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

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD(PA)
January 09, 1997 1:20 PM EDT
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. I expected you to all be dressed like lumberjacks today given the weather. I'm glad to see you're all in normal clothes.

I'd like to start out by welcoming a group of six visitors from Germany who are here to study U.S. security issues. They're journalists, some state legislators and a scholar who are here as part of a USIA international program. Welcome to our briefing.

Second, I would like to take a minute to talk about one important member of my staff and a friend, Mark Brzozowski, who as you probably know is leaving as Director of Plans to go to the Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe. This is his last week here and the last briefing in which he's supported me. He has been a terrific help since June of 1994 when he took over the Plans shop. Many of you know that he was in Bosnia, in Tuzla with Task Force Eagle for four months. He followed shortly after Rick Scott and Bob Gaylord left. He's been a terrific help to me, and I hope to you, too. He's done a lot of the work on providing information about deployments, about exercises, about operations of various sorts.

I guess in keeping with the jointness of the Pentagon today, that Mark Brzozowski, an artilleryman, I believe, is that right?

Brzozowski: Yes, sir.

Bacon: He's an avid sailor. So in going to Virginia he'll be able to keep his boat close to his house, so I think it's appropriate for us to wish him fair winds and following seas at TRADOC.

I'd also like to say that P.J. Crowley, my military assistant, is going to succeed Mark as the Director of Plans, so you'll have a chance to continue working with P.J. which will be a pleasure for you and also a pleasure for me to have him still on the team. So I thank P.J.

Q: (inaudible)

A: Maybe you don't ask the right questions.

Finally, in the announcement category, on Tuesday, January 14th, the Joint Chiefs of Staff led by the Chairman, General Shalikashvili, will host an Armed Forces Review and Award Ceremony for Secretary Perry in honor of his retirement as Secretary of Defense. That will be at 10 a.m. at Fort Myer.

Before taking your questions I just want to make a couple of remarks about the Stabilization Force in Bosnia because we haven't had a chance to talk about that since the force took over in Bosnia on December 20th. I just want to bring you up to date on some of the numbers and accomplishments of the stabilization force.

As you know, that force will eventually be 8,500 people. There are currently about 8,900 people in Bosnia according to the Joint Chiefs. That's because there are two engineering battalions there helping to knock down base camps that were used by IFOR, the implementation force.

The IFOR operated out of 38 base camps and SFOR, the stabilization force, will operate out of nine base camps in NMD North. So they are well underway. They are carrying out basically the same activities that IFOR carried out. That is patrolling the zone of separation, conducting searches of weapon storage sites, inspections, etc. They've conducted 120 inspections since December 20th, so they've been very active. They're manning checkpoints and performing all of the liaison visits and activities that IFOR performed.

Our forces in Bosnia, of course, are part of a 32-nation coalition continuing to provide security and stability in Bosnia as work on civil reconstruction and other rebuilding continues. So our force is 27 percent of the total SFOR force of 31,000. Since there are some German visitors here, I should point out that for the first time now, German troops are participating in SFOR. They've made a commitment of 3,500 troops who will work in the French sector, and I believe those troops have already started to move into the French sector in Bosnia.

With that introduction, I'll take your questions.

Q: How do you address the continued charges or allegations or whatever from Senators Rockefeller and Specter that there seems to be a coverup, despite the fact that the White House Committee found no evidence of a coverup on the Gulf War Illness.

A: That's how I address them. I think the charges are wrong. An independent committee has found them to be wrong. Dr. Lashoff, the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee has said there is no coverup, and there has been no coverup.

Q: How about the logs General Schwarzkopf kept? Allegedly he had a senior officer keep logs for him and has not turned them over.

A: General Schwarzkopf called us at the end of December, called Dr. White's office, and said that he would make his logs available to our investigators, and we plan to go down and read those logs. He does not want to turn them over lock, stock and barrel because they contain some very detailed accounts of meetings that he had with foreign leaders while he was the commander of the Desert Storm forces. But we will review those logs.

Now I should point out to you that General Schwarzkopf has said that he does not believe that troops were exposed to chemicals during Desert Storm, to chemical weapons. He has given interviews both on NBC for whom he works, and to the New York Times and other newspapers stating that, "I personally know of no incident in which there was any chemical uncovered." You can go back and check the record on that, but he's been quite direct in his comments about Desert Storm.

Q: Why do these logs remain in his possession? Wouldn't they be government property?

A: He actually has received a legal opinion that he could keep these logs. He used them in preparing his book and, as I said, he's prepared to open these logs to our investigators down there. I think this is a wild goose chase, frankly, on your part and also on the parts of Senator Rockefeller and Senator Specter. These logs are, as I said, will be open to view, but we also have General Schwarzkopf's own comments on what he believes did not happen during Desert Storm.

Q: You said a legal opinion, is this a federal government lawyer or independent counsel?

A: A representative of the Director of Administration and Management determined on June 17, 1994, that the logs were personal property and that he would be...

Q: Were they written logs or...

A: Yeah. They were notes, basically, a journal taken by his executive officer during Desert Storm. And he has already provided redacted copies, and I assume... I have not seen them, but I assume they were redacted by taking out references to what he considered to be sensitive conversations he had with foreign leaders during the war. He has provided redacted copies to CENTCOM, and he did that in 1994.

Q: Is there any indication that these logs have anything about chemical weapons?

A: I have not seen the logs, and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on something that I haven't seen or even been briefed on. All I do have is General Schwarzkopf's own comments about what he felt happened during the war vis-a-vis chemical weapons, which has been the primary focus of congressional and I would say press concern over the last couple of months.

Q: Why would you say it's a wild goose chase for us to pursue it then, if you haven't seen them? How can you make that determination?

A: Because of what General Schwarzkopf himself has said about what happened in the Gulf.

Q: Can one assume that the CENTCOM redacted logs which are in the possession of CENTCOM have been reviewed by Defense Department investigators?

A: Certainly to the extent that CENTCOM has provided information to Mr. Rostker's team and to others investigating the Gulf War, their comments would be based on what they got from General Schwarzkopf and from others as well, but I don't know whether the redacted versions have been reviewed by our investigators.

Q: Would those logs be made public?

A: I can't answer that question now, but I think eventually we will try to make as much as we can public because that actually has been our strategy certainly since June. We have aggressively made public a whole series of documents which I think, again, torpedoes the theory that there's a coverup going on here.

Q: The redacted copies have been in CENTCOM's possession since when did you say?

A: I said since 1994. December.

Q: Are these logs considered classified, or does General Schwarzkopf have the capability of classification?

A: That's an interesting question. I don't know whether these logs were classified at the time. But as I said, they've been ruled personal property over which he has control now.

Q: Since these logs, since a redacted version was already provided to CENTCOM, what prompted General Schwarzkopf to offer these up? Was there...

A: That's easy. On December 23rd, the Army, which as you know is investigating what happened to, is the executive agent to find out what happened to logs kept during the Gulf War, made a broad request to all Gulf War veterans who might have maintained logs for access to those logs in order to help the Army reconstruct what went on. In response to that, I believe, because it was at exactly at that time, General Schwarzkopf called Deputy Secretary White's office and volunteered to allow investigators to come down and look at his logs.

Q: When he made the offer, did anyone ask him if he had valuable information about Khamisiyah in the logs?

A: I'm not sure that that question was asked because I assume that people knew that they would see the logs, the logs would be reviewed soon enough and those questions would be answered.

Q: Do I understand you correctly to say that Central Command has had the redacted logs in their possession since 1994?

A: That's exactly what I said.

Q: They didn't know there was an investigation underway, that information was being sought, that they wouldn't have turned them over automatically?

A: I did not say that. I said I don't know. I do not know what they did with those logs. To the extent that CENTCOM has provided information to the investigators, I assume that that information was informed by these logs.

Q: Wouldn't this solve the problem of the missing logs? Because now you have...

A: Not necessarily. As Mr. Rostker said earlier this week, we're going to give you a rather complete briefing on the logs soon. He pointed out that we probably will not be able to account for all of the logs.

I think though, that these questions seem to suggest that you have sort of missed a major event that happened this week. That major event was the release of the Presidential Advisory Committee's report. That report did not find that it was likely that low level exposure to chemicals was the cause of what we call Gulf War Illnesses. It reviewed a whole variety of factors, as you know, but did not conclude that chemical exposure was a likely cause of Gulf War Illness.

Now all of the concern about Khamisiyah, understandably, deals with chemicals and low level chemical exposure. As the Presidential Advisory Committee Report made clear, there are a number of possible causes of what we call Gulf War Illness. All of those are being investigated now. Some of the research reports that came out yesterday, and will be in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reviewed some of the other possible causes. Pesticides, for instance, oil fires, depleted uranium, etc. Those weren't reviewed by those medical reports, but they were reviewed by the Presidential Advisory Committee.

So I think it's important to think broadly, as our researchers are, about possible causes of Gulf War Illness. Not to limit thinking only to one possible cause.

Q: We're asking these questions because members of Congress are asking these questions.

A: Sure.

Q: This morning when the question about these OX logs of General Schwarzkopf was asked of Dr. Lashoff, the head of the Presidential Advisory Committee, she said that she had no knowledge at all of these logs. So how is it that the independent panel that was to review all of the available evidence has no knowledge of these logs?

A: I can't answer that question. All I can tell you is that these logs were ruled to be the personal property of General Schwarzkopf. General Schwarzkopf said in late December that he will make these logs available to our investigators, and we plan to send investigators down there to read these logs. I don't believe that's happened yet. I don't know when it will happen.

Q: When did the Persian Gulf investigation team become aware of the existence of that log; and why is it taking so long for the Pentagon to seek access to them?

A: First of all, as I said, the Army issued a general invitation in late December asking for people to come forward with personal logs or any sort of logs that they might have in their control. And I assume that more people than General Schwarzkopf are beginning to do that. We're doing that because we want the fullest possible picture of what happened. It will take us awhile to go through those logs and to collate them in a way that presents a full picture of what happened. I can't answer your question about the PGIT. All I can tell you is we know about the logs now and we're going to look at the logs.

Q: So they weren't aware of the existence of the logs before that?

A: I don't believe they were aware of these specific logs, no.

Q: Does the...

A: That's because these logs weren't in the official repository. We're dealing with, and Bernie Rostker got into this some on Tuesday, we're dealing with millions and millions of pages, or pages largely kept on computer disks and tapes, of documents. We've been going through these documents as systematically as possible. It was while going through these documents in 1995 that a team of DIA and CIA investigators discovered documents that had previously been overlooked. That's how we discovered that American troops had participated in the destruction at Khamisiyah.

Q: Does the Pentagon accept that legal opinion that General Schwarzkopf has that these are personal logs? Or does the Pentagon challenge that?

A: We have no reason to challenge it. We have no reason to believe that there's anything incriminating in these logs. We have no reason to do any more than we're going to do which is read these logs with an open mind.

Q: You said that Schwarzkopf made these logs available to U.S. Central Command in a redacted version some years ago. Could you take the question to see if the U.S. Central Command has provided that information as part of their tranche of information to the Department of Defense?

A: Yes, I will do that.

Q: And secondly, has Dr. Perry, since he's going to be writing a book also, has he received any type of opinion to see if he can take any documents with him when he retires?

A: I don't know about that, but I'll take the question.

Q: Was any of this as a result of a direct inquiry from Senator Rockefeller? He referred today on the Hill to letters he had written to the Pentagon about these logs requesting action.

Q: On December 6th he said he wrote a letter requesting Schwarzkopf's OX logs.

A: I do not believe this was in direct response to that letter. I will try to get a copy of our response to that letter. This occurred, I believe, in response to the general offer that the Army made, or invitation that the Army made to Gulf War veterans to produce information.

Q: Do you have a date for that general invitation?

A: Yes, it was the 23rd of December.

Q: Given that these missing logs have been one of the most well publicized, hot button issues of this whole affair for many months now, does it strike anyone here as being odd that the General hasn't provided these logs to the Pentagon in an unredacted and complete form until now?

A: The question of what information is meaningful and when, of course, is central to any investigation that extends over a long period of time. One of the issues, going back to 1991, and the initial UNSCOM report, the report on the UNSCOM findings about Khamisiyah, was the context in which information comes up. General Schwarzkopf has said that he doesn't believe there was chemical exposure in the Gulf. He's been quoted as saying that. I have to assume that his logs don't include evidence of chemical exposure in the Gulf or he wouldn't have said what he said publicly many times.

So he may feel that these logs aren't particularly helpful to the investigations that have been going on over the last few months. I don't know that for a fact, but he's certainly aware of the concerns, he's spoken to the press about his own conclusions, based on his participation in the war and presumably based on his own logs. He used the logs to write a book. Presumably he's very familiar with what's in the logs. I have to assume that if he felt there was anything helpful in the logs some time ago he would have made them available.

Q: Do you think the Pentagon will receive them in an unredacted form?

A: The Pentagon will review them in an unredacted form. I think that's clear.

But as I pointed out, the redactions deal primarily with sensitive conversations he had with foreign leaders in his capacity as the commander of the coalition forces during Desert Storm.

Q: But as you know, redactions also lead to further suspicion.

A: I'm aware that there are plenty of suspicions in this business, yes.

Q: What restrictions has the General put on the review of these documents?

A: I'm not aware that he's put any restrictions on them.

Q: So...

A: He's invited somebody to come down to Tampa where he lives to look at these logs.

I'm sorry, I gave you inaccurate information in one respect here. When we got Rockefeller's letter we sent it to General Schwarzkopf. General Schwarzkopf's call was in response to Senator Rockefeller's letter, his call to Secretary White. So yes, it is, I think, fair to say that Senator Rockefeller's letter was the driving force behind General Schwarzkopf's decision to make these logs available to our investigators.

Q: There is a restriction, though, that the logs would remain in his possession while they're being reviewed by the Pentagon?

A: My understanding is that he has offered to allow investigators to come to Tampa and to look at the logs there.

Q: .We he let them copy them and ...?

A: I don't know about the fine points of that. I assume it will depend on how useful investigators think the logs are.

But I want to go back again to call your attention, since I know you're interested in getting a complete picture of the situation here. I want to call your attention once more to what General Schwarzkopf has said himself about the conditions U.S. troops faced in the Gulf. I have to assume that his statements reflected his totality of information about what went on in the Gulf, including what's included in his own logs.

Q: The federal budget is going to go up to the Hill next month. I was wondering if you could tell us whether or not the Pentagon portion of that has gone to the White House. If not, when will it? Is there anything you can tell us about it?

A: There's nothing I can tell you about it. We have very recently had some conversations with the White House about the budget. I think that suggests that there have been open questions as of this week. I think that's all I'll say at this stage.

Q: So it hasn't gone up yet in final form?

A: Well, I can't tell you what's happened in the last few hours, but as of earlier this week it was not in its final form.

Q: Is there a chance that the Pentagon's budget will be released before the rest of the budget?

A: That's a decision that will have to be made by OMB. It came up on Tuesday, you asked me about that, and I think you need to talk to OMB about their schedule for releasing the budget.

Q: Is Senator Cohen having any input or being briefed on the current state of DoD's budget as part of his in-briefs?

A: The answer is yes, he is being briefed extensively on the budget and other topics. No, he is not having an input in that he is in the receiving mode during these briefings right now. I'm sure there will be plenty of time for him to have major inputs into this and other topics once he becomes Secretary of Defense. But he has been extremely sensitive to the fact that he is not yet Secretary of Defense, but he's being briefed on a variety of important defense issues.

Q: An update on an old story. Are the Libyans still building that chemical weapons plant at Tarhunah?

A: I can't comment on that because it would involve intelligence information.

Q: Well, you've said previously that apparently they had stopped -- from all outside signs they had stopped...

A: We believe that they have stopped, yes. As you know, Secretary Perry has made it very clear that he felt they should stop, and had spoken to officials in Egypt and other countries about our hope that they would stop.

Q: Is that a guesstimate or do you have reasons to believe that they have stopped?

A: We believe they've stopped.

Press: Thank you.