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DoD News Briefing, Tuesday, September 28, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.

Presenters: Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, DASD PA
September 28, 1999 1:30 PM EDT

Rear Admiral Quigley: Good afternoon.

I'd like to start off with an apology to Barbara Starr for being so incredibly mobile after my ankle surgery a week ago. But nothing intentional, Barbara, I assure you. (Laughter) No, we had substantially different surgeries done, I believe, and I had the quicker recovery of the two of us so I'm very fortunate.

I do have several announcements to make today. There are a total of six general officer announcements being made today -- reassignments and promotions in a couple of instances -- via Blue Topper. Instead of going through all of them here, there's one name that you all I think would know from recent, from the Kosovo campaign and that would be General Wald. We are announcing his appointment to a third star to be a lieutenant general and to command the 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces at Shaw Air Force Base. Again, there are five other general officers that we'll announce today via Blue Topper.

The Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, or DACOWITS, will conduct their fall conference October 20th to 24th at the Shelter Point Hotel on Shelter Island in San Diego. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management Policy Frank Rush will host the conference. DACOWITS addresses issues relevant to equality management, forces development and utilization and quality of life. This conference is open to the public. For further information please contact Major Susan Kolb at 697-2122, and we'll have this at DDI afterwards.

This morning the Department of Education released the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress test administered to 8th graders nationwide in 1998. The test compares the performance of state or jurisdictional school systems rather than individual schools.

I'm delighted to report that the Department of Defense domestic school system -- that is our schools within the continental United States and including Puerto Rico and Guam -- ranked first nationwide, and that only one state, Connecticut, scored higher than the Department's overseas school system, or DODDS. The Department schools in the United States also placed first in the nation for the percentage of students scoring in the advanced category on the exam.

Eighth grade African-American students in the Department's domestic schools ranked first and in our overseas schools ranked second when compared with their African-American peers across the nation.

Eighth grade Hispanic students in the Department's domestic and overseas schools shared first place above all other school systems when compared with their Hispanic peers nationwide.

So this is something we're very proud of and clearly represents a team effort on the part of parents, teachers, school supervisors, and most importantly by the schools themselves.

Finally, tomorrow beginning at 1:30 as part of Hispanic Heritage Month activities, the Department of Defense will host an observance in Room 5A1070 of the Pentagon. Secretary Rush will preside at the observance. Deputy Director of the Office of Personnel Management, John Sepulveda, will be the guest speaker. This observance will highlight the contributions of Hispanics of the Department of Defense and to the nation.

For more information please contact Manuel Oliveras in the Office of the Assistant Secretary, and we have that phone number for you after.

That completes my announcements. With that I'll take your questions.

Q: Is DOD going to take over the national schools now that you're so good at it? (Laughter)

Rear Admiral Quigley: As someone who's had two children participate in those schools when we were stationed in Italy, it's a really very good system, one we're very proud of, Otto.


Q: Today in Pristina there was a threat advisory issued, warning of a possible terrorist attack against Americans. Clearly the majority of Americans in Kosovo are soldiers. What can you tell us about the nature of this threat?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I believe the threat was posted by the State Department office in Pristina, I believe. When there is evidence, however slight, of an increased threat to Americans whether they be in uniform or not, that is information we get out as quickly as we can via all available means to all the American citizens.

But I don't think there was a specific description of the terrorist threat. I think it was unspecified. To the best of my knowledge. Again, the State Department put this out. Maybe they'd have more than I.

Q: Do you have any background on the nature of the threat itself, whether it's connected to...

Rear Admiral Quigley: Other than a general description of an unspecified terrorist threat, no, I do not.

Q: Against U.S. forces?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Against U.S. citizens.

Q: Citizens.

Rear Admiral Quigley: Both military forces... Again, not specific, just U.S. citizens.

Q: Have U.S. soldiers changed their posture at all as a result of...

Rear Admiral Quigley: This information has been disseminated by now to all of the U.S. forces through KFOR. It's something that I don't know if they've physically changed their posture, but I know they're very much aware of it, Chris. This is something they always pay attention to every day. The commanders there are very sensitive to react and change as they see fit based on the threat as they understand it to be.

Q: What's the current number of U.S. forces in Kosovo?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't have that off the top of my head. Let me get that for you after.

Q: Do you have any comment about the situation in Chechnya and the Russian bombing of Chechnya?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't have any information for you on that. No, I don't.

Q: If I could follow that. Do you think that Russia is risking another war with Chechnya, and have you any comment as to the methods that Russia is employing in the bombing to rid itself of guerrillas that have come into... will have come into Russian territory?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Again, I don't think that's, either of those issues are something that this building would get involved in directly, Bill.

Q: Admiral Quigley, what's the latest, the current number of U.S. troops on the ground in East Timor? How many U.S...

Rear Admiral Quigley: Two hundred and thirty-eight.

Q: In East Timor as opposed to...

Rear Admiral Quigley: Oh, I'm sorry. There are 238 in Darwin. I believe there's a handful, 15 or so, on the ground in East Timor.

Q: What are they doing, the ones that are actually in East Timor?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I believe the ones that are there now are communicators and logisticians. But again, very small numbers at this point.

Q: Are there any plans at this point to augment the number of troops either in East Timor or in Australia?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Secretary Cohen is discussing that very issue with his counterpart, Mr. Moore, the Australian Minister of Defense, today. We anticipate that as the situation changes over time and the multinational force spreads out to further sections of East Timor, the requirements will change. This is something that Admiral Blair has mentioned, that Secretary Cohen has mentioned. I don't anticipate changes in the categories of assistance that we have agreed to provide, and I don't anticipate significant changes in the numbers of people that would provide that assistance, although the numbers will go up and down slightly over time. I certainly don't think an order of magnitude change is foreseen.

But what specifically the Australians may seek in the way of support as things change and time passes on the ground, we'll certainly be receptive to requests from them. We'll evaluate those requests for assistance honestly, and we'll do the best we can.

Q: When do you anticipate larger numbers of Americans will actually get to East Timor, and what is taking as long as it is?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Very much a call of the operational commander on the ground. Both the overall commander, the Australian overall commander, and Brigadier General Castellaw, the U.S. component commander of the forces that are there. It would be completely dependent on their needs and their assessment of the ability to deploy them once they got them there. They are ready to go as the operational commanders on the ground see the need to move them to a different position to better utilize their skills.

Q: So the answer is you don't know when they're going in?

Rear Admiral Quigley: No, I do not. But I would think it would change, John, too, very much over time.

Q: Ultimately how many would you expect to get to East Timor? A hundred or so? Or...

Rear Admiral Quigley: I think the estimate that's been given before, although again that number will change, some up some down as time passes, units are rotated in and out. But that's a good ball park.

Q: Can you inform us about the ongoings of the recruitment deadline on Friday and especially concerning the $6,000 bonus on joining the Army?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I can speak in general terms. Again, this has been a very challenging recruiting environment for the United States military in the last couple of years due to many, many factors. Certainly the booming U.S. economy is a factor. A propensity for high school graduates to go directly to college which is a higher figure than we have seen historically in the past couple of decades, let's say. We're trying to go for the same high quality of young person that industry is, that the college campuses are, and we want the young man or woman with good grades and a good record and a good enthusiasm level, and we're all going for the same people.

At the same time, young people have shown to be less interested. There's still a widespread misperception that the military is not hiring and we're still doing a drawdown. That's not true, but that remains a fuzzy issue in the minds of many young people.

So the services have responded in different ways over the last year or two to make up for their difficulties in recruiting young people. Increased advertising budgets, more recruiters on the street, more recruiting stations open, going to non-traditional places, a variety of methods with mixed success. It's just a tough market right now to recruit young people to come into the military -- any branch.

Q: Do you expect the Army to meet their targets?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I would defer to the Army specifically. I think that they have said that they will end up the year short, but that is still several days away, and the exact numbers would not be in hand for a couple of weeks yet I would think.

But as I'm sure you have seen, the Marines are on target in their recruiting goals. It looks as if the Navy will meet its mark. The Air Force and the Army do figure on being a little bit short at the end of the fiscal year which is the end of this week.

Q: Do you find this $6,000 bonus which you can apparently get if you sign up before Friday, is this a sign of the Army's desperation?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I think it's another effort on the part of the Army in this case to... You've got to do something to get the young man or woman that is your target audience and your prime audience for recruiting to notice that hey, I'm still out there. I am hiring. America's armed forces need you, want you. We offer you a very challenging lifestyle. And in this particular case we think we can provide $6,000.

If that would get the attention of some young people that would qualify for enlistment for the Army between now and the end of the week and would satisfy some numbers that they need to meet their recruiting goal, that's a very good investment.

Q: Just to clarify on this $6,000. Is this something that was just introduced in the last week or so, or has this $6,000 been available for some time and it's just that it expires at the end of the fiscal year?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Let me take that question. I think it's recent, but I will check.

Q:...getting ready to celebrate 50 years of communist rule and they are going to introduce some of the new, modern weapons. And also some thoughts are here on Capitol Hill to punish China with sanctions because of continuously selling of missile parts and other military parts to Pakistan and other nations.

Is the Pentagon ready for sanctions against China? How do you view this 50 years of communist rule, the big celebration?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Would you ask your question again?

Q: The question is any comment on this 50th celebration of communist rule? China is still the largest communist country in the world. And they are going to introduce new weapons and their continuing testing missiles and all of that, also sale of missiles to Pakistan and other nations.

If Pentagon is ready for any tension against China?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't think I have anything for you on that today.

Q: There's a big milestone coming up with national missile defense scheduled for October 2nd, Saturday night. Is the schedule still to go with that? And do you have any sense of what the major test objectives are? If the interceptors don't hit the missile will this be considered a failure, or are there other criteria that could make it a success?

Rear Admiral Quigley: We're working to get more details for you later on this week on that if that's okay. I don't have... We're very much aware of the issue. We're very much working that during this week and we'll have something for you on that later on in the week if that's okay.

Q: Ted Warner testified this morning that something like six of seven hotlines between the Pentagon and Moscow are going to run into Y2K problems. Can you give us some overview of how serious the problem is and will there be full communications with Moscow on New Years Eve?

Rear Admiral Quigley: What Ted Warner mentioned this morning is something we've known for awhile, but I think what he was referring to was that the corrections now are about to be put in place. The whole Y2K issue just - just gives another example, I guess -- that this is a very significant issue and a challenge for all of us.

You're very much aware, I know, of the agreement recently signed between Russia and the United States for the strategic warning center to be put in place to cover the period of time as the New Year rolls over. This is another of the issues that have come up. We've discovered it. The fix is now being put in place. I expect there to be more as time passes. That's why we're putting so much emphasis, so much focus on this issue which is very, very important to both nations.

Q: When you say you expect more as time passes, are you suggesting that as close as we are to the end of the year now there are Y2K problems out there in the U.S. defense establishment waiting to be found? Are there things we still don't know?

Rear Admiral Quigley: We're very confident that we have taken the best, most comprehensive look that we know how to do to all of the U.S. Defense Department systems. We don't know of any significant systems that will not be fixed in time for the New Year. That is not to say that we have relaxed our efforts one bit. This is such an important issue for the entire Department and for the world that this is going to be an effort that will only increase our focus and intensity as the year progresses.

We hope that there will be no surprises at all, but we keep working hard on that very issue to preclude that very event from happening.

Q: Do you know what the glitches are in the system that they're trying to fix?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't have the specifics.

Q: Whether it would mean a breakdown, full breakdown in communications on these hotlines?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't have that, John. I'm sorry.

Q: In these days of instant satellite communication and telephones, how much does the United States rely on these hotlines which are old-style teletype connections to maintain communication? Are they now simply sort of a redundant backup system, or are they still used in the primary communication room?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I wouldn't call them primary, Jamie, but there are a variety of systems meant to be redundant because of the importance that we place on the ability to communicate with the Russian government. I'd be hard pressed to rank them somehow, but it's important to us that they all work if that's within our ability to make them operational.

Q: Are these hotlines embedded in the Pentagon, the White House, the State Department or some of each? Where are they?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I will take that, John. I think the White House, but I will check.

Q: On the subject of the Center for Strategic Stability at Peterson Air Force Base and one that is supposed to be set up near Moscow, I guess, that I think is not even in the works at this point. The original concept was to have Russian officers in Colorado and American officers in Russia monitoring say at Peterson the U.S. early warning system so the Russians could look at that, and we were also supposed to be able to pipe in a picture of the Russian early warning system to the Peterson location and the U.S. early warning system to the Moscow location. It now looks as though we're not going to have the ability to look at the Russian early warning system in Colorado, and the same is true the other way.

If you're looking to get a complete picture for confidence building and strategic stability, isn't this kind of like blinding one eye?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Not necessarily. The final details of the arrangement that will be in place at Colorado Springs are still being worked out. After the initial signing of the agreement when Secretary Cohen was in Russia recently, there was a meeting last week in Colorado Springs with Russian representatives there. We anticipate going to Russia I think in a couple of weeks. And this will continue until we have the final details worked out. But this is important to both we and the Russians, and it's issues that are not yet finalized, but it's clear in everyone's mind that that's important information that needs to be understood.

Q: If you have only one early warning picture, isn't that sort of getting half the picture?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Again, we've not worked out the final details on that but that is a very important issue that needs to be worked on still.

Q: Do you know where the Russian equivalent of the Peterson Center stands at this point?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't think it's going to happen. I don't think the facility in Russia is going to happen. I don't think it will be ready on time to be in place by New Year's Eve.

Q: What does that mean to this whole concept?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Well, it means that you'll have to have a facility put in place in Colorado Springs that will be more of a single source of information to both the Russian and the United States governments.

Q: Has the Rush Committee reported officially to Secretary Cohen on Vieques?

Rear Admiral Quigley: No.

Q:...process, going to the President?

Rear Admiral Quigley: It's still a work in progress. We consider it to be near completion but it is not yet complete.

Q: A different subject. There is an expectation that the Department will submit a supplemental for Kosovo and related activities. Since Congress would like to get out of town by the end of October, what's the timing on submitting that supplemental?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Let me take that as well.

There was a question earlier, I don't remember who it was from, on the number of U.S. troops in KFOR. 6,400.

Q: How important is it to have a resolution of the F-22 situation on the Hill by the end of the fiscal year?

Rear Admiral Quigley: It's important... The F-22 is an important program to the Pentagon. We have said that many times over the past couple or three months. It is now, I think the questions now need to be resolved in conference. That's where the activity is located now. We stand ready to provide any additional information that the conferees feel they need, but that's where the activity is centered now, Barbara. I don't know if I can give you a very good answer to your question.

Q: If the conference does not reach an agreement by the end of the fiscal year are there any serious implications for the Air Force or the military?

Rear Admiral Quigley: If there is no appropriations bill, well, you would then need to have a continuing resolution passed as you have seen in prior years. The rules of that typically are that the Department is allowed to spend at a rate that is commensurate with the rate that it was at at the end of the prior fiscal year, but no new starts are authorized until you actually have an Appropriations Act signed into law by the President. So there would be no new starts on any new program until that portion of the budget was signed into law by the President. The time on that I just don't know.

Q: Going back to Colorado Springs for just a second. When you suggested a single place, is there any thinking of trying to have information from the Russian early warning system there, or is it just going to be U.S. information?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't know where we are in the working out of the details between the Russians and the United States on that. We've had one visit, as I mentioned, to Colorado Springs. A second one coming in the next couple of weeks to Russia. We anticipate that activity will continue until details are known.

Q: Is that even a goal? Is there any intent or desire to create a facility where both early warning systems would be visible in one place?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't know. I'll take that question.

Q: Back to the F-22 a second. As of like last night or early this morning the battle lines were drawn over more research money for the airplane, and no production money. It's a question of how much research money it's going to get.

Can the Pentagon live with simply keeping the program in a research phase for another year as opposed to kicking into production this year? Do you have a view yet on that?

Rear Admiral Quigley: We would prefer that the budget as submitted by the President, which included procurement for F-22, be the position adopted. But I'm not going to get into the business of predicting what we can and can't live with. I need to let the conference activities unfold. But clearly that's our preference.

Q: Just one more question on Y2K problems. Are you worried that some of the countries are not really ready (unintelligible)... ...what Pentagon is doing, in touch with those countries?

Rear Admiral Quigley: It's not so much the military to military relationships that are in question. It's if we have U.S. facilities overseas on foreign soil and that U.S. facility would receive electricity or water or sewage or some sort of support from the host nation as they almost all do, the host nations' abilities to provide those services in a condition so that they can transition to the year 2000 well. That's the question.

I think the answer varies widely from facility to facility. But it's something that U.S. facility commanders in each of those host nations are working very closely with the host cities and nations to get individual answers to those questions.

Q:...China, India and Pakistan, if they're not ready, what would happen if worst comes to worst?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I can't speculate on that one for you. I'm not familiar with the details of their systems. It will vary widely from nation to nation around the world.

Q: Is there any assessment of the Russian military's state of preparedness for Y2K at this point? Has that been adjusted?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Not that I'm aware of, Chris. No.

Q: Do you know what the assessment is...

Rear Admiral Quigley: I'm not aware of there being an assessment of the Russian military's preparedness for Y2K.

Q: Just to follow the question a minute ago about the Rush Panel. The Secretary, as I understand it, has been briefed on the panel's recommendations. I know a number of Members on the Hill have been briefed. Can you elucidate for us at all what's holding up the release of the report?

Rear Admiral Quigley: The Secretary was provided kind of an in-progress review but it is not a finalized report. He wants to be thorough. Mr. Rush wants this to be thorough and complete and get it right the first time.

Secretary Cohen fully understands and supports that goal, as does the White House.

Q: Is the Pentagon still looking into the release of information from Linda Tripp's personnel file? And if so, what's the status on that?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Not that I'm aware of, no. I'm sure you're aware of the suit that was filed yesterday, but no, not that I'm aware of.

Q: Does that mean the Inspector General's report is now done on that matter?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Oh, I misunderstood the question. No. The answer is no. The DoD Inspector General's investigation is ongoing. Yes. I'm sorry. I misunderstood the question.

Q: Has it been going on for a year now?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I will find out the start date. I don't know.

Q: Is that an unusual time length to have the IG...

Rear Admiral Quigley: We never put a timeframe on the investigations that are conducted.

Q: Are you aware of whether...

Q: Do sensitive ones often take a lot longer than straight-forward...

Rear Admiral Quigley: I've done no analysis on that issue. (Laughter)

Q: To follow up on that same issue, my recollection was that the Department of General Counsel was looking into it, then the IG was looking into it, and then... Could you verify that the IG is still looking at it? I think they kicked it to Justice and I think it has dropped from sight.

Rear Admiral Quigley: There has been no signed final version of a DoD Inspector General report on that issue.

Q: I agree with that. Are they really working on it any more or was it actually kicked to Justice?

Rear Admiral Quigley: No. That is still a work in progress.

Q: Will you check to see whether it's been completed but not released?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Yes.

Q: You will check?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I will, yes.

Q: Another item, on Panama. Senator Lott just recently sent a letter to Senator Warner asking for further investigation, and I understand there's going to be a hearing early next month, on the Hutchison Whampoa contractors that have both ports, both ends of the Panama Canal, to check and see who patrols the Hutchison. Is the Pentagon concerned, or let's say do you have any comment on this? And secondly, will the Pentagon be participating in those hearings, or can you tell me yet?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't know on the hearings, but we do not see this to be a security issue at all.

Q: No security issue at all.

Rear Admiral Quigley: Not at all.

Q: Do you believe this company has ties to the mainland Chinese...

Rear Admiral Quigley: We have had nothing to indicate that the Chinese have the slightest desire to somehow control the Panama Canal, and we don't consider this a security issue at all. It is a business issue.

Q: In this letter from Trent Lott he raises a series of questions -- I don't know how familiar you are with all of this, about the man who's the chairman or the head of this company -- and the claim is that he has ties to the People's Liberation Army and to the Chinese intelligence community and so on. Is there any reason to believe that that's the case?

Rear Admiral Quigley: Again, we do not consider this to be a security issue affecting the United States at all. The guy is a very well established businessman, has been for a very long time. It is an issue between the Panamanian government and private business ventures that choose to... It's an issue within the Panamanian government's control and one that we look at and do not consider to be of a security issue or a security threat to the United States at all.

Q: Senator Lott also complained, or his spokesman complained, that he wrote a letter about this to Secretary Cohen and has received no response. Does the Secretary intend to provide a response to Senator Lott?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I don't know...

Q:...just outlined?

Rear Admiral Quigley: I will take that question.

Q: Admiral, let me just follow here. Isn't anyone concerned that Hutchison Whampoa may give Chinese intelligence, the PLA, a base with which to operate in a strategic part of the Americas, at least to collect intelligence? Isn't that a concern?

Rear Admiral Quigley: We see no indication of that whatsoever.

Press: Thank you.

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