United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


Transcript : DoD News Briefing : Monday, January 30, 1996

Presenters: Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD/PA
January 30, 1996

Monday, January 30, 1996

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to our briefing. I'd like to start by welcoming back Lieutenant Colonel Rick Scott who as you know has been in Tuzla for the last five or six weeks. He was one of the first PAO's in there, and I think that his good work over there has helped make the access to that operation as open as its been.

I'd also like to fill you in on where we stand on the close down of Guantanamo [ph] Bay. Today we're flying out 172 migrants, Cuban migrants to Homestead Air Force Base, and tomorrow, we'll fly out 124. That will leave just 30 migrants at Guantanamo Bay who are awaiting immigration decisions on whether they come to the United States or go back to Cuba. These are special asylum cases that are being reviewed. So, we will have by tomorrow removed all of the Cuban migrants who are not subject to special review. I don't know when the Immigration and Naturalization Service will complete its review of these 30 cases, but we hope to have the Cuban migrants all out of Guantanamo Bay as soon as possible. But by tomorrow essentially, that operation will be over and we'll be left just with the special review cases.

With that, I will take your questions on this or other issues.

Q: Can you bring us up to date the investigation of the F-14 crash and tellus why given the history of crashes by F-14's in the last year and a half why they haven't been grounded earlier and not a new investigation.

A: Well, first of all, this crash is a matter of great concern to Secretary Perry and to chief of naval operations, Admiral Boorda. The Secretary and the Deputy Secretary John White met with Admiral Prueher and Admiral Prugher, the vice chief of naval operations, early this afternoon to discuss how the investigation is going. We believe that the investigation underway in Tennessee is being handled very well, and the Navy will answer your questions on that at the appropriate time. We will not have results for some time.

On the second question about F-14's, the loss rate or the major damage rate of F-14's what we call class A mishap rate for F-14's is slightly less than that for the combined Navy-Marine Corps fighter fleet.

Q: Would you deny that there's not been a trend of F-14 crashes in the last year and a half and perhaps some other steps should've been taken prior to groudning these planes?.

A: Part of what the Navy is doing now is investigating not just this particular accident, but looking at every aspect that could be involved in this crash. And it would be inappropriate to comment right now to single out any type of reason for this accident until one, we know what the causes of this accident were and two, until we complete a broad investigation into, into the Navy's flying and training procedures, and that all becomes part of an investigation when we look at a crash like this. We look at everything and we will hear. It's not just isolated to what happened in Nashville. We will look broadly at how we got to this tragic point.

Q: Again, why wait until five people are killed. Would you deny that there's been a trend of F-14 crashes over the last year and a half?

A: I am not going -- I think we have to wait and find out all the facts.

Q: Ken, can you explain why this F-14 flew to Nashville? And a follow up. Can you tell us where the pilots parents were when that plane took off on the return trip to California?

A: The Navy has navigational training procedures which involve flights over land, and the destinations of these cross country flights are chosen by the air crew. There are rules limiting -- defining these flights. For instance, flight -- a crew can't make repeated flights to one home area, for instance, of a pilot. This Lieutenant Commander Bates who was the pilot of this plane had not made any cross country training flights to the Nashville area during the last two years. He was well in the envelope of the rules here. But, he was -- it was perfectly appropriate for him to choose his destination.

Q: And the follow up, where were his parents?

A: His parents were at the airport seeing him take off.

Q: So, he was in his hometown the night before?

A: I do not know where he was the night before. I know that his parents were in Nashville when he took off.

Q: Can you explain why the plane on take off went straight up?

A: I cannot explain that. That is one of the things we're looking at. I don't want to comment on the profile of its flight. We -- all of this will become clearer after the investigation is over. It's premature now to comment on any one aspect of this flight or this crash until we complete the investigation.

Q: Ken, if I could just go back to your statement that you said that the loss rate for F-14 is slightly less than for other aircraft in the Navy fleet. What -- can you give us any sort of statistical background? Upon, what are you basing that statement?

A: The class A mishap rate, which is loss or major damage rate per 100,000 flight hours, for F-14's; is 5.4 percent or 5.4, 5.45 for 100,000 hours. That's the major loss rate for F-14's. That compares to an overall loss rate throughout the Navy and Marine Corps aviation fleet of 6.03 per 100,000 flight hours.

Q: [Inaudible]?

A: Unfortunately, I don't know, and we'll get you the years.

Q: But, it's in the last five years, they've lost 30 F-14's which has driven that particular statistic you're using for a 25-year period way, way higher than the 25 statistic. So, it has spiked in the last five years dramatically. So, is there concern on the part of the --

A: There's a concern every time we have a crash of the circumstances that led to that crash and, as I told you, we will look broadly at the reasons for this crash.

Q: A couple of things that are quasi-technical here may wind up being -- I'm sure they'll wind up they're being part of the investigation -- But they should be obtainable and releasable now. Did the pilot file an IFR or VFR flight plan upon leaving Nashville, and did he request permission from the tower to make an abnormal or less than normal climb out on takeoff which is procedural if he's going to make some sort of a high speed vertical climb.

A: This is a more detailed version of the question I didn't answer before, and I'm not going to answer the more detailed version of the question. This is the type of thing that will come out in the course of the investigation. Yes?

Q: Is there rules of take off, I guess, or rules of procedures of flying out of joint military civilian airports or can you do the same thing out of a Nashville say, or a Charlotte or something like that as you can out of a Miramar?

A: I'm not an expert on Navy flight rules, and you should ask them about that.

Q: Can you tell us any more about the broadness of the investigation? For example, are there crews going around and examining airplanes? Are they looking for particular problems?

A: I think we have to wait until we get a clearer idea of what caused this crash before we start that. I do not rule out anything after we a get a clearer idea of what the reason behind this crash was.

Q: Well, why is just this one squadron being grounded and not all F-14's?

A: The crash was from this squadron, and it seems to be an appropriate place to start, and the decision --

Q: Sorry. But, these various crashes haven't all been from this squadron.

A: Well, the way this crash involved the squadron the decision was made by the Navy to stand this squadron down for a period of time until they get to the bottom of what happened.

Q: So, you see no need now to ground all F-14's pending the results of this investigation?

A: Not right now. I'm not ruling anything in or out here. I think you have to let the process work. You have to let the facts come to the fore. That's what we're trying to do here. It's -- it is something that's done after every crash. We are very concerned about this crash. We're concerned about the tragedy in Nashville. We're concerned about the safety of the Naval aviation fleet. We are concerned in the wake of all crashes, and we are taking them very, very seriously. We're going to leave no stone unturned.

Q: Ken, this same pilot had a crash several years ago, and after the investigation it was determined that it was caused by pilot error. Given that, why was he allowed to fly again?

A: These -- there's always an investigation after a crash, and you appropriately point out that there was one after this one and that he was allowed to fly again. These determinations are made on a case-by-case basis looking at the pilot's record and looking at a variety of other factors, and after this investigation, it was determined that he qualified to resume flying.

Q: Ken, in addition to the incident just cited, I can think back specifically to the B-52 accident up there at Fairchild a few years back when the pilot was, in essence, hot-dogging or doing maneuvers that were unauthorized. Is there a concern within the Pentagon of the entire -- I hate to say, Top Gun -- culture that could permeate some of the flyers that you have? Is that something you guys talk about? Is that something you study? Is that something that you try to suppress?

A: We study ways to make flying as safe as possible given the demanding conditions under which combat pilots have to perform their jobs, and without buying into the assumption of your question that there may have been something improper here, all I can tell you is that we are very concerned about flight safety in all services, and we spend a lot of time trying to make flying safer.

Q: How is the issue of this Top Gun mystique specifically addressed? For example, out at Spokane. Was there any lessons learned out of that?

A: I can't comment on that. That was before my time.

Q: Do you know what the Navy's safety recrod is compared to the Air Force and Army aviation?

A: It's not a comparison worth making because they fly under radically different conditions.

Q: Can you tell us whether Secretary Perry is considering a stand down of, a wider stand down of F-14's than just this squadron? Is that something that's being looked at?

A: Jamie, I say again we have to look at the facts, and we'll be guided by the facts.

Q: How many more F-14's do you have left?

A: We have 212 F-14 A's, 79 B's, and 47 D's. That's what my information shows. I will double check this with the Navy to see if that's the entire fleet. But, that's --

Q: This was an A?

A: This was an A.

Q: A and the 212 is after this crash, right?

A: Well, it says currently there are 212 F-14 A's, so I assume yes, after the crash. But we will double check that. Yes?

Q: Have there been any F-14 crashes between the Hultgreen crash and this crash?

A: I believe there have been, yes. I do not have the complete rundown of military aviation crashes here. Yes?

Q: Does the Navy have a policy about compensating the relatives of the victims of this crash yesterday?

A: Please take that question to Navy. They'll answer it.

Mr. Bacon: Any more questions?

Q: Change the subject.

A: Sure.

Q: Can you comment on to what extent the Pentagon is concerned about the deployment by Iran of the new ship base, the anti-ship cruise missile which the United States has been monitoring earlier this month?

A: Well generally, you know that we watch military developments in the Gulf very, very closely and we are concerned about any increase in military capability by countries that may, that may have hostile intentions sometime. We believe that we have an overwhelming military advantage in the Gulf. We have worked very hard to improve that military advantage over the last several years, particularly since October 1994. We have a very substantial Naval force there in the 5th Fleet that's fully capable of defending itself.

Q: A purple question. The Doug Jehl's article in the New York Times, is it accurate? And two, is there any perceived threat or a real threat that would cause the moving ashore the prepositioned supply?

A: The article in the New York Times reported on a situation and a force posture in the Gulf that we've maintained for some time. This posture changes from time to time. But basically, we have larger air assets there. We have increasingly heavy positions of prepositioned equipment for ground forces there and, as you know, we maintain large naval fleets or a large naval force there. And these forces change as ships swap in and out, but basically, we maintain a large force there. We have not seen in recent months any sharp increase in the threat from Iraq. But we are monitoring the Iraqi situation constantly just as we monitor the forces in Iran, force developments in Iran. And we believe that we have a force there that is able to protect our interest.

Q: Just a follow up. Understanding that this deployment of this particular missile is simply the latest in what has been the trend of Iran gradually increasing it's military capabilities. What is the Pentagon concern, what is Iran up to in the Gulf? What are they attempting to do building up its military force?

A: It's much more difficult for us to gauge intentions than it is to gauge capabilities. Iran, it is true, has recently tested a live-fire anti-ship missile over a relatively short range. That does not make them a major threat to our naval forces or to commercial shipping in the area. It is something we're watching very closely. We don't know where they're going. We don't know exactly what their intentions are. But our goal, and we believe we have achieved that goal, and we will continue to refine our ways of achieving that goal, is to maintain a strong force that's able to deal with any contingency in the Gulf. Pat?

Q: What about amphibious capability by China to actually do a seaborne invasion of Taiwan? Have you noticed any effort in that direction, any change?

A: We have not seen a major improvement in Chinese military capabilities across the straits of Taiwan. They clearly have been carrying out military exercises there. They clearly have been testing some or preparing to test weapons, but we have not seen a major increase in their capability. The most important point to make about China and Taiwan is that whatever disputes they have should be resolved peacefully, and we have no reason to believe that that won't happen. Both sides are committed to peaceful resolution, and we believe that will happen. Charlie?

Q: Has that subject come up in talks with Kaminski and the Chinese delegations visiting (inaudible)?

A: I'm afraid I can't answer that question. I just don't know. I'll try to find out.

Q: Will you take the question?

A: Sure. Yes?

Q: This provision [inaudible] project that would require a moratorium on the these anti personnel by the Pentagon after three years -- the Leahy amendment -- I wonder if you have any kind of reaction to the amendment or if you thought it might -- you one day envisioned a day without land mines or if you think this might be overturned sometime in the next three years before it takes effect.

A: First of all, no one is more aware of the threat from land mines than we are, particularly now with the deployment of our troops in Bosnia where land mines are one of the biggest threats we face. We've trained very hard to deal with land mines both to stop them and to remove them. We have opposed that legislation. We think that land mines remain an integral part of our war fighting methodology now, and that a blanket prohibition on the use of land mines now would impede our military effectiveness.

We also think that limits on the provision of military equipment to allies could have an adverse impact on our abilities to achieve inter operability with various allies. As you know, we have proposed something different which is a, a prohibition on land mines that are not self-destroying land mines and we think that would balance the considerations of safety and military effectiveness.

Q: Going back to Iraq just for a moment. If there are, in fact, five Iraqi divisions close to the Kuwaiti border, has intel showed any movement of any of these divisions, are all of them closer to the border? Are these movements going to cause any concern at all?

A: Without getting into specific numbers, there are two types of Iraqi divisions. There's the prestigious highly trained Royal [Republican] Guard divisions and then there's the less well-trained, less well-equipped divisions. After the October 1994 threats by Saddam Hussein to Kuwait, the ones we responded to by moving more people into the Gulf and more assets into the Gulf, we -- the U.N. imposed -- strengthened the 32nd parallel no-fly zone and turned it into a no-drive zone. And we required -- the U.N. required them to return their forces to the posture they had been in before they started moving aggressively south. And that effectively keeps their prestige divisions above the 32nd parallel. We've made it very clear to them that we would regard any movement of forces below the 32nd parallel as a provocative act against which allied forces could respond just as we have responded when they had flown below the 32nd parallel, we would respond if they were to move troops below the 32nd parallel. We think this gives us, a good insulation against a rapid attack by their most prestigious forces. We are still worried. We do not know Saddam Hussein's intentions. He has proven to be what we would consider irrational at times. Therefore, we watch very closely.


Q: We haven't benn with you since the Senate took some action on the START, can you tell us how the building feels about what the Senate did?

A: We're very pleased by the senate ratification of the START II Agreement. We think it's a major step forward toward disarmament. This is an area in which we have made considerable progress over the last several years. Both the U.S. and Russia have dismantled several thousand nuclear warheads. We have, as you know, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus, which after -- three countries which after the disintegration of the Soviet Union became the third, fourth, and fifth largest nuclear powers in the world, have agreed to become nuclear free by the end of this year. In fact, Kazakhstan shipped out its last nuclear weapon during last year, and we believe that Ukraine and Belarus will ship theirs out this year. This is a step -- a major step forward. We are very encouraged by President Yeltsin's statement that he will press hard for ratification by the Russian Parliament.

Q: Is there a concern within the Defense Department about increased espionage aimed at American defense contractors?

A: There is not increased concern about that. We watch this very closely. You're probably alluding to today's story about an unauthorized directive that was put out involving, involving Israel, and I'd like to talk about that just for a minute.

The Defense Investigative Service basically performs two jobs. The first job is dealing with security, performing security investigations for security clearances. There are about 1,350 DIS agents that work on security clearances. The second part, the second task is that it oversees contractors that deal with classified documents and classified information. About 210 people are employed in security oversight of contractors. Their job basically is to make sure that contractors have adequate procedures and adequate facilities for dealing with classified information, safes for instance, to maintain classified information.

There are 32 field officers in the United States that deal with contractors and survey their security operations. These are not counterintelligence offices. They are basically security oversight classification handling offices.

There was an employee in the Syracuse, New York, office who, on his own, using open sources, newspaper articles, books, etcetera, put out what he called a security warning, and he did this involving several countries. Each one contained at the bottom a disclaimer that said that his report was taken entirely from listed open source material and that it did not necessarily represent the views of the Defense Investigative Service or the Department of Defense. The piece that was written about this morning, the analysis this morning involved Israel, and it was a completely inappropriate report put out by him. It does not reflect the view of the Department of Defense. Israel is a very strong and loyal ally. Twice in the last two months, Secretary Perry, once in here in Washington with Shimon Peres in December and in January in Jerusalem stated our strong commitment to helping Israel maintain its defensive qualitative edge. We remain committed to that, and we will as far into the future as any of us can see.

Q: I guess my question is there a perception within the Defense Department, regardless of what country we're talking about, that some friendly countries are conducting a higher level of espionage? Not, is there a higher concern, but do you perceive, factually, any higher level of attempted espionage of American defense contractors?

A: As I tried to explain to you, the DIS deals with basically the treatment of classified documents. It's not a counterintelligence agency. We, the Defense Department and the intelligence community, in general, believe that security is indivisible. We are always looking at ways to maintain security for interests we want to protect.

Q: That's not an answer to the question, and maybe there isn't an answer. Do you perceive a higher number of incidents of attempted espionage of American defense contractors regardless of whether the data comes from this agency or any other agency?

A: I am not aware of a higher incidence. But I will check and see. I'm personally not aware of that.

Q: Well, are you aware of any continuing incidents industrial acts of espionage by Israel?

A: I am not.

Q: Perhaps the last follow up question on Iraq. One step further. You said any movement of the Republican Guard divisions south of the 32nd parallel is a provocative act. Has there been any indication of those Republican Guard divisions are moving towards the 32nd parallel south from their previous positions?

A: We do not see significant movements now of the Republican Guard divisions.

Q: Oh, one more on the HIV continuing controversy. Are you happy with the direction of the various compromises that have been reached here in the last day or two of those who are HIV positive, negative, AIDS related patients, as to how they're going to be treated by the Defense Department?

A: As I understand it, the authorization bill hasn't even been signed into law yet, and we will respond to that bill as it is signed into law. Our interests are very clear, and they've been made clear to Congress from the very beginning of the consideration of this provision. We believe that this provision is operationally unnecessary, and we believe that it's unusually harsh. We obviously will do what we have to do to comply with the law. We have made it -- when the law is signed into law. It isn't yet. And we've also made it clear that we will try to change this law, and we will attempt to do that. But, if the law is unchanged, we will, of course, comply with the law.

Q: Just to clarify on the other question about what you referred to as the unauthorized directive. You said that there was language in that which made it clear that this was not the view of the Defense Department or the Defense Investigative Service. But according to a published report today, it said that this memo described the dissemination as part of the new effort by the Pentagon to alert military contractors to the dangers of attempted spying.

So, which way was it? Did this memo purport to state a new Pentagon policy --

A: It did not.

Q: Was this maybe inaccurate in this published report? It says it reports the memo as saying it's part of the new effort by the Pentagon.

A: I want to state again this memo was written by one individual in the Syracuse, New York, office of the Defense Investigative Service. At the bottom of the memo he included a disclaimer saying that the memo did not necessarily reflect the view of the Department of Defense or the Defense Investigative Service. He was right. It does not reflect the views of the Department of Defense or the Defense Investigative Service.

Q: Is he still employed by the government?

A: Yes, he is.

Q: Is there going to be some disciplinary action?

A: Well, I think he's gotten the message that this type of activity was unauthorized and that he won't be doing it again. He'll stick to his job of reviewing the handling of classified documents by contractors.

Q: Again, to hope back land mines if it's so detrimental to military being able to defend itself from acts without land mines, is the Pentagon hoping they'll overturn the Leahy amendment before it has to abide by it?

A: I'll have to get back to you on that. I don't know what our plans are for dealing with the Laheigh amendment. But you're right. It does have a period of time before it takes effect and certainly, there's a lot of opportunity to debate and consider the issue.

Q: Getting back to the aviation safety and just ask a question. Does the Pentagon consider it has a problem with hot-dogging, Top Gun attitudes anything like that within its flying fleet?

A: Let me be clear about this. We consider any crash a problem. We consider any crash an invitation to look at our procedures from the bottom up to do everything we can to prevent more crashes from occurring. Other than that, I don't want to prejudge the outcome of this investigation in any way. And I'd rather not comment as I've avoided doing three times already on that particular question.

Q: But without specifically addressing this incident --

A: Without specifically addressing this incident, we are always looking for ways to make flights safer.

Q: But does the Pentagon consider that it has a problem with that type of attitude among the --

A: We consider we have a problem with -- anytime there's a crash we consider that a problem.

Q: Just a clarification. Are you going to take as a question this earlier discussion of the rate of incidents of espionage? Are you going to try to get an answer to that?

A: Yes.

Q: Okay. Fine.

A: I'm not promising I can give you an answer. It's sometimes difficult to track these things down.

Q: The one question I had with that is in the -- maybe you know or don't know or could describe in the answer -- is there a distinction, or how is the distinction made between espionage acts that are conducted essentially for commercial purposes by a foreign national versus technological espionage conducted by the intelligence services of foreign nations and are those separated in the statistics and if so, can you break those down?

A: I'm not sure that the Pentagon will have information on commercial espionage. There have been some highly publicized cases of, one several years ago I recall involving IBM of tracking down attempted commercial espionage. But we will do our best to get you statistics. You might have to go to the Department of Justice for commercial espionage, and I'm not promising we're going to be able to give you statistics on Defense Department matters. But, we'll do our best.

Q: Thank you. A: You're welcome.

-END -

Additional Links

Stay Connected