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DoD News Briefing Thursday, May 2, 1996

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD/PA
May 02, 1996

Thursday, May 2, 1996

I'd like to start with a couple of announcements. First, I'd like to welcome a group of 12 Russian journalists today. They're visiting the United States for two weeks as part of a United States Information Agency international visitor program and the focus of their visit is journalism and human rights. So, I hope you'll show due respect for human rights at this particular briefing today.

Secondly, I'd like to make one flag officer announcement. Secretary Perry announced today that the President has nominated Vice Admiral Frank Bowman for promotion to the grade of Admiral, and he will be assigned as director of the Naval and Nuclear Propulsion Program.

Finally, tomorrow, Dr. Perry will present the David Packard Excellence and Acquisition awards to civilians who have played a role in two important projects. One is the SMART-T MILSTAR communications system and the other is the communication system on the new attack submarine. Prior to that briefing, or prior to the award ceremony, we expect that Under Secretary Paul Kaminski will come down here and talk about some of the recent progress that has been made under the acquisition and reform initiatives - - more purchasing from private companies, more off-the-shelf purchases, using more competitive techniques, fewer military specifications, etcetera and we have some lists of tangible achievements from this program that I hope that he'll be able to detail tomorrow.

And with that, I will take your questions. Charlie?

Q: Can you give us any more on the U.S. soldier that was wounded in Bosnia?

A: Well, I do have an update on that. I want to stress that this information is still very preliminary. As a matter of fact, the soldier is now undergoing surgery, and we won't have, obviously, a full report on what happened to him, or his condition, until some time after the surgery is complete. According to our reports -- and this has changed a little since the initial report so we want to stress that this is still preliminary information -- a U.S. soldier was shot in the leg today at about 4:30 p.m. Tuzla time, which was 10:30 a.m. eastern daylight time. The reports are that the soldier was at the Lodgement Area Demi, which is about 25 kilometers south of Tuzla in the U.S. 2nd Brigade sector. There was no indication that this injury was a result of hostile fire. But we don't know exactly what the circumstances were and that's one of the aspects that's being investigated. The soldier was evacuated to the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital at Lodgment Area Linda near Olovo which is also in the 2nd brigade sector. The soldier is reported to be in stable condition. The injury to his leg is not life threatening. His name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. That's all I can tell you right now. As we get more information, and updated information, we will let you know.

Q: Is there any indication whether it was self-inflicted or shot by somebody else?

A: I think we have to wait for the investigation to be completed.

Q: What kind of a round? Rifle? Handgun?

A: 5.56.

Q: 5.6. So M-16.

A: We believe it was a 5.56 round, but we'll have to wait for the surgery to be completed until we can tell you that for sure.

Q: Was this is a male solider? I think you said "he." I just wanted to be clear.

A: My report is that he's a male soldier since all the information refers to him as "him." But I don't have his name. I can't tell you for sure.

Q: Considering it an accident at this point?

A: I think it's premature to say what we're considering it. We're considering this a subject for investigation. It's obviously something that we will try to figure out as soon as possible. Right now, our primary goal is to make sure this person can be taken care of medically, that we can limit the damage, and that we can find out, we can stabilize his condition, and find out exactly what the next steps are medically. But contemporaneously with that, we'll be working to try to talk to other people in the unit to find out exactly what happened.

Q: Do you know where the hospital is?

A: I did say where it was. But, it is the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital at Lodgment Area Linda near Olovo which is, and I don't know where that is compared to Tuzla for instance. But it's also in the U.S. 2nd Brigade sector.

Q: Can you be any more specific on where the leg is wounded?

A: I'm sorry, I can't. It's fairly -- I would guess since the initial report was that he was shot in the abdomen, it must be in the upper leg. But, we will know more after the surgery is completed and people can talk to the doctors. Ivan?

Q: New subject?

A: Sure.

Q: Can you give us the latest stuff on the situation in Monrovia, please?

A: Sure.

 

Sporadic fighting continues, and with that issues continue efforts to reach a cease-fire and ultimately a peace agreement. There will be a -- Secretary -- Assistant Secretary of State Moose has returned to Washington to discuss the next efforts, the next steps in our efforts to negotiate a cease-fire in Monrovia or help negotiate a cease-fire. There's also. as you know, a contact group is set up to deal with the problem there. Basically, it's sporadic, episodic fighting. There has been not much traffic movement in Monrovia. It's sort of shut down. Most civilians seem to be off the streets and hiding, trying to protect themselves. There have been no more attacks against the U.S. Embassy compound there.

As you know, yesterday, we moved the three ships carrying the Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 22nd MEU, closer to shore. They're now about three nautical miles away from shore, so they're a visible presence off the shore from Monrovia. Before they were over the horizon and not visible. We have not heavied up the number of Marines there. There is still somewhat under 300 Marines. I think it's about 295 now. I think it was 270 something, but it's not a significant increase. We think that we have an adequate force on the ground and adequate force in the area. The total size of MEU is about 2,900. The total number of people assigned to the mission has fallen slightly as I predicted it would. It was about 3,444, I think, on Tuesday. It's down to close to 3,300. That's because the Air Force people are pulling out of Freetown and Dakar. So, it's switching over to almost completely a Marine operation.

Q: Just a follow-up. Has there been any thought to evacuating the embassy? Bringing the people home?

A: Well, the security -- First of all, people are continuing to be evacuated. On Tuesday, 48 more people were taken out. There were three Americans in that group and today, 25 more people came out. I don't know what the breakdown is between Americans and foreigners. So, there are evacuations going on and the security situation and the continued operation of the embassy remain a topic of discussion. But that's really a State Department decision how long they want to keep their diplomatic presence there. Yes, Bob?

Q: Could you describe a little more explicitly the purpose of the movement of the ships closer to shore, and have they stayed? Did this happen yesterday or did this happen twice? What's the sequence of events and more explicitly the purpose?

A: Well, the purpose one, is to provide a more visible presence and also to shorten the hop time between the ships and the embassy compound -- Shorten the flight time. We think that there's an adequate force there, but we want to be ready to reinforce our Marine detachment if necessary. Yes, Steve?

Q: Are you evacuating people now to the ships, Since you said the Air Force had pulled --

A: Yeah, I'm afraid I'll have to take that question. I don't know. I just don't know. We'll find that out. Yes, Jamie?

Q: A new subject.

A: Sure.

Q: The German Air Force Tactical Training Center at Holloman Air Force Base, where the Germans are planning to base 66 planes and 900 people and are building buildings there. The Air Force has gone through great pain today to point out that it is not a base. How would you describe that?

A: I would describe it as not a base. Their tenants.

This is an important point and I don't mean to make light of it. It's important for two reasons. One, the German presence at Holloman Air Force Base is an important development both for the United States and Germany. This is very good news for the State of New Mexico. It's very good news to the United States Air Force. It's very good news for Germany. And it's very good news for a continuing strong alliance between the U.S. and Germany and the U.S. and its other NATO allies.

The Germans are tenants at Holloman Air Force Base which continues to be a completely American base. It's been in operation since 1942. The Germans have been operating at Holloman Air Force Base and other Air Force Bases in the United States since the 1970's performing training. What's new here is that they are going to perform the preponderance of their training now at Holloman of their initial Tornado training and they will have actually a total of 42 Tornadoes there. There will be a period of time when they will also have some F-4's, but those F-4's are operated under a contract with the U.S. Government. And that contract is to provide training, and other support to the German F-4's. But, it is sort of under U.S. operation. The real German assets will be there by 1999, are 42 Tornadoes.

Now let me tell you a little bit about the arrangements that have been reached with the Germans. The first trance of planes will be 12 Tornadoes and there will be about 300 German air crews and support personnel there along with their families. As I said, the Germans are tenants on the United States Air Force Base. They have built some buildings, including hangars, maintenance facilities, at a cost of about $44 million. That's what's called Holloman 1, the first trance, the first 12 planes. By 1999, they intend to expand the number of planes to 42 by bringing in 30 more Tornadoes. This will require more construction of hangars, maintenance facilities, and noise buffering facilities. It will cost about $125 million construction on the base.

The German air crews and their families are living on the economy. That is, in the community, in Alamogordo. The German children are right now attending American schools there. As I say, Germans have been using the base at Holloman for some time. They will begin -- they will establish a German school for younger children I believe to open in the fall for the first three or four grades to accommodate families as they come in. So far, the Germans have been greeted very warmly.

 

They're allies. They're important allies. They've been good neighbors in New Mexico, and I think the most important thing is that, of course, millions of Americans have served in Germany since the end of World War II, and we've been very well taken care of there. Although our presence is reduced -- it's now 100,000 in Europe down from 300,000 at the end of the Cold War -- we still have a very significant presence in Germany. There are over 100 Air Force planes stationed in Germany now. Seventy-two combat planes. The others are support planes. And this is a relationship of allies, friends, and good neighbors and now it's on both sides of the Atlantic.

Q: You said at the outset of your response, is you would say it's not a base. So, what term would you use to refer to it, an installation, a facility, how would you describe it?

A: The Germans are using U.S. facilities for training.

Q: But they're building their own buildings.

A: They have built some hangars and other buildings. But, they are at Holloman Air Force Base which is the United States -- well, if they want to take -- for one thing, I expect them to be there for a long time.

It's interesting. Minister Ruehe yesterday, at Holloman, noted that New Mexico, the state of New Mexico, is the same size as Germany. But the state of New Mexico has the population of 1.5 million people, whereas the nation of Germany has a population of 80 million people. So, you can see that there are training opportunities and space and ranges, target ranges, etcetera, in New Mexico that don't exist in Germany. So, that is one reason why it's an attractive training area. The second is, of course, the weather is much better in New Mexico than it is in Germany. So, the number of hours a pilot can fly in a course of a month or a year are much greater than they are in Germany.

Q: There seems to be some confusion about also or a misunderstanding about who is the host of this dedication ceremony yesterday? Can you clear that up for us?

A: Well, I think that it was a very important joint ceremony that featured two defense ministers, one from Germany and one from the United States. To the extent that Minister Ruehe was the master of ceremonies, the Secretary was his host. I think both Minister Ruehe and Secretary Perry pointed out to you yesterday, when you went down there with him, that when Secretary Perry went to Hohenfels last fall to watch the training for the Bosnian deployment, he invited Minister Ruehe to come to Hohenfels, which is a training area operated by the U.S. in Germany, and he described Minister Ruehe as his guest there. I think the point that you should all make, and I hope you will make in reporting about this, is that this is an important step forward in a very, very mature and productive alliance. And we welcome our German allies in New Mexico. They have been training in the United States for 20 years, and we expect they will be training productively in the United States for decades to come.

Q: Well, the reason I was asking these questions is that some apparently have chosen to read in some sort of sinister implications into this. Have you received any negative feedback about this project? Has the Pentagon been getting calls from members of Congress? Have commanders expressed any concern about this?

A: I think that if you want me to be completely direct about this, your report describing this as establishing a permanent military base on U.S. soil was not quite accurate. They are tenants at an American military base that's been established in the United States for nearly 35 years.

I think that we should not look at this -- this should not be portrayed by anybody as a German invasion or occupation of U.S. space. It's not that. This is an opportunity for two allies to train together. It's an opportunity for us to actually return 40 years of training that we have performed on German soil. This is not a complicated operation. We train extensively around the world on other people's soil without much controversy. I would expect the Germans to be able to train on our soil with no controversy whatsoever, as allies, friends, and neighbors.

Q: You seem to be clarifying the terminology though, which seems to be one of the questions. Is this a German training facility?

A: The Germans are training on the United States Air Force base in New Mexico. They have set up facilities. Yes, they have set up buildings. They have their own headquarters building there where they are carrying out their training on an American Air Force base as tenants.

They are going to be paying for utilities. They're going to be paying for fuel. They're going to be paying for the operating costs that they incur on Holloman Air Force Base. They're tenants. They will be very good tenants. We're glad to have them. The Governor of New Mexico made it very clear yesterday that they were one, a major investor in the state, and two, friends coming to the United States to train with the U.S. Air Force.

Q: But they have their own facility there.

A: They have built some buildings and they will build more buildings, yes. And they have a building with their name on it.

Q: Well, a number of buildings with their name on it.

A: At a U.S. Air Force base. I don't want to get into Talmudic discussion here. I think it's very clear that we welcome the Germans to Holloman. The Germans are good friends and we look forward to years of productive training with them.

Q: Ken, we don't want to belabor the point either, but let me just make this the last question.

A: You do seem to want to belabor the point, but I'm glad to belabor it because this is a topic I enjoy talking about. It's a breakthrough in U.S. -- German relations, and we're very glad to have the Germans there, and I'm glad you're giving me an opportunity to talk about the details of this important arrangement.

Q: You said, from the podium there, that our term base was the incorrect term. We're asking you for the correct term and you seem to be saying it can't be described in a term.

A: The Germans are tenants on an American Air Force base. They are using some facilities that have been given that they have built on the base. And we are glad to have them as tenants performing training on Holloman Air Force Base. Steve?

Q: You described it as a breakthrough. But haven't they had a section of Fort Bliss for a long time?

A: Yes, they've trained at Fort Bliss. They've trained at George Air Force Base. They've trained at Holloman. They've trained at other places. What's a breakthrough here is that they have actually set up a tactical training command at Holloman Air Force Base. They're moving over 42 Tornadoes over time. There will be 600 airmen and pilots, crews, support people there, and probably by the time they're all there, there will be several thousand German people there including families, and they'll be living in Alamogordo, side by side with Americans, as we've been living in Germany side by side with Germans for the last 40 years. Todd?

Q: Given the breakthrough that this is, is the Pentagon considering a similar arrangement with Germany or another country either at Holloman or elsewhere?

A: We have not been asked by other countries, by other allies to do this. We would consider it if they asked us. Remember, this was an agreement that was first broached during the Bush Administration, and the first agreement was signed by Secretary Cheney and I believe Minister Ruehe who was then in his first year as Defense Minister of Germany. So, this has been under consideration for some time. It's not a surprise. It's something that has been planned. There's a very extensive Memorandum of Understanding outlining the terms of the arrangement and it's gone incredibly smoothly so far. I see no reason to believe that it won't continue as a smooth productive relationship.

Q: Is their tactical training command now headquartered there or will it be headquartered there?

A: Well, that's a question you should probably ask the Germans. I don't know. I would assume that it is not headquartered there, but I don't know that. That's a technical question you should ask the Germans.

Q: Is there a domestic version of a Status of Forces Agreement?

A: If there is, then -- well, it's basically called -- it's encompassed in the Memorandum of Understanding. We can get you more information on that. I don't know the -- I have not read it. I don't know the details. I've discussed it with people in Policy and it's something that both the Germans and the U.S. have agreed to and it seems to, be completely adequate.

Q: ...And no congressional action needed to approve something like this?

A: No. The Germans have done the construction so there aren't construction funds that have been involved.

Q: What about impact aid or anything?

A: No, I'm not aware that there is -- that any congressional money has been required. I'll doublecheck that, but I'm not aware that any money, any expenditure has been required.

Q: Have the Marines got any attack helicopters at all in Monrovia?

A: I'll take -- I will take that question. I don't know the answer, but we can easily find it out.

Q: I'd like to go back to the German situation. Hopefully the last question. You mentioned that this is a way that the United States can say "thank you" to the Germans for all the years that they have put up with the United States when, in fact, --

A: I never used the term "put up."

Q: Repay.

A: I did not use the term "put up" though. It has an entirely different connotation.

Q: When, in fact, since the end of the war, we have been occupying territory in Germany. How can you compare the two?

A: Well now, we operate on several bases in Germany, and I compare the two because I think in both Germany and now in the United States we're living together as friends and neighbors. We clearly have provided a line of defense to Germany that Germany is not providing by being in the United States. So in that way it's not exactly reciprocal. They're not defending us by being in the United States. But by training in the United States, they are increasing the capability of their air force and therefore, increasing the capability of the alliance, and this alliance remains an extremely important alliance as we are demonstrating in Bosnia today. Todd?

Q: Has consideration ever been given in the same mindset to allowing allied, or maybe offering allies, the use of bases that are being closed under the BRAC process?

A: Well, there -- as I tried to say earlier, we have not gotten a lot of requests from allies for this type of training in the United States. We have for years been providing training to NATO pilots in the United States. Not just German pilots, but NATO pilots. There's a NATO training operations that go on in the United States. The Germans have also done pilot training in Canada. We also, as you know, at Nellis Air Force Base, invite allied pilots to participate with their aircraft in the types of air combat training that goes on at Red Flag exercises for instance, that go on at Nellis all the time. We are always looking for ways to operate more closely with our allies so that, should a combat situation ever come, we can operate as a seamless unit. I think that the success of the Bosnian operation, in part, has been attributed to the fact that we have trained with our allies year in and year out and done it very effectively, and those lessons are now being shown to have been well learned. Bob?

Q: Can I change the subject?

A: Sure.

Q: Land mines. The CINC's are discussing it, I understand this week. Can you bring us up to date on where that stands and will that be presented as a recommendation to President Clinton when they see him tomorrow?

A: I don't think it's up to me to talk about what the CINC's will discuss with the President. That's something that the President and his staff will discuss if they want to.

Secretary Perry has been talking about -- many people have suggested policies for dealing with land mines. People on the Hill, academics, retired military officers, columnists, commentators, and others. And the Secretary has asked for the CINC's advice on how to deal with the land mine situation, and that is one of the issues they will discuss in the course of their meetings over the next two days.

Whether the issue is concluded during these meetings, I think remains to be seen. But it's something that's been under active discussion in the building, and the Secretary has made it clear to the CINC's that he wants their best advice on how to deal with a very real problem. And the problem is this. There's widespread agreement within the government that we should get rid of anti-personnel land mines. That they're horrible weapons, and we should look for alternatives. But anti-personnel land mines also play a crucial role in our war plans, particularly in Korea and Southwest Asia, the Middle East. Before we can decide to get rid of them and set a schedule for getting rid of them, we have to find a way to replace their use in those war plans in order to protect U.S. soldiers and in order to advance their -- protect and advance their military mission.

So, that's the issue right now. The issue isn't whether we should get rid of land mines. It's when we can rid of anti- personnel land mines. And that is not a simple question. So, the Secretary will be talking about this with his military advisors, and if there's something to announce on that in the next few days or weeks, we will -- somebody will announce it.

Q: So as far as you understand, the CINC's themselves have not come to a consensus on that question.

A: I think this is a matter of discussion between the CINC's, his military advisors on the one hand and the Secretary on the other hand. Todd?

Q: A new topic.

A: Sure.

Q: What is the Department's legal assessment of the House National Security Committee's call for banning the sale of pornographic magazines at installations on military bases?

A: Well, as I understand it, the committee has voted to restrict the sales of some goods. The Department has not taken a formal position on this. This is really an issue that's been defined more by the courts than by any other institution in the United States over the last couple of years.

The efforts to restrict the sales of magazines in the past during the Reagan and Bush Administration was ruled -- those efforts were ruled -- inconsistent with a 1972 Supreme Court ruling on Freedom of Speech and they weren't passed. I don't -- I won't predict what will happen this time around. We obviously, are always looking for the best way to balance First Amendment Rights with the family values that are important in the military. Jamie?

Q: Just on the same sort of general topic. Can you give us any reaction to the other provisions in the Bill that would add $13 billion to the Defense Budget for a list of items that the Pentagon hasn't requested. Is that a problem?

A: Well, we presented a budget that we think was well balanced. That, on the one hand, recognized and funded our military priorities. Top priority is readiness. The second priority is quality of life. And the third priority was force modernization, procurement. It funded those needs, on the one hand, in a context that would lead to a balanced budget in the year 2000 on the other. Congress wants to add money to the budget. They have discussed this with military commanders, with the chiefs.

Our view is that if they're going to add money, there are good ways and bad ways to add money to the budget. The best way to add money to the budget is to buy things this year that are planned to be purchased in future years. In other words, to accelerate purchases of tanks, of planes, of ships, etcetera. That's largely what happened last year when about $7 billion was added to the budget, it was spent on accelerating the purchase of ships, much of it for instance.

That is a way that takes some of the pressure off acquisition in the out years, and helps improve the quality of the force in line with the military plans in the next budget year. There are other types of expenditures which would have us buy things that we haven't planned to buy and that don't fit into our plan that would be less productive. So, to the extent that the money is going to be spent on accelerating purchases that the services have already have on their list, it would be a productive way to spend the money. But I want to make it clear that we presented what we think is a balanced workable budget. That this is a two-part process that involves both the executive branch and the congressional branch, and we're right in the middle of that process now, and we're willing to work with them to come up with a plan that maintains the most ready, most effective, force we can.

Q: Thank you.

A: Your welcome. I'm sorry. Here, let me see here. Two pieces of information. The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit has the standard compliment of attack helicopters for AH-1W attack Cobra helicopters -- Cobra Attack Helicopters. And the evacuation route currently is the same as Monrovia to Freetown in Sierra Leone.

Q: Did you say they have four?

A: Yes, four attack helicopters.

Q: In Monrovia?

A: And the evacuation route is the same as it was before. It's Monrovia to Freetown.

Q: Is the Air Force going to Freetown?

A: Do you know the answer to that question?

Colonel Kennett: I believe it's Marines. We can give that to you at the...

Mr. Bacon: I think it's Marines because they're pretty much breaking down the Air Force contribution there.

Thanks.