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DoD News Briefing, July 14, 1998 at 2:10 p.m.

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
July 14, 1998 2:10 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Let me start by saying that tomorrow morning at 11:00 there will be a background briefing here on Kosovo, something many of you have requested. It will be by some people from policy and some of our intelligence analysts to sort of bring you up to date on the latest on Kosovo.

Also tomorrow; I want to announce that a new advisory committee will hold its first meeting. This committee has been set up by Secretary Cohen to look at the plans that have been announced under the Defense Reform Initiative to create a Defense Threat Reduction Agency. This is to combine four existing agencies in the building -- the On-Site Inspection Agency, the Defense Special Weapons Agency, the Defense Technology Security Agency, and the activities that Dr. Harold Smith ran in the nuclear, biological and chemical area -- into one new agency that focuses on ways to address the threats of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

This has received some comment recently on the Hill, and Secretary Cohen wanted to make sure this was being done in the most efficient way that led to a synergistic change, that produced a much stronger threat reduction capacity than we currently have. So he set up something called the Threat Reduction Advisory Committee which will hold its first meeting tomorrow. This is headed by Larry Welch and it includes people like William Perry, the former secretary of defense; Norm Augustine, the former chairman of Lockheed Martin; Ashton Carter who used to be here as the assistant secretary of defense handling proliferation issues. Jim Clapper is on there, whom many of you know from his days at NSA; John Deutch; Ted Gold; Jamie Gorelick; Josh Lederberg, the Nobel Laureate; Ron Lehman; Larry Lynn; Paul Robinson; Jim Schlesinger; Harold Smith; Rich Wagner; George Whitesides of Harvard; Frank Young; and Paul Wolfowitz. They'll hold their first meeting tomorrow to start looking at these plans.

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

Q: Could you respond to Senator Lott's accusation that the administration hasn't been forthcoming in releasing documents and information on the China missile issue?

A: From my personal perspective, I don't believe that's the case. We, I think, have made available everything we could without getting ourselves into a position of compromising the Justice Department's current criminal investigation. I believe we've even released at least one analysis from this building that the Justice Department wanted to be kept private but that has been sent to the Hill. I've read some newspaper reports about it. So I think we've been very forthcoming both in presenting documents -- trunks and trunks of documents -- and also in sending people up to Capitol Hill to testify at hearings.

There have been a number of hearings. You've probably covered some of them. There seems to be a hearing or two a week on this, and we have tried to be extremely forthcoming in explaining what our policy is, explaining the decisions that we've made, and trying to get the Congress to understand the policy of technology transfer and also to understand the safeguards that this Administration inherited from previous Administrations to prevent the inappropriate transfer of technology to China or elsewhere.

Q: Can you respond to the more general charge that he made that in fact contrary to that policy that sensitive technology relating to satellites was in fact transferred to China, and the Senate report's conclusion that there was a significant military benefit to China from that transfer?

A: I think I'd like to go back to some of the comments that have been made by John Hollum of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and others. He does not believe that there has been a significant transfer of military technology because of the commercial satellite program. This is something our intelligence agencies have looked at very closely and are continuing to look at.

Q: A comment on the Air Intelligence Center report that the Chinese may be in a better position to develop MIRV technology based upon their commercial satellite delivery system?

A: I can't comment on a specific leaked secret document. We don't comment on intelligence documents. But I can tell you a little bit about the history of the Chinese satellite program as it relates to the ability to release or launch more than one satellite at a time.

The Chinese have developed a satellite dispenser system as the article pointed out. Motorola used that satellite dispenser system to launch more than one satellite simultaneously.

What Motorola did was simply provide information that was necessary to attach its satellites to the dispenser system that the Chinese already had developed. Launching more than one satellite at a time is not particularly complex technology. It does not require the same degree of accuracy to launch satellites into an orbit as it does to launch multiple warheads into orbits. Whether they are MIRVs which are independently targetable warheads, or whether they're multiple reentry vehicles. The recent talk has been about MIRVs which require a much greater degree of accuracy in terms of being placed precisely into an orbit, than it would require to put a satellite into an orbit.

So what Motorola did was provide, after government review, technology that allowed -- it didn't provide technology, it provided information that allowed them to attach satellites to a dispenser they'd already designed. They didn't design this with Motorola's help.

Q: So the dispenser was, as far as you know, was indigenous Chinese technology...

A: That is my understanding, that they already had the dispenser.

Q: The Washington Times article quotes a former Pentagon weapons proliferation official as saying that in fact the satellite dispensing technology is interchangeable with MIRV technology.

A: I just told you that releasing, or parking a satellite in orbit does not require nearly as much precision as releasing multiple warheads does. I think it's not the same technology.

Q: Your understanding of the dispensing system that is only accurate enough to deal with a satellite?

A: It does not have the extreme accuracy that's required for independent targeted warheads to be released as a group, yes.

Q: Last week at one of these hearings you were just referring to, a Defense Department official received for the first time a report from the Commerce Department on, I think it was a '95 satellite launch failure which the Defense Department has never seen. Have you now had a chance to take a look at that and give an assessment of...

A: I personally have not looked at it, and I cannot comment on that. We're having another hearing tomorrow and I assume that issue will come up but I can't go beyond what was said last week.

Q: Given that you seem to have a completely different interpretation of the facts in this issue of satellite technology transfer, would you say that the charges from the Republicans here are politically motivated?

A: We've tried to be as forthcoming as possible in providing information about this. I think that's a decision you'll have to make. We've tried to explain that we have in place a series of safeguards designed to prevent the inappropriate transfer of technology. It has long been the policy of this government over several administrations -- Republican and Democrat -- to make commercial sales to foreign countries. We have tried to do that. We -- meaning the United States in both Republican and Democratic administrations -- in a way that does not give away our technological seed corn.

I think that what David Tarbell, the head of the Defense Technology Security Agency, and others from the State Department and the NSC have testified to is the type of safeguards we have designed to prevent that.

Much of the question has been whether these safeguards have been adequately enforced. We believe that in the main these safeguards have worked. The most publicized case involves allegations made by this administration that two companies may not have properly followed the rules, and therefore might have transferred some technological know-how to the Chinese. That's the issue that's under investigation now by the Justice Department. That was a case that was brought, that was initiated by this administration.

We've tried to work very hard in addressing the concerns that Congress has raised and explaining what our safeguard system is, the evolution of it under several administrations, and what the purpose is of making commercial sales to foreign countries. We're not the only country in the world that has commercial communication satellite technology. A lot of the issue here is whether or not we can prevent the sale of communications technology that allows a greater increase in phone calls, that allows cell phone networks to be established around the world, and carries television and other signals around the world, whether we unilaterally can prevent that. I think it's pretty clear that we cannot.

So the question is how do we engage in commercial opportunities in a way that continues to safeguard our most important technology. That's what we've been talking to Congress about in the hearings.

Q: President Clinton has been speaking about the Year 2000 computer glitch today. I wondered if you can give us any update on Pentagon plans to share early warning information with Russia and other countries.

A: This is a concern that this Administration has, and that is that in the conversion to the new millennium, if there are computer glitches because of the so-called Year 2000 bug, that there could be doubt about whether early warning systems function well, and these doubts could lead to miscalculations which could be dangerous. We have offered to share or engage in joint earth warning projects with Russia and maybe with other countries as well. We are currently continuing to discuss that. It is a live issue, but I have nothing more to report about that now.

Q: Which other countries might be involved?

A: At this stage I can't tell you. We've made a general, basically just a general offer to share early warning information with other countries beyond Russia.

Q: Have the Russians shown any interest in this?

A: I believe we've been in discussions with the Russians, but I'm not prepared to go beyond that right now. We have been in discussions with them on this.

Q: On the Lockheed Northrop merger issue, the Secretary in recent weeks has articulated in Defense Daily that a settlement is possible. Four months ago the Pentagon and Justice Department branded that transaction as anti-competitive and had to take it to court. What has changed in the last four months to go from that stance to the Secretary's sending signals...

A: I don't think the Secretary's been sending signals. What the Secretary has said is that any lawyer would rather settle a case than take it to court. He's also said that from the very beginning of the proposal, the merger proposal made by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, that we would evaluate that proposal or any subsequent proposal to see if it protected our interests as the major buyer of defense technology and defense weapons.

One of our concerns, obviously, is to make sure that we are able to buy at competitive prices -- as competitive as you can have in this type of market -- and that we have technology that evolves quickly and adequately to meet our needs so that there's competition both on the pricing side and on the technological development side.

Specifically in the language of anti-trust, this boils down to a proposal that meets our concerns about both vertical and horizontal integration. At any point we would be willing to consider a proposal that meets those concerns. So far we have not seen such a proposal.

Q: Are formal or informal negotiations going on right now?

A: I don't think I want to talk about negotiations.

Q: The quotes in the newsletter implied that there were some things going on.

A: He did say publicly that we were examining ways to resolve this issue short of going to court. We're perfectly prepared to go to court if we don't see a proposal that meets our concerns about vertical and horizontal integration. As I said, so far we haven't seen such a proposal.

Q: Does something appear to be in the works over the next two or three weeks?

A: I think I've said enough about this.

Q: There are reports floating about that Defense Secretary Cohen, in a conversation with German Defense Minister Ruehe, may have used some rather strong language, in fact even threatening the presence of U.S. troops in Europe over the international criminal court issue. Do you know in fact if the documents that are floating around about his talking points are accurate, or if any kind of conversations like that took place?

A: I can tell you that the reports about his conversation are flat wrong. He has expressed concerns about the international criminal court publicly and he has privately, but not in the terms that have been reported over the last day or so.

Second, he used no talking points when he talked recently to several Defense Ministers in Europe. He's perfectly conversant with this issue. He's been discussing it with his colleagues for some time. In recent phone calls he's made on the international criminal court he has not had any talking points in front of him.

Third, there are a set of purported talking points floating around, he has not seen those talking points.

Q: When was the last time that he spoke with Minister Ruehe.

A: Without getting into specifics about private phone calls, he's been talking with his colleague steadily about this, and particularly during the last week.

Q: I gather that several computers have been seized by the federal prosecutor relating to the Linda Tripp affair. Are those yours or just Cliff Bernath's? Where are they? Have they been hauled away to FBI headquarters? What do you know?

A: The computers were seized back in January. Those computers, I believe, I have no idea what happened to them, where they are now, but there were hard disks seized and maybe whole computer seized.

Q: Weren't there just recently Cliff Bernath's...

A: Those computers are in the custody of the Inspector General, I believe.

Q: So they're physically in this building?

A: Wherever the Inspector General is. I don't think actually that office is in this building, but they're in the custody of the Inspector General.

Q: They're not secret, we could photograph those computers if we...

A: I don't believe you could photograph them, but if you want to photograph a MacIntosh laptop or a Dell laptop you can go to any store and do it.

Q: What would be the objection to photographing them?

A: We don't control the computers. The computers are under the control of the Inspector General.

Q: All of them? All were seized in January? There was nothing more recently?

A: No, I just said that recently other computers have been taken... are in the custody of the Inspector General.

Q: And are they the two models that you've just mentioned?

A: They are.

Q: Were those computers Cliff Bernath's computers?

A: They were.

Q: Prime Minister Hashimoto announced to resign... Do you feel any sense of setback, especially in security issues like Okinawa or the legislation of the U.S./Japan guidelines?

A: Prime Minister Hashimoto's resignation is an internal Japanese issue. Our relations with him have been extremely good, particularly in the area of the U.S. defense guidelines and on the question of dealing with reducing the footprint of our troops in Okinawa. But our relationships are with the government of Japan, the nation of Japan, not with individuals. And we would expect, because we have strong shared values about defense and stability in the Asia Pacific region, to have good working relationships with any leader of Japan.

Q: Can you bring us up to speed on Kosovo, what's going on on the ground there, as well as any NATO considerations of military options in and around the region.

A: NATO is still considering a range of options. It hasn't completed that consideration yet. I think what's changed in Kosovo over the last few weeks is the appreciation of the complexity of the problem. Several weeks ago people thought of the problem as almost one-sided. It was a problem of Yugoslavian police or military forces attacking Kosovar Albanians. What has become clear in the last couple of weeks is the Kosovar Albanians have become more energetic in their independence movement and more energetic in their own military activities. This is something that was addressed by Mr. Holbrooke when he was over there. It's one of the reasons he met with the Kosovar Albanians, the KLA forces, Kosovar Liberation Army forces. It's one of the issues that is being reviewed now by the contact group and others.

So one, there has been, I think, an appreciation of the greater complexity of the situation on the ground. Two, the NATO planning on military options continues. And three, everybody is still looking for a diplomatic solution. We think that's the right way to go. The contact group met I guess about a week ago now. I don't know when they plan to have another meeting, but certainly we're interested in pursuing diplomatic options, and our European partners in the contact group are as well.

Q: The situation on the ground has changed markedly, as it apparently has. The Kosovar Albanians have become a major fighting force. What's the point of doing military contingency planning based on a situation which has changed entirely?

A: I guess you're assuming that the planners don't realize the changed circumstances.

Q: Are they doing different kinds?

A: They clearly are aware that the circumstances have changed. One of the advantages of contingency planning is that you usually plan for more than one contingency. But the more contingencies you have to plan for, the longer the planning takes, which is one of the reasons why NATO planners have been hard at this for the last month and may still have some time to go. It's also a reason why a diplomatic solution remains the preferred outcome here.

Q: Mr. Yeltsin is under impeachment proceedings by his Duma. His economy is in shambles, despite the rescue from the IMF. He has gone through his military and his internal security people currying their favor, that they might be loyal to him because he, and I'll quote from this article, he says, "We are strong enough to curb all plans for seizing power and all other extremist plans, Mr. Yeltsin said last week about all the coup rumors in Russia." Is there any concern on the part of the U.S. military? Is there any indication that anything in the way of a coup is about in the military?

A: We've been working very hard with the government of Russia to help design a financial rescue package that we think addresses the primary source of concern and problem in Russia today. As you know that package was put together yesterday and is in the papers today.

I don't want to comment on the internal political situation in Russia. I think what's very important here is that the international community, led by the IMF, helped Russia address some real economic problems, and we're striving to do that.

Q: Is there any doubt in your mind that the Russian military supports the government as duly elected and Mr. Yeltsin as the elected President of Russia?

A: I think the Russian military since the end of the Cold War has come to believe strongly in civilian control, and I would hope that that remains the case.

Q: The Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled yet another hearing on Daryl Jones' nomination as Air Force Secretary. Do you think that nomination's in trouble? How much does Secretary Cohen still support Mr. Jones?

A: Daryl Jones remains the Administration's nominee. He has been working very hard to address the concerns that have been raised about his candidacy. He's appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee already. He's met privately with many members of the Committee. He's provided them with extensive information. He'll continue to do that and to try to get them to consider his candidacy on its own merits.

Q: So there's no weakening of the Administration's support for Daryl Jones?

A: Daryl Jones is the nominee to be Secretary of the Air Force.

Q: Cyprus. It appears that U.S. pressure so far has not succeeded in putting an end to this Russian missile deal. Can you tell us, does the Secretary plan to take any additional steps? And what is he doing this week in regards to that issue? Speaking to some of the parties, possibly the Russians...

A: We have an envoy now in the area talking to both Greek and Turkish officials. We have a high Turkish military figure visiting us this week, and I'm sure that Cyprus will be a prime topic of conversation during that meeting.

I think it's a little misleading to say that the U.S. has failed here. I think all of Europe wants to avoid a problem in Cyprus and all of Europe wants to prevent an arms race on the island of Cyprus. I think the U.S. and other countries have made it very clear that we don't think this is the right way to go, we think it's provocative, and we think there are better ways to resolve the dispute between the Greek side and the Turkish side.

Q: Have talks begun yet on the possible creation of a no-fly zone or any other mechanism that might reduce tension between the communities and Cyprus?

A: We do not support policing a no-fly zone over Cyprus. We do support a moratorium on provocative air flights. We do support a self-policed no-fly zone over the area. But it's very difficult for any NATO country to get involved in enforcing a no-fly zone that involves other NATO countries.

Q: The Secretary said last week that the United States was ready to explore...

A: I believe he said very specifically when asked by you about no-fly zones, he said we are considering a variety of proposals to reduce tensions. Among them is a no-fly zone proposal. What we have proposed specifically is a moratorium -- sort of a voluntary, self-policing moratorium on air flights. That is a type of no-fly zone, yes.

Q: That's all? Or just military?

A: It's military flights.

Q: You said there were other mechanisms...

A: We're looking at a variety of proposals, yes.

Q: Are talks underway...

A: We now have an envoy from the Defense Department, and he may be traveling with a State Department official as well, visiting both Turkey and Greece even as we talk. He left late last week. As you know, we talked to the Greek Defense Minister last week; we're talking to Turkish officials regularly. This is something that we're putting a lot of time and energy into but it's not... This dispute between Greece and Turkey has been going on for some time. Frequently long disputes are difficult to resolve quickly.

Q: I just want to make sure that I understand what you mean... You say the United States supports a moratorium of provocative overflights, something that might be self-policed. Does that mean the United States no longer thinks it's useful to explore the possible creation of a no-fly zone that would be monitored by NATO or the United Nations?

A: We're looking at a variety of options, one of which could generally be called a no-fly zone. I want to disabuse people of the notion that we're likely to dispatch a lot of war planes to enforce a no-fly zone. There may be other ways to monitor a no-fly zone, but we don't have in mind something that is similar to, say, Operation Southern Watch.

Q: The Washington Post, in a series of articles that began Sunday, examined the JCET program and the training by U.S. Special Forces, joint training in other countries, and raised questions about whether or not these programs have sufficient oversight and scrutiny.

Could you respond to whether or not the Pentagon keeps adequate track of who these troops are conducting these exercises with and whether or not they're vetted for possible human rights abuses?

A: First, as the articles made very clear, every one of these missions has to be approved by the Ambassador, the U.S. Ambassador to the country where the missions take place. That gives a degree of diplomatic oversight and monitoring that the State Department takes very seriously and we take very seriously as well. We have not carried out proposed missions in cases where the State Department has raised objections. One example that occurred recently was Nigeria, where the State Department raised objections to a planned mission and it did not take place.

I think the series made very clear that these so-called JCET, or Joint Combined Exchange Training missions that involve our Special Forces units working with military units in about 100 countries around the world in an average year, I think the stories made very clear that this is a very important part of our post-Cold War engagement policy. We basically face a choice in many of these countries between engagement and estrangement. These missions allow us to train our forces in countries all around the world, advancing our national interests of teaching democratic values such as human rights and also producing tangible results such as preparing our forces to perform evacuations of American citizens if the situations become turbulent in these countries.

We've done that. We've used special operations people in places like, I think just recently in Sierra Leone, isn't that right? To evacuate people. Liberia, etc., and other countries where we've evacuated people. And we have had JCET missions in these countries where our forces have learned necessary information.

Q: What about specifically in Latin America where some of these joint training exercises involve troops that are then involved in counterdrug operations or even sometimes counterinsurgency operations? Is the United States contributing to sort of militarizing the drug wars in some of these Latin American countries?

A: Countries have to make their own decisions about how to fight the drug war. We clearly, in the Defense Department, play a support role to the Drug Enforcement Agency and other law enforcement agencies that are more intimately involved in fighting counternarcotics.

The Special Forces operate throughout Latin America, as the stories made clear; and they teach basic skills to counterpart military operations. Sometimes these militaries are involved in counternarcotics. We're not against fighting narcotics. We actually have quite a large investment in fighting the narcotics trade in South America. But the primary reason that we carry out Joint Combined Exchange Training is to provide instruction to our own forces. The instruction comes in many ways.

First, it provides them with necessary information about necessary training in foreign language and in learning about foreign cultures. They learn about terrain and geography, they learn about the way foreign military units operate. They've learned who the leadership is and how to work with the leadership. But more importantly, a primary mission of Special Forces is to train militaries around the world at times when they need training. Therefore, the mere act of working with other countries and training their military is carrying out the Special Forces mission.

One, we learn by teaching, we become better teachers when we teach -- the Special Forces do.

Secondly, they polish their own skills because the key to good teaching is to have the skills that you're going to teach. So it allows them to polish their own skills in demining or peacekeeping or humanitarian operations, light infantry operations that they're teaching to the other countries.

Q: Do you have any update on the status of the Special Forces exercise in Pakistan that the Pentagon said yesterday had been put on hold?

A: Well, it had been put on hold before the Washington Post series, I think that's clear. It was put on hold after the nuclear tests which caused us to reevaluate our relationships with both India and Pakistan. It remains on hold and under review.

Q: Yesterday a Pentagon spokesman said that the Central Command had said that unless the exercise takes place in August, it won't be able to take place at all. I tried to get from Central Command some indication of why it might be now or never for this exercise. Can you shed any light on it?

A: I can't answer that specifically, but soldiers do have schedules they have to keep for training in various countries and they may have other missions laid on for later in the year that makes it difficult to postpone the Pakistani mission if it were to take place.

Q: Is it true that under the law for this JCET program that you're not required to vet the troops that you train with for human rights abuses?

A: In Colombia, all the troops are supposed to be vetted as I understand it. In other countries we rely on the embassy to do that work. We rely on the Ambassador to raise concerns if he or she has any. We work very closely with the local Ambassadors. There's actually a fairly rigorous process for reaching a conclusion as to whether to hold the JCET mission in a country in South America or Africa or Europe or anywhere else, Asia, anywhere else we hold these missions. It's a multistep process that involves both military and foreign policy input.

Q: My understanding is that NTSB has asked DOD for some help in investigating the possibility that there might have been some electromagnetic involvement in the TWA 800 crash. Is that true? If so, how in the world would you go about that?

A: I'm not aware that it's true. I hadn't heard that before. We'll check and get back to you on that. But it seems to me that the best source might be the National Transportation Safety Board if they're the ones that made the request.

Q: The Defense (inaudible) is supposed to be the Joint Spectrum Center in Annapolis that NTSB has contracted with to do the work...

A: I just heard about this, and I can't answer any questions. We'll try to get the answers to you.

Q: Ken, did you see the story of, I guess you wouldn't have, it's in the Jerusalem Post, quoting Shimon Perez as saying that Israel felt a nuclear option was needed not in order to have a Hiroshima, but to have an Oslo, he says. And he says, "There were five times that Israel was attacked without provocation" because its neighbors felt they could come and overpower the Israelis, "and we wanted to create a situation in which this temptation would no longer exist." This of course has to do with their extensive nuclear arsenal, which I think is the first time this has ever been said as far as strategy.

Does the United States see the Israeli nuclear capability as a deterrent to attack?

A: I think I'll let Shimon Perez comment on the Israeli nuclear capability.

Press: Thank you.