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DoD News Briefing Thursday, September 24, 1998

Presenters: Captain Mike Doubleday, DASD PA
September 24, 1998 1:55 PM EDT

Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.

I have one announcement, and I also want to recognize the fact that we've got three folks with us today from USIA who are from Norway, Iceland, and Estonia who are in the United States for a four week training and orientation program. We welcome you. Also we have 11 South Asian journalists from India and Pakistan who are here from Southern Illinois University-- from the School of Journalism there. They're participating in an educational program entitled "Strengthening Journalism in South Asia." This is cosponsored by USIA and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Their escort today is an alumni of this organization, Mike Thurwanger. I think some of you are going to have an opportunity to talk with them during the course of the day.

I have just a little bit of an update for you on Hurricane Georges. The Department of Defense is poised to continue providing recovery support to victims of Hurricane Georges in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. We're preparing for humanitarian response as the storm moves across the Caribbean towards the Keys and South Florida.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is purchasing one million pounds of ice and one million gallons of water for distribution in Puerto Rico and providing emergency debris clearance, removal, and disposal. The Air Force has dispatched aircraft to begin delivering generators, vehicles and support personnel to Puerto Rico, and that started yesterday. There were two C-130 aircraft from the North Carolina Air National Guard which have evacuated nearly 100 patients from facilities in Key West and Marathon. The Florida National Guard has called up 2,500 Army and Air National Guard members for state active duty to prepare for civilian evacuations and security and public safety missions in Florida if the storm reaches there.

With that, I'd be happy to try and answer some of your questions.

Q: Do you have any reports of any damage? Any preparations in Guantanamo...

A: The damage reports that I have, I can give you a rundown. In Puerto Rico, at Fort Buchanon, there was no structural damage. There was a little bit of damage to the Army/Air Force exchange facility there.

At Roosevelt Roads the runway is open. The port facilities have been closed pending a survey of the channel. There was significant damage to the power distribution system, to housing and the communications infrastructure there. Some structural damage to a hangar and several butler buildings were destroyed. Electrical lines. Some hangars received structural damage. The hospital there at Roosevelt Roads is using the generators. Twenty-five percent of non-housing structures were damaged. Airfield surveillance equipment was also destroyed.

At Guantanamo Bay they have tied down all the aircraft. The power and telephones are all down right now. The small craft there at Guantanamo Bay were moved to sheltered water.

We can update you further through DDI if you need more detail.

Q: Any movement on disbursing our assets in Florida?

A: I can give you a rundown if you'd like. This is essentially the kind of resource protection efforts that are going on.

At the Air Reserve base at Homestead the 125th Fighter Wing Detachment 1 of the Florida Air National Guard evacuated three F-16 alert aircraft to Jacksonville, Florida.

At McDill, they have moved four KC-135 aircraft to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, and one KC-135 to Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.

At Key West Naval Air Station all of the active duty and civilian dependents have been evacuated.

At Mayport, there is a decision pending on sorting the ships there. That would be 21 ships including the aircraft carrier JOHN F. KENNEDY and 78 helos.

The situation is similar at Jacksonville and at Cecil Field where aircraft and vessel sorties are still pending. There was one ship at Pensacola, a USNS ship which was sortied yesterday.

Along the Gulf Coast, at Pascagoula they sortied all seven ships yesterday; at Engleside they sortied one of 16 ships which were in port; in New Orleans there were four USNS ships that were sortied.

I think most of you have been tracking the movement of the hurricane as it moves across the Caribbean, and certainly the military is watching that very closely.

Q: You gave us all you had on Guantanamo, did you?

A: Right.

Q: Would you get into the business of those sexually explicit publications being banned from PXs...

A: I can give you just a little bit. I think most of you who have been following this issue know that there was a law passed in 1996 called the Military Honor and Decency Act which has taken effect now. There was litigation which was initiated by, I believe, Penthouse Magazine which delayed the full implementation of the law, but that litigation was some time ago resolved in favor of the government. So there was a process which started some time ago, also, wherein sexually explicit publications were reviewed by a panel of military people -- these aren't uniformed people, but people who work for the Department of Defense and for the exchange systems. As a result of that review there have been a whole list, which we can provide to you, of publications which have been designated as sexually explicit for the purpose of enforcement of this law and are going to be removed from the shelves of the exchanges.

I want to point out that individual military people, if they elect to purchase these publications, they're certainly free to do so, but they should purchase them at locations other than the exchanges.

Q: Apparently there's a DoD board that decides what's going to be sold and what's not going to be sold.

A: That's correct.

Q: Apparently Playboy magazine is allowed. There are many people who would say that Playboy is sexually explicit. Why the double standard or apparent double standard? And doesn't this board in a sense smack of censorship?

A: Actually, what the board is doing is simply implementing a law that was passed by Congress. We view this as simply abiding by the law.

The board reviewed this material and they reached their decisions based on one, applying the standard established in the law; and then voting. A simple majority vote then was used to determine the standard by which individual publications would either be included or excluded from this list.

By the way, I should also point out that this board remains in effect, and there are other materials which will be reviewed in the future which include some additional publications. Also videotapes and the possibility of reviewing audiotapes, although with the short life of most audiotapes, I'm not sure that the effect will be quite as great as with some of these others.

Q: On the same topic, why is it allowed that material can be purchased and brought back to residences on the base, kept by military personnel on base, when it's being banned from sale? Isn't the porn that's available abundantly on the Internet forbidden for use by military personnel? So what's the difference between porn that is brought on the base and that that comes on-line?

A: The major difference is where it is purchased. What this law does, it restricts what materials can be sold through the exchanges. The exchanges are, of course, the stores that are run by the military for the purpose of serving military families all over the world. And any of you who have been in these exchanges know that certainly it's like a family shopping area. The intent of the law was to restrict materials that were available in this family environment to a large extent, but the law does not address the individual purchases off military facilities by individual servicemen and women or their families.

Q: I take it then possessing pornography on base is perfectly legal, even though it may be harmful, even addictive for some people? It's still allowed?

A: I won't address what consequences sexually explicit materials may have, but I can tell you that there are no DoD-wide restrictions which apply to materials that individuals may purchase.

Q: Then the issue about the internet, porn that's taken off the internet is illegal for military personnel, is that correct?

A: I'm not aware of any restriction regarding the internet and sexually explicit materials. [ NOTE: There are prohibitions concerning the use of official government computers for accessing or downloading pornographic material.]

Q: Has the United States designated forces that it would be willing to pony up in an operation in Kosovo?

A: I think what you're referring to here is the actions that have been taken regarding Kosovo. Let me, before I answer your specific question, let me go back and kind of review where we stand on this at this point.

Most of you know that late yesterday the UN Security Council passed a resolution regarding Kosovo and this morning our time, but this afternoon in Europe, the NATO Defense Ministers meeting in Portugal authorized the NATO military authorities to issue an activation warning.

This is an important step inasmuch as it moves from talking about this very complex and frustrating issue to actually taking steps to implement the military planning which NATO has been doing for some time. This has the effect of pulling the plans off the shelves and identifying the forces which would be required if those plans are implemented.

To answer your specific question, we have not yet received what is called the force generation message from NATO military authorities, but we would anticipate that. What this has the effect of doing is providing to countries which may be participating in any military action regarding Kosovo, it gives them an opportunity to specify the forces that they would be willing to identify for use in these NATO military plans.

I want to stress a couple more things. Number one, NATO has not made a decision at this point to use military force. And as Secretary General Solana made clear this morning, any kind of a decision to use military force would require another NAC decision before that could be done.

Q: Are they scheduled to meet any time soon, do you know? The NAC?

A: The NAC can meet at any time. They meet regularly, at least every week. By the way, I should point out just for the sake of clarity, the NAC can meet at the ambassadorial level which occurs on a recurring basis at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. What we had today was NATO Defense Ministers meeting to make the determination on this important step.

Q: When is the response due from the United States?

A: As I say, we haven't received it, and I don't know that there is a specific time table that has been established at this point. But I think the actions, if you put the UN Security Council action of late yesterday together with the NATO action of today together, I think you can see that what they're looking for is some movement to address the problems that we have in Kosovo.

The other thing I should point out is that we certainly still hope for, and I know that most of the other nations that have been working on this still hope for a diplomatic solution to this problem. But Milosevic at this point has not complied with any of the promises he's made before, so this action has been taken.

Q: Are we looking to give them something before the weekend?

A: I can't predict for you a time table. I think that most of you know there was an informal process that occurred late in the summer where forces have been looked at before, but this is a more formal process and it requires a decision by the national command authorities to actually identify these forces to NATO for continued planning.

Q: I just want to clarify something in my own mind. We have the activation warning that's been approved, or the decision...

A: To issue an activation warning.

Q: Is that synonymous with the force generation, or is force generation the next step?

A: Force generation is all a part of this, and that is to say an activation warning is the overall term that NATO applies to this stage of the process. This stage of the process is kind of the last stage of planning. It is not the first stage of action. But it will result in force generation.

Q: Right now this is aimed at airstrikes, but if they do have some sort of agreement on the ground, then it would possibly go to bring in ground forces. Would this whole process have to go over again?

A: I'm not sure that I can get into a lot of detail as to the process that would be required there. I think we've talked before about the fact that there is a plan that NATO has worked on in the event that there is a ceasefire and NATO is called upon to play some role in implementing that. But there also are a range of air options which have been looked at. This activation warning which was authorized to date is with the air side of this.

Q: Today the Washington Times is reporting that Russia is preparing a possible nuclear test. Can you confirm, do you have any information on that?

A: What I can tell you is that we've observed some activity at this Russian test range suggesting that some nuclear related experiments are underway, but we have not concluded that a nuclear explosion has either taken place or is necessarily involved in this.

Q: So you think there will be also the possibility of some critical nuclear experiment, because that is not contained in a nuclear explosion.

A: That certainly is a possibility, but at this point I'm certainly in no position to predict what the Russians may be contemplating.

Q: A quick one on Bosnia. Any word on final election results?

A: I think I should refer you to the OSCE on that one. I have not heard of any final election results.

Q: A THAAD question. Do you know when the next test will be?

A: Let me take that one and see if we have anything for you.

Just for the record, let me read into the microphone here that I'm told it will be after the first of the year.

Q: Can you say who made this decision and when it was made?

A: No, I can't. If you want some more detail on that I'll take that question and see if we can get anything.

Q: Also how far after the first of the year.

A: I don't know that we've specified an exact date for it.

Q: What steps have we taken to improve and boost the security of the embassy in Liberia?

A: In Liberia the situation... I'm not sure if Ken got into this when he talked to you on Tuesday, but let me just let you know that the European Command had dispatched what they call their security assessment team which is a small number of individuals who are normally dispatched to areas where there is turmoil, and this is done at the request of the State Department to not only look at the security situation but also to determine what might be required if any kind of evacuation were required. Those team members are communicators, they're logisticians and security people. When I say small, I mean usually 12 or less.

That team is presently in the embassy compound with a small number of embassy personnel plus the Marine detachment, but the actual security for the embassy is being provided by troops of ECMOG. And the situation there, although I think it would be described as still tense, we are looking for a negotiated resolution to the situation that will enable the people who are there to get back to a more normal operation.

We have not sent any additional security forces into the area, but I think that you can imagine that the European Command has a full range of assets at his disposal which could be dispatched if necessary, and the normal planning, the normal thinking that would be done in a situation like this would be to identify a number of assets that could be deployed if necessary.

Q: When did the security assessment team go in, and do we have any ships in the region?

A: They arrived there on the 21st of September. Do we have any ships in the area? I don't think there are any ships in the area right now. There may be a ship that is moving down, a small coastal ship.

Q: The conference report on the Defense Authorization Bill is before the House today and may be before the Senate tomorrow. Is there anything in that conference report now that the Pentagon finds so objectionable that it would be a target for a veto?

A: I am not aware of anything that has been identified in that way, but this is the kind of a question that I think I would like to take and we'll see if there's anything that comes out that we need to alert you to.

I'm sorry. I'm looking at... I want to correct something I said earlier regarding THAAD. The decision on the next THAAD test is still pending. So what I indicated before was incorrect.

Q: What has caused this delay?

A: It's just pending. We haven't decided when we're going to do it.

Q: On the budget again, specifically regarding the President's letter from the other day to the Secretary, can you give us any insight into sort of how that process is going to go forward here in the Pentagon? Obviously there's no funding figure that's been talked about.

A: That's right.

Q: How is that going to work?

A: Well, what I can tell you about that is of course the Secretary was very pleased at the commitment that the President addressed in his letter. He subsequently met with the service chiefs to discuss the letter. The services--as part of the process that the President asked the Department to undertake--the services are now engaged, on this as is the Department in working with the Office of Management and Budget to work out funding and other issues associated with it.

Q: Do the chiefs expect to have something in the form of a concrete proposal to put before the committees on Tuesday?

A: I can't predict whether that will occur. I would imagine that they'll certainly address areas, but I'm not sure that they'll have the full specifics to it. I would imagine that what will occur is that this will come together in a package and will go to the Hill after it has been coordinated, as we like to do with the Office of Management and Budget.

Q: Have we figured out what the glitches were in the barricade that delayed the meeting on Monday?

A: No, the process on that that Ken outlined on Tuesday is still going on. My guess is based on discussions with the people who are involved in the review of that equipment is that it will probably take about 30 days before they complete that.

Q: This has to do with the backgrounder yesterday on the General Hale investigation. It was said by the gentlemen that were answering the questions, it was said that General Reimer had been completely, his reputation had been completely cleansed, completely, there has been an investigation. Ken had said something about this. Could you reiterate that General Reimer is no longer under any scrutiny with regard to the Hale matter?

A: Well, it is correct that General Reimer is not under any scrutiny with regard to this matter. That is a fact.

Q: Secretary Cohen met recently with the top Chinese military figure not too long ago. Do you have any reaction to his forced resignation?

A: First of all, I can't confirm the press reports that I think you're referring to so I will defer on having any kind of reaction.

Q: Was the Secretary at all aware of this when they met last week?

A: We don't whether it's correct or not, is my point.

Press: Thank you.