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DoD News Briefing, Tuesday, October 13, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.

Presenters: Captain Mike Doubleday, DASD (PA)
October 13, 1998 1:30 PM EDT

Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.

I understand we have a group from Bolling visiting today. Welcome to you all.

I just want to make sure all of you are aware that Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre is going to introduce former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger at the Reserve Forces Policy Board Alumni Banquet which is marking the 25th anniversary of the total force. It's going to be held at the Army-Navy Country Club at 8:00 p.m. on October 14th. The event is open to the news media. If you would be interested in covering that check with our folks in DDI if you need any further details.

With that, I will try and answer some of your questions.

Q: Mike, what kind of planes, including U.S., are going to be used to monitor this Kosovo agreement? And if there are violations or continued violations as of Saturday, will further warnings be given or will that trigger an immediate attack without warning?

A: Charlie, I think you're all aware that there has been a lot of activity in the last several days, diplomatic activity, which has been backed up by the very credible NATO force that's been put together.

In the announcements that have been made starting last night with NATO, with the Secretary General, and comments made by the President and earlier this morning by National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, what we have seen at this point is that number one, Milosevic has agreed to comply with the UN Security Council Resolution, and as part of the verification of that there is a two-part kind of a verification regime. One part of that is a ground regime which is going to be implemented primarily by the OSCE and the other component is a NATO air verification regime which you referred to.

In this regime, essentially, NATO's surveillance aircraft will have access to Kosovo and the aircraft... The access by the way will be unrestricted. There will be a variety of platforms that may be involved in this, all of them, by the way, non-combat aircraft. They include aircraft like the U-2, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and then low and medium altitude manned reconnaissance platforms like P-3s, Canberras, or DeHavillands. It will probably take a number of days for NATO to work out the details with the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on exactly how this can be implemented in a very safe way, which is of course one of the primary considerations.

In addition to the unrestricted access there's also going to be a stand-down of the air defense systems so that these aircraft will not feel threatened.

Q: If it's found after the four day period goes by that the Serbs are in violation of this, will there be further warnings or could it trigger immediate, unannounced attack?

A: Charlie, I think we ought to focus on the next four days. It's clear from the activation order that was issued by NATO that certainly the very formidable air assets that have been put together by NATO are in place; are ready to enforce compliance if it is not forthcoming. But I don't want to predict exactly what is going to occur over the coming days. I think we want to look for compliance, and that's where the focus will be over the next four days.

Q: Berger had said that there was no time limit for how long the civilian troop people would remain on the ground. Is there any time limit for how long this reconnaissance will continue, or is it going to be unending?

A: There is certainly no time limit. At this point I think the first step will be to actually establish some of the reconnaissance missions so it can be done safely in a way that effectively verifies that compliance is or is not going on.

One of the other things that of course is going to have to be worked out is a mechanism to coordinate the information that is obtained by these reconnaissance platforms and what information is gathered by the verifiers who are involved in the ground component and feed that back to NATO. NATO is the organization that will be distilling all of this information and looking at the verification process overall.

Q: After the four days, once you've verified it, I take it this could go on for a long period of time.

A: It could go on for a considerable period of time, as long as it's necessary to verify what is going on on the ground.

Among the things that the verifiers are going to be looking at is not only the movement of forces out of Kosovo into garrison, but they'll also be looking at the free access of the Kosovar Albanians. They will look at the free access of the humanitarian organizations that are going to have to move back into the area to ensure that those who have been displaced from their homes can get back and get settled and get through the winter in a way that does not result in the crisis that was on the doorstep before this agreement was reached.

Q: Will there be any observance by these reconnaissance platforms of whether there's any re-emergence of a Kosovo Liberation Army? Or will their duties be directed only against the Serbs?

A: Of course the overall UN Security Council Resolution calls for an end to hostilities on both sides, and I think there would be an interest on the part of NATO authorities in seeing any kind of activity that showed an increase in hostilities, no matter what side it came from.

Q: Will there be a U.S. presence in the international observer force? And specifically will there be any U.S. military presence in that?

A: Mr. Berger addressed that question. He certainly foresaw some U.S. involvement in the ground component of the verification force as part of the OSCE. Certainly the United States is part of NATO and I would anticipate that we would play a role in that also.

I think the template for the ground verification mission is similar to the Kosovo diplomatic observers' mission that's going on now. That is centered around, as the name implies, diplomats, but it does include some number of military; people who are dressed in civilian clothes so they do not create any kind of focus of military activity. The vision for this verification mission is that the individuals would be unarmed.

Q: So there might be some involvement by some members of the U.S. military, but not in a military role.

A: Not in a military role, and the way I look at it is that being a person who's in the military does not exclude one from consideration for involvement in this mission, but it is not planned for military people to play a significant role in that in any way.

Q: Who will provide the security for this force?

A: I think that will become clearer in the coming days. I believe that what you will see is some kind of a rapid reaction capability which would be over the horizon, but not located there in Kosovo.

Q: Would that involve U.S. troops?

A: It is unlikely that it would, but as I say, this is still in the beginning phases.

Q: In the reconnaissance mission, you talk about a variety of platforms -- low and medium altitude. Is there any plan for usage of American/U.S. assets that might be in space, so to speak?

A: We would not talk about those kinds of assets.

Q: What arrangements would be required to ensure that since they'd fly Americans as part of these reconnaissance flights?

A: Well, as I mentioned before, the basic part of this is that one, there will be no combat flights or flights by combatant aircraft during the period of time that these flights are going on. There is a safe zone that is established for the purposes of ensuring that this is done in a safe way. There's coordination. There's an exchange of personnel both in Belgrade and also at NATO's air center which is located in Italy. Those are the kinds of components, but I think that in the coming days NATO will outline the specifics of exactly how that will be put together.

I think one of the first things you'll see is some initial flights which will test the procedures that were put together by NATO and by the federal government there.

Q: Will these non-combat surveillance flights be protected by combat planes? In terms of, for instance, planes that would be equipped to respond if there was a hostile radar turned on or something like that.

A: Let me just say that with all of the aircraft that have been moved into position there in Europe, there are plenty of aircraft to take any steps that NATO commanders feel are necessary. But what we're looking for here is to set up a regime that is safe and that provides a level of assurance to those who are involved in the flights that they can get through and accomplish their mission which is one of verification, without any kind of interruption.

Q: Will they have free access to fly over Serbia as well as Kosovo, or only Kosovo?

A: They're going to establish an area which will be specified as a safe zone. I can't tell you at this point exactly what the lat/long of that space is, but I'm sure in the next few days it will become clear.

Q: Would Belgrade be barred from putting up fighter planes, for instance?

A: During the course of these flights my understanding is that there are some very substantial restrictions on the flights of combat aircraft by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. As I say, in the coming days I think you'll get a fuller readout on exactly what the procedures are going to be to ensure that these are done safely.

Q: What's the difference between the so-called safe zone and the so-called no-fly zone that's over Bosnia?

A: The no-fly zone over Bosnia is a restriction in the areas that flights can actually be flown on a continuing basis. In this case, the restrictions occur during the time of these verification flights.

Q: When you say unrestricted access, could the surveillance flights take place at any time, or would they have to be sort of pre-arranged, we're going to do one next time...

A: Again, I think you'll get more details, but the initial plans are that there would be some advance warning which could be up to several days in advance, but if it becomes necessary because of weather or other considerations to set up one of these flights on a very rapid basis, it could be done with as little as an hour's notice.

Q: The United States said previously that it had a large quantity of military rations or humanitarian rations that could be distributed in Kosovo if there was a climate that was hospitable to that. What are the current plans for those rations? Is the U.S. still interested in distributing those rations, and are any plans being made as part of this agreement to have a distribution of food?

A: This agreement does not get into that level of detail. What it does, though, is to guarantee the free access of humanitarian organizations to get into Kosovo so that the contributions from the United States and other countries can be effectively distributed to those who need it.

But to answer your specific question, I am not aware of any plan right now to use those rations in this case. Although I don't want to exclude that if it becomes necessary.

Q: How many tanks and APCs and troops do the Serbs have on the ground now in Kosovo?

A: I can't give you a rundown from right here. We may have that. You might want to check with Lieutenant Colonel Steve Campbell to see if there's a current listing of that. I don't think I've seen a real definitive list on that recently.

Q: Just to clarify an earlier answer, I understand that there are a large number of U.S. and other NATO combat aircraft in the area, but as I understand your answer before, they would not be in the air during these surveillance flights. If that's the case, does that cause any concern in this building about the safety of the people after surveillance?

A: No, I don't want to say that. I deliberately was trying to fuzz up the answer so we would not disclose exactly what we were going to do, and I'll leave it to NATO whether they want to disclose how they're going to handle the protection of those flights.

Q: But under the agreement they would not be in the air over Kosovo while these flights...

A: The agreement calls for noncombatant aircraft which have a reconnaissance mission to do this verification mission.

Q: So any protective flights would not be over Kosovo while these...

A: Any other flights would not be over that airspace, yeah.

Q: Are the ground verification inspections also largely prearranged?

A: I can't really address the ground component since that is going to be worked out by OSCE. I think that a lot of the details that you're interested in here will become clear in the coming days, but I just don't have that level of detail.

Q: What's to stop Milosevic then if they're largely pre-notified, pre-arranged for some period, what's to stop him from simply obeying during the inspections and the moving...

A: Let me just say to give an overall answer to your question, the primary thing that must happen here to ensure success of this is that Mr. Milosevic has to comply with this agreement which he has signed up to, but as the President expressed last night, he doesn't have a very good track record for living up to his agreements. As a result of that, there is a very substantial verification effort, both air and ground, which is tied to this.

He has also agreed to the unrestricted access of both the air and the ground component of that verification mission to ensure that indeed he is living up to this one.

Q: When you talked about a stand-down in their air defense system, is that only during the time of these overflights, or is it all the time? I assume they're going to have their early warning radar...

A: The idea is...

Q:...Is it just like fire control radar? What is it?

A: The idea is that they're going to have to move those defense systems out of the area or put them in cantonment areas. There's a provision for them to test their systems to some extent, but again, I want to defer on the details until it is a little clearer exactly how this is going to work.

Q: When you say air defense systems are you talking about SA-6 mobile missiles that have been deployed in the field?

A: Let's see how that works out.

Q: How soon will these flights be...

A: I don't know. I would defer to NATO on how soon they would be in the air. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to coordinate these flights, so I'm not sure you're going to see them in the next day or two.

Q: By the end of the week?

A: I don't want to predict.

Q: Would this operation and reconnaissance mission be handled under AFSOUTH?

A: I don't know how NATO intends to do it. I know that it will be a NATO mission and that the ground mission will be reporting its observations to NATO also.

Q: Are U-2s and P-3s in theater now?

A: There are U-2s in theater; there are P-3s in theater. I also don't want to... My answer should not indicate exactly what platforms are going to be used. I just wanted to give the range of platforms that are part of the agreement that could come into play in this thing. But there are assets in theater already.

Q: Could I just follow up on when this would begin? In other words, people might assume this would be, surveillance would have started first light tomorrow. So you can't make that assumption?

A: No, I don't think you should make that assumption.

Q: But certainly sometime within the four day time limit.

A: I think that there are a number of things that need to be worked out, and at this point it is not clear exactly when the flights will commence.

Q: How can you set a four day time limit if you don't know what's going on on the ground?

A: We want to get the KDOM mission back in there to look at things. We want to make an assessment based on some of their observations. I don't exclude that there will be some flights, but at this point I just don't want to establish a time table that NATO hasn't established itself.

Q: Can you shed more light on this concept of a rapid reaction force over the horizon?

A: No. At this point I can't. I think what we need to see is something from the people who may be putting that together, and as soon as we get anymore, I'd be glad to share it with you, but that's the only part of the concept that I'm aware of at this point.

Q: Can you tell us anything about this Sergeant Boone?

A: I don't have much information about this one. I understand that he was arrested over the weekend, that he is a retired sergeant first class, and that the organization in a position to answer questions about him is the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia. That's about as much as I'm aware of.

Q: Can you give us any information on what his duties were?

A: No, I don't have that information.

Q: Is the military helping this investigation, or was this strictly the Justice Department and the FBI?

A: The military was certainly aware of it, but I'm not aware of the level of their involvement.

Q: Did he ever work in this building or was he out at the headquarters of NSA?

A: I can't tell you what his career history was. It may be that we can get that. I just don't have that level of detail with me.

Q: If he's convicted, he faces life or a possible death sentence. Can you give us any idea of how serious the damage is that he's alleged to have done?

A: I can't do that. It may be that either the U.S. Attorney's office could, or in the coming days as the case goes to trial there may be a fuller assessment.

Q: Can you make his service records available?

A: We will see what can be released under the Privacy Act. I am not certain how much detail we'll be able to provide at this point.

Q: Can we get what we can get today?

A: We'll certainly do our best to get that to you today.

Q: Since the CIA always takes this sort of question, I presume the military regrets the breach of security by this person.

A: I think that it's always very distressing to see former service personnel involved in this kind of activity. It's a very shameful kind of activity that we find very, very disquieting.

Q: There is a report that Osama bin Laden was in that Afghan training camp when the cruise missiles hit back on August 20th, but apparently escaped relatively unscathed. Can you confirm that?

A: No, I can't.

Q: May I ask one more follow-up on the spy? Is the military doing anything further to prevent anything further on this? Any further investigations? Anything to prevent this happening in the future?

A: I think you probably know that as these cases come up there is a very considerable effort to bring individuals who have this kind of involvement to justice. This is certainly an example of where that is the case.

I am not aware nor would I be at liberty to discuss any other cases that may be forthcoming related to this or any other kind of situation, but you can certainly be assured that any time the U.S. chain of command -- either military or in this case the Justice Department -- becomes aware of this kind of activity they certainly pursue it and want to get to the bottom of it.

Q: A question about Linda Tripp.

A: Yes.

Q: I read in the papers that she's received a pay raise. Can you confirm what her salary is now, and what she's doing to earn that salary?

A: I think some of you who have worked in the building here know that there is a mechanism for individuals to get what is called a within-grade increase which is essentially a longevity pay increase which she received on August 18, 1998. She continues to, as an employee of the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, she continues to carry out her duties under the flexi-place arrangements. We are reviewing that situation. Beyond that I don't have anything else I can tell you.

Q: Can you tell me what her salary level is now with the new pay increase?

A: It's a yearly salary of about $90,000. The exact figure is $90,767 per year.

Q: What was it before?

A: It was before $88,173 per year.

Q: Can you tell the American taxpayers what they're getting for their $90,000?

A: I can't go into detail, but she is, as I say, an employee of the Department. She is a GS-15 level federal employee in the Department here.

Q: Last time Ken Bacon briefed us on this he told us that she was working on a manual, some sort of manual. Can you tell us whether any progress has been made on completing that manual?

A: I am not going to get into details about progress on her work. That comes under the question of what would be reflected in a performance evaluation and that kind of information is covered under the Privacy Act and I can't get into that.

Q: What percentage of Pentagon employees make in excess of $90,000 a year?

A: I don't know. We can probably get that for you. If you're talking about in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, I'm sure we could probably come up with that figure.

Q: When Ken briefed us he said that a substantial amount of her weekly hours had fallen under administrative leave for her cooperation with the independent counsel. Now that that's all over, I assume that she is no longer having substantial administrative leave?

A: I cannot get into any detail about what Linda Tripp does when she is in a duty status.

Q: A second question would be when she transferred from the White House to here her pay went up approximately $20,000 or something. Is that an unusual pay increase?

A: I can't talk about pay increases. All I can talk about is the kind of work levels that individuals are assigned to. When Linda Tripp came over here she became a GS-15, and as such the work that she was assigned was commensurate with that level.

Q: Why can't you give in any detail more what she does, Mike? This is not a privacy issue. It's public money for public work.

A: Charlie, I'm not going to get into it and the reason for that is I don't provide detail about what anybody else does with their time.

Q: Can we just ask it this way, is she actually doing any work, without disclosing what it is? For this money.

A: I am not going to get into any characterization of the work that Linda Tripp does.

Q: I'm not asking you to characterize it. I'm just asking if she's doing any.

Q: What's the latest on the investigation of the revealing of her personal history in the past? There was going to be a Pentagon...

A: Ongoing.

Q: When will it end?

A: I can't predict.

Q: Mike, she's a GS-15. How many years has she got of federal service?

A: We have that, but I don't have it with me right now.

Q: Can you take it?

A: I will see if we can provide that.

Q: Ken was in here explaining to us that as long as she was going into the independent counsel's office, and in essence punching a time clock there and cooperating with the independent counsel's investigation, that that's essentially where her hours were coming from. The question has sort of been asked, but if she's not working with the independent counsel's office anymore, and she's not showing up at the Pentagon, is she sitting at home collecting a paycheck and not doing anything?

A: I hear your question. I think I've answered it before.

Q: This most recent raise was basically a longevity kind of raise?

A: Yeah, uh huh.

Q: Would an employee who was judged to be doing unsatisfactory work get such a raise? Is that a raise that you get as long as you hang on?

A: If an employee were judged to be performing unsatisfactorily, they would very well not get that.

Q:...positive reviews?

Q: Also, she's facing an investigation by the independent counsel as to whether she told the truth or not. Would any time that she spent fighting that charge be legally able that she could say she's working for the government on that?

A: I can't answer that question. There may come a time that I can, but right now I can't.

Press: Thank you.