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DoD News Briefing: Friday, December 3, 1999 - 3:01 P.M. EST

Presenter: Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig
December 03, 1999 3:00 PM EDT

Briefing on Vieques. Also participating: Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Rudy de Leon, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jay L. Johnson and Commandant of the Marine Corps General James L. Jones.

ADM. QUIGLEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. For a little over seven months there has been a process in place taking us through events such as the Rush Panel and the very intense discussions among the president, secretary of Defense, the governor of Puerto Rico, the entire national security team, to attempt to resolve the situation at Vieques.

With us this afternoon -- this is an on-the-record, for-direct-attribution briefing -- Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Rudy de Leon; Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig; Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jay Johnson; and Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Jim Jones. Secretary Danzig will lead-off with a prepared statement, Secretary de Leon will follow with a somewhat shorter statement, and then all four of them will be available to take your questions.

Upon completion of the briefing, we will have a copy of Secretary Cohen's letter to the president. We will have copies of Secretary Danzig's prepared opening statement. And I will try to have available copies of the president's statement. I believe the White House is releasing those probably while we are here in the briefing room, and if we can get those before this briefing is done, we will make copies of those and have those available for you as well. And if it does not come in before we're done, then the White House should make those available very shortly thereafter.

Secretary Danzig?

SEC. DANZIG: Good afternoon. I have a short statement on behalf of myself, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jay Johnson, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Jim Jones. After this, the three of us and the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Rudy de Leon, will address any questions you may have.

Admiral Johnson, General Jones and I have no more important duty than to assure the readiness of our sailors and Marines. This is not an abstract requirement. Our sailors and Marines are today flying combat missions over Iraq, and were within recent months flying similar missions and launching missile in the Balkans.

The most rigorous, realistic training that allows us to certify our forces as combat-ready is provided at the training range on and around the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. This unique facility, in the only location in the Atlantic where realistic multi-dimensional training can be conducted, has been safely operated for 58 years without a single off-range accident.

Unfortunately, on the 19th of April of this year, operating on the range but against an incorrectly selected target, a Marine Corps aircraft accidentally dropped two bombs near an observation post, killing a civilian security guard. This tragic accident has sparked a demand for the closure of the Vieques facility.

Following that accident, I ordered the Navy and Marine Corps to cease training on Vieques and conduct a thorough review of the incident and of the requirement for Vieques. I appointed Vice Admiral Bill Fallon and Marine Corps Lieutenant General Pete Pace to undertake this review, and their work strongly validated the continuing national security need for Vieques. The secretary of Defense then appointed a distinguished panel headed by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for Force Management, Frank Rush to study the situation through out the summer.

Their results also validated the need for the Navy and the Marine Corps to continue training on Vieques, while strongly also recommending dialogue between the Department of Defense and the government of Puerto Rico to resolve differences about the Department of the Navy's presence on Vieques.

Taking into account the work of the Fallon-Pace report and the Rush panel, two things are clear: First, that we need to continue training on Vieques. Second, that we need to repair relations with the people of Vieques. Towards that end, we have today joined the secretary of Defense in recommending a plan that has four principal elements:

(A), training on Vieques will be limited to inert weapons unless and until a resumption of live fire training is agreed to by the people of Vieques and the Navy.

(B), training will be reduced from the 180 days per year presently used to 90 days per year.

(C), within five years of the resumption of training on Vieques, the Navy will develop an alternative to that training and all training on the island will terminate unless otherwise agreed to by the people of Vieques and the Navy. And (D), a resumption of training will be accompanied by a $40 million community development and economic adjustment program that recognizes and offsets the burdens that the training imposes on the people of Vieques.

A text of the secretary of Defense's recommendations in this regard will be provided at the end of this briefing, as Admiral Quigley noted.

Further, we have decided that it is best for the Navy and the Marine Corps to defer resumption of training at Vieques until next spring, when the Vieques Range will be required for the George Washington Battle Group and the Kearsarge (sic) [Siapan] Amphibious Ready Group. In the intervening period, we anticipate that discussions about the recommended plan will take place in Puerto Rico.

We intend also promptly to initiate a Navy Vieques Consultation Group, in which the Navy/Marine Corps representative will be Rear Admiral Kevin Green. Admiral Green will assume a new position next week as the senior Navy official resident in Puerto Rico.

As many of you know, the Eisenhower Battle Group and the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group were scheduled for important training in Vieques over the next two weeks. We have arranged substitute training sites for these groups. Over the next two weeks they will conduct training operations in and around Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. Further, we have arranged for the use of Cape Wrath, Scotland for Naval gunfire training en route to the Mediterranean, and we are making arrangements for exercises and other training in the Mediterranean.

These arrangements will not provide training as good as that obtainable in Vieques. While training at Vieques is fully integrated, synchronized and occurs in a live-fire combat scenario, these substitutes are fragmented and less realistic. Further, the need to train abroad will reduce the time these battle groups can spend on station. We stress also that future groups are not likely to have, and historically many other groups have not had, time in the Mediterranean for further training before entering combat situations.

We are not training the Eisenhower Battle Group and the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group at Vieques for three reasons.

First, we believe that not pressing the issue at this moment in Puerto Rico is the most productive route for resuming training in Vieques over the longer term.

Second, we would like to avoid exposing sailors and Marines to the uncertainty and turbulence associated with trying to train on the range before this issue is resolved.

Third, we believe that we can by alternative means achieve satisfactory readiness training for these particular groups before they are committed to combat.

Having said this, I will ask Mr. de Leon if he'd like to make any statement. And then we'll be joined by General Jones and Admiral Johnson, and we'd be happy to take your questions.

MR. DE LEON: Thank you very much, Secretary Danzig.

I would briefly like to note that the report that the secretary of Defense is forwarding to the president is one that reflects his own personal work and effort to try to find a comprehensive solution to the Vieques question. Throughout this process, as well as his appointing and being briefed by the members of the Rush panel, he has throughout very much engaged the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the vice chairman, the chief of Naval Operations, the commandant of the Marine Corps, as well as the secretary of the Navy and other senior civilians in his staff, in terms of working through the substance and trying to find a framework that will allow the Navy to resume training at Vieques with the George Washington Carrier Battle Group and the Kearsarge (sic) [Siapan] Amphibious Ready Group later this spring.

This is a step forward. This is an important start. The problems and the questions that rest on Vieques did not occur overnight. They are the product of several years and many issues. And the solution will not be accomplished overnight. But this is a starting point. This continues the dialogue that I think has already started, that has been constructive, and that will put us on the right track, as well as a new track.

So with that, thank you, Secretary Danzig.

SEC. DANZIG: Thank you.

MR. DE LEON: We're ready to proceed to questions.

SEC. DANZIG: Admiral Johnson, General Jones.

Yes?

QI'd like to ask Admiral Johnson and General Jones, with this decision, particularly with the Eisenhower Battle Group, aren't you shortchanging the sailors and Marines aboard those ships in terms of their readiness to enter realistic combat, on this deployment?

ADM. JOHNSON: The short answer is no. It is our mandate to ensure that that is not the case. And as the secretary outlined, the combination of the training experience that they're undergoing right now in the East Coast of the United States, plus -- plus -- the commitments that we've made to train in the forward theater -- that combination will take us to a satisfactory level of readiness --

QWould it?

ADM. JOHNSON: -- or we will not commit them to combat.

QWell, will these units be combat-ready when they leave Norfolk?

ADM. JOHNSON: No.

QWhat happens if, as in previous cases, they're needed right away?

ADM. JOHNSON: They will be trained before they are put into combat. They will be sufficiently trained in live fire before they are put into combat. That is our commitment to them, and that's why this deployment is a clear exception to our policy. They will receive good training. They are receiving good training right now. We have every confidence in them, as we always do, but we owe them the graduation level exercise and they will receive that in the forward theater before we would ever commit them to combat.

QAdmiral, do you recall the last time --

ADM. DANZIG: Pardon me, just -- before your question, and then we'll take you in a moment. I think also, David, we frequently encounter circumstances in which we have to make choices of forces, and those choices would well be made by the CNO and the commandant and the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But there are -- for example, the returning battle group could be kept on station longer. There are other options available to us.

Go ahead.

QAdmiral Johnson, do you recall the last time a carrier group left Norfolk or anywhere else not combat-ready?

ADM. JOHNSON: Well, it's always a degree of risk management in there, you understand that. But the short answer to your question is in the last battle group you recall we -- because of the Vieques timing, the timing of their deployment relative to Vieques, we worked them into Vieques earlier. We had to get one of the surface combatants some training before they were --

QBut this carrier group would be a lower readiness than the previous carrier group, correct?

ADM. JOHNSON: This carrier battle group and amphibious ready group will carry with it a sufficient level of readiness, but we believe that -- we don't "believe," we are committed -- to ensuring that they receive, as I say, the graduation level live-fire experience before we would commit them to combat.

QBut leaving -- leaving Norfolk, it is not combat-ready, right?

ADM. JOHNSON: Right.

QYeah, I just want to know, you didn't give a time on all training on the island to terminate. Is that still under discussion, or what?

ADM. JOHNSON: The recommendation from the secretary of Defense and from us was that unless otherwise agreed by the people of Vieques and the Navy, all training would terminate within five years of the time it had resumed. So it's a five-year period.

Yes, go ahead.

QWe don't have a definitive solution here. We have a band-aid or something temporary. If I understand you correctly, the United States is offering a $40 million carrot, and yet the governor of Puerto Rico and the politicos there are unalterably opposed, or so they say, to the resumption of live-fire training. What makes you think that by spring, by five years, by the foreseeable realistic future, we will ever use Vieques again?

SEC. DANZIG: Well, first of all, I think you're right, we do not have here in the present arrangement a definitive solution. It needs to be worked through between the Navy and the people of Vieques. I would not deprecate the financial aspect of this as simply a carrot. There is from our standpoint a need for a recognition that the relationship needs to be repaired between the Navy and Vieques.

In virtually all other instances in which the military -- the Navy and the Marine Corps, particularly -- are operating, we've achieved remarkably good relations with our communities. They, in fact, don't want us to leave. And in instances like the Base Realignment and Closure process, where we've talked about leaving, they have protested that. And as secretary of the Navy, I very frequently have to deal with that. So we have to ask ourselves, what is it that causes such a difference here?

Well, one of those things, I think, quite straightforwardly, is the sense of the people of Puerto Rico and the people of Vieques that they're not being heard, that they're not being cared for. And one of the things we need to do is to manifest in concrete ways that we do hear them and do care. One of the ways of doing that is, for example, by making the training minimally burdensome, as, for example, we are proposing to cut dramatically the number of training days. Another way of doing it is by saying we recognize anyway that there will be burdens and we're prepared to take steps that will give you a more positive output, more positive advantage from our presence than would arise if we weren't there. And these kinds of efforts are a part of that.

QLet me do one follow-up quickly. If we had had a flag on the island last April, particularly one who perhaps spoke Spanish, would this have become a cause celebre, do you think?

SEC. DANZIG: I think it's an astute question. I think the Navy made a mistake institutionally when in 1994 the flag billet that had been in Puerto Rico was disestablished in order to use that billet elsewhere. And we're trying to correct for that now by asking one of our most talented of admirals, Admiral Kevin Green, to go to Puerto Rico as the senior Navy official and resume that billet, indeed at a higher rank than it had been previously.

I'd note that the CNO actually had proposed doing that and set the plan in motion to do it prior to the April 19th accident, and it's, I think, a great misfortune for all of us that we weren't able to execute that but had the accident in between.

Yes, go ahead.

QCould you break down by aviation, naval, gunfire support and Marine operations where each of those will stand when the two groups leave Norfolk, and then whether they will all come up to standard at some point in the deployment, or whether some will stay below standard?

SEC. DANZIG: Why don't we have the CNO first, Rick, and then General Jones will make a comment on that.

ADM. JOHNSON: In the three groupings that you described, I would put it this way: There will be many parts of their training experience that will be fully sufficient to satisfy the tasks that are asked of them out forward.

What we're talking about here, and in terms of the combat readiness of the force, is that graduation-level, live-fire training. That piece, for those elements of the battle group and the ARG that need it, will be conducted in the forward theater before we commit them to combat.

General?

GEN. JONES: From the Marine Corps's combat side of the house, the landward power projection -- the embarked Marines will be substantially trained by virtue of the fact that we can do our requirements in live firing at our home stations -- Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in this particular case.

What we will have to do forward, in theater, is the integration piece with the amphibious ready group and the carrier battle group, and also we have a Marine squadron embarked as part of the carrier air wing, and they will have to come up to speed with their Navy counterparts.

QWhere will that all -- that integrated training -- happen? Do you know?

GEN. JONES: I would defer to the CNO in that, since he's --

ADM. JOHNSON: In the forward theater -- we won't discuss the operational specifics in terms of location and time, but I will -- other than to describe what the secretary said, that the surface combatants are going to go via Cape Wrath, Scotland, to get their surface gunnery quals.

But we are working very actively with the forward commanders to ensure that we have opportunities to do exactly as we described earlier, and that is finish off their training -- their live-fire training.

ADM. QUIGLEY: Ma'am?

QRegarding the proposal that you outlined in the beginning, when the negotiations began, some of the things that were discussed were possibly giving back some of the land in Vieques, returning it to the government of Puerto Rico. Is that still on the table? Could you address that?

SEC. DANZIG: Yes. I'm glad you asked about that. The secretary's recommendation includes a 10-point outline of some economic steps that we would be prepared to take as a part of the resumption of training activities on Vieques. And one of those would be the return of land on the western end of the island, the ammunition facility and the surrounding land, part of which could be used for park land and environmental things, and the balance of which could be used for economic development or other activities the people of Vieques require. We have a radar facility there that we would need to maintain, but it's a relatively small portion of that. And I would estimate that that land has value in the hundreds of millions of dollars, in addition to the $40 million we're talking about.

QYes, would that be the resumption of inert or the resumption of live for all the aid package to be implemented?

SEC. DANZIG: Our sense with respect to the economic aspect of this is just as I said earlier in response to Ivan's question, that the idea is to offset the burdens. The greater the burdens are on the people of Vieques, it seems to me the more vibrant the need to offset them with substantial economic assistance. So I think we intend the economic package to be available from the outset. I think we would want to talk seriously with people on Vieques about how it could be enriched if we could go on to use live-fire.

Go ahead.

QYes. Have you already had consultations with Senator Warner or other members of Congress so that they won't hold special hearings, since the battle group is going to be deployed without the readiness required?

SEC. DANZIG: Would you like to speak to this, Secretary de Leon?

MR. DE LEON: We have earlier today made a round of calls to key members of the Senate and House of Representatives that have been engaged and are interested in this issue.

Second, I have just come back from the Senate, where I, along with Admiral Bob Natter, briefed Senate and House of Representative staff relative to the issues and the decision-making process. As we well know, Congress speaks in its own voice. But an essential part of Secretary Cohen's engagement has been to make sure that he has kept the lines of communication open not only among his senior military and civilian leaders here in the Pentagon, but obviously with the president, with the Congress, and with the governor's representatives and the governor.

ADM. QUIGLEY: Barbara?

QI'd like to ask the CNO a question. The uniform side of the House, since day one, has said Vieques is irreplaceable. Clearly, the White House has slightly disagreed with the uniform side of the House. Can we get your personal reaction to that? I mean, do you feel that you got the support from the president here?

ADM. JOHNSON: Short answer there, yes. I don't think any of us disagree that Vieques is an irreplaceable asset. It's, in my words, you asked for my personal belief, it's the crown jewel of live-fire, combined arms training. It's the world standard. We do not want to leave Vieques. It is important to us. As you see us now with Eisenhower and Wasp, we are doing next-best things that we have full confidence will get us to a satisfactory level of readiness, but make no mistake, Vieques is the standard.

QSo can I just ask you, I mean, is in fact for the uniformed Navy still the ultimate goal here to resume live-fire exercises on Vieques?

ADM. JOHNSON: We are hopeful that as we rebuild the relationship that that will be the end-state, yes. But we have much work to do and many challenges between now and such an end-state, as you heard articulated earlier. So, for us, taking that longer view, we believe it's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on these challenges, and we're committed to doing that. We think it's important to us and to the people of Vieques. We must rebuild the relationship.

QSecretary Danzig, I just wanted to walk through the inert training that will take place. Will there be inert bombs dropped from aircraft? Will there be inert fire from the five-inch guns? And will the Marines come ashore and use inert fire with their Howitzers on Vieques? And do those steps have the permission now of the Puerto Rican government?

SEC. DANZIG: Those are the steps that we are proposing and the Puerto Rican response to that, I think, will be available this afternoon or over these next days. And as I say, there needs to be a fair amount of discussion with the people of Vieques as well.

QWhat steps will now be taken to deal with the protestors on the live-fire site?

SEC. DANZIG: This is a question that I think needs to be answered in the days and weeks ahead and is not really an appropriate one for us at this time and in this place.

Yes?

QIs it possible for the Eisenhower battle group to deploy with a C-1 rating with the arrangements that you've made?

ADM. JOHNSON: As I said before, there will be parts of the training set, if you will, to which they will be fully trained. There's no question about that. But in terms of the live-fire experience, no. We've got to get that forward and we're committed to doing that.

QCan you give us a sense of what the overall readiness is?

(Cross talk.)

SEC. DANZIG (?): Sorry. (Inaudible) -- in the back. Go ahead.

QYeah, thank you. You all have repeatedly described the live-fire experience at Vieques as unique and irreplaceable. How, then, do you propose to fully train the future forces with inert fire alone? What will be the readiness ratings of battle groups and amphibious groups that leave for deployment having only had the inert experience in Vieques?

ADM. JOHNSON: As you see us right now, working with Eisenhower and Wasp, if you don't have the live-fire, full-spectrum experience, as we say, in Vieques, then what you have to do is this patchwork that I described earlier. Part of it has to do with inert training, which is good; part of it has to do with live training in other places, which is good, not as good as Vieques. All of that pieced together, plus what we've committed to in the forward theater, will take us to a satisfactory level of readiness.

QExcuse me. I'm not getting something here. You have alternately described Vieques as irreplaceable -- I think that was your word -- and then just now you described a replacement for it.

ADM. JOHNSON: I described -- I described the patchwork, the work-around, if you will, for our inability to use Vieques right now. Taking a longer view, there's no reason in the world why we wouldn't want to maintain the standard to which we know we can train at Vieques, and that's our challenge, to work with the people of Vieques to take us back there. But as the secretary described, there are a number of steps, many challenges between now and then, and we want to work very carefully to get there.

SEC. DANZIG: I might emphasize that the other line we also are pursuing at the same time is the development of alternatives over time. And we have commissioned a study from the Center for Naval Analysis to look at what kinds of alternatives might be developed, with a five-year window for achieving them, that would provide that substitution.

Yeah?

QIf you do not get the approval from Puerto Rico to have any more live-fire exercises, does that mean you'll retreat from the entire area of Roosevelt Road, the whole thing? Would it make it then not practical to use that whole Puerto Rican operation for your East Coast Navy?

SEC. DANZIG: Well, I think you used the right word, "practical," which is the question, what as a matter of practicality makes sense in that circumstance. I think if we cannot use Vieques in a vibrantly useful way, that will force us to reassess in general the utility of the basing in Puerto Rico. Roosevelt Roads very substantially functions to serve the Vieques Range, and a significant part of its functions would go away. What the longer-term consequence would be of that, in terms of its continued existence, is something that I don't know. We'd have to assess.

Yes?

QWhen would you be -- imagine making that kind of a decision? In a year? What is your deadline for you in a practical point of view?

SEC. DANZIG: Yeah, I don't have a deadline from that standpoint. I think we'd have to assess that as we went along.

Yeah?

QFor months, Mr. Secretary, the leadership in Puerto Rico has been saying that if the Navy had to come up with an alternative, it could do so, if it really had to. And today, arguably, you validated that claim. Having done that, if you can put together a patchwork this time, and if you're making a commitment to leave in five years if they still want you to leave in five years, then why not just leave now and do with the patchwork for five years?

SEC. DANZIG: Well, it's a good question. And in some respects, if we could, that would be an attractive alternative. It's not, in my judgment, a realistically appropriate route to go down. Let me give you an example of why.

We've talked about Cape Wrath in Scotland. Cape Wrath has 50 percent of its days, in the March time period that we'd use it, such bad weather that in fact, being able to shoot there isn't plausible to be able to do the training there. Therefore, we estimate that it may take us something on the order of three steaming days and four training days in the use of that range to accomplish the training, but it could take longer. And every one of those days that we stay for weather reasons is another day that we're not on station and not available to perform the mission. It's clearly not as good an alternative.

Moreover, Cape Wrath is not available in the summertime to us; it's available in February and March, so it will not be available for other battle groups. Moreover, this battle group is planning to spend time in the Mediterranean because of our force structure rotation arrangements. Not all groups do that. We may not have as much time with future groups.

So the alternatives that work for this particular group may by no means work reliably for future groups And therefore, I think we think of this as a one-time patch that enables us to buy some time to make progress on what we care most about, which is talking, hopefully, in a fruitful way with people in Puerto Rico and arriving at a resolution. And we're taking advantage of this time. But as a long-term solution, it's not a good one.

ADM. QUIGLEY: Just a couple of more questions, please.

QMr. Secretary, I wonder --

SEC. DANZIG: Could I just see if anybody who hasn't asked a question has one?

Yes, ma'am?

QWhat happens to the land on the east end of the island after the five years? And how much will it cost to do the environmental cleanup?

SEC. DANZIG: We don't have precise data on that. We know from equivalent kinds of situations in base restoration elsewhere, when we've closed bases, that estimates are in the many hundreds of millions of dollars. And one of the concerns that hasn't really come to the fore but would need to be dealt with in a longer term is, it is very costly if we were to leave Vieques, either to achieve that environmental restoration or -- and addition to equip another facility elsewhere with the very expensive, more than the environmental restoration cost kinds of levels of support that would be required to transfer to another place. That may be a bill in the billion-dollar range.

Yes?

QWhen exactly the next battle group is going to Puerto Rico? You said spring. Would that mean March, April?

SEC. DANZIG: Well, there are different levels of training that are applicable to the group, and there are various dates in the spring, and we can give you more particularity with regard to that, but I shouldn't just recite them off the top of my head.

QMr. Secretary, I wanted to clarify a point you made. Do you say the Puerto Rican authorities have or have not agreed to the resumption inert -- using of inert bombing in the spring?

SEC. DANZIG: We make no pretension this afternoon -- speaking to the Puerto Rican authorities. We're describing the proposal from the secretary of Defense and the Department of the Navy.

QYou're talking to them. They haven't agreed to that, or they said -- what have they said -- calling your proposal --

SEC. DANZIG: I think we're going to leave them to speak to this.

Yes?

QMany portions of this plan has been reported already by the press, and many protesters in Puerto Rico have opposed to it. So do you think this is -- we are going to be in March or February in the same situation again?

SEC. DANZIG: I think time will help this. I think there's been a lot of focus on the protestors, but for myself, the major focus has been on the mainstream government of Puerto Rico, its elected leaders, and their judgment about what should be done. And I think progress with respect to our relationship with them and the community on Vieques is, for me, the key with respect to this.

QHave they been negotiating with the government of Puerto Rico on this?

SEC. DANZIG: All of us have had a number of discussions over time, going back all the way to the time of the accident, in that respect.

Yes, ma'am?

QYes. Can you tell me -- and also if General Jones could talk about this -- do you expect there's going to be any ripple effects in other places where we have troops or bases overseas? Especially I'm thinking about Okinawa, with the Marines -- and other places. If we can't keep operations going in a U.S. commonwealth, how are our bases overseas in other countries going to be affected?

GEN. JONES: Well, I think the -- that's why this process that has been outlined is so important; that we absolutely have a vital interest in making sure that we repair the relationships that have fallen into a state of disrepair over a long period of time, and that we see if we can't get the people who live on Vieques to feel the same way that most of the communities around our bases and stations here in the United States feel about the training that goes on. I think it's important to set that example, to avoid just that ripple effect elsewhere, not only at home but abroad.

QAre you concerned about ripple effect, especially in Okinawa and --

GEN. JONES: I think it's a legitimate question, and we have to maintain those good relationships as well. We intend to be good neighbors. We try very hard to be good neighbors in terms of our training bases, and we want to apply that same standard to our Puerto Rican experience, as well.

SEC. DANZIG: Is there anybody who hasn't had a chance to ask a question? You might want to ask the last one. Yeah?

QThe CNO and the Commandant, if I could. Given the importance that you've placed on this range and the value of this range and the difficulty in compensating for it, it seems that there's slim likelihood of Puerto Rico changing their position and allowing the Navy back in. Do you feel that you've been sold out by the administration? (Scattered laughter.)

ADM. JOHNSON: We are committed -- we are committed -- to rolling up our sleeves and working with the good people of Vieques to ensure that we can continue to use that range. That is the most important part of this. Vieques is important to the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps. It's the crown jewel training experience for us. We don't want to lose it, and we're willing to work to keep it.

SEC. DANZIG: General Jones, you've got the last word on this.

QDo you have the kind of support you were looking for from the administration?

SEC. DANZIG: You can hear General Jones on this point.

GEN. JONES: I would echo the words of the CNO. And no, I don't feel in any way whatsoever that we've been let down. As a matter of fact, I'm heartened by the fact that we've had great dialogue and we've arrived at what we think is a very workable and reasonable proposal that will restore the relationship, and we're optimistic that we can do that. And neither the CNO or myself would jeopardize or in any way denigrate the absolute requirement to make sure that our sailors and Marines deploy, if need be, in harm's way, but as ready as we can possibly make them.

QBut does it make things considerably more difficult as a result of this decision?

GEN. JONES: It's been made more difficult, but it's not unachievable.

QHow much did the events in Seattle influence you in terms of not pressing on this right now?

SEC. DANZIG: Not at all.

ADM. QUIGLEY: Ladies and gentlemen, again, we will have copies of Secretary Cohen's recommendation to the president as well as Secretary Danzig's opening statement, in the back of the room.

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