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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD/PA

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD/PA
December 20, 1995 1:30 PM EDT

Tuesday, December 19, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: I told General Gill that when we last met, it was at Fort Leonard Wood when he showed the Secretary the training they're doing there for the Haitian national police force, which is a good moment to bring up the elections in Haiti. We were extremely pleased with the results. We think that the elections on Sunday were a crucial milestone in the building of democratic institutions in Haiti. The success of those elections came, in part, from a stable environment that has been created by the U.N. including the U.S. forces in Haiti and also because of the work that the Haitian national police force has been able to do in stabilizing conditions there.

We, as you know, planned to... The U.N. mission ends February 29th, and we plan to bring our troops out starting at -- well, by about that time they should be out. There may be a slight overlap to get people out, but they should be out by around the end of February.

I have one announcement to make which is -- and there will be somebody here to answer questions on this later if you have them -- The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center is announcing today a new era for space based communications. On December 15th, two military satellites transmitted messages directly to each other without first sending the data through ground stations, which has been the traditional way that data would go up to a satellite, come down to another ground station, go up to another satellite and sort of hopscotch around the world around that way. This was a transmission from one satellite to another.

And the Air Force, the military, in general, sees this as an evolution of the Milstar communication satellite system that should -- maybe that's a satellite call now. We have a Blue Top on that and there will be somebody here to answer your questions later.

With that, I'll take your questions on that or other issues.

Q: Can I just ask one bridge question? The general is speaking generically about building bridges, can you give us any advice about what the timetable is for putting up one of these floating assault bridges?

A: Well, General Gill talked about the details of building a bridge once everything is set up to help -- to allow the bridge to operate. Right now, we are in the process of one, securing the shoreline, and we already have troops there doing that on the Croatian side; and two, preparing the shoreline for attaching the bridge for sort of a connection between the road and the bridge which will obviously be a crucial point because of the traffic going over. On both sides, the shores are going to have to be prepared for the bridge. That's what's going on now. General Estes, yesterday, spoke some about the bridge and refused to give you an exact day for the bridge, and I think I will follow his lead on that. I think the first bridge will be up soon. [Laughter]

Q: This month? I mean before the new year, before Christmas?

A: Yes, this month.

 

Q: But before or after Christmas?

A: You want to move onto something else? [Laughter]

Q: The Seabees building the first camp north of the Sava near the bridge site were supposed to leave Rota this morning and move in. They did not as I understand it. Do you know why?

A: No, I don't. I'm sure the Navy can answer that question, but I don't know that. Yes, Bill.

Q: If I could go to the subject of compliance with the Dayton accord, have you any more details about indigenous troops moving out of the separation zone? Especially the shipping out of the Mujaheddin; and I understand the radars are all off. What more progress can you report?

A: General Shalikashvili reported this morning that the radars do remain off and that there has been -- the troops are separating. The separation has begun. So, we are very encouraged by those two acts of compliance with the Dayton accord.

Q: Do you have updated numbers of U.S. personnel in the country?

A: I do. These numbers are as of about 23 hours ago, 1,300 yesterday. We just get the figures in once a day. We don't try to update them on an hourly basis, and this is how the reporting works. So, these numbers are already overtaken by events. But, they are the latest numbers we have. In Bosnia, there were 587 Americans in support of operation JOINT ENDEAVOR. That's an increase of 306 in the 24-hour period ending yesterday afternoon. Croatia, 712. That was an increase of 183 and in the rim countries of Hungary and Italy, there were a total of 3,432. That was an increase of 643.

Now, as I say, these figures are already old because there were 21 C-130 flights planned into Tuzla today. I don't know whether all of those will make it. But as you have seen on TV already, flights are going in today. So, I'm sure these numbers are up. The point though, is that it shows that there was more than doubling of the number of people in Bosnia, for instance, yesterday. So, we're at the point now where we're bringing people in faster. If good weather holds or adequate weather holds, we'll be able to keep this pace up.

Q: You're all supposed to have 700 troops in Bosnia to pave the way before the agreement was signed. And then it was supposed to send the regular forces supposed to start flooding in. Now, you're still only have 587.

A: I think what you should focus on is the accomplishment of tasks, not the number of people there to do the task. The important thing is to get the task done. So far, the commanders in the field tell us that they're able to get the tasks done as necessary to bring in more people. Remember, General Estes explained yesterday that what most people think of as a mission here which is monitoring zones of separation doesn't begin until 30 days after the transfer of authority. So what we're doing now is building up, building the infrastructure, getting the troops in. And as you can see from these numbers, that's happening in an increasing rate.

Q: Have you got a minimum number that's going to be required to begin monitoring the area of separation?

A: Well, first of all, that's not going to happen for some time. So, there is a minimum number, but I don't know what it is, and I have every confidence that we'll have the people, the number of people there when we need them to perform the job.

Q: Do you know how many troops will be there approximately about when the transfer of authority takes place?

A: I don't. I don't. I mean, I would guess. No. I won't even guess. More than we have there now.

Q: If I could follow Charlie on his question. Ken, with weather delays, and there's been weather delays we anticipated, with this 30-day period, could that -- the time slide forward in time some? In other words, the compliance, the total compliance, and the abandonment of the zone of separation?

A: No.

Q: It cannot?

A: No. It said it in the agreement. But, I don't anticipate that's going to be a problem. This bridge will be up relatively soon, the first bridge. The two bridges will be up relatively soon. There will be a steady flow of equipment across the bridge. You've got the number of vehicles crossing from General Gill. There will be a steady stream of people and equipment coming across the bridge and there's -- everybody who is involved in this mission believes that we will have more than adequate forces there to perform the mission when we have to.

Q: What about if the American troops are having trouble moving around, is it not reasonable to think that perhaps some of the other forces in Bosnia might have difficulty moving in this heavy snow?

A: Well, first of all, the heavy snow has prevented -- the weather has prevented airplanes from landing. I'm not aware that once we've gotten there, we've been inhibited in moving around. The other people came, the French and the British, have two advantages that we didn't have. The first is they had substantial forces on the ground already because they've been the largest contributing parts of UNPROFOR which, as you know, ends tomorrow. So, they will just rehat their people. They'll send their blue berets home to their wives and sweethearts and they'll put on their British and their French hats. That's the first thing.

The second thing is that they came in by land. They didn't -- they weren't flying in. So, they were able to move through weather in ways we weren't. One important point is that the Tuzla Airport has now been certified for C-130s which means that they can come in with a much lower ceiling than they could before. I think they were limited to a -- [Beeper sounding off] Is that some guy with a hot question for you to ask me?

Unknown Speaker: That's mine. [Laughter]

Mr. Bacon: Well, I thought it would refer to the question, not the answer. [Laughter] They did. How much? I think you guys -- I think on that news, you have to end this briefing and go out and file. [Laughter].

Q: Housekeeping question about tomorrow. Do you have a time for the ceremony changing hands?

A: Yes, it is 5 a.m. our time. That's 11 a.m. Sarajevo time. As I understand it, there will be a -- and I'm sure your people over there know this, the ceremony will take place at 11 in Sarajevo and about noon, there will be a briefing with Admiral Smith and General Janvier. And we're also anticipating that there will be a briefing in Tuzla by General Nash at about 1500, 3 o'clock Tuzla time tomorrow. These could be subject to change, not because of the weather, but the briefings may take place at different times. But, those were the plans as of this morning.

Q: Does the separation of forces that General Shalikashvili reports, does that apply across the country or is he talking about just in the U.S. section?

A: He -- I believe it applies in places around the country and I don't know how extensive it is. But, it's not just in the U.S. sector. General Joulwan was reporting to him as the supreme allied commander of Europe. So, he was referring to the NATO area of operation.

Q: Again today or --

A: He reported early. It must have begun yesterday. But, he reported this morning that it was going on. Yes, Charlie.

Q: Have you got any estimate of how many women are going to be among this 20,000 and what they'll be doing? Whether it will be military police or will it be driving trucks or -- will they be driving any of these troops for instance into Tuzla from Croatia?

A: That's a good question. I assume that about four to five percent of the soldiers there will be women because that's about the percentage of women in the Army. And they would just be in the units performing jobs. But, I'll check on their specific tasks. I've seen them on television driving things and performing normal soldierly functions. So, I assume that's what they'll be doing.

Q: Next question on kinds of things they plan to be doing.

A: Yes.

Q: We assume they will not be patrolling in the area because they're prevented from being quote foxholes unquote.

A: Well, it's a peace enforcement force, but we will get back to you on exactly what they'll be doing.

Q: It will be interesting if they are going to take part in...

Q: Tuzla will be the headquarters for the American sector. But, where else within the American sector will brigades be positioned? And how will they flow? Will they flow across the Sava River up in Tuzla?

A: I can't answer that question. That's a good question and I'll get an answer for you.

Q: I'd like to revisit that again, if I may. The women in combat. You raised an interesting point. You said this is a peace enforcement operation. Well, if it's peace enforcement, does this change the rules? Will they be able to patrol with rifles since it's not a a war situation?

A: That's what we're going to find out for you.

Q: All right. Thank you.

A: Yes.

Q: Another Bosnia question.

A: Sure.

Q: The teams are back from Iraq apparently. What have they achieved?

A: They left Iraq on Friday and came back through Amman, Jordan. They found a number of items from the crash including pieces of the aircraft, some related equipment. And they're in the process of analyzing these pieces in Hawaii where most of the people were from. They were the central identification laboratory in Hawaii. They did not recover any physical remains. And nothing the team found indicates that the pilot survived the crash. What they did find were indications that the aircraft was very severely burned.

Q: Did they find any indication whether or not he might have ejected? In other words, did they find parts of the seat, the pilot's seat?

A: I do not know exactly what they found and I can't go beyond what I've read you here. But, they do not believe that the pilot survived the crash. Yes, Mark.

Q: Concerning the Fort Bragg and the Army investigation in Tuzla, racist activity there. There's some preliminary Army report and Army lawyers are quoted in the press of saying there's only about 12 to 15 people who may harbor hatred towards various groups. What even though there's only a handful, what can we do about that? And what is the Army doing about that?

A: Well, Secretary West gave you rather a complete briefing on that yesterday. I think we should -- last week. I think we should one, wait for the report which will come out of Fort Bragg, I believe today. And, as you know, the Army has launched a much broader investigation beyond Fort Bragg. This is a very worrisome problem even if it's only a handful of people as you point out. It's an intolerable situation and it's one that the Army is working very hard to deal with and will continue to work hard to deal with. But, as Secretary West said last week, he wants to find out the extent of the problem before deciding what needs to be done to solve the problem.

Somebody asked about the Seabees. They're expected to deploy on Thursday, flying directly to Tazar from Rota. So, I don't know whether they were supposed to go today or not. This guidance suggested they had always intended to go on Thursday. But, check with the Navy about that. Yes.

Q: After the Oklahoma City bombing, as I remember, didn't the Secretary or Secretary White send out a memorandum to forces reminding them what the rules are about participating in such groups, active participation?

A: Yes.

Q: Has that been done after this incident? Are there any plans to do that?

A: Well, the Secretary issued a rather complete statement referring to that directive last week and that statement has been communicated to all commanders. I believe commanders are very well aware of the guidance which was reiterated in a memo from Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing and it basically was referred to by Secretary West also.

Q: Thank you.

Q: General Joulwan, on Sunday, said that he -- something to the effect -- he would have preferred not to go in, in a winter condition in the Balkan area. But, he said we had to -- he had to play the cards that were dealt and, in view of this excellent bridge expert we just heard from, I wonder if it was possible to hear from the meteorologist on the Balkans.

A: Meteorologist?

Q: About the climate, this winter.

A: Bill, I'm not going to promise to produce a meteorologist. But, we'll look into it. I think everybody can see what the weather is on a day-to-day basis.

Press: Thank you.