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DoD News Briefing

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
August 19, 1999 1:40 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

The fact that there's such a large crowd here in the middle of August must mean either that nothing else is happening, or you've all come to listen to General Franklin who will follow me with a briefing on THAAD after I finish.

Q: We have a few (inaudible)...

Mr. Bacon: That could be true.

I know there are six government spokespeople from the Republic of Uzbekistan here today. I assume you're all from Tashkent, but maybe some of you are from other parts of Uzbekistan. But welcome to our briefing.

Let me bring you up to date on the latest in our provision of aid to Turkey.

Secretary Cohen spoke with his counterpart yesterday, Minister Cakmakoglu. The Minister said to him that the most necessary support was firefighting equipment, and particularly air-dropped fire retardant and suppressant that could be used around the oil refineries and other places. So based on that, the Secretary has ordered deployed three Air National Guard C-130 planes equipped with the modular airborne firefighting systems. These planes will be from Cheyenne, Wyoming; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Channel Islands, California.

They are being preceded by a C-17 filled with support equipment and personnel. The support equipment includes 22,000 pounds of fire retardant and a chemical mixing unit. I believe this retardant is mixed with water and then sprayed out of the planes. So when the planes arrive on Saturday they will have fresh crews that can leap into them and start working on the fires.

In addition, we've provided 3,000 gallons of firefighting foam from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey to help with the firefighting.

Second, as you know, the 6th Fleet has deployed three ships, most principally the KEARSARGE, to Turkey. They will be arriving off the coast of Istanbul on Saturday night. The main benefit of this three-ship group is that it enhances the medical facilities available. There are among them about 123 medical personnel including eight doctors, some operating rooms, and a number of beds where people can be kept. Also there are 22 helicopters on the KEARSARGE who can ferry people to and from the ships if they need to use the medical facilities there.

In addition, the European Command has deployed a 22-person Navy crisis response team that includes a three-member medical assessment team in order to survey the situation. The medical assessment team has a flight surgeon, a veterinarian, and a general practitioner to survey what the medical needs are. And the European command plans to deploy a humanitarian assistance survey team to the region. That's still being put together and the schedule is still being worked out, but that will also give the European Command a greater sense of what the needs are there.

Right now we're concentrating primarily on searching for and caring for survivors, but when that phase of the operation is over, obviously we'll have to concentrate on providing shelter and food. Our embassy in Turkey has requested 30,000 tents, and the military is in the process of working to find those tents.

As you know, many many tents were deployed to Albania and Macedonia, and even though those refugee camps have closed down, the refugees were allowed to take the tents with them into Kosovo so they could shelter themselves in Kosovo while they were rebuilding their houses.

So one of the sources of tents that we're looking at is from our forces in Kosovo because they're in the process of having built for them more permanent housing and moving out of tents. As they move out of the tents they can be available to go to Turkey.

We have 475,000 Humanitarian Daily Rations stored in Europe. If necessary they could also be shipped to Turkey to alleviate short-term hunger problems.

Finally, the Army Corps of Engineers has some teams of structural analyzers, people who are experts at looking at buildings and deciding whether the damage is so great that they can no longer be occupied. They're prepared, if asked, to go to Turkey to review the buildings that are still standing in order to decide whether people can move back into those buildings or whether the buildings are so damaged that they should be demolished.

That, I think, brings you up to date on the military support of the Turkey operation so far.

Q: Two questions on that, Ken. Will these three planes be stationed in Incirlik, the ones...

Mr. Bacon: No, I believe they'll be stationed in Istanbul, because that will keep them closer to Izmit where the oil refineries are.

Q: The daily rations, humanitarian daily rations, one assumes that they can be used by Muslims also, right? These are part of the new rations that can be used by any...

Mr. Bacon: They're basically the same rations that we shipped to Albania and Macedonia for Kosovo refugees, most of whom are Muslims. I assume they tend to have pasta in them. They're very high calorie. These are the ones in the distinctive yellow packages that General McDuffey had here. In fact, we opened one up once at a briefing and you all had a chance to have lunch from one of these HDRs. But yes, I think they can be eaten by a wide variety of religious faiths.

Barbara?

Q: A couple of followups. Has the Turkish government yet requested specifically the KEARSARGE to actually provide assistance? Or is it just standing offshore awaiting a Turkish request?

Mr. Bacon: I'm not aware that they have requested it yet. It's backup facilities, transportation, medical facilities, etc., that will be available as necessary.

Q: Also, a couple of other things. The same thing with the HDRs and the tents. I'm just trying to get a sense, is it just that the Turkish requests haven't quite caught up yet, or what have they...

Mr. Bacon: The embassy has requested tentage for 30,000 people. I don't know if that reflects a request they got from the Turkish government or not, but our embassy in Ankara has requested that, so our military is working on that.

There has been no request for food yet, as I understand it. But we obviously have this available and are ready to provide it, if asked.

I think right now the Turkish government is concentrating on search and rescue. They will focus on the other problems after they get through the first challenge.

Q: Is there any additional U.S. military assistance going for search and rescue, or is it solely these two civilian groups that you airlifted over there?

Mr. Bacon: That's primarily what the United States has provided. As you know, Israel and many other countries--including Greece and Armenia, I believe--have provided search and rescue workers. But I think those are the only ones we've provided so far.

Q: Just two other very quick questions. Can you bring us up to date--are there still two civilian Navy employees missing in Turkey? And also, a family, I believe, in another town? A U.S. family.

Mr. Bacon: All I know is that initially there were four Americans missing at the Navy base. I believe there were three people working for a contractor in support of the Navy Sea Systems Command, and one spouse of one of those contract workers. Two of those people have been found.

Q: Alive?

Mr. Bacon: I don't believe they were found alive, actually. I don't believe they were found alive. The name of the firm for which they were working is called Gibbs & Cox. I don't have the names of the contractors, and frankly, I'm not sure that their next of kin have been notified by the civilian company for which they work.

Q: So there are still two missing?

Mr. Bacon: That is true.

Q: At what Navy base?

Mr. Bacon: This is at the Turkish Navy Base at Golcuk, Turkey.

Q: Do you have any information on an American family, I don't know the name of the town, but at another location somewhere in Turkey that you're still searching for?

Mr. Bacon: I do not. The State Department might have more information on that.

Q: Do the Kosovars not have a need for those HDRs anymore? Are they all...

Mr. Bacon: Well, they [HDRs] were shipped to Europe in support of the Kosovo operation. I guess now that they're [refugees] back home and we know that they're harvesting wheat and corn right now they don't have a need. Maybe they would in the winter, but there could be a more urgent need in Turkey. We can get more HDRs as necessary.

Q: You said the four Americans were civilians?

Mr. Bacon: I did say that, yes. I'm sorry. Two were found alive and were back in the States (sic) [Turkey]. This is updated information as we go on. Two were found alive and are back in the States (sic) [Turkey]. And two others are missing and their status is unknown.

Q: There's no U.S. military people missing or killed?

Mr. Bacon: Not that we've heard about, no.

Q: Two missing plus a spouse, is that correct?

Mr. Bacon: No. There were two missing. One contractor and one spouse are the people who are missing. Two others are alive and back in the States {sic} [in Turkey]. There were four to begin with.

Q: It's the contractor's spouse, is that the assumption?

Mr. Bacon: I don't know who the spouse is, which one of the three people she was with, or whether she was unattached to any of those three. These are all good questions that I can't answer.

Q: North Korea and Pakistan are in trouble economically. According to reports, North Korea may sell missiles to Pakistan and Iran. The same thing, Pakistan officials have said that if they get okay from the government they may sell nuclear technology to other countries.

Also India and Pakistan can make nuclear bombs also now. So do you have any comment on this nuclear test and how further they can go to make nuclear--not only nuclear bombs--but also neutron bombs?

Mr. Bacon: These are all discouraging developments. We have said many times that we are for a lessening of tensions between India and Pakistan, that we are against proliferation by North Korea or by Pakistan or by other countries. That continues to be our view.

We think that India and Pakistan both should work as hard as they can to reduce tensions between the two countries, and to hold the military threat to the absolute minimum, whether it's nuclear or conventional.

Q: Any discussion within the Pentagon or in the government of how to prevent these countries that hold these weapons not to fall into terrorist hands, especially bin Laden?

Mr. Bacon: When you're talking about nuclear weapons, most countries that--I believe all countries--that have nuclear weapons have worked very hard to get them. They have spent a lot of time and money and scientific enterprise in either developing them or buying them. They regard control of those weapons as an extremely important sign of their sovereignty and also extremely important to their national defense. So I don't anticipate that these weapons would fall into the wrong hands.

Obviously it's a concern to us, but in general, we're concerned about the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The more likely weapons to fall into terrorist hands are chemical and biological weapons.

I think that Secretary Cohen has spoken and written compellingly about that threat. It's one that the government is paying much more attention to these days and will pay more attention to in the future.

Q: Ken, have there been any more strikes in Iraq either inside or outside of the no-fly zone?

Mr. Bacon: The most recent development is that Iraqi planes violated the Southern no-fly zone yesterday. Two F-1 Mirage's flew briefly 20 miles or so into the no-fly zone, as allied planes were leaving the no-fly zone. So they appeared briefly to try to chase them out. But they were pretty far apart. That's the most recent development.

There have been no more attacks since Tuesday outside of the no-fly zone. That is with coalition aircraft striking beyond the boundaries of the no-fly zones.

Q: What is the significance of hitting outside of the no-fly zones? Is this a change of policy?

Mr. Bacon: No, it's not a change of policy at all. What happened here was allied planes were illuminated by radar. The radar was in the vicinity of a place called Quyyarah West, just south of the 36th Parallel, that is south of the northern no-fly zone. And they responded both with HARMs and with AGM-130s -- one AGM-130 and several HARMs -- against the site that they believed was illuminating them. There is an SA-2 site with SA-2 radars...they were illuminated by SA-2 radars at Quyyarah West.

I don't regard this as a change of policy at all. Our planes do have the ability to return fire against threatening installations.

Q: Have they done that before previously?

Mr. Bacon: No, not in this case.

Q: What do you make of the Iraqi intentions? Do you have any sense of what they're up to, that for the first time since Desert Fox they would have pinged on us from outside the no-fly zone?

Mr. Bacon: I think you'll have to ask Iraq what's in their head. What Iraq has said publicly is that they want to shoot down a coalition aircraft and they've posted a reward of a million dinars to do that. So they are carrying out a series of steps designed to bring down an allied aircraft. But as I've said before, they have adopted a fairly low-risk strategy in that they generally do not turn on their radars. They frequently fire missiles ballistically without radar guidance. On Tuesday, the 17th, they did turn on radars and track our planes, and our planes responded aggressively to that.

Q: Do you specifically see this, then, as something tied to trying to step up an effort to shoot down a U.S. or allied aircraft? Or did this just sort of happen, and it just happened?

Mr. Bacon: I think the amount of energy that Iraq puts into trying to shoot down allied planes is episodic. It sort of ebbs and flows. We've seen periods of stepped-up efforts in the past and then they've fallen back. So I think it's hard to turn this into a trend right now.

Clearly their level of effort is in many respects less than it was back in January right after Desert Fox, but it does tend to go through peaks and valleys. I don't know what is in their heads except that they have clearly a general desire to shoot down a plane, but they do seem to change their strategy from time to time and that involves differing levels of effort.

Q: Was Tuesday's strike intended to send a message to Iraq that even behind the line these facilities are not safe? Since December they have illuminated U.S. and British planes from behind the line many, many times, and the response has been an asymmetric one of hitting something else but in the no-fly zone.

You mentioned the extended range SA-2s in your last briefing, I think. Is this perhaps because of a change in their tactics, designed to send a message of some kind to them that no place is safe? That they're not going to be able to play this game from behind the line any more?

Mr. Bacon: No. It was designed to protect allied aircraft. This was well within...

Q: But your response has been, since December--I mean this is unique.

Mr. Bacon: These missiles are just below the 36th Parallel. This is a staging area and they have SA-2s there and they move them out into other parts of the Northern no-fly zone, and then they come back. Generally, the threats have been from missiles they've had forward deployed to the extent they've used their radars to threaten our planes, and not from the Quyyarah West area.

What was unusual here was that they were getting pinged right from this area, the pilots believed, so they responded. They make these decisions quickly. They responded by shooting back at this SAM-2 site.

Q: But guidance to the pilots previously had been that if they're illuminated from behind the line that they would retaliate against a different target.

Mr. Bacon: I'm not going to talk about the guidance to the pilots. All I can tell you is that this is well within their operating rules of engagement.

Q: The AGM-130 gives you usually a good BDA. What did the AGM-130 and what did the HARMs hit?

Mr. Bacon: It gave us good BDA.

Q: What did it hit?

Mr. Bacon: They hit part of an SA-2 installation. Yes.

Q: Can we get that video?

Q: What's the United States' reaction to Korea's statement...

Q: Can I ask one more question on the SAMs before you go off of it?

Q: Sure.

Q: Can you go back and talk a little bit about the F-1s? You said that two Iraqi F-1s went in. Were they chasing the U.S. planes? Were the U.S. planes chasing them? And what's the significance?

Mr. Bacon: No. They penetrated the no-fly zone as the U.S. planes were leaving. I don't know the distance between the U.S. planes and the F-1s, but this fit well into the standard "cheat and retreat" pattern that Iraq has used so unsuccessfully in the past. That is that when our planes are some distance away, they nip into the no-fly zone and then nip out again before our planes have a chance to respond. This was the classic "cheat and retreat" policy except they did it while our planes were on the way out.

Why did they do it? I think it's hard to speculate, but they may have--maybe they hoped that our planes would turn around and chase them, and therefore expose themselves to a SAM trap or to some dangerous ambush that they had set up. But our pilots are disciplined and they did not do that. As I said, they just nipped across the no-fly zone about 20 miles, then turned around and went back.

Q: It wasn't that much different than some of the previous instances?

Mr. Bacon: No. I mean, as I said, this "cheat and retreat" policy is very common. And also the no-fly zone violations tend to be bunched. We hadn't seen a no-fly zone violation since August 1st. It's no telling whether they intend more violations or not.

Q: Are targets on the other side of the lines now more likely to be struck in situations like this?

Mr. Bacon: Iraq should expect that our pilots will continue to protect themselves on their patrols.

Q: In those Tuesday attacks, both in the North and the South, the Iraqis said that civilians were killed. At least in the South, reporters saw, talked to residents and saw evidence of damage.

Do you have any indication that any ordnance went astray in those attacks?

Mr. Bacon: We have no indication that civilians were killed and we have no indication that ordnance went astray.

Charlie?

Q: On the North Korea issue, what's the U.S. reaction or the Pentagon's reaction--to the North Koreans seeming to indicate that they're willing to negotiate over any further test of a missile, and would this mean speeding up talks with the North Koreans?

Mr. Bacon: This is a very good question for the State Department.

As you know, Ambassador Kartman, or Assistant Secretary Kartman, is engaged in a series of talks with North Korea. I believe there will be more talks later this month. These talks are designed to see if there is some way we can ratchet down North Korean military activity. Those talks will continue.

Obviously, it's a hopeful sign that North Korea is raising this possibility, but in the end, we need to see actions, not words. We're certainly prepared to continue discussions with them, and we certainly hope those discussions will be fruitful.

Q: A brief followup, I realize that this building is not directly involved, it's an Administration thing, but what of Bill Perry's report to Congress, or Bill Perry's report on the North Korean situation? Wasn't it supposed to come out the middle of this month?

Mr. Bacon: Secretary Perry has performed very good work for the Administration in helping to crystalize the issues and offer options for dealing with North Korea. I think you can appreciate that at a time we're right in the middle of discussions with North Korea it might not be appropriate for the report to come out. At the appropriate time, I assume that it will be discussed publicly.

But this is really a decision for the State Department to make because he is working at the State Department. Although he's been working broadly with people throughout the government, it's mainly a State Department enterprise.

Q: Has it been put on hold temporarily because of this whole missile business?

Mr. Bacon: I'm just saying that I think at a time when discussions are ongoing may not be the best time to release the report. We'll see.

Tammy?

Q: The decision to update the stockpile of smallpox vaccine, is that in response to a specific threat or incident we're not aware of?

Mr. Bacon: No. Actually the decision was made some time ago. I think a year or a year and a half ago we signed what could potentially be a multi-billion dollar vaccine procurement contract with a company. This company will then subcontract for the production of specific vaccines to augment or create stockpiles of vaccines that the military needs. Smallpox was one of those vaccines that was called for in that contract about 18 months ago.

So we now have, I think, several hundred thousand doses of smallpox vaccine in the stockpile. Much of it's old. Of course we want to look at ways to make sure that we have modern, pure and effective vaccines in the stockpile.

Q: This major contractor you're referring to, would this be sort of a one-stop shopping for all kinds of vaccines?

Mr. Bacon: It was sort of a mega-vaccine contract, that we contracted with one company that will then subcontract out to vaccine makers to provide a whole variety of vaccines. I think there were many types of vaccines.

Q: Might that include the anthrax vaccine?

Mr. Bacon: No. One, this contract was let before, I believe it was let before, Secretary Cohen made the decision to require mandatory anthrax vaccinations for the entire force. Secondly, there is only one maker of anthrax vaccine, as you know, and that's the company with which we have now an independent contract for that vaccine.

Brian?

Q: A UN toxicologist has forwarded a report to, I think, Kofi Annan as well as Secretary General Solana at NATO, outlining what according to him is more and more evidence that the Serbs did in fact use some sort of chemical agent, at least against some KLA members, possibly some civilians. I know you talked about that earlier in the year about some of this evidence.

Does the Pentagon have any additional evidence of its own that those kinds of things may have been used, on what kind of scale?

Also, if the Pentagon does believe that, does this mean that the U.S. policy towards the government in Serbia could be or should be, like it is in Iraq, that if this is a regime that has used these weapons of mass destruction they should no longer be allowed to have them?

Mr. Bacon: I haven't seen the toxicologist report, so I can't comment on it. I haven't seen any new evidence in U.S. government channels about the use of--the possible use--of chemical agents. What I said before was that there were reports from the KLA and the refugees that chemical agents were used against Kosovar Albanians by Serb forces. We do know that riot control agents are a standard part of their weaponry and they have used riot control agents in the past. There were some reports by NGO doctors and others that possible blister agents could have been used. But I'm not aware that we've ever confirmed those reports.

I'll look into this issue and try to get back to you. I don't think it's appropriate to comment on "what if" at this stage, until we know what the facts are.

Q: There was a report today that China contracted to upgrade an anti-ship missile for Iran. As far as you know, is that the case? If so, would it be a violation of the assurances that were given to Secretary Cohen on the issue to the Chinese?

Mr. Bacon: I can't comment on intelligence matters even if they've been reported in newspapers. What I can tell you is that the agreement between China and the United States covers longer-range, more capable anti-ship cruise missiles, the 801 and the 802, than the missile that was discussed in this story, which is the FL-10.

Q: So even if the report is true it wouldn't necessarily violate agreements?

Mr. Bacon: Well first of all, if there is this activity going on, it's disturbing. We do raise issues such as this with the Chinese and we have talked to them about sending anti-ship missiles to Iran. But the specific agreement covers the 801 and 802.

Q: Right now Taiwan is exercising and also they are planning a biggest, one of their largest military parade to celebrate 50 years of communist rule. Anybody planning to attend from this building or any comments if they use the force against Taiwan during this 50th Anniversary?

Mr. Bacon: I guess I'd say as long as their military equipment is on the streets of Beijing it's probably not threatening Taiwan. So I'm not sure there's any reason to worry about this military parade on the 50th Anniversary. Countries frequently use military equipment to celebrate important national anniversaries. I can't tell you whether we have plans to attend the parade or not.

Q: Any readout on the ABM modification START III talks this week?

Mr. Bacon: No. Those people, Mr. Hollum, Secretary Warner, Susan Koch, are on their way back now. I don't think they've arrived yet. I don't have any readout beyond what was given by the embassy in Moscow yesterday.

Press: Thank you.

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