Thursday, September 21, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.
We have a couple of press advisories that are out on the street today, but I just wanted to note that General Shalikashvili is going to depart Andrews Air Force Base on Sunday for counterpart visits to the Czech Republic, the Slovac Republic, Hungary and Poland where he will meet with heads of state, Defense Ministers, and other senior government and military officials to discuss topics of mutual interest and regional security.
General Shalikashvili is also going to be involved on Friday in an event at the American Red Cross along with Elizabeth Dole, who is the president of that organization. The event commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the end of World War II, and our press advisory provides you with enough information that you can contact the folks over there and participate in that event if you would like.
With that, I'll be happy to answer your questions.
Q: Can you update us on the C-17s and why they can't deliver to the Virgin Islands?
A: Actually, the situation with the C-17s has been resolved. It was simply a situation that involved some broken bolts which were found in three fan thrust reverser hinges. Because of that, there was a requirement to do some inspections on the C-17s, and they're taking a look at...
(Drilling-type noise in background)
A: Yes, they're repairing those bolts right here in the Pentagon. [Laughter]
Q: Is there any determination whether it was a defect of the part?
A: Frankly, I think there is, right now, an analysis underway to determine the cause of the problem. But the important thing to keep in mind is that support for the victims of Hurricane Marilyn was continued with other aircraft assets while the C-17s were being inspected. In fact, there are 40 trucks which the military is providing from the 546th Truck Company at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They're going to be -- as I understand it -- in place by the end of the day.
Q: The C-17s are flying this again?
A: Yes, the C-17s are back in the air flying the support missions down there to the Caribbean.
A: It was found on... As I understand it, it was found on three fan thrust reverser hinges, and I can't tell you whether that was one or more than one aircraft, but as a result of that... I think this is pretty standard. When you find a potential problem -- because of safety considerations -- they simply take a look at all of the aircraft that might be affected. That they did, and it was determined that there was not a widespread problem, and therefore, the aircraft are back flying.
Q: Now that the Bosnian Serbs have met the UN demand for withdrawing the artillery and so forth from around Sarajevo, is the intention now to withdraw some of the U.S. aircraft from Aviano?
A: To my knowledge, there is no intention to withdraw any aircraft from the operation over there. I would just like to point out that, of course, we here in the building are extremely pleased that the NATO operations have helped secure the safety of the residents there in Sarajevo. While NATO and the UN continue to monitor the situation -- and, of course, they're prepared to respond quickly with their aircraft if required -- we're looking forward to the successful resolution of the conflict in Bosnia through diplomatic negotiations.
Q: How quickly are American forces ready to go if the peace agreement is suddenly wrapped up in days or weeks? How fast can the U.S. turn around and put peacekeepers into that area?
A: First of all, John, let me kind of walk you through what the planning process is. As you point out, of course, at this point there is no peace agreement, and that is one of the major factors that the United States has insisted upon before any kind of U.S. troops would be put on the ground there in Bosnia. However, there is planning that is now underway at NATO -- and this is appropriate -- because another one of the requirements that the United States has is that any kind of U.S. troop participation would be under NATO command and control. That planning has just very recently started. It is a process which is presently in the hands of NATO. They will make a determination as to what the overall troop level requirements will be; what the various missions are going to be; and then, once their plan is approved, they'll go out to the member nations and request troop contributions. It will be at that point that we'll have a much better idea of exactly what the U.S. participation will be.
As you know, there have been several senior defense officials in the past who have talked about the form which our participation is likely to take and the units from which those troops are likely to come. And they have identified much of that participation as being now resident in Europe as part of our forward deployed force over there. And my expectation is that once any kind of a peace agreement were made, once NATO planning has been completed, once U.S. troop participation levels have been determined, that U.S. troops could move very quickly.
Q: At General Shali's confirmation hearing, the Senate Armed Service Committee members made it very clear that they didn't want the President committing American troops without congressional approval. Not just consultation, they wanted approval. Several members from the Republican side made it clear they didn't think we ought to be involved at all. Do you know if it's the Administration's intent to go to Congress for their confirmation -- their approval -- before we make the decision to send the troops in?
A: I know that this building and other parts of the Executive Branch of the government intend to work very closely with Congress on this issue.
Q: Is the plan to get a de facto -- a firm -- vote?
A: I can't answer that question.
Q: Just for us logistical novices, how long would it take to get an armored division from Germany into Sarajevo?
A: I don't think at this point that -- from my position -- I could give you a very accurate estimate of how long it would take, except to say that one of the reasons that we have troops stationed overseas is so that we are able to respond quickly to requirements like this. We have demonstrated many times in the past that we can move quickly -- can not only deploy troops quickly, but can move equipment quickly if required.
Q: A month?
A: Again, I think the situation that exists at the time of the deployment would determine how quickly deployment could take place and whether air assets, rail assets, ship assets would be used to conduct such a deployment.
Q: Do you envision pre-staging equipment in the theater area prior to a signed peace agreement?
A: In this particular instance, equipment is already pre-positioned in Europe. Whether it would be moved any closer to the scene of action, I can't say at this point.
But I think, first of all, as the very sensitive diplomatic negotiations go forward, we'll get some sense... With some advanced notification of how smoothly and quickly that might move, if indeed it does move, and we'll be able to respond very quickly if required.
Q: ...the withdrawal of the big guns from around Sarajevo, is the Administration also pleased with the scope of the Croatian/Bosnian offensive that has now gobbled up about 25 percent of the territory in what used to be Bosnia?
A: We have repeatedly urged all the parties in the region at the highest levels not to take actions which could aggravate the situation in the Balkans. A negotiated settlement is the only possible outcome to this tragic conflict.
Q: You've repeatedly urged, and they repeatedly ignored you. For day after day, they have proceeded to gobble up more than a thousand square miles of territory. Is this helping the peace process? Setting it back? Some people say it's helped it tremendously.
A: I don't really feel like I'm in a position to describe to you whether the peace process has been helped by this action by the Bosnian and Croatian forces or not.
Q: ...What is the window of opportunity and some assessment for getting this done before the winter really hits over there? Does it have to be done by January, does it have to be done by Christmas, does it have to be done by February?
A: I think that almost any military person would tell you that weather can play a significant role in a deployment, and there will be complications by rain, by snow, by freezing storms of any kind. But having said that, there have been deployments for many, many years which have been done and been done very well in even the most adverse circumstances. So although that certainly is a factor, it would not necessarily prevent a deployment taking place.
Q: The French Senate today is reporting that there were three failed rescue attempts for the French pilots. What can you tell us about those rescue attempts, and any Americans who might have been involved?
A: In a word: "nothing."
A: First of all, I just want to point out that in the past, Admiral Smith has pointed out that he has search and rescue efforts ongoing and he is doing everything possible to rescue those pilots. At this point, his operation is not complete, and I think it's best not to provide any kind of confirmation on operations that may have been conducted or might be conducted in the future.
Q: Are you saying the operations to rescue the pilots are still ongoing?
A: I'm saying that NATO still maintains a search and rescue operation in some form of readiness for those pilots, and that NATO will make the determination when, if ever, they want to suspend those operations and when it is appropriate to discuss in any detail what they have been.
Q: Is there any sense of the fate of the French pilots?
A: I do not have any sense of the fate of the French pilots. I've seen the press reporting. I cannot confirm any of it at this point.
Q: ...NATO not going to say anything, yet the country of origin of the pilots seems perfectly willing to discuss it?
A: I have at this point only seen press reports of a briefing which was done, which was supposedly a closed briefing. I'm not in a position to confirm, indeed, what occurred during that briefing.
Q: Do you have, or can you get us, a breakdown of how many aircraft -- of what type -- flew how many missions? And the same thing for munitions. Kind of a breakdown of what happened.
A: I know that question has come up on several occasions. We certainly have a list of the aircraft. We have some indication of numbers of missions that have been flown. But we await a firm breakdown from NATO of the kind of detail that you're looking for.
Q: This week?
A: I would hope we would get it in the very near future, but I'm not able to predict how quickly they're able to move on that.
Q: There's some discussion going on as to whether the force should be essentially a larger force or a smaller force. Is there any way to give a short description of the discussion of the debate that's going on?
A: Frankly, I know there's been a discussion in the media about the size of the force. I'm not so certain that there has been a discussion within the Administration on that particular detail, primarily because there is no plan yet which they can react to.
Basically, I think you've probably seen the reporting on the Chairman's testimony this morning, and he made a couple of points that were very important. One, the force should be robust enough that it can protect itself. Dr. Perry has also talked about this within the last day or two -- where he has indicated that we've told NATO that the United States will participate in a leadership role -- and that our contribution will not be token.
Let me further say that the Clinton Administration has been very supportive of the military view on troop level requirements for any kind of contingency operations or real operations. NATO, of course, as I mentioned before, is going to decide on the overall requirement of troop levels. Once that determination is made, NATO will go out to the participating nations and they will ask for contributions. One of the countries contributing will be the United States, and Dr. Perry and General Shalikashvili will arrive at some determination as to the level of participation that the United States should have. They will then present that to the President, and he will make the final decision, of course, as to what the level should be.
But I just want to remind everybody that, at this point, we don't have an agreement. We don't have a NATO plan. As such, we don't have any kind of numbers that we can deal with.
Q: There's widespread agreement that the force should be a large force -- a force that is not to be messed with?
A: From everything that I know about this, it should be large enough that it can protect itself, and also large enough that it will play a leadership role -- that the United States will play a leadership role in this NATO effort.
Q: Is there anything more to be known about the Russians' participation or how the leadership would be set up with...
A: The NATO planning will also envision non-NATO participation. Now exactly what the operational control of those units will be has not yet been determined. But I think, as you know, we've conducted, in the past, peacekeeping operations with the Russians and with many other nations, and we certainly would welcome an opportunity to put into practice in a real world operation what we've been practicing in exercises.
Q: As I recall, there was a scheduled U.S./Russian peacekeeping exercise to take place at Fort Riley soon. Is that still on schedule?
A: Indeed. It's called PEACEKEEPER '95, scheduled for Fort Riley, Kansas, in October. It is on track.
Q: When is it in October?
A: I'd have to refer you to the folks back in DDI for details of when it will commence, but it's in October.
Press: Thank you.