United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


DoD News Briefing: Tuesday, December 14, 1999

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
December 14, 1999

MR. BACON: First of all, I'd like to announce that tomorrow Secretary Cohen will visit Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. He'll speak to the base personnel there, as well as some community leaders, along with Senator Joe Biden and Senator Roth.

He will, among other things, be looking at a C-5 repair and upgrade facility there and inspect those facilities. He'll have a press conference and give an address as well at lunch, and be back in the mid-afternoon.

Second, on Thursday, at 10:00 a.m. here, Dr. Hamre will give a briefing on the Pentagon's -- the department's efforts, actually, to deal with the Y2K rollover issue. He'll bring you up to date with the final scorecard of the systems fixed, the preparations we've made for the December 31st issue, and he'll be able to answer your questions on the extent of our preparations.

And also I will call you to your attention a news release we've put out listing some of the events and coverage opportunities that will be available on December 31st, as we move into the year 2000. These go beyond what you know about at Cheyenne Mountain.

Finally, I'd like to welcome my -- I guess he's my French counterpart, Brigadier General Alain Raevel, who is the chief of service for information, recruitment, and promotion for the French Army. So he has many more responsibilities than I have, and welcome to our briefing.

With that, I'll take your questions. Charlie?

QKen, has the secretary or this building any reaction to Vice President Gore's comments that if he's elected -- and, in fact, Senator Bradley's, too -- comments that if either of them is elected, they will scrap the "don't ask, don't tell" policy as being discriminatory against gays, and all treatment of gays differently from other people?

MR. BACON: Well, they have all appropriately pointed out that this is a policy that was adopted by Congress, and the place to change the policy is in Congress. And, of course, Vice President Gore and Senator Bradley were in Congress when the policy was passed and they understand what will be required to change the policy.

QBut aside from that, have you any comment?

MR. BACON: No.

QI mean, your comment before when the first lady mentioned it was that she was a private citizen, she had a perfect right to say what she wanted. These are not private citizens; these people are running for president.

MR. BACON: Well, Senator Bradley is a private citizen who happens to be running for president. And as I said, political candidates have a right to say what they want about military policies, and many of them do. This happens to be a law that they're commenting on, and they understand, and we all understand, that to make a fundamental change in the policy requires a change in the law.

Yes, Tammy?

QKen, does the military have concern -- or the department have concern that even if in some cases the letter of the law is being carried out, the spirit doesn't seem to be? There have been some e-mails, recently made public, which make derogatory comments about homosexuals within the e-mail that's actually going out to say, "Hey, guys, you've got to protect people." I mean, it's incongruous. What's going on?

MR. BACON: The answer is yes, we do have that concern. That's one of the reasons Secretary Cohen yesterday asked the inspector general to make spot assessments of the climate vis-a-vis the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, vis-a-vis gays in the military, to find out if there is a climate that's hostile to them, and if so, whether the commanders know about, and if they do know about it, why they're not doing something about it. So these are the types of issues that will be sorted out in the next 90 days as the IG carries out that spot review.

Now, on that topic, the IG got this tasking yesterday; has begun to hold meetings to organize for the review. I don't anticipate that any visits to installations will start until January. But the IG will spend the time between now and January organizing a team, figuring out where to go, and drawing up lists of questions, and also focusing on an approach to use to get the most reliable information possible in a short period of time.

QCan you explain why it is taking so long for the services to provide guidance to the Defense Department as to how they are going to strengthen protections for people in the ranks on some of these issues?

MR. BACON: Well, you know, we are dealing with sort of a layered approach here. The current regulations require services to provide training on the fundamentals of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. And that's done in basic training by all the services.

In August, when Undersecretary de Leon reissued the so-called Dorn memorandum, he asked that the gist of that memorandum be incorporated into training.

Now, the Dorn memorandum was first issued by then-undersecretary Dorn in 1997. And that memorandum made it clear that if a soldier, sailor, airman and Marine brings forward a complaint of harassment of gays or threats against gays, that, one, the complaint should be taken seriously; and two, that the soldier who brought forth the complaint, should not be targeted or investigated as somebody who may be gay, but that the action of the commander should be directed at the person who was making the threat or conducting the harassment.

When Rudy de Leon, currently undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness, reissued the Dorn memo in August, he strengthened that memo to say more about the proscription against harassment and the obligation of commanders to deal with harassment when it came to their attention. And at the very bottom of that memo, it said that this aspect should be incorporated into training by all the services.

The services have done basically two things since that memo came out:

First of all, the service -- the Navy, I know, and the Air Force, and I am still checking on the Army, but I know the Navy and the Air Force, basically took Undersecretary de Leon's memo and sent it out to commanders or to JAG officers, judge advocate general officers, in their service, to make sure that they were aware of the DeLeon memorandum.

Second, they have all drafted training guidance to incorporate the anti-harassment aspects of the de Leon memo into the training they give in basic training, as well as annual refresher training that they're supposed to give. Those of -- you know, the services have not taken a uniform approach, and some services have been more aggressive in designing training against harassment than other services have. So right now -- in fact, today and yesterday -- Secretary de Leon and his office are going through this guidance to figure out how to come up with the best possible package from each service and to make sure that all of the -- each service is taking appropriate action. I anticipate that they'll be finished with this relatively soon, possibly this week, and that we can issue -- that each service will issue the guidance. But I can't -- I mean, I hope it'll happen this week. It could be early next week.

QMy understanding is that the guidance has been sitting up there for several months. Is that correct?

MR. BACON: I think that the guidance has come in in various versions. The review process generally takes much longer than people would like, and I know that some of the guidance has been there since sometime in November. But I don't know when every piece of proposed guidance came in.

Bill?

QKen, a couple of years ago the Marine Corps had an incident -- it was something called blood pinning, and it was exposed, and there was great outrage. And within a matter of, I think, a few hours, the commandant of the Marine Corps and the SECDEF stood up and said, "This isn't going to be tolerated. It's got to end right now." In no uncertain terms everybody was told, "Stop it."

Why hasn't that happened in the case of harassment of gays in the military?

MR. BACON: Well, I think the secretary's been very explicit on what his policy is. And I think he was explicit in August, and I think he was explicit before that. I think when he first ordered the review of implementation of "don't ask, don't tell" in the spring of 1997, he was clear that there's no room for harassment in the military. And this applies to harassment based on race, harassment based on sex, and harassment based on sexual orientation.

I think that this is a message that commanders should have gotten. But in the end, I think there were not the -- generally the tell-tale signs left by words that are left by blood pinning. And Ithink it should be clear to everybody that this -- that harassment of people based on sexual orientation is unacceptable. The secretary has certainly been very clear about that.

QKen, I was a little confused on what you said earlier. You said some of the services have been more aggressive, I believe you said aggressive --

MR. BACON: In other words, they have not come up with the same plans.

QAll right. Is Rudy's office going to approve different plans for different services, or is he coming up for a plan for everybody to use across the board?

MR. BACON: I think there will be different plans for different services, but he may not accept the plans as proposed. In other words, he may go back and ask for some of the plans to be toughened up.

QSo the Pentagon may approve different plans for different services?

MR. BACON: I would not anticipate that there will be one set of guidance for each service. The services have written the guidance, and now the guidance is being reviewed by the General Counsel's Office as well as by Mr. de Leon's office, and when that review is complete and he's satisfied that the guidance does what he asked them to do, it will be released.

QWell, in what sense might they be different? I mean --

MR. BACON: Well, Charlie, let's just wait. I mean --

Q-- he certainly isn't going to approve a less aggressive approach by one service than he will by another.

MR. BACON: I think that there could be differences in the -- I think we'll just have to wait and see. But they have different language, they have different ways of implementing the de Leon policy.

Yeah?

QTerrorism.

QActually, still on this subject.

QSorry. Go ahead.

QWhat has happened to the training that was supposed to be taking place out at bases regarding this policy? And if any of that is going on, is that going to be held up or affected at all by this 90-day assessment of how the policy is being implemented?

MR. BACON: No. There is training that's part of basic training that has been going on when basic training goes on, and that shouldn't be held up in any way by the 90-day review by the IG.

QAnd that's taking place now in all the services?

MR. BACON: Yeah, it's supposed to be taking place. I mean, I haven't sat through it, so I can't attest to it personally.

QWhen did that start?

MR. BACON: It's been going on for some time. There was a regulation passed under the UCMJ, I think in 1994, that required this training to take place, to explain the "don't ask, don't tell policy."

QWas there also some additional training --

MR. BACON: What's different -- let me just tell you, what's different is there has been a growing focus, particularly over the last two years, on preventing harassment. I think in the early stages the training was more based on explaining what the policy was and what it allowed and what it didn't allow. There has been, over the last couple of years, more emphasis on preventing threats and preventing harassment, and making it clear that, just as racial harassment is inappropriate, harassment based on sexual orientation is inappropriate.

One of the reasons that the Fort Campbell case is so disturbing is that, while there was drunkenness involved, there was also, from what we can tell based on the testimony, baiting of homosexuals involved. So that contradicts our policy.

QWhy not have one universal policy? What's the rationale for having different policies? It's the same problem.

MR. BACON: You know, what we are talking about is implementing -- we are talking about implementing a directive that was put out on August 12th by the undersecretary of Defense in which he said, "Please make sure that the gist of this directive is conveyed to people in training." So he asked the services to write curricula or syllabuses, or guidance, that would tell everybody in the chain of command how to implement and get this word across. He didn't prescribe one set of DOD-wide rules.

So the services have all come up with these different plans. And I haven't read the plans. They have been -- they are around in draft form since some time in November, and they have been reviewed by Mr. de Leon's office and by the General Counsel's Office. So they are in the process of -- I don't imagine they are going to be that different. They all are designed to do the same thing.

Dan?

QHad the "don't ask, don't tell" policy worked perfectly, can you sort of speculate on any difference that would have made in the Fort Campbell case?

MR. BACON: I don't think it's wise for me to talk about the Fort Campbell case with any degree of specificity because there is still legal proceeding pending.

As you know, the last trial, which involves Specialist Fisher, has been delayed until after Christmas or after the holidays. So it will take place some time in January. And I just don't think it's appropriate for me to comment on anything that's pending legal proceeding.

Yeah, Jamie?

QIs this issue part of what goes on at DEOMI? Is it on the agenda for DEOMI?

MR. BACON: It's a good question; I mean, I think DEOMI deals primarily with race. But one of the things that I'll find out is whether they have a "don't ask, don't tell" segment in the curriculum there.

QBut is it important to know about somebody's private life, what they do really in the military? Or are they compared with the other departments or all of the U.S.?

MR. BACON: Well, we have a law that was passed by Congress -- and it was passed in 1993 and implemented in February of 1994 -- that is very, very clear about the policy. And I am not aware that -- a similar law has been enacted for the Interior Department or other branches of government, but it has been enacted to apply to the military.

QI mean, why only for the military?

MR. BACON: Well, it's a long story.

QIt's pretty clear.

MR. BACON: But basically, Congress chose to do that. It was the decision of Congress to do it.

Yes?

QTerrorism. Our friends over at the State Department have issued a warning, a global warning, to people -- pardon?

QI am sorry. And I'm just curious, is the Defense Department also concerned, and have you issued your own set of warnings and alerts, et cetera?

MR. BACON: First of all, we are always concerned about terrorism. Secondly, of course, the warning applies to all United States citizens, whether in the military or not. Third, as you know, every commander at home and abroad is always evaluating intelligence information and other evidence about potential threats and taking appropriate action. There has been no universal order sent out to all military installations, but I think commanders are well-schooled in the mechanics of force protection and the need to be very aggressive in making sure that the force protection posture is appropriate to the threat.

QAre you sure there has been no --

MR. BACON: As far as I know.

(To staff.) Will you double-check that?

My understanding is there has not been a universal military order.

QSomething from CENTCOM and EUCOM, perhaps?

QWas there anything from CENTCOM --

MR. BACON: Well, that -- I was talking about something that went to all forces. I mean, the --

I think it's very clear from the State Department message that we have been devoting a lot of assets, governmental assets to surveying potential threats to American citizens, both civilian and military, that could occur, threats of actions that could occur around the change of year from 1999 to 2000. The State Department message dealt specifically with the possibility of terrorist action against U.S. civilians gathered in millennial celebrations outside the U.S. The military is very aware of all of the information that the State Department has and other information. And I think we will be -- one, our forces will be very careful, and two, they will be very well postured in every conceivable way to deal with any threats that occur around the change of the year.

QDoes this information cause the Pentagon or the European or Central Command to heighten anything related to their state of alert?

MR. BACON: Well, you fellows seem to be aware of guidance that I'm not aware of. So, I've asked Captain Taylor to find this out. All I can tell you is that force protection is really a top responsibility of every commander. And we have a lot of intelligence focusing on events that could occur around the turn of the year, and I think commanders are very determined to be aggressive in force protection.

QWell, I guess the issue is, there's been a quite specific warning from the State Department on certain things. And one of the things I'm trying to figure out is, has -- as a result of what the State Department is warning people about, has that caused the military to change its posture in any fashion as we go into this millennial period, as you put it?

MR. BACON: Without being specific, let me tell you that the military is taking a number of appropriate actions. And we are aware of the same information that the State Department's aware of, and we are responding appropriately. We do not discuss specifics of force protection --

QI understand.

MR. BACON: -- and we don't discuss the specifics of steps that we take in response to possible threats like this.

QKen, yesterday --

QKen, the State Department --

QExcuse me, may I? Yesterday Ambassador Sheehan warned the Taliban that they would be held responsible if Osama bin Laden should carry out any terrorist acts against Americans, and warned the Taliban that they themselves would suffer serious consequences as a result of such terrorist actions. Did that warning include the possibility of any military strikes against the Taliban itself?

MR. BACON: You should have asked Ambassador Sheehan.

QIs the Pentagon involved in any planning? Have they talked to -- have the State Department discussed this issue with the Pentagon, about the possibility of carrying out military retaliation in the event -- against the Taliban in the event of any terrorist acts by Osama bin Laden?

MR. BACON: It is not only not my job to announce potential military actions; it is my job specifically to avoid commenting on military contingencies, unless directed to do so. And I just have nothing to say in response to that.

We've demonstrated our ability many times in the past, and I think the government has made it very clear that it's serious in its dealings with the Taliban. And also it's very seriously devoted to stopping threats from -- terrorist threats from Osama bin Laden or from other terrorist organizations. I don't think I should say anything more.

Yes?

QAnother topic? Okay. Thanks.

Panama and Colombia have suffered a major defeat at the hands of the FARC. The FARC has come to the border and stolen -- taken the weapons of the Panamanian navy. General Wilhelm said -- warned the Panamanian defense forces earlier this year that they would not be able to stop rebel incursions into Panama once the U.S. forces had pulled out the Panama Canal area. So could you comment on that particular escalation in Colombia?

MR. BACON: I say it's the Panamanians' job to protect their own territory.

QAnd should they be prepared to defend their border with Colombia?

MR. BACON: Well, every country has to decide what its national interests are, and how best to defend its national territory. And that's a question that the Panamanians will have to answer for themselves.

QIs this an ominous event militarily?

MR. BACON: This is, I think, a drug-related event more than anything else. And we have known for a long while that the drug forces and guerrilla forces which are supported by narco money in Colombia are a threat to not only Colombian stability but stability in the broader area; that most countries that border on Colombia have been poisoned in some way by the narco trafficking or by the forces supported by narco trafficking.

So this is not a new problem, but it is a problem that Colombia will -- or that Panama and Colombia will have to decide how to deal with.

QThank you.

QA question on Israel. Has the United States offered Israel any intelligence capabilities or intelligence-sharing to compensate for a loss of its listening posts in the Golan Heights, if it were to withdraw?

MR. BACON: No, we're right in the middle of very complicated and, I think, promising diplomatic efforts now involving Syria and Israel, and it's not appropriate for me to talk about any aspect of that. This is a State Department issue and White House issue, and they're the people who should comment on it.

Thank you.

THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS PREPARED BY THE FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., WASHINGTON, DC. FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE IS A PRIVATE COMPANY. FOR OTHER DEFENSE RELATED TRANSCRIPTS NOT AVAILABLE THROUGH THIS SITE, CONTACT FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE AT (202) 347-1400.

Additional Links

Stay Connected