DoD News Briefing - Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
Bacon: Let me start with three quick announcements.
First, this is, of course, Pearl Harbor Day. And as I've announced from this podium before, it's an exciting event tonight because ABC-TV will be showing a film called "Shooting War," which was produced from Combat Camera footage from World War II. It's a very -- some of you may have seen it already. The secretary had a showing here. It's a very exciting, moving documentary. And one of the reasons I'm talking about it so much is that, of course, Combat Camera is now under the Department of Public Affairs, and we are still actually providing the type of coverage that photographers provided during World War II when we're engaged in operations. So.
Q: Ken, I'm sorry, you said agency TV? Who is going to be showing this?
Bacon: It's going to be shown by ABC. It's on the network, ABC, at 9:00 tonight.
Q: (Off mike)
Bacon: It's around your bedtime, but maybe you could stay up and see the first half of it. This is --
Q: Is that the network that Disney owns?
Bacon: This is a very good -- well, this is not a -- this is all based on real footage from World War II. So.
Second. Tomorrow the secretary of the Air Force, Whit Peters, will award a Medal of Honor to the parents of a pararescueman who was killed in action during Vietnam. And he will become the Air Force's second member to receive the Medal of Honor. It is Airman First Class William H. Petsinbarger. And this will be awarded, as I said, posthumously.
And that will be in Ohio at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base tomorrow.
Finally, I'd like to welcome some visitors from Tajikistan who are in the back of the room. My Tajik is very weak. So, I will not massacre your names by trying to pronounce them, but we're glad to have you here.
With that, I'll take your questions. Charlie?
Q: Okay, perhaps this was gone over in briefings while we were gone. Could you give us any details, including costs and dates, of when you are going to upgrade security of U.S. ships, especially in the Gulf, but around the world?
Bacon: Well, the issue is harbors, working for more secure harbors, and we're in the process of doing that. I think the best thing to do is to talk to -- is to look at the briefing that Admiral Quigley gave on Tuesday because he went into this in some detail, but we're beginning a survey, a series of surveys of harbor conditions around the world. Many of them, of course, will pass muster right away, and no changes will be made or need to be made. But this is part of a worldwide naval program to just review security procedures, and this will be ongoing. It will obviously not something that will all be done in three days.
Q: Assume you don't have any costs yet, but --
Q: When you start --will you start, for instance, in the Gulf in the Middle East region, regions that are considered high threat areas?
Bacon: Well, we've already done a lot of checking there, obviously, but yes we will focus clearly on the highest threat areas first.
But this is something that we wanted -- it's part of a survey of force protection and security measures around the world.
Q: Has anything been actually done in the Gulf and Middle East yet, or are you just starting to do this?
Bacon: Well, we have actually sent more security forces to the Gulf. I think they're to arrive next week in several ports. I don't want to get into details, but we have increased the security teams in several places in the Gulf.
Q: And are you going to -- have ships started putting back into Gulf ports yet?
Q: And when will they?
Bacon: That will be determined at the appropriate time.
Q: Have any U.S. ships, U.S. warships, transited through the Suez Canal since the October 12th attack on the Cole?
Q: Any idea how many? Or are there any notable ships you can mention?
Bacon: Well, when the secretary was in Egypt, the USS Hawes -- H-A-W-E-S -- went through. And I think several ships were supposed to go through right after the Hawes. But I would guess -- we'll check; but several ships have been through. [Update: Three U.S. Navy ships have transited the Suez Canal since Oct. 12: USS Hawes, USS Simpson, and USS Shamal.]
Q: And when you're surveying the harbor security around the world, are you also taking a look at U.S. facilities, particularly where -- places like Norfolk and San Diego, where there are a large number of U.S. warships?
Bacon: The Navy has been looking at domestic ports as well, and actually has taken some actions in domestic ports, and I think some of those have been reported, particularly about Norfolk. In fact, there's a story in the -- I believe in the Early Bird today about that. But there have been several stories over the last several weeks. And I'd refer you to the Navy for more details.
Q: This survey has begun or it has not yet begun?
Bacon: I don't know whether it started yet, but it has been -- it will start, if it hasn't.
Q: Has the Egyptian government taken extra security precautions, at the United States' request, that allowed ships now to begin going through Suez again?
Bacon: Well first of all, the Egyptians have always been very aware of the -- have always been -- have always taken security measures in and around the Canal. They did take some extra security precautions when the Hawes went through, and we anticipate that they will take appropriate measures when American ships go through.
Q: On a new subject?
Q: The discussions in Seoul with the Koreans about the No Gun Ri investigation; what was the outcome? Where do things stand on that now?
Bacon: Stay tuned. We're not prepared yet to announce the results of the Army study. We, I hope, will be able to do that relatively soon, I would hope by early next year if not before. And at that time we will also be able to talk about our discussions with the Koreans.
But it's still a work in progress. The study is in the final stages of review. We have coordinated from the very beginning with the Koreans. This was part of that coordination, and it's premature to talk about those particular meetings until we've wrapped the entire project up.
Q: Will there be more meetings? Or is this meeting continuing in Seoul, resumed in Washington, or what --
Bacon: I think for the time being the meeting is over. I wouldn't rule out additional meetings, but this meeting has concluded.
Q: Did it resolve anything, or did it narrow any differences on the -- ?
Bacon: Well, I started out by saying "Stay tuned," and I think that'll all become clear when the report is wrapped up and we're ready to announce it.
Q: So you won't characterize the progress in any way? That was made in these talks in Seoul?
Bacon: I think that all of this will become clear when the report is announced.
Q: Do you expect that you will announce a joint conclusion on this, or perhaps two separate conclusions? What is the thrust, toward announcing a joint conclusion, or -- ?
Bacon: The thrust is we're going to wait until the report comes out. I think things are going extremely well. But it does not -- I don't think it pays to characterize or talk about conclusions until we're ready to release the report.
Q: Could you go back just to the port security just for a moment? The -- back at the time that the Cole was attacked a local television station in New York took a small boat and went up next to several U.S. warships in Norfolk and other areas. Could that -- could they do that today, or have things tightened up to the point where that wouldn't be possible any more? Do you know?
Bacon: I think every port has taken actions that it believes appropriate. And I am not in a position to catalogue them because I don't know what they are. And it would be most appropriate to talk to the Navy about that.
Q: Kind of a three-parter on the V-22. One, has Secretary Cohen see the beyond LRIP [low rate initial production] report by now? And if so, what -- does he have any comments and reactions to it?
Two, is there more a sense of the time line of when there's going to be a full-rate production decision made?
And three, would you -- would the Pentagon characterize Dr. Buchanan's request for more information as a delay?
Bacon: First, I don't believe Secretary Cohen has seen the report.
Two, I don't have a date.
And three, Mr. Buchanan has asked for additional information, which is a normal part of a review process. And I think we all build in that information gathering and analysis when we look at a process like this. So I don't know whether it's a delay or not. He's just doing his job to gather information and analyze it.
Q: When is he going to meet with the Marine Corps? Do you know?
Bacon: I do not know.
Q: Ken, as part of this game of "gotcha" that the Russians have been playing with the Kitty Hawk -- and we get all these new versions of exactly how long it took to react -- one, can you give us the latest version of how events unfolded? And two, is it true that the Russians e-mailed photos that their aircraft took of the Kitty Hawk to the Kitty Hawk? And three, if that's true, can we have them?
Bacon: There were actually three incidents. One was on October 12th, one was on October 17th, and I believe the last was on October 9th (sic).
Staff: (Off mike.)
Bacon: I'm sorry. November 9th? November 9th. And the first incident, on the 12th, they were a number of nautical miles away from the Kitty Hawk. On the second, on the 17th, they were actually quite close, and I have to admit that I misspoke about this last time, based on misinformation. They did fly very close to the carrier, within several hundred feet. They had been acquired by radar well in advance, as I said earlier, but they flew closer than I said last time.
They did take some pictures. They did e-mail the pictures to the Navy, and -- to the ship, actually. And I would refer you to the Navy for those pictures. But those are the facts at this stage.
Q: And what about November 9th? What happened?
Bacon: November 9th, they flew relatively close, more than, I would say, certainly more than a thousand feet, somewhere between a thousand and 2,000 feet to the -- close to the carrier. As I said --
Q: By close, do you mean overhead, and that's the altitude above the carrier?
Bacon: The altitude was below a thousand feet on October 17th, and they flew, if not directly over the carrier, close to over the carrier. They were being escorted by American planes, is my understanding, at the time. This is very similar to events that happened routinely during the Cold War but have not happened very often, if at all, since the Cold War until this period. So in that -- for whatever reason, this was a change in their procedures.
Q: Ken, has the secretary or anybody else in the department asked any Russian official what the deal is?
Bacon: We did not file a protest with the Russians on this. As I said, it's the type of thing that used to happen quite regularly. It has not happened for a while. Our internal analysis is basically that it has to do with internal budget and force posture negotiations going on in Moscow.
Q: Well, regardless of whether you filed a protest, has anybody asked the Russians, just in a collegial way --
Q: Cohen met with Sergeyev in Brussels?
Bacon: He did. This did not come up in their discussions. They talked about a number of other things, including the Kursk situation, at some length, but they did not talk about this in particular. Remember, the press did ask Marshal Sergeyev about it at a press conference in Belgium.
Q: During the Cold War, there was a -- I don't know whether it was a bilateral treaty or a convention or something about incidents like this. A, does that remain in force with the successor -- you know, with Russia, rather than the Soviet Union? And B, does this kind of incident -- is it prohibited or discussed or --
Bacon: Well, I'm not an admiralty lawyer, but I've been informed by the Navy that the Incidents at Sea Agreements does not deal -- it deals with ship-to-ship contact and not overflights.
So this didn't violate any such agreement.
And as I said, this was -- this was an event that would have been a very normal -- very normal in the regular course of operations during the Cold War, but has been -- not been happening since the Cold War.
Q: Just one parting shot here. Is it still the contention of the Navy and the Defense Department that in none of these three incidents was the Navy surprised by this? And as I remember, you said that planes were not scrambled in one of these incidents because the ship was moving too slow across wind conventionally? Is it the contention that the Russians did not surprise the Navy at all here?
Bacon: We were not surprised in that the planes were acquired by radar, I don't have the timeline here, but it was half an hour to 45 minutes before they came close to the ship, is my recollection. They were acquired by radar. They were followed. On the October 17th episode, the Kitty Hawk was refueling, and there was a slower response, partially as a result of that. But planes were eventually dispatched.
Q: But when were the planes dispatched? This flyover at whatever-hundred feet it was by the Russian bombers, didn't you say earlier that they were escorted by U.S. fighters when they were -- the 17th?
Bacon: Yeah, I do not have the exact timeline. They were -- they were launched late as a result of the refueling. But I don't have the timeline.
Q: But you said -- were they or were they not escorted? (Inaudible.)
Bacon: They were -- they were cleared away from the carrier. I hesitate to answer this question, because I don't know the answer.
I don't know when they were first -- and I would refer you to the Navy on this -- I don't know whether the first overflight was done with American planes in the air or not. I don't know that.
Q: When you clear it away from the carrier, what does that mean?
Bacon: Well, I mean, the planes went up and sort of escorted them away from the carrier.
Q: Do you know how many planes, U.S.?
Bacon: No, there were two Russian planes. There were -- the American planes were launched sequentially, and the first plane, in the October 17th episode, was an E/A-6B that was launched.
Q: What were the Russian planes?
Bacon: They were 24s and 27s, I think.
Q: Fighters, then?
Q: SU -- the Sukhoi-24s?
Q: Is General Shelton going to bring this up when he goes to Russia? And did the e-mail say anything in addition to the pictures? Was it like, "nehny-nehny-nehny" or was it a message or --
Bacon: That is an interesting question that I have asked the Navy. I have not seen the e-mail.
Q: And Shelton -- Russia.
Bacon: The Navy did not regard this as a big deal when it happened. I don't know whether General Shelton will bring this up or not. That's something you should ask his office.
Q: Was this e-mail directly from the Russian Ministry of Defense? Who exactly sent it?
Bacon: I do not know exactly who sent it. I have not seen the e-mail.
Q: The e-mail was to the Navy rather than to the ship or --
Bacon: The e-mail was to the ship.
Q: You said the Navy did not regard this as a big deal. So there was no action taken in terms of the command of the ship or the air wing? Nothing changed aboard the Kitty Hawk?
Bacon: No, there have been various changes in procedures since this took place.
Q: (Off mike.)
Bacon: No, I don't think I will tell you, but various procedures, basically in alert posture that have been taken since.
Q: Well, that sounds like it was a big deal.
Q: It was no big deal?
Q: So they had to go back and --
Q: But you say it's been enhanced?
Q: The alert posture has been enhanced under such --
Bacon: Yes. Yes.
Q: I missed that. What did --
Bacon: He asked if the alert posture had been enhanced, and I said yes.
Q: So they went to a higher state of alert after the flyovers?
Bacon: They have changed their procedures to deal with flyovers like this.
I can't get into details of how they've changed them, but they have made some changes. I don't think they are major changes, but they have made some changes in their response times, essentially.
Q: Doesn't that sound like they regarded this as a matter of some consequence? I mean, if it were not a big deal, then they wouldn't change anything.
Bacon: I think the ship took appropriate action, yes. The ship made the changes, not the Navy. The ship made the changes itself.
Q: But when you said on the 17th incident, the first overflight, did each of these planes, the 24 and the 27, fly over once, or did they fly over multiple passes over the deck?
Bacon: Well, on October 17th was the only time, I believe, they flew over. I think they flew over once.
Q: Each -- each one?
Q: I guess I'm just a little confused. Then the EA-6B took off after they disconnected from refueling or what have you. Then were they escorted away by fighter jets? What were the jets that the Navy had to escort them?
Bacon: Well, when the Navy planes were in the air, the planes went away.
Q: So they just -- they launched; they didn't follow them along as wingmen?
Bacon: I don't know how long they followed them.
Q: Was there any communication with the Russian planes?
Bacon: I can't answer that question.
Q: Where did the Russian --
Bacon: I think what I'm going to do is ask the Navy to provide the details on this because, clearly, based on what I have, I don't have all these details.
Q: Do you know where the Russian planes came out of?
Bacon: I do, but I don't have the -- I mean, they came from land bases, not at sea. And I do not have the chart here.
Q: Could you ask the Navy --
Q: Do you know if the all came from the same base?
Q: Do you know if they all came from the same base on the three occasions?
Bacon: Charlie, I'm afraid -- I think they came --
Q: Will you get back to us on it?
Bacon: I think they came from two bases, and I think they were the same two bases on each occasion.
Q: Were they loaded with weapons? (Inaudible.)
Bacon: I do not know the answer to that question.
Q: Ken, can you ask the Navy to provide that information on a timely basis today?
Bacon: Yes, I can ask the Navy.
Q: Ken, you told us about -- I guess, when we talked about this last time, last week, about the deployment of several Bear bombers to the Bering Sea area or whatever, did you -- and you said that you expected them to use these to probe air defenses and so on. Have you seen any movement? Has anything happened with those planes?
Bacon: They are there. There are the five that I mentioned before, in Anadyr -- two in Anadyr, three in Tiksi, and there are also two in a place called Vorkuta East, which is closer to Murmansk.
Q: What is -- how's that spelled?
Q: How's that spelled?
Bacon: It is spelled V-O-R-K-U-T-A. And they have been carrying on local training flights. But nothing particularly remarkable.
Q: Nothing through the Bering Sea toward --
Q: So they've proven you wrong, huh?
Bacon: So far. Not the first time.
Q: I mean, they could just --
Q: I realize that the Russian Navy doesn't go to sea that often any more. But when they do, does the United States as a matter of routine have airplanes that overfly Russian ships?
Bacon: We have largely stopped that after the Cold War.
Q: Largely stopped it. So we haven't entirely stopped it?
Bacon: I can't say that it never happens. But it's generally not -- we don't do it with the regularity that we used to during the Cold War.
Q: Given the sentence in the Pope case, has the Pentagon issued any kind of warnings to defense contractors that are doing business over there, any advisories or any guiding -- sorry, change of subject. You can get back to it --
Bacon: I am not aware -- I will check that. I'm not aware that we have. [Update: the most recent information for travelers including contractors is contained in the State Department's Consular Information Sheet available on line at http://travel.state.gov/travel/russia.html ]
Q: Are we still on Russia?
Q: I may have missed this. Maybe it came out in Brussels, but you say that they had a lengthy discussion on the Kursk. Is there anything new there? Have the Russians asked for any additional assistance? Or are there any new developments in our cooperation with them on the Kursk?
Bacon: Well, in one respect there is, but it's more with NATO and Russia.
First of all, the secretary again repeated that there was no collision with a U.S. submarine involved in the Kursk episode.
The Russian Minister of Defense, Marshal Sergeyev, met with NATO on Tuesday in the Permanent Joint Council, which is the group that brings Russia and NATO together. And they discussed a six-month work plan between NATO and Russia, NATO countries and Russia, to work out search and rescue operations for submarines and ships at sea -- in other words, better understandings of how to respond. This would involve notification of missing subs or ships. It would involve trying to work on coordinated rescue activities. So there's a six-month work project to deal with that.
In addition, the -- and we're participating in that. We think it's a very good idea. We're doing that through NATO. In addition, Sergeyev raised the idea of naval rules of the road, and the secretary in responding to him, said that -- pointed out that there is a difference between search and rescue operations and rules of the road that govern ship operations. With respect to the rules of the road, he pointed out that our position is very clear. We support freedom of navigation. Nothing has changed in terms of freedom of navigation of submarines and ships. We're always happy to discuss these issues with the Russians, if they desire, but we'll start from the view that freedom of navigation is our bottom line.
So, the real progress that was made was in the area of talking about search and rescue and setting up this six-month work project between NATO and the Russians.
Q: Sir, just to revisit this aircraft carrier one more time. Are you saying that the aircraft carrier has established new procedures to address instances like this? And you said the Navy has not -- in other words, the Navy has not told carrier battle groups that they might run into something now, because it's especially in that area of the world? And perhaps they should enhance procedures. You're saying that only --
Bacon: I'm saying that Kitty Hawk itself reported on changes that it had made following this incident reported back to the Navy. And that's the action that was taken.
Q: And no one has been disciplined or anything?
Q: Since, Ken, as you pointed out that Kitty Hawk is the only conventionally powered carrier, it has a unique situation in that it has to be refueled while at sea.
Bacon: It is a conventionally powered carrier there. Is there one other? There's --
Staff: There's three other --
Bacon: There's the America and Constellation. Excuse me. So, I misspoke on that. [Correction: the three conventionally powered U.S. Navy aircraft carriers are USS Kitty Hawk, USS Constellation and USS John F. Kennedy.]
Q: So those three ships would be in -- the situation would come up where they were refueling.
Q: Whereas, it wouldn't happen with others.
Q: Might the changes that they would might take be putting up a cap before they undertake refueling operations, or something like that?
Bacon: I just don't think I'll get into the details. There are a number of things that carriers could do in a situation like this.
Q: But all aircraft carriers refuel at sea, regardless of if they're nuclear-powered or conventionally --
Bacon: Well, they have to get jet fuel, certainly.
Q: Right. Right.
Q: And food --
Q: And maintenance.
Q: And replenish.
Q: (Off mike.)
Q: They don't need to get mail; they get e-mail.
Q: Different subject?
Q: Do you have a cost figure from that Hollywood party?
Q: Holy smokes! Whoo!
Bacon: The event -- the total cost was approximately $295,000, and this -- which, I might add, since the point of this event was to look for ways to generate interest in the military on the part of the film industry and the television industry, the average 30-second recruiting ad on a typical prime-time program costs about $150,000. So for a minute of advertising time, we would pay -- one of the services would pay approximately $300,000.
We're hoping that Hollywood will continue to promote movies that portray the military in a good light, such as the program tonight, "The Shooting War." And we think that these -- not only these television films and movies, as well as the promotion of them, will pique interest in the military. So I think you need to put the cost of this event in that type of context.
By far the largest part of the cost involved the transportation and support of 94 military musicians and performers who went to Los Angeles. And they all flew out there commercially. They were put up in a hotel, the Doubletree Inn. They obviously had to be fed. They were there approximately three days.
And we had to also rent some lighting, stage equipment, and other things. That was the principal part of the support costs for the musicians.
Q: (Off mike.)
Bacon: The total support for the musicians -- transportation, logistics support, and food and hotel -- was approximately $165,000.
The dinner itself, for 350 people, was $76,000. And to put that into context, the cost was $218 a person. That compares about with what the secretary would spend for major dinners here. I can't give you a range, but I can tell you that on May 16th, for instance, he had a dinner for the minister of Defense of Argentina, and the cost per person there was $265 for the dinner.
Q: What did they eat?
Bacon: Well, it involves renting the place, it involves the food, it involves beverages, it involves decorations, et cetera. It's the total per person cost. I do not know what the menu was.
Q: Did you go?
Bacon: No, I don't know. I did not go. I stayed here so I could brief you. (Laughter.) Because I thought it would be more fun.
Q: Do you have the total budget, the entertainment budget, for the secretary of Defense?
Bacon: I do not know what his representational budget is.
Q: Can I get that?
Q: Does he plan to bill the services, considering the fact it would benefit each service?
Bacon: He does not. A decision was made to pay for this all out of administrative funding and not to -- in fact, typically -- frequently when musicians fly, the military band or music group will pay. Sometimes they're reimbursed by other accounts. The secretary decided that this would be paid out of administrative costs, so they were paid out of Washington Headquarters Services funds for administration, not out of service funds directly.
Q: Which musicians and performers were these?
Bacon: Well, there was the 82nd Airborne Chorus from Fayetteville, North Carolina. There was an Army band -- there were two vocalists, Army Band vocalists. There were the Air Force Airmen of Note; a Navy group called the Country Current. There was also a joint service color guard, a joint service drill team, a Marine Corps ensemble, and there were some bagpipes from the Reserves.
Q: What would you say to somebody who might say that this $300,000-almost is a lot of money -- a lot of taxpayer money to spend on a party?
Bacon: Well, I think you have to put it into context. This was spent to help promote a good image of the military on the part of the entertainment business. I think that there have been a number of movies and television shows recently that have portrayed the military in a good light. We are living in an age of an all-volunteer force where there's a lot of competition for young men and women today, particularly of the quality the military is attracting. We're trying to find ways that will catch people's attention. And Secretary Cohen has worked very hard on working with entertainment figures and sports figures to try to get them to understand the military and to portray it in the most positive way. Obviously, we have no control over how Hollywood portrays the military, but to the extent they understand it, to the extent that they get to meet troops, to the extent they get to see how well the troops perform and do their job, I think it helps us.
I talked earlier about the recent show, "Men of Honor," that's about a Navy diver who was extensively promoted. I think that we have learned from the past that movies can have a big impact on recruiting. "An Officer and a Gentleman" is one that had a big impact. "Top Gun" is another one that's had a big impact. And basically, if we can have television shows and movies that show the excitement and the importance of military life, they can help generate a favorable atmosphere for recruiting and service.
The secretary has, as I said, worked hard on this. And you may have seen promotional spots recently on Fox for its pre-game shows over the weekend of December 16th and 17th. This comes directly as a result of having Terry Bradshaw go on the Christmas tour to visit troops in Bosnia and Kosovo and in the Mediterranean last year. And he came back with the idea of doing this show, which is already being promoted, will be great for morale. It will take place from the deck of the Harry S. Truman on December 16th and 17th. It will show the country something about the military that they might not ordinarily see.
I would anticipate that you will see other coverage of the secretary's Christmas tour, and perhaps coverage that focuses specifically on the troops, that I think will be good exposure for the troops, it'll be good for morale.
So this is part of a program. And as I said, it's a program that began with the secretary's interest in advertising, the secretary's interest in finding better ways to recruit. It's not THE answer, but it's part of the answer, to explaining the military to America.
Q: How would you answer charges from some quarters that now that the secretary is leaving office that this might be to enhance his own image among -- with the film industry and with Hollywood celebrities?
Bacon: Well, I'd say those are pretty simplistic and wrong. And I just don't think that they begin to capture what the secretary has spent his time doing over the last four years. He's spent his time on quality of life initiatives, he's improved housing, he's improved pay, he's improved benefits, he's in the process of improving medical care, he's spent his time on readiness, he's spent his time getting a very large increase in the Defense budget -- $112 billion over five years -- he's spent his time improving the procurement budget, boosting it from $43 billion to over $60 billion this year, and it's headed up. So he's spent his time on building and maintaining strong forces that can protect American ideals around the world.
A small part of this has been working with entertainers and sports figures and others to try to improve the image of the military across the board. Our entertainment business is an extremely powerful, influential business. And it only makes sense that we would try to work with it in any way we can to present the most positive portrayal of the military.
I think if you look at the impact of a film such as Men of Honor, the upcoming Pearl Harbor, the television series JAG, they all keep the military in front of people's consciousness and in their minds, and that's what he's trying to do.
Q: Do you see this dinner as a thank you to the work that has come before or a bribe to try to convince folks to keep on doing it? And how exactly does having this dinner and having these military musicians perform lend itself to more movies about the military? It seems that there's always been military movies.
Bacon: I think there have been military always. Obviously I think the tone of the movies has changed over the last 20 or 25 years. I think that the military is being, in general, portrayed more positively today than it was 10 or 15 years after the Vietnam War. Some of this is the passage of time. Some of it has to do with the fact that in a strange way since the end of the draft, the military has become more exotic. It used to be part of everybody's life. Now it isn't. It's not a part of every family's life. And that's one of the -- one of the problems that we in the Pentagon and in the military have to pay attention to. We have to make sure that people realize that we have the world's best military that is on patrol all around the world every day protecting our interests. One way to do that is through movies and television shows. It's not the only way. But it is one way that does have a lot of public appeal.
Q: I still don't see the connection between having this party and having more --
Bacon: I think there are two -- there are three very specific answers. First, it was a recognition of the more positive portrayal from within movies over the last several years. Two, it was a way to show the quality of military musicians off to a Hollywood audience. Steven Spielberg reportedly said that -- in fact did say publicly that he was incredibly impressed by the quality of musicians, and he was particularly impressed that they had decided to make their careers in the military rather than outside, and he thought it was a real credit to their sense of duty and their sense of dedication.
And I think the third is that we went out of our way to invite a large cross-section of Hollywood -- film writers, including new film writers, producers, actors, et cetera. And it was a way for them to see the importance that the secretary places on the power of Hollywood in portraying the military. So I think it will have -- it will have benefits for years to come.
Q: So what do you say to the senior airmen on food stamps, if secretary throws Hollywood bashes at $218 a plate, that he's eating chateaubriand on his behalf? I don't see how those two things jive.
Bacon: Well, I think it's a querulous question in a way.
I think that what the secretary has done is worked very hard to get people off food stamps, and he's done it by increasing pay. And the pay increase this year was $2.1 billion. That was the pay increase in one year. He has done it by increasing housing allowances. He has done it by increasing reenlistment bonuses. He has done it by improving retirement benefits. Those are the way you fight food stamps, and I think he's done that very effectively. Unfortunately, we have not eliminated, but we have sharply, sharply reduced the number of service member on food stamps.
I think that the secretary of Defense has a number of jobs, and one of his jobs is to lead the nation in making sure that the military is seen in the best possible light. That's important for morale, it's important for recruiting, and it's important for increasing public understanding of the military. There are a number of methods of doing that; this is just one of them. And a number of other methods are getting people -- getting people out to meet the troops -- I think he's worked hard on that -- to going out and meeting the troops himself. God knows he's worked hard on that. He's spent a lot of time talking to troops, answering their questions, explaining what he's doing to them.
We have a massive program to communicate with soldiers, to convey Washington's policies, to convey personnel policies, pay and benefit policies to them.
We've expanded that dramatically over the Internet. It's all part of trying to keep morale and education high.
So I think that every secretary of Defense has to do a number of things at once, and this is just one small part of his job.
Q: Can I change the subject?
Q: Yeah, new subject.
Q: Are you -- is the department aware of any complaints from employers or individuals or Congress regarding the long-term deployment schedule that the Army put out for Guard and Reserve units to the former Yugoslavia?
And related to that, then, where do we stand on the notion of creating specialized peacekeeping units, peace support?
Bacon: I'm not aware of complaints. That doesn't mean that there haven't been any; I'm just not aware of them. I'm not aware of any response to that. I think that it would be best to ask the Army.
And the Pentagon's view is that soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have to be trained for a whole range of actions, and that we have -- although we have units to prepare people, training units to prepare people going to Bosnia and Kosovo, we believe that we should train people to be soldiers first and that peacekeeping is a small part of their job, but only a small part of their job. They're basically war fighters. And we continue to believe that they should be trained as war fighters and that -- to protect our national interests at times of greatest challenge, and that if they are called to go on peacekeeping missions, then they will receive specialized training that will be designed to prepare them for those particular missions.
Q: You don't see a day coming when all soldiers, sailors, or airmen would receive, as part of their basic training, peacekeeping training?
Bacon: Well, I do -- I can't comment on that. I mean, it may be something that some future secretary of Defense would want to do.
I do know that we've worked very hard to train soldiers going to Bosnia and Kosovo to deal with crowd control and other problems they might face there. I remember, before our soldiers deployed to Bosnia in the winter of 1995-1996, they received extensive training in Germany, at Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels, in peacekeeping techniques. And that training continues.
So we do try to train every troop that goes over there. There may be some who are assigned quickly, maybe even some units that are moved over there very quickly, that don't receive that training. But the goal is to make sure that everybody receives that type of training.
Q: New subject. I read in the Washington Post today that the State Department was planning to extend personal security to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright six months after she leaves office because of security concerns and because apparently there have been numerous threats against her during the time that she was secretary of State. I'm just curious, will there be any similar arrangement for Defense Secretary Cohen, and have there been any threats against him?
Bacon: I don't know the answer to the first part of the question, in terms of providing security to him and, actually, I don't know the answer to the second part of the question.
Q: Can you take that question about whether there will be similar plans to the ones being made for Secretary Albright?
Bacon: Sure. [Update: There are no plans.]
Q: And if not, why not? I assume -- part of the reason for the justification was given at the State Department was that Madeleine Albright was a key player in the NATO action in Yugoslavia and that, therefore, there were people around the world who were unfavorably disposed toward her. Presumably, the same sort of thing might apply to Secretary Cohen. Then I have another subject, if I could, because I want to keep Charlie here as long -- (laughter).
Bacon: Yeah, and then we have another question in back.
Q: Just a follow-up to that, what is -- just if you could characterize the level of concern for the secretary's safety, you know, with threats from -- whatever?
Bacon: What is the level of concern?
Q: For his safety, you know, extending security? Any threats from bin Laden or elsewhere?
Bacon: Well, the secretary has a very well-trained security detail with him when he travels. We have regular -- he gets briefings from time to time, and we monitor all sorts of information that we receive at home and abroad about potential security threats. I think this is something that is true for the secretary of State, obviously, and other Cabinet members as well. But we take his security very, very seriously.
Q: My other question was about the Pentagon decision announcement late yesterday to -- that they were contracting for the Iridium phone service.
Q: Could you just explain what the national security interest is in that arrangement? And I take it it's not just a bail-out of the company, but there is actually some legitimate need for this, and what is that?
Bacon: I think there are three reasons, as I understand it.
The first is that Iridium provides service to some areas of the world that are very underserved from a communications standpoint. Africa would be one example. So that if we had an operation in Africa, such as an evacuation, this would be valuable.
Second, it does provide additional bandwidth and flexibility at a time when the demand for communications services is increasing dramatically in the military, but also dramatically throughout the world.
And third, it does provide for certain types of secure communications that has some operational implications that are useful for us.
Those are the three reasons that we invested in Iridium. And what we're doing, of course, is paying a monthly fee to the system.
Q: And how much is that, and where does that money come from? I take it if it's not in the budget now that it'll be added to the budget --
Bacon: Well, I assume it comes out of the communications part of the budget, which is quite large, but I don't know how large it is.
Q: How much was it? How much are you paying --
Q: How much are you paying monthly?
Bacon: I think it's $3 million a month.
Q: Three million?
Bacon: Three million a month, I believe. This is all in the contract that was announced yesterday, so I'd call your attention to that contract. [See http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/2000/b12062000_bt729-00.html ]
Q: I will check it out.
Q: But you have lots of free minutes. (Laughter.)
Bacon: Did you have a question?
Q: I was just going to ask why the Pentagon came in so late in the process?
Bacon: We did not. We came in early in the process, but the process was long.
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