United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


DoD News Briefing

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
December 10, 1998 1:50 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. I'm glad you could come to this briefing today.

Tomorrow afternoon at 1300 there will be a briefing on Secretary Cohen's trip to Europe which starts on Sunday with a trip to Germany where he'll meet with German leaders, and then he'll go to the Marshall Center at Garmisch to meet with and give a graduation speech to people who have come from former Soviet countries -- both civilian and military leaders who are at the Marshall Center learning about civilian control of the military. Then he'll go on to Brussels for a NATO defense ministerial meeting at the end of the week. But we'll have a more detailed briefing tomorrow at 1:00 o'clock.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: What's the Pentagon's/Secretary's reaction to Major General Hale being charged with 17 counts of sexual misconduct and lying?

A: This is an Army issue. It's before the Army. It's being reviewed. As you know, they've announced an Article 32 proceeding. I don't think it's appropriate for me or the Secretary to comment on it at this stage.

Q: Do you think it's only an Army issue and not a military or not a...

A: This is a legal issue, a judicial issue in the Army justice system today, and it's not appropriate for me or the Secretary to comment on it at this time.

Q: Do you know, the Army says that this will be the second time such a case involving a general officer, if it does go to court-martial, that would be the second time. Has that ever occurred in any of the other military services?

A: I'm sorry. What do you mean by only the second time such a case? What do you mean by such a case?

Q: That a general officer has been court-martialed. If the gentleman does face a court-martial, that it's only the second time that that's occurred in the Army. Do you know any history of other cases involving the other services where general officers...

A: This is my understanding. I'll give you the name of the military historian or law historian you can check with further.

My understanding is that in 1949 a Navy rear admiral was recalled to active duty... I'm sorry.

In 1957 a Navy rear admiral named Hooper was recalled to active duty to stand trial under court-martial and he was convicted. He had retired in 1949. He was recalled to active duty in 1957 and stood for court-martial. He actually was the second flag officer to be court-martialed since the Uniform Code of Military Justice was instituted in 1950.

The first was an Army Major General Grow, G-R-O-W, who was on active duty at the time he was court-martialed. He was court-martialed and convicted of two counts of dereliction of duty and two counts of security infractions because he lost a diary while in Moscow and parts of the diary were then published in the Soviet press. He received a reprimand and a suspension from command for six months.

There have been other flag officers court-martialed before the Uniform Code of Military Justice was adopted or enacted in 1950, and one of those was Benedict Arnold, if you want to go back into history.

Q: Change of subject?

A: Is there more on this?

Q: Just one question, because the Secretary did ask for the review by the Inspector General of the Pentagon, is there any anticipation of any further study of the matter?

A: I think we need to be very clear. The Inspector General already was reviewing the Hale case before it became public. The Inspector General was assigned this case because Major General Hale had worked in the Army Inspector General office, so it wasn't appropriate for the Army to review the case. It had been turned over to the Department of Defense Inspector General.

That report, as you know, was completed and issued. I think some of you read it in redacted form. And the Army has taken appropriate action and will continue to work on this case. It's action that the Army considered to be appropriate.

This is an Army issue right now. It's in the judicial system. It ought to stay in the judicial system and the Army can answer questions about the case.

So, the IG investigation was underway before this case became public.

Q: A change to Iraq?

A: Sure.

Q: I have a small three-part question, Ken.

A: You know I can invoke the Warren Christopher rule and answer only the part I like the best. (Laughter)

Q: The first part, based on what is now happening in Iraq, are airstrikes likely? Two, what assets are still in place in the Persian Gulf region? And three, is the Pentagon now moving or contemplating moving very soon more assets to the region?

A: We have in the Gulf today a carrier battle group, the ENTERPRISE carrier battle group. The ENTERPRISE will be leaving, I believe, on the 20th of December and it will be replaced by the VINCENT carrier battle group. The VINCENT is currently underway to the Gulf. I believe she'll arrive on the 18th of December... Scheduled to arrive on the 18th of December.

That carrier battle group contains 15 combatants and eight Tomahawk capable platforms, among those combatants.

Q: Is this the VINCENT?

A: This is the ENTERPRISE battle group which is currently on station in the Gulf. The ENTERPRISE will leave later this month, just before Christmas, and the VINCENT will come in to replace the ENTERPRISE.

Q: Where is the ENTERPRISE going?

A: The ENTERPRISE, I believe, is in the Gulf. The ENTERPRISE is already there.

Q: Where is it going?

A: The ENTERPRISE is only there for a month. The ENTERPRISE basically filled the gap between the EISENHOWER, which left about a month ago, and the VINCENT. The ENTERPRISE steamed over from Norfolk, went directly to the Gulf, and then will go to the Mediterranean.

Q: So it's going up into the Med.

A: The ENTERPRISE will, yes, and be replaced by the VINCENT in the Gulf. This has been planned for some time.

That is our major naval force in the Gulf. The BELLEAU WOOD is there, Marine Amphibious Ready Group. It will leave on the 27th of December [27th of January]. She will be replaced by the USS BOXER which will arrive on the 24th of December [24th of January]. The BOXER's underway from San Diego right now.

There are currently 195 U.S. aircraft in the theater, and we do have an Army battalion from Fort Stewart exercising in Kuwait as part of Operation INTRINSIC ACTION -- 1200 men and women. That INTRINSIC ACTION will be coming out on December 20th and will be replaced by another INTRINSIC ACTION on the same day. They use the same plane. So a plane brings in fresh soldiers, and that plane then takes back the soldiers who have been there.

Q: On the 20th?

A: The 20th of December, yes is when that switch over will take place. I think the new group of 1200 soldiers will also be from Fort Stuart... will be part of the 3rd Infantry Division. The current ones there are from the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stuart.

All total we have now in the Gulf 23,900 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, and it's been at that level for the last couple of weeks.

We also, as you know, in November moved some bombers into the theater, four

B-1s and seven B-52s. The B-52s that are there will be replaced by eight B-52s which are currently on their way or will be soon to Diego Garcia. One of those is a training plane so there will be a combat force of seven, but there will be eight B-52s there. So that switch out will be taking place over the next days or weeks as the B-52s come in.

Q: The first part of my question you choose not to answer? Are airstrikes...

A: As I said, I answered two out of the three, which, under the Christopher rule, gave you a free answer.

Q: Concerning Russia, I have two questions. The first is concerning the Topol-M missile, which apparently is going to be the advanced ICBM of the next century, early part of the century, for Russia. And how can Russia afford when they're borrowing, or asking for food all over the world, how can they afford to upgrade their strategic forces? Is this causing any consternation here?

A: I can't answer questions about the Russian government's internal financial decisions. They clearly have a right to maintain a defensive force, and they're doing that. They have a right to modernize their force and they can do that under our arms control agreements and they are. But I can't explain how they make decisions to spend military dollars on missiles versus military pay or aircraft, nor can I explain how they decide to allocate money between social and military concerns or needs.

Q: Secondly, Minister Adamov has said that Russia is going to continue to help Iran build a nuclear reactor, in spite of our protest. What's the Department's take on that particular announcement that they're going to continue because they need the bucks?

A: Let me get back to you on that.

Q: Back on Iraq. For the second day now, the Iraqis have refused entrance for inspectors, teams of inspectors, the United Nations. Is the United States contemplating doing anything about this? Or are they letting the Iraqis get away with it for the time being? Taking into consideration Ramadan is only nine days from now. (inaudible)... in the area?

A: First of all, we believe that Iraq should comply fully with the UN Security Council resolutions and allow the inspectors to do their work. We're not alone in believing that. I noticed that the Gulf Cooperation Council leaders in Abu Dhabi yesterday issued a statement in which they blamed Iraq for fabricating repeated crises with UNSCOM. They supported UNSCOM's missions and particularly its disarmament purpose. They also said that Baghdad should comply with all Security Council resolutions without conditions or exceptions. So I think the world community, in particularly the Arab world, is united in insisting on full compliance.

Ambassador Butler, the head of UNSCOM, has a program of inspections that he plans to conduct or have his inspectors conduct over the next couple of days. He will then evaluate the pattern of compliance based on those inspections and report back to the Security Council early next week. So I think we'll wait for him to complete his work in that respect and see what he concludes.

He did, as you probably know, issue a report to the Security Council yesterday in which he talked about the obstruction that inspectors had encountered in several cases -- not being allowed to take photographs, not being allowed to talk to people, being denied access. The Bath party headquarters was one that he cited, but there were three or four examples of obstruction and interference that he listed in that report to the Security Council yesterday.

Q: Is the United States moving Patriot missile batteries and the troops to man them to Israel? If so, what's the purpose of that deployment?

A: There are a small number of Patriot batteries going to Israel as part of an exercise, a deployment exercise. And they will be there, I think they are leaving today from Europe. They'll go there, they'll set up, they'll exercise, and they'll come home. This is called an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise.

Q: Is the timing of this exercise in any way related to either the increased tensions with Iraq or President Clinton's scheduled visit to the Middle East?

A: I think the timing of the exercise is just when the exercise happened to be requested.

Q: In the mid-November timeframe I think Israel had expressed an interest in getting some additional Patriot batteries. Were any moved at that time?

A: There were none moved at that time. I stress again, this is an exercise. The Patriots will go down there with several hundred soldiers, set up, and then come back at the appropriate time.

Q: Would they be set up and operational, just coincidentally, at the time President Clinton is scheduled to visit the region? Will they not be operational by that point?

A: President Clinton will be in the region, I guess he leaves this weekend, on Saturday. These Patriots will be exercising the groups, there are three Patriot -- we call them minimum engagement packages, three launchers each -- will be exercising there during that time. Then they'll come back when the exercise is over.

Q: How long are they going to be... Did you say three groups of three launchers?

A: There are three groups with three launchers each.

Q: When will they go back?

A: They'll go back, I'm not sure if that time has been determined, but relatively soon.

Q: Back in November the Secretary issued a deployment order for planes and troops based on the crisis at that time. Is that deployment order still in effect? Can these assets be moved quickly, or will another deployment order be required?

A: As you know, after... In the spring, we changed our policy for deploying troops to the Gulf. We set up something called the CONUS or Continental U.S. -- CONUS abbreviation -- Crisis Response Force. This is an identified group of aircraft, an air expeditionary wing, and an identified group of soldiers who are kept ready on a short tether to go to the Gulf.

What the Secretary did was activate those forces. It does require a deployment order to move them from their alert status into actual deployment status. He activated those troops and started sending them off to the Gulf. We still have those troops at the ready, prepared to go, in a short period of days. That remains the case. There's been no order to deploy them.

As I said many times, we keep a very substantial force in the Gulf, day in and day out. We also now have enhanced that force with clearly identified backup forces in the United States and in Europe who can get to the Gulf very quickly.

Q: You fail to suggest that the movement of the Patriots to the Gulf was not directly tied to the President's trip there. When was this scheduled?

A: It's an exercise. I don't want to get into the details of the exercise, but these exercises are laid on when appropriate.

Q: This is not, you're saying this is not tied to the President's visit. This movement...

A: I'm saying we're sending Patriots to Israel to exercise.

Q: What other additional military equipment are you sending to Israel in the next week or so for exercising?

A: Sorry?

Q: What other additional U.S. military equipment are you sending to Israel in the coming week or ten days for exercising?

A: There's nothing that I can talk about now. I'm not aware that we'll be sending anything else. But we do have an exercise going on in Israel right now called NOBLE SHIRLEY. I've thought of all Shirley's as noble, but this one is particularly noble. We have an annual exercise in Israel called NOBLE SHIRLEY. This one happens to involve Marines, and there are several thousand Marines exercising in Israel today with the Israeli Defense Forces. And I think this exercise will end on December 17th.

Q: Does that include any chemical or biological warfare detection equipment?

A: No, it does not. This is mainly a live fire exercise involving helicopters, as I understand it.

Q: S-U-R, you mean, not...

A: S-H-I.

Q: Just one quick follow-up. Is the exercise involving the Patriots part of NOBLE SHIRLEY or is it a separate...

A: It's in conjunction with it.

Q: And does the United States currently have any F-117 stealth fighters in the region or F-15s? I know that some of those were in the process of moving when the deployment was called back. I just lost track of whether any ever made it over there.

A: I do believe there are F-15s participating in SOUTHERN WATCH, and that's where the bulk of our tactical aircraft are who aren't on... I don't have a list here, we'll get you the exact model numbers. But we have obviously carrier-based air, but the land-based air is largely participating in SOUTHERN WATCH in that area.

Q: And as far as you know there aren't any F-117 stealth fighters in the region at the moment?

A: That is correct.

Q: On National Missile Defense. Did the Pentagon decide to delay the deployment readiness meeting or decision point a year?

A: No. No decision has been made on National Missile Defense. It remains under review. We are committed to developing a National Missile Defense system that works. We've made no decisions to change the geometry of the program at this time.

Q: One thing that was under review at the meeting this week was whether to, in the POM, for the first procurement dollars, do you know if that took place?

A: I believe that there have been no decisions made yet on the National Missile Defense. It is still under review. Secretary Cohen said today when he was meeting outside with the Georgian Defense Minister, that he intended to stick with the 3+3 program. His intention was to stick with the 3+3 program which is three years of development, and then gives us a three year period to deploy after a deployment decision is made.

Q: Secretary Cohen answered "yes" today when he was asked whether the United States is ready to strike Iraq at any time without warning. Does that mean that the U.S. could act before the United Nations inspection team makes any formal report about Iraqi compliance?

A: It means exactly what the question said. That we can, we have the ability to attack any time without warning.

Q: Bill Perry, speaking on the issue of North Korea and on compliance or non-compliance with inspecting the possible underground facility, said the current situation appeared to be "moving toward a critical situation similar to that of June 1994." I remember Secretary Cohen saying this was a serious problem and that the United States would consider dropping the Framework Agreement.

Does Mr. Perry, is he going further by saying that the situation is loaded and dangerous? How would you comment on his remarks?

A: Secretary Perry wouldn't have been appointed to that job if we weren't facing a worrisome situation in North Korea. And as I said on Tuesday, his job is to go over and review the situation and review our policy towards North Korea to find out whether it's appropriate, given the current conditions.

I think that the situation is obviously troublesome. We are working very hard with the North Koreans to negotiate rights to look at an underground facility. Those discussions, I believe, are continuing and Secretary Perry is still on his trip. He'll come back, he'll meet with people here. He'll meet with the State Department leaders. He'll meet with the National Security Council leaders and give people his recommendations. But I think it's premature to suggest what his recommendations will be at this stage.

Q: Based on this statement that I just read, what was reported, has the U.S. taken any precautions or on heightened alert in South Korea?

A: Our forces are always prepared in South Korea, but I'm not aware that there's been any change in alert status there.

Q: Ken, could you give us, possibly give us a little better idea on how long the Patriots might be? You said a short time. Would you say by the end of this month they'll be going back?

A: I don't think I'll be specific on it.

Q: Also on the Patriot batteries. There were a bunch of them included in the November deployment. Do you know if they ever made it to the theater, or were they included in the group that was called off?

A: I believe they did not move.

Q: I'm sorry if you've addressed this already, but can you give us any more information about this report on, the Pentagon report of the Hughes Aircraft, or Hughes aid to the Chinese missile program? There was a report in the New York Times on...

A: It's a secret report. I can't talk about it in much detail. It was requested by Congress. They asked us to analyze the impact of advice or assistance or information that Hughes may have given to the Chinese, and we performed that analysis and sent it to the Senate Government Affairs Committee which requested it in the first place.

Q: Can you go so far as to say whether or not the report made a finding that national security interests were in any way compromised by the transfer?

A: The report concluded that some of the information provided by Hughes could have allowed the Chinese to increase the reliability of their rocket launches. It also concluded that this was not likely, not likely to have altered the strategic balance between the U.S. and China.

The report also concluded that the type of information sent to China or given to China in the, during a review of a launch failure, a sort of post-failure review, that that information should have been given under license from the State Department, under the International Trafficking in Arms regulations.

Q: Do I understand this that Hughes Corporation is permitted to launch their satellites on Chinese rockets, but not permitted to help make sure the satellites actually get into space or that the launch is successful?

A: That's probably an overly simplistic description of the situation. When a company is licensed to have a... to launch an American satellite on a Chinese rocket, there are a series of safeguards that are supposed to occur to prevent the inappropriate transfer of technology. This whole issue came up because of allegations that in some cases these safeguards were not followed. The safeguards have a number of elements to them. One element involved monitors, another element involves proper licensing, and these have to be followed in every case. In some cases they were not, and this was a report that dealt with one of those cases, according to our, the Defense Department's, conclusions.

Now I understand the State Department has also been asked to do a report on this particular launch, the so-called APSTAR II launch. My understanding is their report is not out yet, but will probably be out relatively soon, although you'll have to talk to the State Department about that.

Q: Is this overly simplistic, or is the problem here that, the problem apparently was not in the Hughes satellite, but that Hughes apparently, in discussing the situation with the Chinese, ended up giving them information which would improve their, the Chinese, rocket? Is that...

A: That's what the report found, yes.

Q: Did it also find that that information also could have improved launches of Chinese missiles as opposed to rockets?

A: This report dealt with the APSTAR II failure which was being launched by I think a LONG MARCH II rocket, or attempted to be launched by a LONG MARCH II rocket. To a certain extent, all technological information is transferable from one project to another, but this just looked at the project at hand.

Q: When this post-failure discussion between Hughes and the Chinese was happening, was a Defense Department person present, or was that part of the problem? That they didn't conduct those conversations...

A: No, that was part of the problem. There was no... That's what the reviewers found, there was no Defense Department person present at the time.

Q: So not only did they share information that they shouldn't have, they followed the wrong procedures by not having a Defense Department person there when they had any discussion.

A: I think that different people in the government would disagree over that characterization of what procedures were correct and what procedures weren't correct. It's the Defense Department's view that this should have been handled under a State Department licensing procedure which would have involved monitors, Defense Department monitors, on the scene during meetings between the Chinese and the corporate officials, and would have involved monitors on the scene in China during certain events.

Q: Does the Pentagon report recommend a new safeguard? Or for that matter, any kind of tightening up in enforcement by the Pentagon?

A: No, it does not make specific recommendations. This looked at an historical event that took place in 1995 and tried to reconstruct what happened during that event.

The issue here wasn't whether the safeguards were adequate, it's whether the safeguards were properly followed. That was the issue, one of the issues in the report.

Press: Thank you very much.

Additional Links

Stay Connected