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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD(PA)

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD(PA)
January 23, 1997 1:30 PM EDT
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to the briefing.

I'd like to begin with an announcement that Secretary Perry will give his final speech as Secretary of Defense tonight before the Atlantic Council on NATO security issues. That will be at 6 o'clock, 1800, at the Army/Navy Club. That's open to the press.

Q: Are you going to pipe it back?

A: I will inquire to see if we're going to pipe it back. I don't see why we couldn't. We'd be glad to pipe it back.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: Secretary Cohen is going to be sworn in tomorrow at the White House. When's he going to give his first press conference?

A: We haven't quite gotten that far yet. His initial contact with the press will be with the press that reaches the military directly, and he'll talk to a small group of reporters tonight from Stars and Stripes and the Army service publications, and the American Forces Press Service. Tomorrow morning he'll do a pre-Super Bowl interview with Armed Forces Radio and Television in order to broadcast the message that will be included before the Super Bowl in the pre-game show on Sunday. That's what we've planned so far, but there will be other plans forthcoming relatively soon.

Q: This pre-game show on Sunday, that's for Armed Forces Television, that's not the national...

A: It's for the show that is carried to our troops serving overseas. Some sailors get it at sea if they're on aircraft carriers, but the troops in Bosnia can watch it in real time, the troops in Korea can watch it in real time. Actually, the Secretary and Shali did Super Bowl remarks last year as well.

Q: Just to clarify, what time is the swearing in?

A: You'll have to check with the White House on that. They were still working on the timing.

Q: Do you know who's going to be administering the oath?

A: I'm afraid that all those questions will have to go to the White House.

Q: Will there be a text of the Armed Forces press services interview available?

A: It won't be available until it runs in the publications. As you know, we have a rule that we honor with you and with everybody who, for instance, travels with the Secretary, that after it's used by the publications who were involved in the interview, it will be publicly available.

Q: Do you know when that will be, when they plan on running it?

A: The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Times come out on Monday, so I assume it will be Monday, but it could be Sunday.

Q: So you're giving it to the Army Times... That's a private publication.

A: Right, we are doing that, yes.

Q: Has the Secretary asked you and the other members of the senior staff to stay on?

A: I have not talked to the Secretary about my personal plans yet, and I'm not aware that he's talked broadly with other people here yet. I think he's waiting to become Secretary before he has those conversations. That should be some time tomorrow morning.

Q: Can you say what the Secretary Perry's been doing today, his last day in office?

A: He came down here this morning and had breakfast with the public affairs staff, about 30 people. As I said, he's giving a speech tonight, so he's been working on that speech. He taped a public service announcement for a Math Education Association. As you know, he has a PhD in Mathematics. He also taped a video for the 50th Anniversary of the Marshall Plan as part of a Marshall legacy project on which he's been working. He's doing some work in his office, packing up this afternoon and some ceremonial events as well.

Q: When does he plan to leave for California?

A: I don't know the exact date. It will be soon, but not immediately. Probably within several days to a week.

Q: Has he sold his house yet?

A: I don't know.

Q: Will he attend the swearing in at the White House?

A: It's my understanding that he will, but I don't know the final details of that. My expectation is that he will, yes.

Q: Can you tell us if Senator Cohen will speak today and if so...

A: Senator Cohen has been out of the building attending the Paul Tsongas funeral. He was asked to do that yesterday, to represent the White House, and he did. So he's led a delegation of current and former Senate members up to Massachusetts. He'll be back in the building late this afternoon.

Q: But he has not taken a private oath of office at all.

A: He has not, no. His oath of office will be tomorrow.

Q: The New York Times today had a story saying that the United States is offering the AMRAAM air-to-air missile for sale to Thailand and the UAE. Is that the case? And is there a change in policy there? And if there is, can you explain what the rationale is?

A: Certainly these countries have expressed interest in the AMRAAM. We have been discussing possible arms sales and a variety of issues with them. Our rule is that we don't want to be the first country to introduce a new category of weapons into an area, and to our knowledge, no one has yet introduced missiles of this capability into Southeast Asia, into the area around Thailand. In all cases like this, we review the sales on a case- by-case basis, looking at a variety of political, strategic, and national security interests.

Q: So are AMRAAMs being offered as part of the package of combat aircraft?

A: That's all I want to say right now. We will decide this on its own merits when we get around to deciding it.

Q: But you pointedly said that the policy is not to introduce this type of weapon into an area...

A: And we don't believe this has been introduced... We do not believe such weapons have been introduced into Southeast Asia.

Q: So what you're saying is that if such weapons have not been and are not introduced, you will not sell them there, is that correct?

A: Our goal is not to promote or fuel arms races around the world.

Q: Has anything changed, as best you know, from the status that existed when the MOA was signed on the F-18 sales to Thailand and the AMRAAM? That was exactly that. Potentially you could get it, but not part of this initial deal. Just the Sparrow.

A: I'm not aware that there's been a change, but I'm not an expert on that MOA so I should probably go back and review it before commenting on it.

Q: Conversely, if that type of weapon were introduced into the area, then the United States would feel free to sell those?

A: I think I'd just like to stick with our policy, which is that we want to be restrained in our sales so that we don't fuel arms races, and our policy is not to be the first to introduce new capabilities into an area.

Q: Any reaction to the New York judge ruling on keeping magazines on the shelf that could be seen by others to be vulgar or pornographic?

A: Well, as you know, Congress passed a law that prohibited the sale of certain types of magazines in military exchanges, and we introduced regulations to implement that law as required by the law. The Court held that these were unconstitutional. The law was referred to as the Military Honor and Decency Act, and it prohibited the sale or rental of sexually explicit material on DoD property. We are currently reviewing that decision and the Solicitor General is reviewing the decision to decide whether to appeal it or not. That review isn't complete yet and won't be complete for awhile.

Q: What about those missing logs on the Gulf War Illness issue? Have any of those logs been discovered?

A: Which logs are you referring to? The logs that came out last fall?

Q: Correct.

A: No, we are still searching for those logs. The Army is the executive agent on logs and is doing a very extensive search and I don't believe we have found any of those yet. I would like to point out, though, that there's a considerable amount of information in the logs that have been made available to you and others and are on the Internet. These logs both record reported detections, and also record in many cases that the detections turned out to be false detections or unverified detections. So there's a fair amount of information out there already, but we have not found the logs that would fill in certain gaps, and those gaps aren't only in March of 1991, they're gaps that are also in 1990 and earlier in 1991 than March.

Q: Speaking of the Middle East, according to published reports, the FBI and the FBI Director are frustrated about the lack of cooperation from the Saudi Government, trying to find those responsible for the Dhahran truck bombing. Has the Secretary tried to use any leverage as far as arms sales or anything else on the Saudis to get them to be more cooperative? Or has he tried to do any jawboning or arm twisting? What is his position now on what's going on?

A: His position is that this is primarily an issue between the Justice Department and the Saudis because Director Freeh of the FBI has been handling the negotiations. The Attorney General, Janet Reno, made a comment today that was similar to the remarks quoted in the newspaper today by Director Freeh.

We have made it very clear at a number of levels that we consider this an important investigation. We consider cooperation to be very important. We need to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible. I think the Saudis understand our views. I think they've been expressed very clearly by the Director of the FBI.

Q: What makes you think the Saudis understand your views if they're not cooperating the way you would like them to?

A: I believe that the Saudis know exactly what our feelings are in this because they've been expressed very clearly by the Director of the FBI.

Q: In the past, Secretary Perry has said that if the United States came to its own conclusion that an outside country was somehow involved or responsible for this attack, the U.S. would take strong action. Will that policy continue under the Cohen tenure here at the Pentagon?

A: It's the President who said that first, and because it's the President's policy, yes, it will continue. But I don't want anybody to leap to a conclusion right now. This is still very much under investigation in Saudi Arabia and in the United States, and it would be premature for me to signal anything at this stage.

Q: Can you confirm that the Saudis have indicated that it's at least their belief that Iran is implicated in this?

A: I don't want to comment on the investigation. One of the points of the article today and of Attorney General Reno's remarks is that we are still working to complete this investigation, as are the Saudis. I think it would be premature to comment on any aspect of it until it's complete.

Q: Go back to the AMRAAM issue. Can you say the Thais have asked for the missile. Has there been a response given by the United States, or is the issue being left open for later consideration? In terms of the policy that the United States does not want to be the nation to introduce those weapons.

A: As I said, it's not our intention of introducing these weapons into the area, and I think I just would like to leave it at that right now. We clearly discuss arms sales with countries. Sometimes these discussions last over a long period of time. Our policy is not to fuel arms races by introducing new weapons into areas of the world where that capability doesn't currently exist.

Q: That's where I was trying to get. There has not been a rejection given to them.

A: We consider all these things on a case-by-case basis. As I said, frequently, these discussions continue over a long period of time.

Q: Paul Kaminski recently expressed some worries about consolidation and mergers in the defense industry -- [that] we might be shrinking too much the base for weaponry for the Pentagon. I wonder if there's any worry about that in general, and is that going to be part of the QDR to perhaps more closely watch these mergers. That there's not some...

A: My understanding is that Under Secretary Kaminski's remarks were limited to quite a narrow subset of the defense industry, and it dealt with certain types of parts. And that he is watching very closely our ability to acquire parts, particularly for older weapons. These would be replacement parts for older weapons. There are a number of approaches to dealing with a problem if one develops, and I'm not sure that we see a great problem at this time. It's just something that we're watching.

One would be the stockpiled parts of certain types. If you're dealing with older weapons, presumably the need for these parts is somewhat predictable and it would be possible to figure out what sort of an inventory you might need to keep on hand to supply weapons that were aging or being phased out over time. That would be one possibility that could arise.

In general, as you know, we review mergers for their impact or potential impact on the defense industrial base, and we send our analysis to the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission, whichever is evaluating the merger from an anti-trust standpoint. We have not found a lot to worry about in the mergers so far. There have been, sometimes, small corners of a corporation that involve a particular product that might bother us, and we have expressed those concerns when that's the case. But, in general, our view is that these mergers have led to a reduction of overhead, an increase in efficiency, and a decrease in cost to the government.

Q: Specifically on McDonnell Douglas/Boeing. Is a decision made yet? When will a decision be made?

A: That decision hasn't been made yet. That review is still going on. I think I reported about two weeks ago that they had come to the building, I guess it was in early January, to meet with our officials for the first time. So it will take some time to conclude that. I don't know how long, but that is under active analysis now in the building.

Q: Is there any concern now within the building that you know of about that merger?

A: I'm not aware that there is, but I must say I have not been following this. I think it would be premature in the early stages of the analysis to express any concern about it.

Q: I assume that this is so important to the Department. that all this is part of the QDR, and this will be looked into...

A: Certainly the ability of the nation to sustain the forces the military thinks necessary is an important issue. How explicitly this will be addressed... I don't have at the top of my head right now the six areas of the QDR. I can't tell you if, specifically, industrial base is one, but I can certainly find that out.

Q: I wanted to ask you a little bit about security at the Pentagon building, given that we learned this week that at the CIA a vehicle was able to breech the security there and make it inside. That prompted at the CIA a review, and, presumably, some changes in the procedures will be done there. Has that prompted any similar look at the adequacy of the security here at the Pentagon? Particularly in regard to keeping, thwarting a truck bomb type attack?

A: Security is something that's always under review, and as I've said before from this stand, there's no absolute level of security. Security can always be improved. Having said that, we believe that the security at the Pentagon is quite tight. We think that our security measures are certainly good, but as I say, they're always under review. And every time there's an incident here or some place else, it's cause for reviewing our security procedures.

Q: The reason I ask, to the untrained eye, to the layman, it would seem, without detailing them, that there are some areas in which it would not be that difficult to drive a large truck past the security procedures that are in effect and get quite close to the Pentagon. Is there something I'm missing here?

A: I think you have never encountered the gates that pop up out of the driveways, the barriers. I've actually seen one go up by mistake and hang up the Secretary's armored car about two years ago, and these gates operate quickly and with the desired effect. So if you've noticed every time, through every entranceway that's close to the Pentagon, the ones where you have to insert the key cards into the gates, they do have these barriers that can shoot up from the ground. They're there specifically to intercept the type of culprit you're talking about.

Q: Are those only routinely employed when there's time of a heightened threat or concern?

A: I don't want to discuss the specific security procedures, but they can be activated very quickly.

Q: At least one of the gates where these things can pop up that you mentioned, you can also clearly see where you could drive around them on the grass. I wonder if these kinds of things are being looked at and being addressed.

A: As I said, our security procedures are under constant review, and maybe I should hook you up with our Defense Protective Force people to make sure that you and they are looking at this from the same perspective.

Q: Like I said, there may be something I'm missing.

A: Yes.

Q: Speaking of the Defense Protective Forces, have they chosen that outside organization to study the incident?

A: Yes, the FBI is going to study that incident. I believe it's already started its study.

Q: With the Secretary sworn in tomorrow, other than the issuance of a grand press release is there anything, because he is now part of the national command authority, is there anything the Joint Staff does or the Office of the Secretary of Defense does in notifying other countries or other CINCs about the official change that goes out, message traffic...

A: Yeah. Messages are transmitted out, and that will happen tomorrow as a matter of course. After he's sworn in as Secretary he'll return to the building and have an intelligence briefing. He'll meet with the Chairman, meet with the Deputy Secretary. He'll get a budget briefing from the Comptroller, John Hamre. Messages will be transmitted to troops and commanders taking care of the change in the command authority, change in the chain of command, etc., and he will review and sign any deployment orders that are pending after that change in the command authority goes out. So there will be official actions taken, yes.

Q: Can we get a copy of those, of some of the routine messages that would go out, officially saying that he is the new Secretary?

A: I will check and see if we can do that. I don't know what the protocol is on that. I don't see why we couldn't, but there may be something that I'm missing.

Q: All these things you listed, they're for tomorrow...

A: They're tomorrow after he becomes the Secretary of Defense.

Q: Can you tell us to what extent the United States is studying a further round of a reduction of nuclear weapons between the United States and Russia? Why the START II Treaty is still in limbo in the Russian Duma?

A: Let me talk about that. First of all, our policy on START II has always been that the Russian Duma must ratify START II before we can go forward to a new level of arms reductions. That policy has not changed.

We have also made it clear for some time that we are willing to move quickly to negotiate or begin negotiations of the START III agreement after START II is ratified. As you know, the Senate's already ratified START II but it hasn't been ratified yet by the Duma. That would, presumably, lead to a fairly significant further reduction in arms levels. As you know, the START I agreement caps strategic nuclear weapons at 6,000 countable warheads. START II moves down to 3,000 to 3,500. So a significant reduction beyond that would be anticipated in the START III agreement.

Since Secretary Perry, and I believe President Clinton and President Yeltsin have talked about the possibility of moving toward a START III agreement after START II is ratified, the Pentagon has been looking at what further force reductions would be possible, would be acceptable. This is part of an ongoing, it's one of the many reviews we do around here all the time. And this will be part of the QDR. There are panels in the QDR on strategy and force structure, so it would straddle those two, certainly. There are also panels on modernization and infrastructure, readiness and human resources. To answer the question you asked me earlier, I don't see one specifically on industrial base and mergers, but it could occur as part of the modernization or part of the infrastructure panel.

Q: Is the aim here regarding the nuclear arms reduction to create some sort of a framework of what the future reductions would be so that the Russians can more clearly see what would happen after the ratification to provide an incentive for the Duma to ratify START II?

A: We think that START II Is sufficient incentive alone for the Duma to ratify it. We think it's a good agreement. It's an agreement that's been signed by the Russian government, and we think they should ratify it quickly so we can move forward to the next round which would be START III. But the point here is that ratification of START II is a necessary precondition before we move forward to START III.

Q: When Secretary Perry attempted to make that case to the Duma in October, he met quite a bit of opposition and suspicion so it would seem that there might be a need for some extra incentive or assurances.

A: I think we've made it very clear to the Russians on a number of occasions and at a number of levels that START II is the step that has to be taken to get to START III negotiations. Our position on that hasn't changed. We've also discussed with Russian officials at a number of levels the desirability of moving below the levels set in START II. They have discussed that with us.

For instance, when the Russian Defense Minister, Igor Rodianov, met Secretary Perry for the first time in Norway last fall, he mentioned that he felt that levels of nuclear weapons were too high and that there was room for reduction. We share that. We believe there is room for mutually agreed-upon further reductions in strategic nuclear arsenals, but the key to doing that is Russian ratification of START II.

Q: Things happen on a number of fronts. Strobe Talbot was in Moscow today talking with Rodianov. There are reports from Brussels the United States is prepared to cut, to offer Russia cuts in its long range naval nuclear warheads. And putting aside for a minute the idea that START II is needed in order for formal negotiations to start up, how about unofficial talks? And these talks that you're talking about, that you've mentioned between various levels of Russian and U.S. officials, have numbers been mentioned on where these cuts might go down to on START II?

A: I'm not aware that we have gotten to that degree of specificity at all, because our policy is very clear, that they have to ratify START II before we can move forward on START III. Clearly given the magnitude of arms reductions under the START I and START II agreements, you could expect significant further reductions under START III. I think everybody would like to find strategic stability at lower levels of armaments. Certainly the Russians have said that and we've said it as well. What we are doing now internally is looking at what possibilities might exist for us.

Q: Why just internally? The Russians are worried, but under START II it would cut their most modern missiles, the big missiles, and that in fact under START III... I mean without START III, they would have to build more missiles. ...concrete assurances that they won't have to do that in order to get START II passed.

A: I understand what the Russian position is, and our position is that if the ratify START II we can move very quickly into START III negotiations. We've made that very clear to the Russians. They know what our position is. So far it hasn't, that alone hasn't been enough to convince them to ratify START II, but we're hopeful that they will ratify START II because it makes sense to reduce tensions and risk through arms negotiations.

Q: But if they feel that START II is going to leave them at a disadvantage, why should they go ahead and approve START II and then negotiate on START III?

A: They signed the START II agreement. We assume they signed it because they felt it enhanced their security rather than diminished it. That's why we signed it.

Q: Yesterday in the confirmation hearings, William Cohen appeared to guarantee that U.S. troops would be out of Bosnia in June of 1998. He seemed to say 'we're not going to be there,' and he said that was an important signal to send to European allies. Can we now etch that in stone that there will be no U.S. combat troops in Bosnia after June of 1998?

A: Our policy announcement, our goal is to have the troops out of Bosnia in 18 months from the beginning of the SFOR mission, and we're confident that we can complete that mission in 18 months.

Q: Cohen didn't seem to indicate it was a goal. He seemed to indicate in pretty clear language on a couple of occasions that the United States would be out.

A: He feels very strongly that the United States should be out and it is certainly the goal of this Administration to be out in 18 months.

Q: He at one point, I believe, used the word that ground troops or SFOR, but does that also refer to any kind of logistics assistance or air cover?

A: We're talking about ground troops. I think 18 months from the beginning of SFOR is 17 months from now, and we will stick with our goal of getting the troops out of Bosnia -- U.S. troops out of Bosnia -- in 18 months.

Q: Also on the subject of Senator, soon to be Secretary Cohen, do you anticipate he will make an appearance in this room any time soon...

A: I was asked about that. That's where we began the discussion. As I said, those details haven't been worked out yet but when they are you will know about it. Certainly he will be here to give a budget press conference in early February, February 6th.

Q: Do you know if he has any plans for the weekend as the new Secretary? Any message to go out to the troops or anything like that?

A: As I said, he is doing the Armed Forces Radio and Television broadcast for the Super Bowl show and he may also do one of the Sunday programs.

Q: Do you have any readout on the failed missile test from Kwajalein, when the next test might be scheduled, and if there is any estimate of the loss in terms of time, the program, how far it puts the system back, but also in terms of money since the target missile did take off from Vandenberg, and basically the whole effort seemed to be pretty useless.

A: There have been two efforts to test what we call an exo- atmospheric kill vehicle out of Kwajalein. This basically is a package of sensors that's designed to discriminate between warheads and dummies or decoys. We had hoped to do one on January 13th, and that didn't work because of a malfunction of the global positioning system on the rocket; and another test was scheduled for January 16th, and that failed to launch. Although, as you point out, the target rocket did launch from the United States, but the one that was launching the sensors was unable to launch.

First of all, they're studying the problem and deciding what to do next. The only rocket that fired was the one from Vandenberg that carried the targets and the decoys, and that cost about $7.5 million, so that's the cost so far.

Q: They haven't given a date of when they expect to try again?

A: They're hoping to try it again in May. That's when the next sensor test is scheduled for.

Press: Thank you.