you that I have received numbers of email personally from people, even individuals who have retired, that said, "Admiral, give me a job. I'm ready to come back." And I would just -- I don't have the specifics on the recruiting numbers, so I can't give them to you. I had not heard that. Mr. Secretary, I don't know if you --

Q: Mr. Secretary, have you heard anything about whether, even anecdotally, there's been a spike in recruiting?

England: No, I have not. But of course, recruiting was up considerably even before this incident, so I would not be surprised if it continued to increase.

Q: Secretary or admiral, would you classify these individuals as combat casualties? Are they a victim of war?

England: I guess with terrorism, every place is a combat zone, so certainly New York was a combat zone, the Pentagon was a combat zone. So when it comes to terrorism, I think every place in the world is a combat zone.

Q: Admiral, I know you don't want to talk capabilities, I mean talk specifically about the missions of the ships off the East Coast, but can you give the American people a sense that they have a capability to link with the Air Force to talk to the Air Force, NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command], that covers that United States, and, if called on, to provide some kind of air cover? Can you give us a sense of the joint aspects, sir?

Clark: Well, I would -- absolutely. I will tell you that they are conducting joint operations. You can tell from the photos that the carrier was out there, and if you look closely, you should be able to tell that there are fighter aircraft on the carrier. And I will tell you that this is being conducted as a joint operation. There are also air defense ships, cruisers and destroyers operating in the area with them, and all of that is being done in a joint manner.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: Yes, can you give us any -- again, without going into operational aspects, can you give us a little bit of a brief on your capabilities in the Indian Ocean, the extent of the reach of the current capabilities that you have over there?

Clark: Well, it is unclassified information that we have battle groups operating in that area. We do. And their capability is they have -- each carrier has approximately 75 aircraft aboard. Each -- those include fighter and strike aircraft. They include surveillance aircraft. They include other kinds of support aircraft that are necessary to conduct a full range of combat missions. Each of those battle groups have a number of ships. And I won't get into specific divisions, but let's just use round numbers, you know, like a dozen per battle group. And that doesn't count all the support ships that are there to make the logistic train function effectively. They're on station.

We have two battle groups in that general part of the world, and that's all I would say about that.

Q: Can you tell us if the reach is long enough to extend into Afghanistan?

Clark: I certainly would not ever talk about -- that would then imply a specific location that I wouldn't even consider talking about.

Q: Would you describe in a little more detail some of the offices which were impacted, where the victims are from, and could you say whether you knew any of the victims in particular?

Clark: Well, I really -- as I said, I don't -- I said the operations center is in that area. Some of my personal staff were in that general area.

And the -- let me just say that some of those -- some of these 42 are permanently assigned to the headquarters staff, and some are in support of, and that's a good way to characterize this.

I would just also say that the Navy has been touched in a broader way, in that some of the individuals that were on the aircraft are members of the Navy family. I'm not going to -- I don't have purview over the release of information and the release of names. They're -- that's available to you through other channels. But I would tell you that Navy families have been affected by this. Some family members were on the aircraft in New York and here in Washington. For example, one of our petty officers -- his 11-year-old child was on the plane and headed for the West Coast.

And so we have been touched in a very -- in a broad way, both here, with workers working at the Pentagon; people who were assigned here, that -- their full-time assignment might not have been here, but were here in support of us at the Pentagon; family members; other members of the Washington community that were on the airplane.

So this is a -- this is a day that -- and a period that the Navy family is once again pulling together. This is about people who are willing to commit their life to a life of service. And I just want the whole world to know that this naval officer is mighty proud to be serving with people who are committed to such a lifestyle.

Clarke: Thank you, sir.

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