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Transcript : DoD News Briefing : Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon ATSD/PA

Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon ATSD/PA
March 26, 1996 1:30 PM EDT

Tuesday, March 26, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to our briefing. I'd like to start with a couple of announcements and a quiz. The first, an announcement. President Clinton has nominated Marine Corps Major General Carol A. Mutter to the rank of Lieutenant General. And she will be assigned as Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Reserve Affairs in the Marine Corps. If confirmed by the Senate, General Mutter will be the first woman in the history of the U.S. military to attain three-star rank.

My quiz is who is the nation's largest employer of women? Here are the choices: AT&T; Department of HHS; Department of Defense; or the National Organization of Women.

A: Department of Defense.

Mr. Bacon: Right. That's a good guess. You guys are sharp and you know all the answers already. But, if you'd guessed wrong, I was going to recommend that you pick up this pamphlet on the way out, which, as you can see, talks about "Women in Defense - DOD Leading The Way." And tomorrow afternoon at 2 o'clock, the Pentagon will commemorate Women's History Month in the Pentagon Auditorium and Lieutenant General-select Carol Mutter will be the keynote speaker.

Also tomorrow, at 9:30 [a.m.], General George Joulwan, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, will hold a press briefing here at 9:30 tomorrow.

We will also have a background briefing here at 2:15 p.m., to go over the Secretary's trip to the Balkans and to Egypt. He's leaving on Friday for Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, where he'll attend the Balkan Defense Ministers meeting. And then, he'll go on to Egypt and come back the Thursday of next week.


Tomorrow at 10 a.m., Secretary Perry will join Senators Strom Thurmond and Ernest Hollings of South Carolina and also Representative Floyd Spence on the Hill honoring the South Carolina National Guard and Reservists who participated in an exercise UJE KRISTAL `95, which took place in Albania.

If you want more information on that, contact Chris Cimko at the Senate Arms Services Committee. She will fill you in on the details. This is actually a path breaking exercise last year. It's very interesting. With that, I'll take your questions. Charlie?

Q: Before we get into China and Taiwan, the Marines just announced a 48-hour stand-down of all flight operations after six crashes over the last six weeks that killed five people. Is that cause for alarm for the Secretary given the Navy's recent problems [inaudible]?

A: All crashes are cause for alarm and all crashes are very extensively investigated. The Secretary monitors flight safety very, very closely. He meets frequently with the leaders of the services to discuss flight safety; particularly after accidents. This is an unexplained spate of accidents in the Marine Corps and, as you pointed out, they are announcing a 48-hour stand-down of their entire aviation fleet to study and reflect and to find out if they can get to the bottom of this. Yes, it's a matter of concern. And it's one we're addressing through the stand-down, through investigations, etcetera.

Q: Has he met with General Krulak, like he did with Admiral Boorda?

A: I can't answer that question. I'll try to find out. I just don't know the answer.

Q: The Navy is saying that they're changing their rules and regulations on the drinking age -- that at all bases, they'd have to conform with the local or state drinking age limit. Do you know whether the other services that do the same thing?

A: As I understand, it was only the Navy and the Marine Corps that honored this 18-year-old drinking age and the other two services have stuck with the national age of 21. It's national except for one state, Louisiana. I believe the legal drinking age is 21 in all states but Louisiana. And what the Navy has said -- that is effective April 1st -- all Navy and Marine Corps bases and installations will conform strictly to the drinking age limits in the states in which they're based. So, in all states, but Louisiana, they would follow the 21-year-old age.

Q: That's already the case with the other services you said?

A: That's my belief, yes. I'll double-check that. But, my understanding is it was only the Navy and the Marine Corps.

Q: It only applies in the Navy in San Diego.

A: It only applied in San Diego?

Q: That's correct.

A: Why is that?

Q: Because they're the only ones within 50 miles of -- a major command within 50 miles of the Mexican border where the drinking age was lower and they were trying to stop the kids from driving down to Mexico, getting drunk, and then driving home.

Bacon: Professor Kreisher will handle this. Thank you. Yes, Jamie?


Q: Can you put into context for us the remarks, statements made by a NATO spokesman, carried by the Associated Press, that seem to indicate that the mission of IFOR troops will be expanding into some civil reconstruction or civil duties or mine clearing or other activities that, in the past, NATO has said it wasn't interested getting involved in?

A: Well, sure. I'd be glad to. The Dayton Accords were very specific in outlining what the responsibilities of the IFOR troops were in Bosnia and the Accords made it very clear that the primary responsibility was to enforce the military aspects of the Dayton Accord -- the separation of forces; the monitoring of the cease fire; removal of heavy weapons; starting on April 18th -- which is the next major day, that's D-plus-120 -- forces and heavy weapons are supposed to be removed to barracks and cantonments. All of this is monitored by IFOR and that's their primary job. It adds up to maintaining freedom of movement within Bosnia.

The Accords also gave them the right, but not the requirement, to assist in the civilian reconstruction and to help with other civil aspects of the rebuilding of Bosnia. These can be lumped broadly under the headline of helping to create secure and safe conditions within Bosnia. For obvious reasons, General Joulwan and Admiral Smith and the leaders of IFOR decided that they would concentrate single-mindedly on achieving the military tasks when IFOR moved into Bosnia and that's what they have done, really, for the last several months. Now, many of those tasks are either complete or well underway. The forces are established. They have set up procedures for protecting themselves. They have set up procedures for maintaining freedom of movement throughout Bosnia. And they've been monitoring the zones of separation well, etcetera. So, they now have some time and resources to respond to some requests for assistance; and that's what they have been doing in a very measured and somewhat limited way at this stage.

Q: But, will they -- for instance -- will they be assisting in clearing mines, which is something that the Dayton Accord say are the responsibilities of the former warring parties and something that NATO has said, in the past, that it was not interested in doing?

A: That has been left pretty much extensively to the formerly warring factions, as you point out. Clearly, there has been some mine clearing by IFOR. Everybody has known that for awhile, that's part of maintaining a safe and secure environment and part of maintaining safety for the troops. I'm not aware that they will get directly involved in extensive mine clearing. There's always been a certain amount of mine clearing, but there may be places where they will get involved in some mine clearing, but I can't.... These decisions will be made primarily on the ground by the local commanders. They'll be made starting from General Joulwan on down and you can ask General Joulwan about this tomorrow for specifics on this. But, General Joulwan, Admiral Smith, General Nash, and the other commanders will be making these decisions as appropriate, as long as they don't compromise their military missions. And from the very beginning, we've stated that -- as well as maintaining freedom of movement within Bosnia and performing the tasks laid out in the Dayton Accords -- one of... our top priorities was troop protection. We won't do anything that compromises the safety of our own troops.

Q: Is there a concern that the civilian side of this operation is falling dangerously behind or way behind -- maybe "dangerous" is too loaded a word -- and that is part of the reason why IFOR feels that it must step out and help a little bit more in some of these areas where maybe the civilian side is not quite so organized?

A: Well, you're right. The civilian side is much less organized, but that's not a surprise. NATO has been around for a long time and it's been training for a long time. It's a hierarchical organization. It was basically doing a task it's trained to do for quite awhile. The civilian side has been pulled together. It hasn't had a pre-ordained organization. It's not hierarchical. It doesn't have a steady supply of funding, as the military side does for instance. It doesn't have the rolling stock, the communications gear, etcetera. So, it's no surprise that it has taken the civilian side longer to get off the ground. It was starting from a much lower level of organization. Yes, we're concerned. There's no doubt that we are concerned. We think that Carl Bildt, the High Representative, is qualified and capable. He's building an organization, but it takes time. One of the things you have to realize is that during the winter, it was difficult for the.... The civilian organization, basically, faced three challenges. One was getting organized in the first place and getting funding, that's part of their first challenge. The second was establishing an organization, during the winter, moving people and equipment in, getting set up. And they're beginning to do that now. The weather was difficult, it will be improving. And the third is, they couldn't do a lot of this until there was a general sense of security in the country. A greater sense than existed in early December. And now that IFOR has managed to provide freedom of movement, it's managed to provide more of a security net in the country, it's easier for the civilian people to start their job.

Q: Ken, having said that, is there any consideration for extending the amount of time that peacekeepers -- particularly U.S. troops -- will remain in Bosnia?

A: No.

Q: Can you tell us what specifically the expanded effort is going to be? We've talked about mine clearing. What other sorts of thing?

A: You talked about mine clearing, but I didn't tell you we were going to do a lot of extensive mine clearing.

Q: What do you think might be on the list?

A: Well, you can see what's happened so far and many of the things that IFOR has done or a number of things that IFOR has done have been sort of "dual-use." IFOR helped repair the Brcko bridge, for instance -- that's "dual-use:" it benefits the military as well as civilians. They are doing road repairs -- that's also "dual-use:" it improves freedom of movement both for IFOR and for civilians. They've repaired runways in Sarajevo, Tuzla, and Mostar. Obviously, also "dual-use." They have also participated in restoring electricity and natural gas service to various places, including Sarajevo and Gorazde. Clearly, having lighted streets, electricity helps the military, it provides a sense of security as well as helping civilians. And they've been performing various communications and transportation from time to time.

One of the things also that IFOR will do is to provide area security for some of the mass grave sites when the War Crimes Tribunal investigators go in there. Not point security in the sense that they'll secure these for 24 hours a day. But they will secure the area so that the people can get in and out and perform their work.

Q: One of the statements from the NATO spokesman who is quoted was a little bit cryptic. It said something about NATO would be, quote, very careful in getting involved in any hunt for war criminals, such as Ratko Mladic or Radovan Karadzic. That seemed to go a little bit farther than what you've said in the past, and NATO said in the past, that there are not going to be any hunts for war criminals. Can you give us any idea what they were hinting at there -- when they said they'd be very careful in getting involved with that.

A: Well, we have been very careful and we'll continue to be very careful. But, we've always said that we wouldn't get involved in manhunts. I think you should ask General Joulwan about that tomorrow. I'm not aware of a major change in our posture there. Mark?

Q: Was Congress briefed at all -- members of Congress -- on this shift in emphasis on the mission?

A: If you go back to the Accords, which I'm sure you've read, you'll see that it's all in there. It's on page 12 of the Military Annex, where it says that upon request IFOR can do a whole series of things: help create secure conditions for the conduct by others of other tasks associated with the peace settlement, including free and fair elections. That's specified right here in the Accord: it says that IFOR can assist the movement of organizations in the accomplishment of humanitarian missions; it can assist the UNHCR and other international organizations in their humanitarian missions; they can observe and prevent interference with the movement of civilian populations, refugees, and displaced persons and respond appropriately to deliberate violence to life and person; and they can monitor the clearing of minefields and obstacles. That's in the Accord. So, there's nothing new here. What's different is where we are in the process; that we've been able to establish a sense of security. We've been able to establish freedom of movement. We've been able to complete many of the military tasks. So, there is now easier to turn to what might be called the "secondary security issues," which are primary, of course, to Carl Bildt's organization in the civilian reconstruction group, but they are not primary to IFOR and what it went there to do. Now, that IFOR has done it, it can begin to concentrate on broadening the definition of "safe and secure."

Q: Is that provision that you just read, is that what's known as the "Mission Creep Loophole?"

A: [Laughter] This is known as "the good drafter's language to take account of all contingencies..."

Q: Will you be doing the policing, will the troops be doing any policing in the future?

A: I don't believe they will be doing policing. I talked earlier about "area security." Now, you went through the evacuation of the suburbs around Sarajevo and there was a fairly clear distinction drawn there between "policing" and "area security." The policing is suppose to be done by the international police task force, which will be working with local authorities to develop a more competent police force in Bosnia.

Q: So, was this a decision made just by the military commanders or did this have to go back to heads of government?

A: This has been evolving for some time in discussions. It's always been in the agreement. Anybody who read the agreement on November 21st, when it was signed, or anytime afterwards, would have seen in it there. What's happened, as I explained earlier, is that with the completion of the primary military tasks, there's more time and people available to do other things.

Q: Did George Joulwan just wake up one day and say, "OK, I guess we can assist in civil reconstruction now?" Or was this something that had to...

A: Just as I said, it's always been there. It's always been a possibility.

Q: Did it have to go through the entire US Government policy- making apparatus and get approved by the President before this thing that was always there is now going to be done?

A: I'm not aware that that's happened. What happened is the commanders on the ground have been able to deal differently with the requests for assistance today than they were a month or two ago.

Q: Can we get you on the record to respond to the age old question of whether or not this expansion represents any "Mission Creep"?

A: Well, on that, I will quote my boss, who today said, "This is not Mission Creep. This is carrying out the mission we have stated from the beginning." And I read you what the words were from the Dayton Accord on that.

Q: When did your boss make this comment?

A: This morning.

Q: Was this during his remarks this morning or was it...

A: No, it was afterwards. We have a transcript. We'll be glad to give you the transcript.

Q: The way you stated that is interesting. Commanders on the ground have been able to respond -- are now being able to respond to requests in a different way than they were a month or two ago. And I guess the list that you provided us of the various things that they have begun to do -- that there will just be more of that or there will be.... I'm trying to figure out, will they go to schools and help them rebuild structures? Or will they help rebuild hospitals? What? I mean, where...

A: We haven't sent a construction... I mean, we have not moved to Bosnia to rebuild Bosnia ourselves. The fundamental task of IFOR remains: maintaining a safe and secure environment; freedom of movement; force protection; and enforcing the military provisions of the Dayton Accord. That will remain their fundamental job. To the extent that the military job of rebuilding roads so tanks and Humvees and trucks can go over the roads more safely overlap civilian concerns and needs, they will be helping in civilian reconstruction, but it will be also maintaining a safe and secure environment for military operations. Many of the tasks they'll be performing will have these dual elements to them and they'll really be indistinguishable.

Q: The spokesman in NATO -- or the spokesman in Sarajevo said, hospitals and medical things are among the types of missions that the military is now prepared to step into, which they haven't apparently been willing to step into prior to whatever it is that has changed here. Do you know anything about that?

A: No, ask General Joulwan about that tomorrow. I think it would be more appropriate for him to comment on that.

Q: Taiwan?

A: Taiwan.

Q: The EISENHOWER, I beg your pardon, the INDEPENDENCE is supposed to leave today I think to go back to and arrive in Yokosuka on Thursday. When is the NIMITZ going to leave?

A: The NIMITZ will be there for awhile longer and I can't tell you how much longer, right now -- but, at least, a week.

Q: Just one quick question -- it's a little off the wall -- but on the JAST program, we've been hearing a lot of numbers floating around about what the value of this -- the potential value of this future contract for the joint strike fighter might be. Do you have any sort of guidance about what the Pentagon dollar value on this contract is estimated to be?

A: This is a program to take 707s and to convert them into sophisticated radar- and computer-filled planes that can track the movement of vehicles.... You're talking about JSTARS?

Q: No, I was talking about JAST.

A: JAST. JAST. I'm sorry. JAST. I'll get you the authorized JAST thing. I'm sorry. I can give you the cost for JSTARS, but I don't have the JAST cost with me. We can get that...

Q: Could I get your comment on the public criticism of a hallway in this building known as the Commander-in-Chief hallway? What's your reaction to the negative piece that was...?

A: You mean, my reaction to the single-minded Washington Times campaign against the Commander-in-Chief hallway? Is that what you're asking me about? This hallway has been there for about two years and it's not new. It, basically, is a corner of the building where we display pictures of the Commander-in-Chief visiting troops around the world. And it was decided, about two years ago, that, because the Commander-in-Chief's picture is in the River Entrance to the Pentagon, and in most military installations around the world, that it might be appropriate to have pictures of the Commander-in-Chief meeting with troops as he travels around the world and that's what the hallway does. We assume that when there's a new Commander-in-Chief, there will be new pictures up there. Right now, we have pictures of our current Commander-in-Chief and, I suppose, in five years, when there's a new Commander-in-Chief, there will be a new set of pictures up there.

Press: Thank you.

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