DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD PA
Thursday, November 16, 1995 - 1:00 p.m.
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to our briefing. It will be in two parts today. I will answer your questions, and then we'll have a background briefing on the Secretary's trip to the Baltics which starts on Saturday, and will include a trip to Macedonia.
Before I start, I'd just like to tell you that I am not prepared to answer any questions about the investigation in Saudi Arabia. That's being handled by the Justice Department, and you should direct all your questions to the Justice Department. I'll take your question on other issues.
Q: Why has the Secretary decided to go ahead with his trip this weekend when the President has canceled his trip? Is cost a factor at all?
A: The President has canceled his trip primarily to stay and deal with the budget crisis and other presidential issues, whereas, the Secretary has had this trip planned for a long while. Part of it includes a trip to Macedonia, to our troops there. It's part of his continuing effort to build security linkages with former Soviet states and to build a new security network in Europe. He thinks it's important for stability and plans to go ahead with the trip, as far as I know.
Q: A question on Bosnia. Secretary Perry mentioned this morning that if there's a peace agreement initialed in Dayton that there would be some surveying done by some number of U.S. troops, he said some hundreds of troops in Bosnia.
Can you elaborate on what the surveying involves, what they would be doing?
A: The short answer is I can't give you a lot of information on that, but basically, assessment teams have gone in before, NATO assessment teams. A NATO team would go in very quickly to do a number of things. One is to begin to build a communications network in Bosnia. We've had a team in there this week, I think. I think it's been in or it will be going in this week to look at the Tuzla airport, which we will be using for our deployments. So the team is going in to look at infrastructure and other facilities. That's what the NATO team would be doing, two things. One, surveying to get an idea of what changes have to be made or where we have to do building, what we can take over, what we can't on the one hand; and secondly, to actually start laying down the infrastructure that will be necessary for deployment on the other.
The fact of the matter is, the President has not signed off on any deployments into Bosnia yet beyond these temporary assessment teams, so until he does, it's not possible to project exactly what's going to happen.
Q: How big are these teams, and how many Americans...?
A: These figures are in flux, but probably you might think of a team of 1,500 or greater, a NATO team, with the U.S. accounting for perhaps a quarter of it. But as I said, there are no firm decisions made on these numbers yet, and no firm decisions made on when the teams will go.
Q: Obviously, you've been surveying building space in Tuzla, have any contracts been let for rental of space or any of that kind of thing?
A: I'm sorry, the team is not in Tuzla now and there isn't a firm date. There is a team preparing to go, but it hasn't gone yet, and there's no firm date as to when it will go to look at the airport there.
Q: Who's on the team?
A: I don't know who's on the team. It could be Army engineers. I'm sure there are some Air Force people. It was a team of a number of experts prepared to look at airports. I don't know the answer to that question. I'll try to find out, but I don't know if I'll be able to.
Q: The rumor of the proposed merger between Boeing and McDonnell Douglas seems to pose some interesting questions for the Pentagon. If it happens, it will continue to shrink the potential competitive field for defense acquisition dollars. Is the Pentagon concerned about that?
A: As a broad statement of policy we have said we are in favor of consolidation in the defense industry to reduce overhead and increase efficiency. When we looked at the Lockheed/Martin merger, we looked at very specific areas where the merger might have constricted competition in a way that could be hurtful to the Pentagon and decided that we did not face significant competitive risks because of that merger. We would have to look very closely at any merger from that point of view. I can't prejudge what our findings would be if McDonnell Douglas and Boeing were to decide to merge in whole or in part. I think the story made it clear that this is far from a done deal. These are early talks. I think it would be probably inappropriate to try to guess one way or another how these talks will turn out.
Q: Has the Defense Department has been informed that there are tentative talks underway between Boeing and McDonnell?
A: Certainly the General Counsel's office was not informed, and I'm in the process of checking to see if other people in the building have been informed of this.
Q: Was not informed?
A: The General Counsel's office had not been informed. But the fact of the matter is that since we have signaled our support of mergers that increase efficiency and reduce overhead, companies are less likely to come to us now in the early stages of discussion than they were in the past. This is more an anti-trust issue, perhaps, than a defense issue at this stage. You'll have to ask the Justice Department or the FTC whether they've inquired over there before their talks began.
Q: Would you give your input, under circumstances like that, to the Justice Department?
A: We give our input to the appropriate agency at the appropriate time, and we wouldn't do that until the talks were much farther along, or until they actually had an agreement and we could examine the details of the agreement.
Q: On the Commandant dining room. What's the Department's view on this expenditure, given that everything's going to have to be ripped out in a few years anyway?
A: The Marines have been in temporary headquarters since 1941. (Laughter) It's time for them to come into the Pentagon, and they are. The Commandant is about to move into the Pentagon I think next month. We are in favor of having the Commandant and the Marine Corps Headquarters in the Pentagon. We think that in this era of jointness it's important for all the services to be close together.
Q: Couldn't they jointly share a dining room?
A: The Marines are only eating MREs [meals ready to eat], and other people don't want to come to their dining room, so they're building their own dining room for that reason. (Laughter)
Q: ...dirt on the floor and stuff...?
A: You'll have to ask the Marines about that.
Q: If we get to a tentative agreement in Dayton, what are your plans for giving us an overview on military deployment?
A: Our plans are to do it as soon as we can, but what we need first is a sign-off from the President, and General Joulwan will come and brief the President at the appropriate time on exactly what we're planning to do. It's the President's decision, and until the President has decided on what the deployment pattern is, we can't really brief you on it.
Q: Friday, perhaps, the House plans to have another vote on the troop deployment, this time on a measure borrowing a disbursement of funds for deploying troops to Bosnia. Is the Secretary working on this issue actively? Are there concerns in the Department that these sort of votes early on before there's an agreement might lock people in in certain positions you may not want?
A: We're obviously concerned every time we think people are voting without full consideration of the facts, and I don't think people can fully consider the facts here until they've seen the agreement. There's no agreement yet. Until there is, it's very difficult to lay it out, and also to lay out what our obligations would be under an agreement.
So yes, we are concerned that people are rushing to judgment on this. We think it's an important national security issue. We think it's an important issue of American leadership, and we think it's an important effort to bring peace and stability to the Balkans.
The Secretary has been meeting extensively with people on the Hill and other leaders about the peace talks and about the possibility of an American deployment to Bosnia, and he's been stressing a number of points. The first point is that if you look at the alternatives, they're all worse than the risk we would be taking by deploying troops to enforce the peace agreement.
You have to remember that just a year ago you were in this room asking questions about the dimensions of a withdrawal plan from Bosnia -- because we had made a commitment to go in and withdraw NATO troops from a war zone. We probably have three alternatives here. One is to go in after a peace agreement has been reached -- a peace agreement which could not have been reached without American leadership in both the negotiating and in the military actions that laid the foundations for the peace agreement. One, we go in to enforce a peace agreement after it's been reached -- a peace agreement that separates the warring factions. Two, there's no peace. The war continues, and the UN wants to withdraw its forces, and we go in to withdraw UNPROFOR in a war-torn country where the factions are still fighting. Or three, there is no peace agreement and the fighting resumes again, and possibly spreads outside of Bosnia into Macedonia, into Eastern Slovenia, into Croatia, Serbia, etc., and we're facing a wider war and increased instabilities in southern Europe. If you look at those three alternatives, I think by far the least risk alternative is the American leadership alternative of going in and helping the United Nations stabilize Bosnia while the reconstruction teams can begin rebuilding the economy, establishing political stability and taking the other measures that would be called for by the peace agreement.
Q: Some of the Republicans in rebuttal to this kind of argument say that there are obviously some other alternatives, and one of them might be that there is a peace agreement and the U.S. decides not to send its forces in, and the Europeans somehow fill that void. How do you respond to that alternative? Does peace still happen?
A: The Bosnians have made it very clear that they won't sign the peace agreement without American participation in the peace implementation force. The planning for the peace implementation force has been led by an American general. The theater commander will be an American admiral. The negotiators who have put this peace agreement together are Americans. There's been American leadership at every stage of this process, and I don't think the process would have gone forward without American leadership, nor do I think it will continue without American leadership and participation. I think that is a fundamental element to making this agreement work, should we reach an agreement in Dayton.
Q: General Joulwan sent around about two weeks ago the usual SACEUR request for nations saying what contributions they'd make to IFOR. We've now got those answers back, and those answers include numerical limits on what each country will put up. Can you tell us what numerical limits the U.S. has given Joulwan on...
A: No, I can't. I can't, and there's been no presidential authorization to make a firm commitment until we see what the peace agreement is.
Q: Joulwan thinks he has some sort of commitment to enable him to plan.
A: He does.
Q: What is the limit...?
A: We've said all along that we would contribute about 20,000 troops to the IFOR. That remains the case. We haven't backed away from that number. I can't give you the specific limit on that, but that's in the neighborhood of what we're talking about.
Q: You said earlier that the Republicans or some of the critics in Congress are rushing to judgment without the facts. If there is an initialed agreement in Dayton, aren't some things supposed to happen very rapidly in terms of the U.S. doing things like sending in the advance survey teams which you talked about, some of which will go in before initialing, but there's going to be a rush after an initialing, isn't there?
A: The first thing that's going to happen after an agreement is initialed, if an agreement is initialed, is that it will be reviewed by the President and his advisers to make sure it's an adequate agreement. It's important that we get an agreement we believe is important and defensible. That's the first thing that has to happen. The President himself has talked about that. And he said, for instance, that he cannot sign on to a 12-month limit for an American deployment until he sees what the agreement requires of NATO, and specifically of the U.S.
So I think it's appropriate for everybody in the Administration, and also in Congress, to wait until we have an agreement, until we decide how to respond to this agreement. That includes deployments, as well.
Yes, there are plans for deployments, but nothing is final until we see what the agreement is and what it requires of us.
Q: General Shevtsov had a rather high profile, apparently, in Russian operations in Chechnya at the height of the part of the conflict that the U.S. was most critical of, and now he's ensconced in Brussels. Is that in any way troubling to the Administration, his past?
A: We've established an extremely good working relationship with General Svetsov. He's worked very closely with General Joulwan. They've resolved a large number of very difficult military issues describing how a Russian brigade would participate in an American division in a peace implementation force in Bosnia. I have every expectation that that relationship will continue to be workable and productive.
Q: His involvement in Chechnya is not a factor for you?
A: It has not prevented us from dealing with him. We have also dealt very productively with Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev who had some involvement in Chechnya as well. The government's views on Chechnya are well known, they've been stated very forthrightly. The fact is, we have a pragmatic partnership with Russia. We have to move forward and address the problems before us. These are problems that we've addressed very, very adequately with both General Shevtsov and General Grachev.
Q: Is there further refinement of the American/Russian agreement that you could tell us about?
A: That's being worked. We're hoping to have the political side nailed down by November 28th when the Secretary is supposed to meet with Minister Grachev in Brussels again.
Q: Would it be your hope, or is it the expectation of the Russians that if an agreement were initialed and then signed before that meeting, that Russian forces would go in with NATO forces immediately, or...? How do you work the timing if suddenly things get...?
A: Of course there are already about 2,000 Russian forces in the Balkans now. Four hundred in Sarajevo. I guess it's not 2,000, it's 1,200 -- 400 in Sarajevo and 800 in Eastern Slovonia. Whether those forces would stay and be folded in to a new Russian brigade or new forces would be substituted in, I don't know. But yes, our hope would be that should an agreement come to pass, that we would be able to move in relatively quickly with a very heavy, well-trained and professional force, and that a Russian brigade would be included in that force.
I can't tell you at what point the Russians would come in. They would most likely not be in the earliest stage of the deployment. They'd probably be toward the latter end. But that just reflects the difficulties of trying to mesh two logistics systems and work out the details of a multinational force rather than a strictly U.S. Force.
Q: There's been no delineation of the kind of responsibilities the Russian forces would undertake? I'm not talking about the engineering part of the peacekeeping, no geographic part of the responsibility other than working in the American...?
A: As of last week that was not settled. I don't believe it's been settled yet, but I'm not positive on that.
Q: On the tension between the NATO military desire to move as fast as possible to get these preliminary forces on the ground after the initialing of an agreement, and the White House's desire to be seen to be moving more deliberately to review this, blah, blah, blah. Do you anticipate that Joulwan, wearing his NATO hat, can in fact send in forces even before, U.S. troops even before the President has made a final judgment about the validity of the accord?
A: Well, that's an interesting question, and I can't answer that. I assume that NATO forces could move in when General Joulwan is ready to send them in, but I don't know the exact time. We have here really a phased entry because between the initialing of an agreement and the final signing of an agreement in Paris, probably sometime next month if we get an agreement, we will not move in the main IFOR because the main IFOR won't go in until after the peace agreement is actually signed in Paris. But we will be moving in, or NATO will be moving in teams to prepare the way for the forces.
Q: It's anticipated that American troops would take part in that NATO team.
A: That's our anticipation, but as I said, no final decision has been made.
Q: But U.S. troops could go in under General Joulwan's command or presidential approval here? In theory at least.
A: That's not what I said. I said that no decision has been made. I don't know whether in theory they could or not. I assume the President will have to sign off on the plan before any American troops go in on a semi-permanent or long-term basis into Bosnia. We're talking not permanent. We're talking in terms of months, not years. We're talking up to 12-months, most likely. But until the President has signed off on a peace agreement and signed off on General Joulwan's plans which include deployment of American troops, we can't talk about, we don't know exactly what's going to happen. This is a choice he's going to have to make. One of the things he's going to have to weigh is the congressional willingness to give him the support that he's asked for in the deployment.
Q: The temporary survey teams...?
A: The survey teams go in and out. They might go in for a day or a couple of days. That's a small operation. I'm talking about troops that would be going in to prepare the way by, as I said, setting up a communications system, doing work on an airport, something like that. Those are the provisions that have to await presidential approval.
Q: Have any American surveyors already been in?
A: There have been some Americans in as part of a NATO team.
A: Well, looking around, taking stock. It's surveying as that. They've been doing that. I don't know whether they've been formal surveyors like George Washington looking through those instruments, but yeah they've been in there taking stock, deciding what we have to do next.
Q: Given that the logistics tail of this operation could be large, are any survey teams, to your knowledge, going in to any countries in Eastern Europe that might be back braces for this operation?
Q: Given how big the logistics tail is going to be for this operation, are any major survey teams, are any U.S. personnel going in to East European countries like Hungary that might well be back braces for this Balkans operation?
A: Yes, you can assume that teams will be going anywhere we might be setting up logistics bases.
Q: But can you tell me where they are?
A: We have had a team in Hungary.
Q: Any other countries?
A: Not that I'm aware of.
Q: The House is in the midst of debate on a second conference report on the '96 Appropriations bill. If that passes, will the Secretary recommend that the President sign it? If not, why?
A: I think we have to see exactly what's in it. Neither House nor Senate has completed work on it. I can't answer that question. I have not reviewed the details of that latest agreement with the Secretary, and I just don't know what his recommendation will be.
Q: Is there any update on the impact of the budget crisis on military operations or this building?
A: We've had to cancel the Pentagon tours. As you know, recruiting has ceased -- Mr. Hamre talked about that on Tuesday. One of the bothersome parts of this is that we've had to suspend some training under foreign military sales arrangements and other plans to train foreign troops in the United States. For instance, some English language training has been suspended for some foreign troops that were in San Antonio, Texas; some training to deal with specific weapon systems that are being purchased by foreign countries have been suspended because civilian instructors were involved. We've stopped certain training at the Defense Information School. There have been a number of training activities involving civilians that have had to be suspended.
Q: How about the Marshall Center?
A: I don't know where the Marshall Center stands. That's a good question. I'll find out if that's been stopped.
Q: Why have the Pentagon tours been shut down? I thought it was active duty military who led them.
A: They are active duty military, but they're run by civilians who have been furloughed, so they've been temporarily suspended during the shutdown.
Q: Has the Secretary set a day when he'll resume the recruiting?
A: No, he has not set a date. The earliest he could do it is five days from the beginning of the shutdown, and that was the 14th. So the earliest he could do it is the 19th.
Q: Can someone not be inducted at all now?
A: We'll get you the details on that. I just don't know.
I also assume when you talk about suspending recruiting, if somebody were to walk into a recruiting office where a guy is sitting, in an office where the rent has been pre-paid, he can sign the guy up. Now whether the guy can actually report, the man or woman can report to duty, I don't know about that. Usually there's some gap anyway between the time they sign up and they actually report for training.
Press: Thank you.