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DOD News Briefing - June 18, 1996

Presenters: Kenneth Bacon, ASD (PA)
June 18, 1996 1:35 PM EDT

Tuesday, June 18, 1996 - 1:34 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Welcome to our briefing. I hope some of you were here for the excitement earlier today when we welcomed William Huynh, the two millionth visitor to the Pentagon under our tour program. He got a special -- he got some awards here, some coins, a flag that's flown over the Pentagon and --

Q: And it was cool.

A: He described it as cool. (Laughter.) And that's because he was --


Q: How do we know he was the two millionth?

A: We count. We count. We're very good at counting at the Pentagon. And then he went up and had a tour of Secretary Perry's office and got to interview the secretary about all the topics of the day.


Q: Can you give us a readout? (Laughter.)

A: No. You guys, I'm sorry, just missed it. Mark was there. You might want to lean on him to give a pool report of all the things the secretary said.


Q: How old is the gentleman?

A: This man is -- this young man is nine years old.


Q: Where's he from?

A: He is from Massachusetts. And we can get you the exact town.

Q: Lunenberg.

A: Lunenberg, Massachusetts. He's a bug collector (Laughter.) And he was resplendent in a Chicago Bulls hat.

Q: (Off mike.)

A: I didn't ask him why he wasn't wearing a Boston Celtics hat, but maybe because he goes with victors, I don't know. (Laughter.) But at any rate, he had a great time. He was here with his mother, who emigrated to the United States from Vietnam in 1986, and is a social worker. And when the secretary asked him why he came to the Pentagon, he -- (Mr. Bacon shrugs) -- gave this answer. (Laughter.) So then he asked the --

Q: (Off mike) -- you have to say something.

A: Oh, I can't -- I can't make up words. He was speechless. (Laughter.) And this is one of the reasons we invented TV, to capture moments like this!

And when the secretary asked his mother why she brought to him the Pentagon she said, "Well, I've been here two or three times. I frequently come and visit the Pentagon." She didn't explain that. (Laughter.) But at any rate. I'll be glad to take your questions on this momentous two millionth visit or any other topic.

Q: You're sounding like a K-Mart shopper now.

A: Well, I don't know about that, but he seemed very satisfied. Very satisfied.


Q: Speaking of welcoming, at the risk of embarrassing her, I'd like to welcome Susanne Schafer back after a year.

A: Suzanne, welcome back. We're always -- actually, I think on Thursday you should give the briefing, and give us a very detailed account of what you learned over there, and maybe you could talk specifically about new interpretations of Goldwater-Nichols.

Q: Be careful what you ask for; you may get it. (Laughter.)

A: Well, I'm expecting to see it all in stories. Welcome back. You're by far the best-educated Defense reporter ever to be in this room probably.

Q: Thank you.

A: Any of you other gentlemen have advanced degrees from the National War College, National Defense University?

Q: -- been really busy this past year. (Laughter.) Been meaning to do it --

A: Okay.

Q: Have you all got any comment on this -- on Iran's claim that they presented to the United Nations yesterday that they're being harassed in the Gulf by U.S. warships? Are you familiar with --

A: I did not -- I did not see the claim that Iran made, but we have been carrying -- we are a significant naval power in the Gulf and we have been for a number of years. We are there not to harass anybody but to maintain the security of the Gulf and our allies -- and friends and allies in the Gulf. And we don't do that by harassing others. It's a significant naval force, and it will continue to operate in a reasonable and restrained manner.

Q: Can I do a follow-up?

A: Sure.

Q: Speaking of harassment, when will the Defense Department release its report on sexual harassment in the military?

A: Soon. It could be as early as this week. But it also might be next week. But we're hoping to get it out as soon as possible.

Q: Ken, do you have any comment on the statement that's been issued by the wife of Timothy Shafer, that pilot of the T-43 aircraft that went down in Croatia?

A: I'm aware that she has issued a statement. I have not read the statement and I have no comment on it. I think you should talk directly to the Air Force about that.


Q: Has the secretary had an opportunity to talk to Russian Defense Minister Grachev since he's been ousted? And what's the read in the Department of the effect of this on U.S.-Russian military relations?

A: The secretary has not yet had a chance to talk with General Grachev, but he hopes to talk with him in the next few days. He just hasn't had a chance to connect.

Q: [To ?] offer him asylum? (Laughter.)

A: Well, I don't think that -- we're talking about a democratic process here. And he's -- there's a change of jobs involved frequently in the democratic process, and that's what's going on in Russia today.

Our relations with Russia really deal with policies more than personalities. And Secretary Perry and the U.S. Department of Defense have been able to work smoothly with Minister Grachev on three very important issues. And we anticipate that we'll be able to continue these relationships -- these productive relationships with whomever takes over the Defense Ministry, because we think that these issues are ones that bind us -- bind our two nations, because they represent our mutual interests.

The first, of course, is cooperation between the U.S. and Russian forces in IFOR. The second is disarmament. We've worked very closely with Minister Grachev -- former Minister Grachev in the program to eliminate nuclear weapons from Kazakstan, Ukraine and Belarus. As you know, both Kazakstan and Ukraine are now nuclear-free. Belarus should be, by the end of the year. We worked together on implementing the START I limits. And we anticipate working closely with the Russian Defense Ministry on implementing the START II limits, when those lower limits are approved by the Duma.

This third area in which we've worked is counterproliferation. We both share an effort in limiting the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And the --probably the most important and current example of that, right now, is the efforts to negotiate a comprehensive test-ban treaty in Geneva. Those are ongoing, and we have every hope of success there.

Another area in which we hope to work closely with Russia, and have begun to work, is the whole question of European security issues. Just last week, in NATO, General Grachev agreed to some high-level exchanges of military officers between NATO and Russia.

We contend that both NATO and Russia share the number of security concerns in Europe. We both want a stable, peaceful Europe and the best way to achieve that is for Russia and NATO to work together. Last week there was a proposal made by both sides to begin this work of exchanging officers, Russian officers coming permanently to NATO and NATO officers going permanently to serve with the Russian general staff.

Q: Is there reason to believe that Yeltsin might put that on hold or the new guy might put it on hold?

A: I believe and assume not because, as I said, these serve both countries interests and the interests of both NATO and Russia so I would anticipate further progress in this area.

What we've shown over the last -- certainly over the last six months and, in fact, over a longer period of time is that a lot of things people one time thought were impossible turned out to be possible when people sit down and work them through and the foremost example of that is having Russian forces served in the U.S. division in IFOR. That's something that was worked out through a series of, I think, five meetings between Secretary Perry and General Grachev.

Yes, Otto?

Q: What does this exchange of officers do that isn't accomplished by having the Russian delegation on the -- [inaudible] -- that shape headquarters and their participation in Partnership For Peace?

A: Well, Partnership For Peace is just one part of a broader effort to improve security in Europe. One part is IFOR and they have a representative to IFOR, General Shvetsov who works in Mons. What we're looking at is duplicating that on broader issues than just IFOR so they'd be a whole range of issues that would be common to both Russia and NATO. In other words we would do this to improve communications between NATO and Russia on a range of European security issues. Partnership For Peace is a very important initiative and that's actually another of the contributions that General Grachev made as Defense Minister. He was the first Russian Defense Minister to come to NATO.

He brought Russia into the Partnership for Peace. He participated in Partnership for Peace exercises with the U.S. and with other members of the Partnership for Peace. And, of course, he also negotiated for the Russian side on the arrangements for Russian troops to serve in IFOR.

Q: How about dealing with General Lebed, who's obviously going to be a very powerful voice in Russian security issues, do you feel comfortable --

A: Well, as I say, we're bound by policies more than personalities. But Secretary Perry has not met General Lebed. President Clinton has, however. And we believe that we can work with him just as we've worked with other Russian leaders.

I believe that the White House either has or will very shortly issue a statement talking about a phone conversation between President Clinton and President Yeltsin today in which they both agreed that maintaining continuity in security policy was a prime goal of both governments. And I anticipate that we will be able to do this with whom ever runs the Defense Ministry in Russia.

I might also point out that General Lebed has spoken occasionally about NATO expansion and has, in fact, been -- expressed less opposition to NATO expansion than some other people in the Russian government.

Q: Will the secretary, one, try and talk to him and congratulate him; and two, invite him over here?

A: Well, I think we have to wait until the elections are complete in Russia before we can make any obligations for future meetings. But I anticipate that shortly after the elections are final, if, as many people predict, President Yeltsin is reelected, that we will make an effort to get to know the new defense minister, who will not be General Lebed, as I understand it. He has a higher job. But there will be a defense minister appointed to run the ministry, and I assume that we will get together will all the appropriate officials as soon as possible after the election.


Q: How many times did Perry meet with Grachev officially? Do you have any idea?

A: I'm afraid I don't. I mean, he met with him twice this month, once in Lviv, Ukraine -- in fact, he met with him three times this month; once in Lviv, Ukraine for the exercises there, the 11-country exercises, then once in Pervomaysk, where they helped plant sunflower seeds to replace a missile field, and then over the weekend -- just last week, at the end of the week, as you know, in Brussels for the Partnership for Peace defense ministers meeting and also the 16-plus-1, which -- 16 NATO defense ministers plus Minister Grachev.

Q: New subject?

A: Yes. Are we through with this? Does anybody have more questions on Russia? Go ahead.

Q: Can you confirm the shift in policy about comprehensive test ban regarding the three nuclear powers -- India, Pakistan, Israel? And what's the prospect of making them accept the test ban?

A: First of all, our policy has always been to get as many countries as possible to subscribe to the comprehensive test ban treaty. So the idea that we're trying to reach out beyond the five declared nuclear powers and bring in other countries to the treaty is not new.

I can't comment on specific negotiating strategy at this time because the negotiations are going on. So, because I can't comment on that, I can't comment on the prospects -- the last part of your question, which I think you've raised as the prospects for success.

I hope that we will be successful in negotiating a treaty that reduces the risk of new weapons of mass destruction, the spread of new weapons of mass destruction. That's our goal, and I assume we'll succeed in that -- not just us but all the nuclear powers who are joining together to embrace this new treaty.


Q: What's the rationale for sharing nuclear data from simulated nuclear explosions with France at this time?

A: Well, first of all, France is a long-time and loyal ally, and we have shared certain information with them over a long period of time, including some nuclear information. So the fact that we're doing that is not entirely new. What is new is the June 4th agreement that applies specifically to the safety and the reliability of the nuclear stockpile both in the U.S. and in France, sharing some data about that, some simulation data, some computerized stockpile management techniques and data, and also some information about counterproliferation, which is an issue that joins both the U.S. and France, the interest in limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons. So, in -- we made -- the U.S. government made a decision, almost a year ago, that we would go to the discussions leading up to a new -- to a comprehensive test- ban treaty, with a zero-test position; that it to say we would take the position that banning nuclear tests means exactly that; that we would no longer test nuclear weapons.

This is a policy that President Clinton declared when he -- shortly after he took office -- that we would cease testing nuclear weapons until this treaty was -- assuming this treaty was going to be put into place. So, we have not tested nuclear weapons for, I think, two years or so.

There were a range of options in -- coming into those discussions. And one was do you allow tests of very small nuclear weapons, or nuclear devices, in order to test the safety and reliability of your stockpile? These would be far less than wartime size, but they would be large enough to test the basic functioning of the systems. We decided that that wasn't acceptable; that a comprehensive test-ban treaty meant exactly that -- no tests. So, we adopted a no-test position.

And the way we were able to do that responsibly was to look forward to a new system we're developing, called the Science- Based Stockpile Stewardship Program. You can get some -- I can't give you a technical description of this -- but if you go up on the third floor, outside Dr. Harold Smith's office, there are a lot of posters up there that describe stockpile security and the safety techniques that we've developed.

In order to draw France into this position of zero tests -- as you know, they've just completed a series of tests -- we offered to share with them some data and some computerized stockpile-monitoring techniques. And they have agreed to accept this. So, the agreement focuses on nuclear safety and security, stockpile stewardship and counterproliferation.

Q: Is the United States considering sharing this kind of information with, for instance, China, or others? We already share with Britain.

A: We do share it -- we have shared it with Britain for some time. We have held two preliminary meetings with Russian officials on the same topic. But these have been, of course, markedly different meetings in content than our meetings with France and Britain. And we have not discussed any classified information with the Russians, at this time.

In October of 1994, during his visit to Beijing, Secretary Perry offered to share some computerized stockpile-monitoring techniques with he Chinese. There have been no follow-up discussions with China. They have not taken us up on that offer. And right now, there are no discussions planned, on this issue, with China.

Q: So, any sharing of such information with Russia and China would stop short of areas involving classified nuclear?

A: I didn't say that. What I said, so far, was that no classified information has been discussed. I can't forecast how these -- how these discussions or negotiations will turn out. But obviously, dealing with Russia and China now is much more sensitive for us, than dealing with England and Great Britain.

But what we are -- I think the important thing to focus on is that we are willing to sit down with other countries and try to help them work out ways that will make them comfortable with banning nuclear tests.


Q: The Senate is currently debating the Defense Authorization Bill. And, in the debate, many -- or several Republican senators have made the contention that, contrary to the Pentagon's contention that the extra money that they're considering for the budget is unwanted by the Pentagon and unrequested and unneeded, they say that testimony by senior military leaders indicates that, in fact, these are weapons and programs that are wanted by the military leaders, but that these leaders are muzzled by the Clinton administration, and not allowed to ask for everything they really want.

Could you comment on the charge by some Republicans that our nation's senior military leaders have been muzzled by the administration and not allowed to request the level of appropriate defense spending?

A: There are a long lists of items that the services want, circulating on Capitol Hill. Those lists came directly from the services, at the request of Congress. It seems to me that that provides prima-facie evidence that the charge is wrong. The lists are up there. They were provided by the services. And they were provided quickly after the committees asked for the lists. So I dismiss that charge.

Q: Is it still the Pentagon's position that the extra money that would be added to the defense budget is unneeded and unnecessary at this time?

A: A budget -- your family budget, my family budget, the Defense Department budget, the national budget -- is a series of choices. And the Defense Department is part of a family of departments in this government that has to share a limited amount of money. And we made choices; some of those choices were imposed on us by other parts of the government. It's the president's budget. He had to make a lot of choices, and he had to allocate the amount of money available. He made those allocations. It doesn't mean that the list was perfect, but we presented a budget that protected our primary interest. And our primary interest, above all else, is preserving the readiness of the forces. We believe that our budget does that.

Another very important interest is protecting -- is improving the quality of life of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. We believe our budget does that.

We also believe that the budget preserves medium- -- short- and medium-term readiness.

There's been commentary by the secretary and by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Shalikashvili, that they would like more money to spend on long-term modernization. Future budgets will provide more money to spend on long-term modernization. Much of the debate now between Congress and the Defense Department is whether to accelerate -- or between Congress and the administration, I should say, is whether to spend more earlier on long-term modernization programs. In fact, if you look at the five-year defense spending plan crafted by Congress and the five-year defense spending plan crafted by the Defense Department, what you'll see is that the Defense Department's plan has smaller amounts for modernization this year and next, but it grows fast in the out years. Congress front-loads modernization funding into the earlier years and it's actually smaller in the out years -- 2001, 2002 -- than what the Pentagon is asking for.

So this is a matter of choice, it's a matter of emphasis. The important thing is that Congress and the Defense Department work together to craft a budget that protects the readiness of the forces, enables our forces to do what they're called on to do by the national command authorities, and improves the quality of life for the people who -- the men and women who serve in the forces. I believe our budget does that, and I'm confident that any budget that emerges from Congress this year will do that as well.


Q: As far as the contention on that budget, particularly the one that emerged from the House side, there's a plus-up on ammunition stocks that they claim was necessary to give the Marines enough, you know, ammo to fight the two-MRC strategy, which would indicate that the budget that came out of this building and out of the administration did not do that. And that's certainly a key readiness factor if the troops don't have enough ammunition to fight their strategy.

A: As I said, a budget is a menu of choices. You guys seem to want to live in a world that's either yes or no, black or white, right or wrong. Life isn't that way.

A budget tries to prioritize choices, and that's what this budget does. You could always say -- looking at any account, somebody could make an argument that we need more of something. We don't deny that we could use more of certain types of -- certain types of weaponry, certain types of supplies. The issue is, how much can you afford and when can you afford it. We think this budget, on balance, provides the -- provides enough money to protect the readiness of the force so they can do their job.

Yes, Jim?

Q: I have a question on Bosnia. With the stepped-up patrols in Bosnia, has there been any change in the rules of engagement regarding war criminals?

A: No, there has not. What has changed is the frequency of patrols and the ambition of the patrols, but not the mission of the patrols -- or I should say the reach of the patrols has changed, not the mission. It has been from the beginning and remains the policy that IFOR is not a law enforcement agency and it's not -- it's job is not to capture war criminals. That has not changed.

Q: Well they haven't received any additional instructions in anticipation that with these increased patrols there's a greater likelihood of detecting war criminals?

A: Well, their instructions have always been, if they encounter war criminals, to detain them and turn them over to the proper legal authorities. That remains their instruction. So that hasn't changed because they have been prepared to do that from the beginning.

What has changed is that the patrols are fanning out more broadly through-out the country, they're traveling some of their routes with greater frequency than they were in the past, and they're patrolling with more intensity, particularly in Pale, which is in the French area.

One of the reasons we're doing that is because, one, we've accomplished many of the basic parts of the military mission. We've -- we're maintaining the ceasefire. We've established the zone of separation. We're patrolling the zone of separation. Weapons have been collected and put into cantonment. There's been some demobilization of forces. So now we have more people available and more time available to patrol more widely than before. One of the reasons for patrolling more widely is, of course, to increase freedom of movement for all people in Bosnia. And another reason is that it will make it more difficult for war criminals to move around with impunity; in other words, it should restrict their movement. So it, while increasing movement for most people, it should restrict movement for the war criminals.


Q: Does the secretary have any concern about the lack of capability -- decrease in capability in the Marine Expeditionary Units that are deployed now since their CH-53Es have been grounded? That's their only heavy lift capability. They've kind of got one hand tied behind their back, yet they're still up there on the pointed end of the stick.

A: That's a good question and I don't have an answer for you. Obviously, we're concerned at any temporary restriction of capability, but I know that the services are working -- the Marines and the Navy are working as hard as they can to get those helicopters back into operation.

Press: Thank you.


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