DoD News Briefing on USS Cole Incident - Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
(Special briefing on the USS Cole incident. Also participating was Rear Adm. Joseph G. Henry, Director, Military Personnel Plans & Policy Division, N13.)
Bacon: Good afternoon.
The pictures of the coffins arriving at Ramstein remind us that this is a moment of sorrow and a moment of gratitude for the sacrifices that not only these sailors have made but that our military men and women make around the world every day, that they perform duty in our interest.
I'd like to bring you up to date on several aspects of this: first, the disposition of the sailors who were hurt or killed; second, what's happening in Aden with the ship, the USS Cole; third, the progress we have -- we are making in terms of bringing people into Aden to perform the investigation of how this was caused and to provide enhanced force security in the area.
And then I'm going to have Rear Admiral Joe Henry, who's the director of Navy Military Plans and Policy in the Bureau of Personnel, come up here and talk to you some about the efforts that the Navy is making to stay in touch with the families and to deal with the needs of the families of the sailors on the USS Cole.
First, the latest figures are seven dead, 10 missing, and 38 wounded. We are in the process of moving -- five of the wounded sailors have already been returned to duty. Their wounds were superficial, and they're back at work.
The balance of the wounded sailors should be moved to Ramstein over the next 12 hours or so. One plane is under way, and another plane should arrive early tomorrow morning. So with that, we will have moved all of the injured sailors, according to my current information, from Aden or Djibouti, where many of them were in hospital, to Ramstein.
The plans for bringing the deceased sailors home are still being worked out. It depends where the forensic work is going to be performed, whether it's performed in Ramstein, Landstuhl, or performed back here at Dover. But we do not have the details on that right now. We should have the details relatively soon.
It is my expectation that there will be a memorial service for the sailors in Norfolk, probably on Wednesday. And we're currently working on the plans for that, and that -- we'll give you the final details as soon as we have those.
Q: Will Secretary Cohen be there?
Bacon: I believe that -- yes, Secretary Cohen will be there. And I anticipate that the president will attend as well. But there will be a final announcement when we have the details worked out.
In terms of the status of the USS Cole itself, she is stable. Some power has been restored. She is generating some power. And she has some communications capability through satellite communications now. Navy divers have examined her keel, and it appears that her keel is in good shape, but that examination is continuing.
There are two other Navy ships in Aden now. The USS Hawes, an FFG [frigate], is moored near the -- Aden. And the USS Donald Cook, which is a destroyer, is also in the area. This is significant because, obviously, the crew left on the USS Cole is tired and distraught, and so the crews of the new ships can help do some of the work that's required to keep the ship afloat and to deal with the damaged hull. So it's important that they have reinforcements there.
The -- so far, we have moved in a number of teams, and these numbers change, of course, but let me tell you what I believe has happened so far.
A NavCent [Naval Forces Central Command] medical assessment team arrived yesterday. That included a doctor, some medical technicians, some nurses, security personnel, communications personnel, and some Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents. Also, a medical trauma team came in from Saudi Arabia, two surgeons, two nurses, and three technicians. The Marine FAST team has arrived; about 50 Marines. FAST stands for Fleet Antiterrorism Support Team, I believe. Security team. Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team.
Q: Fifty, five-zero?
Bacon: Five-zero, right. And there are also the FEST team, which stands for Federal Emergency Security Team, has also arrived, and that involves State Department personnel, FBI and Justice Department personnel and others; about 50 people. They have arrived as well. [Correction: FEST stands for Foreign Emergency Support Team.]
Bacon: Five-oh. There are other FBI teams on the way -- over 100 additional people in two groups coming with equipment -- and they will arrive in the next day or two, maybe a little later, depending on what arrangements are made for them when they get there.
We have received very, very solid support from two allies: the French and the British. The French have been instrumental in helping us transport injured sailors from the hospital in Aden to the hospital in Djibouti. The British arrived with a ship; the HMS Marlborough had a doctor on board, and they have also been extremely helpful. The French had an aircraft, a C-160 aircraft with eight medics, and they provided not only immediate medical assistance, but as I said, the transportation to Djibouti.
We have also, of course, received a wonderful outpouring of support from Americans all across the country, a list way too long to mention, but I will say that the VFW has provided phone cards, or is in the process of providing phone cards to the families and also to the sailors. Unfortunately, they can't use the phone cards on the ship right now because of the reduced communications capabilities, but those in Ramstein can use them and this will help the families communicate later with their family members who are part of the crew.
With that, let me turn it over to Admiral Henry and then we'll take your questions.
Bacon: Ken, just a clarification on the first team, the federal one, are they -- do they look like, are they like cops or are they like security guards? Do they have the same firepower as Marines?
Bacon: The Marines are providing the main security at this stage. The FEST team has some security capability. It's a combination of investigators, security people, communications people. It's a sort of a self-contained, quickly moveable team that can go into an emergency situation abroad, set up communications, set up an operations center, do some of the initial investigative work. And then they will pave the way for the other FBI teams that will be coming on very quickly.
Q: The physical security is with the Marines, then?
Q: And was that FEST set up -- is that since the embassy bombings that that kind of thing has been established?
Bacon: I think the FEST teams were around before the embassy bombing, but we have -- both the State Department and the Defense Department have done a lot to improve, one, the on-site security over the last few years, and then also our emergency response capabilities in a situation like this.
Q: What's "FEST" stand for again?
Bacon: I believe it stands for "Federal Emergency Support Team."
Q: Could you --
Bacon: Foreign. Foreign Emergency Support Team. Foreign.
Q: Could you tell us something about whether or not you're getting cooperation from the government of Yemen?
Bacon: Yes, we're getting very significant cooperation right now from the government of Yemen, in several respects. First, they have helped us with the medical care. And second, they have -- they are providing a lot of security around the port in the city of Aden. And third, they have vowed to be cooperative in the investigation. And to the best of my knowledge, they are being cooperative at this stage, although probably the questions about the investigation are better directed to the always forthcoming FBI.
Q: Ken, on this subject, there have been reports alleging that the government of Yemen had been infiltrated by agents of Osama bin Laden or others, and once they got the advance notice of 10 or 12 days, they were able to move forward and put their own men on the boats. Any indication that there was any of that that happened?
Bacon: I think it's premature to comment on that now. That's exactly what the FBI and other investigators are trying to determine. And I think that in due time, the FBI will be able to report on its findings, but it's obviously way too early for any definitive report now.
Q: Ken, as it was explained yesterday, the U.S. Navy informs the embassy they're coming into a port where they don't have their standing military presence, and the embassy arranges for any kind of contracted assistance they may need. Do you know if the embassy vets these firms or if they go one step further and vets the individual employees of these firms? Conducts any kind of background security check?
Bacon: Throughout the Middle East and, indeed, throughout the world, the military and the embassies work very closely together on security issues. I think that's clear, and anybody who has traveled around the world knows that to be the case. In terms of that specific question, which deals with contracting and logistics, I can't answer that question now, and it's the type of thing that we will be looking into, obviously, later on. Right now, we're concentrating primarily on taking care of the wounded and getting the bodies of the loved ones home and stabilizing the ship.
Q: Do you anticipate either a Navy or a DoD investigation into the security arrangements that were in place there at Yemen? And for example, after Khobar Towers, there were a number of new security steps that were instituted after that bombing. Do you anticipate that kind of tightening of security around naval vessels?
Bacon: Well, I think it's premature to predict. I mean, every -- every tragedy like this provokes a period of reflection, and there will certainly be review and reflection after this one, and we will look at our security -- our security procedures.
Security is sort of like health. You can always be healthier. You can always be more secure. No matter how secure you are, you can be more secure. The Navy, like every branch of the military, has to balance security with doing its job. And the job of the Navy is to provide worldwide forward presence. The Navy could be perfectly secure if it stayed in Norfolk all the time, but obviously it can't do that and meet its goal of providing a worldwide presence for the United States.
There will be reviews. The Navy has already started a so-called JAG Manual investigation. It's very standard. It's not unusual. It happens all the time after a situation like this that there would be an investigation. I'm sure there will be other reviews in the coming days, and I think we'll be able to announce something soon.
Q: Has the Navy decided whether or not it's going to send ships back for refueling in Aden? Has it been suspended or cancelled?
Bacon: I don't think they've reached that decision yet. I'm not aware that that decision has been made.
(To staff.) Do you know, Steve?
Staff: (Off mike.)
Bacon: What he's saying is, off the microphone, in his raspy voice, that it's -- these decisions are made by the commander in chief of the Central Command, now General Franks, and his staff, obviously. I don't think General Franks signs off on every refueling request throughout the theater. But these are made by the NAVCENT, the Navy Central Command authorities. And obviously, they'll look at the conditions in Aden and elsewhere in making these decisions.
Q: Ken, what is the status of the ship that you referred to early on? What's the calculations being made about what to do next with either eventually towing it somewhere or getting it back under its power?
Bacon: Well, clearly, they have to do two things. They have to patch it, and they have to get it -- enough power restored so she could move. I'm -- I don't know whether you could tow a ship of this size. The ship could be towed. And I don't think this will be sorted out immediately, but I would expect in the next week or so they will be able to, one, know what they have to do to fix it, and perhaps even have completed the repairs enough to move it to a more substantial facility.
Q: Ken, a follow-up on the same question. A lot has to do not just with patching, but the seaworthiness of this ship, depending on the weather conditions. Can you check for us, if you don't know, what repair facilities are in that part of the world suitable to handle a ship of this size? You need dry docking facilities. Would they consider bringing in a floating dry dock and escorting or transporting the ship on a floating dry dock somewhere else, or any idea -- will they have to bring it back to CONUS or to Europe or the Far East?
Bacon: I'll ask the Navy to check that, and we'll get back to you.
Q: You had said that the crew aboard the Cole was tired and distraught. Could you just elaborate a little on that? The families might be wondering.
Bacon: Well, the crew has been through a tragedy. And it's -- I think that -- (pause) -- this note says that they are certainly quite fatigued. I think that Admiral Henry, who will take over now, can tell you about a conversation that he's had with the captain or the skipper of the ship that will shed some light on this. What I mean is that obviously they've been through a tragedy.
They have done a superb job in keeping the ship going, in keeping it afloat, in dealing with the flooding, in restoring some power, in restoring some communications, and in dealing with the wounded. They have done a wonderful job, and I think Admiral Clark talked about that some yesterday. But they have been through a shock. And therefore, it's very helpful to them to have reinforcements in other sailors to bear some of the burden and to help them with the pumping and the other tasks going on now.
Let me turn this over to Admiral Henry, and then I'll come back and --
Q: (Off mike.)
Q: Ken, you've said that the individual decisions to refuel are made at the CINC level. What is the degree of OSD involvement in the monitoring and assessment of the engagement policy with Yemen prior to this incident? And is there now a review at the OSD level of the policy of having troops or ships, you know, in Yemeni territory?
Bacon: The Middle East is an area that is filled with risks, not just in Yemen but in other countries as well. That's one of the reasons we have such a large military presence -- to help stabilize an area that has been unstable in the past. I think everybody appreciates that, and everybody appreciates that working in the Middle East is a process of balancing risks with the need to do our job. We evaluate and try to balance the risks with the need to do the job in every single port we enter, in the Middle East and elsewhere. That balancing is particularly delicate in the Middle East, obviously. We will continue to do that. I'm not aware that any formal decision has been made yet about Aden, but obviously that's the type of thing we'll look at in the future, and the not-too-distant future.
In terms of the policy of engagement with Yemen or any other country in the Middle East, I think it's very important to realize that these decisions are not made by just the Defense Department. They are government-wide policies. They involve a number of departments, and this is how we operate around the world. The Defense Department is not an independent agency, nor is the State Department. We operate as a team, and we operate under the guidance provided by the government. And I think that, you know, whether we go to Kuwait or Australia or Thailand or Yemen, those rules apply.
Q: You said that we evaluate the risks and benefits in each port. Were you saying -- were you speaking for OSD then, or -- or who is it that does that process of evaluating the risks and benefits in the approach to each port?
Bacon: The decisions to go to ports are based on a wide range of information gathered by every agency in the government in charge with gathering information. I don't think I could be clearer about it than that.
Q: Ken, will you come back at the end to answer --
Bacon: I will.
Henry: Good afternoon. The commanding officer of the USS Cole did talk to Vice Admiral Ryan, the chief of naval personnel, approximately two hours ago. The commanding officer called to thank Admiral Ryan for the efforts of the people at the Bureau of Naval Personnel and also the efforts that are going on in Norfolk, and called them a Godsend, with the help that they were giving the families.
He said the crew was fatigued but in good spirits and that phone calls were being made from the crewmembers home, and they were getting in touch with their families.
What I'd like to do is explain to you the process that's been ongoing to notify those families, and that process, on a whole, has been going very well. It started at approximately 0730 yesterday when the Bureau of Naval Personnel at headquarters here in Washington was first notified of the incident. Immediately, Vice Admiral Ryan stood up the Emergency Crisis Center down in Millington, Tennessee. Within a half hour, a 1-800 number was made available for the families to call. Within an hour, the center was fully stood up, with 32 phones manned. During the day, in the first 20 hours, we received over 6300 phone calls. Today, we've received approximately 1600 phone calls.
Because of the damage to the communications equipment on the ship, we did not immediately know the crew members that were dead, missing or injured. Approximately 11:30 yesterday, via telephone, we found out the name of those crewmembers and it was passed to us verbally. Those names were immediately relayed to Millington, Tennessee, where they began pulling the emergency data, the record of the primary next-of-kin and the secondary next-of-kin, to notify those personnel. It's Navy policy that in the case of a dead or missing service member, we personally, face to face, notify both the primary and the secondary next-of-kin before releasing those names, and that process began.
We had fifty names to start with, and it was quite an extensive process. In fact, yesterday we had to notify over 90 people in 24 states, a very extensive process. The first injured personnel -- family of an injured personnel was notified at about 1400, or 2:00 p.m. yesterday. The first death notification was made about 1530, or 3:30 yesterday afternoon, so, fairly quickly after we had the list. That continued through the night.
The original notifications to the injured, we didn't have the details of their injuries, so all we could tell the families were that they were injured but alive. And I know it was very difficult just to receive that small bit of news, but we felt it was important to let them know right away that their sailor was alive but injured. And now that we've received more details with regard to the injuries, we've been going back to those families and notifying them. In addition, we're trying to keep in close contact with the families of the missing, so any change in status, we will be able to immediately notify them, and an Emergency Notification Officer has been assigned to each one of those families to notify them.
Q: Admiral, you said your men, or people, worked through the night last night -- what kind of naval officer/enlisted person makes up the notification team? It'd seem, if you come knocking on somebody's door in the middle of the night, that's pretty shocking.
Henry: There's people already trained in each region of the Navy -- in fact, when we find out we have to notify someone, the regional commander is notified. He then has trained personnel to make this notification to the family, and a chaplain and the person who's trained in that area then go personally to the family. Now, this is not an easy process, because the family may be away on vacation and not have told anybody, so we may take a while to find out where they were. Some of the notifications we had to drive over a few hundred miles to make. So it isn't a process that happens very quickly. Even though we do have a name and an address of where to locate the next of kin, that process is time-consuming.
Q: But there would be a chaplain along in every case?
Henry: I don't know the answer to that. I think there is a chaplain in every case.
Q: Is there a time limit? I mean, would you do this at 3:00 in the morning?
Henry: Yes, there is. "As quickly as possible" is the answer, because we know people are just waiting for this. And so we would like to do it immediately, but it just can't happen that fast. And so as fast as can -- I think we very quickly stood up the control center, got the 800 number out, and pulled the emergency data. And as soon as we had that, we immediately attempted to notify the personnel. So I say "as quickly as possible."
Q: Have you told the families of the missing that they are presumed dead?
Henry: We have not told the families of the missing that they're presumed dead. We're not extremely optimistic that we're going to find anything else but that, but we are still hopeful, as we attempt to locate these personnel. So we have not presumed that they're dead at this time.
Q: Can I follow up with that? I mean, you have a contained area, you have a ship. You know where the damage took place. It's now been the better part of two days. I mean, it would seem to a logical person there was no hope for the missing. Where would they be?
Henry: This is a very damaged ship. There are flooded compartments in this ship. We're working our way through those. Before we notify a family that their loved one is deceased, we want to positively identify that family. It would be another tragedy if we made a mistake. Okay. So we're trying very hard to do this correctly.
Q: Admiral, you mentioned calls were going to the ship and the family members were -- are they actually able to --
Henry: The calls are going from the ship to the family --
Henry: -- from the ship to the family member.
Q: How about e-mail? Are the crisis crew able to do any e-mails?
Henry: I don't know the answer to that. I do not think they are at this time.
Staff: Because they're on limited -- very limited communications now, the communications part is okay, but the power is disrupted, so they use stand-alone communications.
Q: Will the crew remain with the ship now until it is either taken someplace or -- now this crew, I guess -- apparently they were on a six-month deployment. Normally, I guess, they would be back somewhere around December or something.
Henry: The crew will absolutely remain with their ship -- all that aren't injured. And I think we'd have to drag them away. They just saved the ship, so they want to stay there.
Q: And will they -- is there any chance they'll get home about the time that they would normally have come back, or is that --
Henry: I don't have an answer for that.
Q: (Off mike) -- power from the other ships?
Staff: She's got power. She's got -- (off mike).
Q: Enough to do what she needs?
Staff: She's got power. She's got -- (off mike) -- in the ship.
Q: Is it believed that all the bodies or the missing, shall we say, are on the ship itself? Is there any suspicion that they were washed away in the --
Henry: We don't have that suspicion, but until we find every single body, I can't definitively answer that question.
Q: Can you give us a little bit of detail on where on the ship the injuries took place?
Henry: I can't. I'm sorry. I just know that it was very near the explosion, that's where the majority of the injuries were, and I don't have further details than that.
Q: Do you have any unidentified bodies?
Henry: No. We do not have any unidentified bodies.
Q: Did the CO say anything about what he thinks happened? Did he explain his view of what --
Henry: I think -- I think it's been explained that there was a ship that originally handled one of the Cole's lines and that that tending ship then came alongside and while it was alongside, the explosion took place.
Q: Did he add anything to the understanding of what happened?
Henry: No, he didn't. That's a very normal occurrence, when you pull into port, for a tending ship to come up and take the lines and take it over to the dolphin, so --
Q: Did he personally witness those events as have been described?
Henry: I do not know the answer to that.
Q: (Off mike) -- the communications were -- (inaudible) -- and this is probably going to sound dumb, but for somebody living in this age with all the cell phones around, isn't there some way of getting a bunch of cell phones out to the people on the ship so they can make contact with family?
Henry: It's in process, as far as I know. It's in process. And from talking to the to CO, they are getting in touch with their families and that has been a big boost to the morale of the crew on board, and certainly to the families that were contacted.
Q: But, I mean, is more being done, I mean, to get --
Henry: We are doing everything we can to get communications from the ship to those families. We would like all the sailors to be able to talk to their families as soon as possible, and arrest any of their fears.
Q: Admiral, yesterday the Pentagon asked the news stations not to put -- use Yemeni television footage showing wounded sailors.
Q: Was the effort done in time, or did you get feedback from families saying, "Jesus, I saw my son on CNN," or one of the stations --
Henry: We have not gotten personal feedback, although we know there was a number of pictures on the TV where you could identify a sailor from. We certainly prefer to get to the family first so they don't see it on TV before we've seen it. That's why we have preferred not to have those pictures shown.
Q: But you haven't got any outraged families at this point?
Henry: No, not that I know of.
Q: Admiral, just to clarify, all the injured have now been moved to Germany, is that correct?
Henry: They're moved or en route. They've all been certified for movement and I think by this evening they should all be, as Mr. Bacon said, within 12 hours.
Q: And are any of their injuries considered life-threatening?
Henry: There are some seriously injured personnel that we're dealing with. The majority of the injuries are minor.
Q: How many --
Q: (Off mike) -- that there are some with life-threatening injuries?
Henry: "Seriously injured" is the word I have, so I can't --
Q: (Inaudible word) -- but serious.
Henry: Seriously --
Q: What -- what kind of injuries?
Q: Yeah, lacerations --
Henry: I do not know the answer to that.
Q: Do you know how many "some" is?
Henry: I don't know. And I think the number is small. In the conversations, the number I heard was three. I don't know if that's the exact number or not. I'm sure it'll change as time goes on.
Q: Thank you very much.
Q: Ken, can I go back to the theme of some of the --
Bacon: I was hoping that the Admiral answered all your questions. (Subdued laughter.)
Q: I just want to go back to the theme of some of the previous questions, because there seemed to be an implied criticism here about the decision to allow the Cole to refuel in Yemen. And so let me just sort of state what I'm sensing that people are asking you, get you to react to it.
It seems to be that people are implying that perhaps the sailors on this ship were put into a dangerous situation because of a policy, perhaps not by the Pentagon, of engagement with Yemen that -- so in order for -- to advance, perhaps, a foreign policy goal of better relations, that the sailors on the ship were put in a situation that was perhaps more dangerous or a threat level that was unacceptable. Can you just sort of address that? Because that seems to be what the underlying criticism is.
Bacon: Yes, I reject that criticism. I think that these decisions are made in a corporate way by the government -- by a number of government agencies at once. They are not based entirely on any one piece of information or any one policy plan by one agency in the government. So the government made a government-wide decision to use Aden and to engage with the country of Yemen in a variety of ways, one of which involved port visits to Aden.
Now there was a liberty call in Aden once, within the last year or so, I believe, and there have been a number of refuelings in Aden. There have been other types of engagement. There's a de-mining program going on in Yemen -- a U.S.-sponsored de-mining program. So was an interagency decision that was made at an interagency level and reviewed at an interagency level.
Q: Ken, going back to yesterday, the CNO told us that the threat level had been raised to threat level bravo when the Cole pulled into the harbor, and they had armed people up on deck. If that was the case, these -- vessels like a destroyer carry small boats which can handle their own lines, and in parts of the world, they do that. Wouldn't it have been perhaps more prudent to allow the ship to put boats over the side and handle its own lines, rather than allow foreign nationals to come up that close?
Bacon: Well, this is related to the question earlier about contracting and how this contract was made. It's a question that I can't answer, one, because it draws on naval procedures that I'm -- on which I'm not an expert, but also because it involves some of the details of this particular decision, and that's what will be reviewed over time.
Q: Can you say who the contractor was?
Bacon: I cannot. No.
Q: The Navy said earlier that divers -- or explosive ordnance disposal experts, I believe, is the right term -- took a look at the blast area in the ship. Do you know whether they came up within any physical evidence or indications of the remains of the small boat or its occupants?
Bacon: I do not know that question. That would be in the area of the investigation, but the -- being supervised by the FBI.
Q: Is there any evidence whether this small boat was in fact from the contractor or the company it was supposed to be from, or is there any evidence that it was posing as a boat or it was an imposter of some kind?
Bacon: That, again, is exactly the type of question the FBI will be working on.
Q: Have we moved on any further towards determination that it was definitely terrorism, or are you still saying it's possible terrorism, apparent terrorism? How are you categorizing it?
Bacon: Oh, I think "apparent terrorism" characterizes it. As the chief of Naval Operations said yesterday, there's no -- there are many reasons to believe it was terrorism and few reasons to believe that it wasn't. But we have not made a final decision on that, and that will require some inputs from the FBI.
Q: Could you talk a little bit about the strategic importance of the port in Aden to the Navy? Is this the only fueling point it has between the Red Sea and Oman or Qatar? What benefits come from using this, or is there something someplace else that they can go to?
Bacon: Well, there are a variety of fueling points. One -- obviously, one thing that commanders like to have is choice, so they're not forced to go to the same place on a regular schedule, particularly in an area like the Middle East. So we have worked hard to develop a way to use a number of ports throughout the Middle East that best supports our operations and that best supports our diplomacy in the area. And so not every ship that refuels in the Middle East refuels in Aden, obviously. There are other places to go.
Q: Ken, there are reports that an opposition group in Aden last year -- in Yemen -- had been -- had publicly warned against the use by American vessels of Aden. I'm wondering if you're aware of that warning, and whether or not it figured into any kind of increased apprehensions about using that particular port.
Bacon: I'm certainly aware of the published report. There -- throughout the world, we receive warnings frequently, and one of the things intelligence people do is evaluate the seriousness of the warnings, and they use a number of standards for deciding how seriously to take a warning and whether to change our procedures based on the warnings. One of the aspects they consider is the specificity of the information and the source of the information, and the likelihood that a described event could take place.
Without casting any information on this particular published report or any sort of credibility, without shrouding it in any credibility, I'd just like to say that we are constantly evaluating information. Some is rumor and some is more significant, determined to be more significant by our intelligence agencies. So this is something that goes on all the time.
Q: Going back just for a moment to the eyewitness yesterday, the Army major with the State Department, with the embassy over there, can you clarify what he says he saw? As we understand it, two men stood up in the boat shortly before the explosion. Did they stand at attention, did they put their hands in the air, do we know if two men did stand up and if so what they did? And were they the only two men aboard the boat?
Bacon: I don't have anything to add to the reports on that yesterday. Obviously, one of the things the FBI is going to do is talk to everybody in a position to have seen what happened and try to put together the best possible report. There's a -- I'm not casting any aspersions on the major, but there are a lot of data points that have to be checked, and the information has to be correlated before we can make a -- give a full picture.
Q: Ken, I understand your previous comment about the collective judgment that goes into a decision like engagement with a country like Yemen, but asking you as a spokesman for the Pentagon, when was the last time that policy was reviewed internally, and when was the last time that the Pentagon made an opinion known on the risk-benefit analysis of port calls in Yemen to the interagency process that governs those?
Bacon: I don't know the answer to that question.
Q: Do you have even a ballpark knowledge?
Bacon: I do not.
Q: Can you take the question?
Bacon: No, I don't think that -- I don't think it's appropriate for me to answer that question now, and I won't take it. I think that this is the type of issue that will be sorted out in due time. But I don't think it benefits anybody right now to answer that question. I don't know the answer, and I'm not sure that --
Q: This is -- (inaudible) -- fact, Ken. This is not --
Bacon: Not necessarily. You know, there are a lot of ways to evaluate this, and I don't have the information now.
Q: Let me ask a similar one, related though. For how many years did we not do port calls or brief refueling stops in Yemen before we resumed 15 months ago?
Bacon: Well, the two Yemens mated, I guess is the way to say it, joined together in 1990, as I understand it, and we had been working with the country over a period of time. So I don't believe that there had been port calls prior to the 15 to 18 months previous to this.
Q: And what --
Q: Ken --
Bacon: But I will double-check on that.
Q: When --
Bacon: (Aside.) Do you know that answer to that, Steve?
Staff: I believe that last port visit was in May of '98, but I don't have the whole timeline of history of on-again-off-again access.
Q: Two sort of foreign policy-related questions: There is a published report that the Navy or the Defense Department was proposing to go further and to establish a dedicated naval replenishment-and-refueling facility, that there had been discussions and planning about that. Is that correct?
Bacon: I'm not aware of that.
Q: Could you -- could you --
Bacon: Could be the case, but I'm not aware of it.
Q: Could you walk us through what the continuing justification is for these maritime interception patrols, which the Cole was going to join? I mean, there you were -- their initial purpose was to stop the smuggling of Iraqi oil, but now, under U.N. Security Council resolution, Iraq is able to export as much oil as it wants and indeed, under U.N. Security Council resolution, it is being allowed to expend hundred of millions of dollars every month to improve its oil export capabilities. Why now are we continuing to try to stop oil smuggling?
Bacon: Well, that is a very pertinent question. And there are two ways that Iraq can export oil. If it exports oil under the oil-for-food program, the revenues from the oil sales are monitored by the U.N., and they are directed into humanitarian -- meeting humanitarian needs in Iraq, and that could be food, it could be medical care, et cetera. But they're strictly monitored by the U.N.
One of the reasons Saddam Hussein resisted enlisting in the oil-for-food program for so long was that he didn't want U.N. monitors or accountants green-eyeshading his money flow. The oil that he smuggles out, frequently along the Iranian coast, is not monitored by the U.N., and that money can go to rebuild his military, to build palaces, to pay off his friends, his family members. It does not have to go to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.
So these are two fundamentally different sources of revenue for the country of Iraq. The U.N. revenue meets humanitarian -- the U.N.-monitored revenue, under the oil-for-food program, meets humanitarian needs. The other revenue meets Saddam Hussein's own needs.
Q: Admiral Clark made the point yesterday that the way this event unfolded, there wasn't anything that could be -- could have been done on the Cole to stop it. Is there any concern in this building that what's happened now has highlighted a vulnerability that the Navy has around the world? I mean, anybody who's been to Norfolk or San Diego knows that there's dozens of small craft buzzing around those harbors, that often come within fairly close proximity of Navy ships. Is there any concern that we've now seen a precursor to threats that we faced around the world, including here in the United States?
Bacon: Well, I don't think it's any secret to you or anybody who's covered the building that we've been concerned about terrorism for a long period of time. We've seen it as an increasing risk.
Secretary Cohen has said on many occasions that at a time when our military is unchallenged in its supremacy to other militaries in the world, we have to face the possibility and threat of asymmetric threats. Terrorist threats are part of asymmetric threats.
So we have been dealing in a world where terrorism is a rising challenge for some period of time. George Tenet, the director of the CIA, said to Congress recently that it's not a question of if we'll be hit by terrorism, it's a question of when. And I think everybody in this building has operated on that -- with that fear, that terrorism is a threat that's out there and that could haunt us at some time.
We have to balance all the time, again, how we do our jobs with the security concerns. And clearly we will do our best to learn from this tragedy, but it doesn't mean we can stop deploying our ships to areas around the world where we're trying to bring stability. And it would be an absolute victory for terrorists, if they're behind this attack, if we pulled back and stopped doing our job in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world. And we are not going to give them that victory. We are going to continue to do our work, but we will try to do it better and more safely. That is what we've been working on in force protection. It's a constant battle to make it better and we will continue that battle.
Q: Ken, related to that, you say you haven't made a decision yet on whether to continue using Aden as a refueling stop. But in light of this incident, has any fleet-wide direction gone out regarding either not refueling at the present time independently, or to do new procedures for refueling?
Bacon: Not that I'm aware of. I mean, this is the type of thing that we'll have to look at. But ships have to refuel. And as the CNO made clear yesterday, we don't have enough oilers, nor have we ever had enough oilers, to dispatch an oiler with every destroyer or frigate that travels alone.
Obviously the Navy will look at its procedures in light of what happened here, but I don't believe that it's made any changes in its operating procedures yet.
Q: Did either of the two ships that were sent there, the Hawes or the -- what's the other one?
Bacon: Donald Cook.
Q: The Cook -- the Donald Cook, did they receive any sort of harbor assistance from small craft when they arrived in Aden harbor --
Bacon: I don't know the answer to that question.
Staff: Only one is -- Hawes is anchored in the harbor. No assistance required when you anchor. It's not the same as mooring to a number of buoys. And Cook is standing off the harbor underway.
Q: Is there a security perimeter now around the Cole -- 100 or 200 yards; nobody can get close to the ship at this point?
Bacon: Well, I don't think we'll reveal the exact security steps that have been taken for the Cole, but you can be sure that the Marines and the other people there are providing enhanced security. That's why they're there.
Q: There is a security perimeter around it?
Bacon: I said I'm not going to talk about the specifics, but the Marines are there --
Q: Anyone in a boat now in the harbor would realize, if they're afloat, that there is a security perimeter. I don't think you're revealing anything classified by telling us that.
Bacon: Any more questions?
Q: Yes, just related to that. I know yesterday Secretary Cohen said that the ships were -- other ships that were deployed were supposed to go off to sea. Is that precautionary measure still in effect? Are the ships off in the sea; are they away from the ports and what not?
Bacon: That is still in effect.
Q: Which ships are those? Just in the Gulf region, or --
Bacon: It was in the 5th Fleet region, yes.
Q: Does the Cole have self-protection capability now with its limited power, or is it relying on the Hawes, I guess it is, for that kind of protection?
Bacon: That's a question that's too technical for me to answer, but obviously, the Hawes provides protection.
Q: Is the Aegis functioning?
Bacon: I -- I can't answer that.
Staff: (Off mike.)
Staff: We know what her combat system -- she has combat systems capability but, I mean, the kind of threat that this is, it's really small arms and 50-caliber machine guns which are fully operational.
Q: What about the -- (inaudible word)?
Staff: I -- I don't know any statistics on that one.
Bacon: Thank you.
Q: Thank you.
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