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

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD (PA)
February 27, 1996 3:00 PM EDT

Tuesday, February 27, 1996 - 3 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Okay. I'd like to start. Thank you very much, General Sheehan. I'd like to start with an announcement about the budget plans. We will have a background briefing here at 3:30 on Friday to discuss the Fiscal `97 budget. Unfortunately, we will not be able to release as much information as we always do with this, simply because it hasn't been produced yet. There will be a press release and slides and some other handouts. We hope to have the program acquisition costs by weapon system book. We do not expect to have the detailed research and development report or the procurement report or the military construction report. They will be produced some time shortly after the briefing -- a week or so after the briefing -- in March. The material we released on background and the briefing on Friday will be embargoed until 6 a.m. on Monday, and Secretary Perry will hold a briefing at 2 p.m. on Monday. So, that's the budget -- the budget schedule. Yes, Todd?

Q: The summary book will be available, but the other three breakout books by line item will not be available?

A: The three breakout books will not be available. We hope the summary book will be available. I can't promise it for sure, now. That's the one in which we have the best shot at this stage.

Q: But those figures though will --

A: We should be able to have those figures, yes. But, we can't promise the other line-by-line books. But, we will have a fairly detailed press release and slides.

Q: By embargoed for 6:00 a.m., you mean embargoed for wire movement at 6 a.m. on Monday? Or, at least, can it be moved earlier and held for release until then, or is it for movement at 6 a.m.?

A: When would you normally move something for 6 a.m. release?

Q: We could move it shortly after midnight. We could move it --

A: Midnight on Sunday?

Q: Yeah.

A: Yeah.

Q: As long as it carries an embargo slug on it.

A: Yeah, that's fine.

Q: Midnight Sunday for release at 6 a.m.?

A: Yeah, 6 a.m.

Q: Does that mean it's for Monday morning papers [inaudible]?

A: It is the p.m. cycle. It's not for Monday morning papers. It's the p.m. cycle.

Q: Another subject.

A: Yes.

Q: Good. Ken, Cuba. Especially, the recent shoot down north of Havana, I wanted to ask specifically, what is the policy opinion of the United States military with regard to civilian aircraft flying near the Cuban air space, in the area where the shoot-downs occurred on Saturday? And, specifically, would the United States need become involved in protecting private U.S. aircraft, if they were close to Cuban air space; if they were provocative or entering Cuban air space, would U.S. war planes intervene to take out Cuban MiGs?

A: The first thing I want to stress is that this was an outrageous act by Cuba. There was no reason to shoot down these planes, these unarmed civilian planes. They were... the shoot-down was in complete violation of international air traffic conventions. There were a number of policies they should have followed and they did not. So, there was no justification for what happened.


Secondly, the Cubans had warned these planes that they were going into a dangerous area. Still, that did not constitute any excuse for what the Cubans did. The FAA had warned flyers about penetrating Cuban..., the Cuban air defense zone. We do not plan... We have made no changes in our flight patterns around Cuba, and we don't intend to, to our military flight patterns around Cuba.

Q: Are we not protecting American civilian aircraft near Cuba? Is that not a policy?

A: Our policy is that Cuba violated international norms, and we're dealing with this in the United Nations. Our policy is that planes should respect sovereign air space. That's a tenant of U.S. policy, and we expect that planes will respect sovereign air space.

Q: But, back to my question. U.S. war planes do not protect --

A: I told you, Bill, that we have made no change in our use patterns of U.S. war planes, now.

Q: Dr. Perry and administration officials have repeatedly said that these planes were in international air space when they were shot down. I think what he's asking is, if Cuba moves again to shoot down U.S. private planes in international air space, will U.S. military jets respond?

A: I'm not going to deal with a speculative or contingency situation. One lesson here is that, I think, planes should respect sovereign air space. We're not condoning what happened in any way. But, on the other hand, I'm not going to get into the business of speculating what might happen, given a certain set of circumstances that have yet to occur.

Q: But, in fact, Jose Basulto, of Brothers to the Rescue, has told NBC News that he has plans to have aircraft in the exact spot where those two were shot down this Saturday. What would you say to him?

A: I would say he seems to be a slow learner. [Laughter]

Mr. Bacon: Any other questions?

Q: Since the New York Times primed you a day in advance, I'm sure you're aware of the content of the report on the second anniversary of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which reports not only [inaudible] increase in the number of homosexuals that are being kicked out of the service, but the pursuit and harassment seems to be on the increase rather than on the decrease.

A: There was an increase in Fiscal `95 from Fiscal `94. Fiscal `94 was the year the policy took effect, so it was a split year -- split between the old policy and the new policy. We do not have, right now, an explanation for this increase. We're studying the report and we're studying the patterns, but I can't explain to you why this increase occurred. Of course, statistics always tell a number of stories and one thing that has happened over the last two years is that these statistics reflect a different reporting method by the Air Force than occurred prior to Fiscal 1994. The Air Force is now including a significantly greater number of discharges as "homosexually-related" than they were prior to 1994. One hundred and two discharges in 1994 and 163 discharges in 1995 would not have... that were for homosexual activity, would not have been included in previous years statistics, prior to the change in the Air Force reporting method.

So, if you adjust the figures of the last two years for that change in the Air Force reporting method, and that change basically was prior to Fiscal Year 1994, the Air Force, when it found homosexual activity during basic training, discharged somebody for "fraudulent enlistment" rather than for homosexual activity. They changed that in Fiscal year 1994. So, there's been an increase in the number of discharges for this reason in the Air Force. But, if you adjust the figures to take account of that, you would have lower figures then by 100 in 1994. The figure was 597. It would be 102 lower, and the figure of 722 in 1995 would be 163 lower, because that's the impact of the Air Force change.


Q: What about their statement that there are still recruiters who were asking the question on the enlistment questionnaire and that both the Air Force and Navy have implemented policies that encourage aggressive investigations that require them to go outside even of the unit to ask parents, friends, relatives of the person to determine their sexual orientation?

A: In terms of recruiting, the guidance is very clear that recruiters aren't supposed to ask such questions. There's fairly... we've issued a number of memoranda over the years dealing with training of military people for dealing with the new policy, and the training is specifically for recruiters, but there's also training for commanders. There's training for people in the Judge Advocate General's corps and similar legal services, and also there's training for people who are involved in investigations. We've tried to be as uniform as possible in getting the message out. It's a big organization. I cannot tell you that there aren't examples where this may be asked. But, it's not our policy to ask that question, and our policy has been clearly stated in regulations and training guidance.

Q: In the time that these homosexuals have been discharged from the military, has a single commander been reprimanded or censured in any way for failing to adhere to the spirit and letter of the policy?

A: Let me go back and finish answering Otto's other question, which was about an Air Force directive. The Air Force directive that was referred to in this report deals with a very narrow set of circumstances. It deals with a set of circumstances where a person in the Air Force has revealed his or her homosexuality and is seeking a separation from the Air Force and may have been the beneficiary of either recruiting bonuses,

re-enlistment bonuses or educational benefits that the government may be able to recoup under military regulation. In those situations: one, an admission; two, the possibility of recoupment, there are procedures for talking to other people. But, the first person to talk to is always the subject himself, or herself, the person who made the declaration.

Q: Is the subject of this thing to see if there was fraud or not on the part of the recruiter so he can recover this money?

A: These regulations were instituted -- or actually what it is, is a tip sheet to investigators who are dealing with investigations to determine whether the Air Force should recoup either educational benefits or

re-enlistment or other benefits -- bonuses -- because a person is getting out before his or her term is up. That's... this is a narrow set of circumstances to deal with that situation. Jamie?

Q: My question was whether any commander has been reprimanded or censored in any way, since this policy has gone into effect, for failing to adhere to the letter or spirit of the policy?

A: I want to make a couple of points. The first is that we are trying to administer this policy right down the line, evenhandedly and fairly. There is nothing in... we believe, in our training, or our policy, that encourages what this report refers to as "witch hunts" and, in fact, DOD regulations specifically prohibit such activity. In cases where these allegations are brought to our attention, we look into them, and we will pledge to look into these allegations as they're brought to our attention in the future. We have looked into several cases that this group has brought to our attention in the past, and we will in the future. There is, of course, in the military, a very clear and well-designed series of avenues for bringing complaints to the fore: there are Inspectors General, for instance; there are people designed to handle complaints; and there are legal officers, etc. So, there are many ways to bring allegations or complaints or reports of allegedly improper activity to the attention of military commanders.

Q: I just want to ask you a pretty simple question. Do you know, is there any case where any commander has been reprimanded or in any way censored for not adhering to this policy, which you said is "strictly prohibited?

A: There is a case..., well, first of all, there are a limited number of cases that we have investigated from start to finish, involving so-called "witch hunts" or harassment with homosexuals. The one case that was mentioned by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network at the very beginning of its report involved a woman in Korea. The commander in that case was, in fact, investigated for improper activity.

Q: What was the sanction?

A: Well, I can't... I don't believe... I will find out whether I can tell you under the privacy rules. But, there was a sanction, yes.

Q: Ken, are you disappointed that this remains an issue, that it's not something that's being followed by the book?

A: Well, I suppose in a broad sense, I'm always disappointed when I encounter problems, but it's a pretty regular part of life. I think, we are working very hard to make this policy succeed. General Sheehan said that he did not think this is an issue, a big issue, as a commander, and he doesn't sense it is an issue in talking to the troops. My sense, and the sense of Secretary Perry, is that based on what he hears from commanders, based on what the Defense Department leadership hears from commanders, that this, today, is not a huge command problem. We are working to educate commanders and the troops. We're working to make them understand exactly what the policy promises and does not promise and some of the confusion over the policy may reflect that there's, perhaps... that we have to do more work on this. We're always looking at our training. We will look at this report and decide if any activity has to be taken in response to the report.

Q: Ken, what are the official totals -- not breakdowns among the services -- what are the official totals for the four years ending in Fiscal `95 of dismissals?

A: The official totals...

Q: For each year.

A: Starting in Fiscal year 1992: `92 was 708. Fiscal 1993 is 682. Fiscal year 1994 is 597. And, I explained that includes 102 discharges that would not have been included in Fiscal of `93, or previous years in the Air Force. And, Fiscal `95 is 722, as reported in the report, and that includes 163 discharges that would not have been counted under prior Air Force policies.

Q: Ken, how many cases have been investigated during this whole time?

A: I can't answer that question. Our reporting of... I don't have those figures. I'm not sure that we have a central data depository on the number of cases that have been -- its done by service.

Q: How [inaudible] investigating this? Is there going to be some formal procedure for looking into it?

A: Well, we're going to sit down and -- we got the report late last night -- and we're going to read the report very carefully, and we're going to go through the cases in the report. Now, many of them, as you know, are anecdotal. Many of them are referred to only in terms of totals, without specifics. We have said to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and other groups that come to us with specific allegations that we will investigate them. That remains our pledge to do that. But, we cannot investigate anecdotal information. I'm not saying that some of these events, or all of them, didn't occur. I'm just saying that without specifics, it's very difficult to track them down. Pat?

Q: You mentioned that these groups have come to you in the past and you have investigated things in the past. The Korean situation, the Korean woman and an officer sanctioned there. Are there any other cases where these groups have come to you in the past that resulted in censures or actions against commanders, sergeants?

A: There was another one that certainly resulted in an investigation. I'm not aware that there was a sanction in that case.

Q: Can you tell us a little more?

A: I can't right now, no.

Q: There's about a dozen men and women openly serving in the military who are gay, and their cases for discharge are being held up because of court action -- and some cases for many years. Is there any evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, that their service in units -- and some are in combat units -- has been detrimental to the good order and discipline?

A: I can't answer that question. I just don't know. I can tell you that, as I said earlier, that commanders who have spoken to this issue have not rated it as one of their major command problems.

Q: Ken, given that the stated purpose of this policy -- when it was instituted two years ago -- was to afford homosexual members of the military an opportunity to serve so long as they kept their status private and, given that Secretary Perry this morning made the admission that the result has been what he called not a very significant change, hasn't the policy failed?

A: The policy has not failed. The policy was, as Secretary Perry said, a small change. What it said was that orientation is not a bar to service. It looks to... the ability to serve in the military is based on conduct, not on sexual orientation. The... it does not... and that's what the policy said, and it goes on to say that the military would stop asking people about their sexual orientation. And, as long as people did not disclose their sexual orientation, either in words or actions or conduct, they would be allowed to serve in the military. The cases that have... the court cases in particular, many of them which have arisen are cases where people have announced that they were homosexual and fought for the right to remain in the military. The policy change should be very clear. It did not say that practicing homosexuals could remain in the military. It said that people who did not disclose their sexual orientation could serve in the military, because the indicator would look to conduct not to orientation.

So, there may be some confusion about that. I think that Secretary Perry described this as a small change because it really was a change on the enlistment form more than anything else.

Q: To Bosnia for a moment...

Q: Can we stay with this for just a moment?

A: Yes.

Q: You said that the Pentagon looked into the case in Korea. The other case that the servicemen's group problem [inaudible] was the submarine tender in Sigonella, where there's, you know, something like 60 women were being investigated simultaneously. Do you know whether there's been any investigation into that?

A: The first we heard about that was in late December and the Navy has not completed its investigation of that case. I cannot support... I have no ability now to comment on what the report said about that. I read the report. We're looking into it. I can't -- I don't have anything for you on it, right now. Jamie, going back to your case. This policy tries to balance the military's need to maintain morale, unit cohesion on the one hand and a right to privacy on the other hand.

The ticket to privacy is not talking about sexual orientation. It allows people to come into the service without disclosing their sexual orientation and to stay in the service as long as they don't disclose their sexual orientation if they're homosexuals. A disclosure, then, can trigger a series of investigations. We are trying... our goal is not to harass people. Our goal is not to pursue people. Our goal is not to have "witch hunts," but there are rules that are laid out for dealing with situations where people disclose their... if they disclose their homosexual orientation. We're trying, as I said, trying to balance an increased right for privacy in the military with what the commanders have said, and what Congress have said, is a need to protect a certain amount of unit cohesion.

Q: But you're making... in disputing the charge that things are worse now for homosexuals in the military, you seem to be admitting that things are really no better.

A: What I'm saying is that the figures, over a five-year period -- the figures that I read you -- don't show an extremely significant change. Now, the tyranny of statistics is that you have to look at long lists of statistics. You have to look at a number of years before they are particularly meaningful. We don't have a lot of experience with the statistics under this policy, right now.

Q: Perhaps, one more time. Are things better for homosexuals in the military, today, under this policy, than they were a two years ago?

A: Yes, they are.

Q: In what way?

A: And, the reason their better is that being a homosexual is no longer a bar to military service. Before, if you honestly answered the form as a homosexual -- a recruiting form -- and put down you were a homosexual, you were barred from joining the service. Now, you're no longer asked what your sexual orientation is when you come into the service, and you can serve careers -- many do -- without disclosing your sexual orientation. And, as long as that's the case, there should be absolutely no harassment or pressure on this person. That's our policy.

Q: Ken, that's what the policy is. But, during this briefing from these people today, in their report, they mention there are still enlistment forms out there that have not been corrected, that there are still "witch hunts" going on, where members of families and friends are asked questions about the person who has enlisted, even though nothing was said or admitted.

A: Those... if that is happening, that is not in conformance with our policy, and we will stop that if that is happening. What we want is strict compliance with our regulations, and that's one of the things we will do in the course of reading this report, and studying it, is decide whether there are areas where we have to look at better compliance. I'm not trying to prejudge what we're going to find. I think that we'll just have to wait and see what people determine after looking at this. But, right now, the invitation is there for people who feel they're being harassed, or mistreated, to come forward to their IGs, to their lawyers and complain about this. There are authorized channels for lodging such complaints. The invitation is also there for any group, including the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, to come forward and report specific charges or allegations to us, and we have said, in the past -- and we say now and we will say in the future -- that we will investigate these. We are against "witch hunts." We are against unfairness. We want strict compliance with this regulation on all sides.

Q: Turning to Cuba for just a moment.

Q: Can I just ask...

A: Sure.

Q: Is the lack of statistical change a disappointment to you? What were you anticipating seeing when the policy was introduced?

A: Well, I wasn't here when the policy was introduced, and I find that, I think, we're just going to need more experience looking at the statistics and looking at how the institutions adjust to the policy. I think, it would be premature right now to say that this is disappointing. I think, we have to wait and see what the trend is. Two years does not make a trend, particularly when there's been a rebased Air Force report in the middle of it which distorts comparisons between Fiscal `94 and the years before Fiscal `94 -- and I think that's an important rebasing. Yes, John?

Q: Does the Defense Department plan to release the composite radar tracks from the Cuban incident, which have been pulled together at March Air Force Base and which have been circulating around here and the rest of the Government?

A: I'm not aware of any plans that the Defense Department has to release those. It's possible that they may be released by another agency. I believe there will be material released, today.

Q: On the radar tracks?

A: Not on the radar tracks. There will be other materials released, today.

Q: The transcript that's been handed out at the U.N. already...

A: It was suppose to be released at 3 [p.m.].

Q: Okay.

A: Yes. I mean, that should be available through the U.N. or elsewhere.

Q: Will that be actual audio of the conversations between the cockpits or...

A: No, just the transcript, as I understand it.

Q: Okay. And, the radar tracks -- you believe some other agency of the government...

A: I do not know whether they will be released or not. That was still under discussion as of several hours ago.


Q: And, secondly, on the defector, who is now, I guess, a

"re-defector," or whatever he's called, Mr. Roque.... Did agents from DIA, or the "HUMINT" agency in this building, interrogate him when he came to Guantanamo the first time? Were you the primary interrogators?

A: I don't I want to get into the details of how we deal with defectors, but you're right in assuming that somebody from the Government talked to him, as we talked to other fighter pilots who defect from nations we're interested in.

Q: Do you have an assessment as to what he is, now?

A: No.

Q: I mean, you have no knowledge or suspicion that he is a... maybe he was kidnapped, for all we know, and they've got him under some nefarious drug or something, and you have, you know...

A: That would make a good story for ABC. [Laughter]

Q: So, you have no opinion on what he is now?

A: No.

Q: I believe it was last Wednesday evening, Richard Holbrooke told of there being as many eight, as few as four terrorist training bases, involving Iranian mujaheddin. Then, Secretary Perry, on Thursday, mentioned something about the U.S. -- IFOR was looking into this matter and looking for these facilities. My question is, do you have any more information on this particular matter? And, have you... have IFOR found any of these alleged other facilities?

A: First, the responsibility of the three governments who signed the Dayton Peace Accord is to honor the provision requiring the expulsion of foreign troops. It's not an IFOR responsibility to do that. IFOR has shown that it has an ability to locate, and to capture or collect, these troops in certain situations. But, it is the responsibility of the governments to get them out. And, we expect the Bosnians, the Croatians, and the Serbs to honor this responsibility. We believe that they have made considerable progress, but it's not over yet, and there's still more to be done.

Q: Do you believe that there still are such facilities besides the one in the Muslim controlled parts?

A: Well, Ambassador Holbrooke spoke about -- speculated there were a number of facilities -- and Secretary Perry said we're watching those facilities and, I think, I'll stick with that.

Q: So, you can't say anymore than that -- we're continuing to watch?

A: Right.

Q: Ken, representative... military representatives from the Bosnian government are making the rounds of several U.S. Army facilities, I guess, today and tomorrow. Can you describe, briefly, what it is that they're doing and how it fits into the possible equiping and training of Bosnian government forces?

A: It's a delegation that's come to look at training facilities and methods. One of the things that we've agreed to do is to help other countries help the Bosnians equip and train, and one of the things they're looking at are training methods. We... this delegation was here yesterday. I believe they are in Fort Polk, today is my understanding.

Q: So, they're just getting a look at how the United States trains its troops and its training facilities?

A: Ultimately, whatever training takes place will not take place here. So, it's mainly a question of looking at facilities and methods more than anything else.

Q: Is this... I take it, this is in accord with the provisions in the peace agreement about when training -- does this is technically amount to advice on training or training or is it just a...

A: Well, it's a visit. I wouldn't say that it's the beginning of the training at this stage.

Q: And, how long will they be and when do they go...

A: I'll get you those details. I just don't happen to have them.

Press: Thank you.