Thursday, June 20, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon, welcome to our briefing. I'd like to point out that we have people here from at least two, maybe all four corners of the world. We have four soldiers from Uzbekistan, welcome. We also have a Korean journalist, I believe, Mr. Hwang from Seoul, who's visiting us for, I believe for a month in Washington, is that correct? As part of the international visitors program? Welcome to you.
There's a couple of announcements after those greetings. As I'd just like to repeat what I hope you know already that Specialist Martin Begosh, the first soldier injured in Bosnia, will participate in the Olympic Torch run this evening. He'll actually participate from his wheelchair, I believe. He'll be pushed by his father and he will pick up the torch at 17th -- the northwest corner of 17th and G Streets, the Old Executive Office Building, and take the torch to the White House northwest gate. This is supposed to happen this evening at 9:53. If you need more information on that you can contact the Army Public Affairs.
I'd also like to announce that we have a blue top detailing 12 contracts totaling $7.3 million in research into Gulf War illness. These contracts have been awarded under a law that President Clinton signed in October of 1994, providing for independent competitively bid peer review research studies into Persian Gulf illness. Basically, these studies fall into four areas, the epidemiological studies, studies into the health effects of pyridostigmine bromide use, and clinical studies on the causes and methods of transmission of Gulf War illness, and also studies on the appropriate treatment for Gulf War-related illnesses. As I say, there's a detailed account of these contracts in the back of the room. With that, I'll take your questions.
Q: I thought Dr. Joseph would come down? He was going to come down?
A: He was going to come down and I have made this complex announcement on his behalf.
Q: Would you clarify something for us. There was an F-18 crash in St. Louis, just across the line in Illinois last night. From what we gather the F-18 is owned by the Navy, and leased back to McDonnell Douglas, and a civilian pilot was flying it, but apparently DoD is either spearheading or taking part in the accident investigation. Can you give us what you can on that, please?
A: The DoD will certainly participate in the accident investigation. I don't know the exact division of responsibility, but we can find that out.
Q: Do you have any information into the -- in the investigation of the crash of the helicopters at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, a couple of days ago?
A: That's a pretty general question. I don't -- the Army has released the names of the six deceased soldiers just within the hour and that's in the back of the room, if you haven't picked that up yet. The notification of next of kin has been completed, so those names are now out. A team of investigators is scheduled -- has already arrived at Ft. Campbell to begin a study into the causes of the accident, and they will be reporting as soon as they can on that. They've come from the U.S. Army Safety Center at Ft. Rucker, Alabama. That's about all I have to say on the situation. It's a tragic accident that took place during a training exercise as you know. The Army aviation flight record has been extremely good, in fact, the accident rate for Class A mishaps, that is, mishaps that result in death or loss of an airplane where more than $1 million worth damage, fell last year to its lowest rate ever. It was 0.81 accidents per 100,000 hours flown, down from 1.61 the previous year, 1994. And over the last 10 years the accident rate has been 1.87 mishaps per 100,000 flight hours. So, last year was an extraordinarily good year, and so far this year, even including this week's accident, the rate is 0.79 per 100,000 flight hours. So, the Army is continuing to work very hard to make its flight program as safe as possible. The Army will look at all the evidence of this and try to incorporate it back into the training, maintenance, and flying procedures for its pilots in order to benefit from this tragedy.
Q: New topic?
Q: On Anthony Marceca could you talk about the Department's assessment of whether or not he was "hatched" [violated the Hatch Act] when he apparently was working for some of the political campaigns?
A: I probably can't talk about it as much as you would like, and one of the reasons is, as you probably saw, the special counsel, yesterday, that it had opened an investigation into allegations that Marceca had violated the Hatch Act. And, I'd rather wait until it finishes its investigation before commenting on it. I think it's most appropriate for them to look into this and to report back on the results. If you didn't get a copy of that release, I can make one of those for you.
Q: What is the DoD policy on civilians taking part?
A: The DoD policy is that we follow the law. And, the special counsel is going to find out whether Mr. Marceca was in compliance with the law or not.
Q: Can you state the policy?
A: Well, the policy is in the -- is contained in the Hatch Act of 1939 which was amended and, I guess, liberalized quite significantly several years ago, I think, in 1993. From 1939 to February of 1994, employees were not allowed to participate in any bipartisan political activities. Starting in February of 1994, and this reflects the 1993 amendments, the Hatch Act generally allows most federal civilian employees to take active part in political management of -- or in political campaigns, but it prohibits employees from engaging in activity while on on-the- job time, on government duty in their offices, or in any government facility vehicle, uniform, etc. So they can participate as private citizens in their own time, in their own houses or office buildings or whatever, but not on government time or in government facilities.
Q: Change of subject.
Q: Given what appears to be foot dragging on the part of the amalgamation of Muslim and Croat forces under the coalition, will arm and train go ahead and what is -- what's the current status of that?
A: Well, first of all, that's a question more appropriate to be directed to the State Department because as you know, Ambassador Jim Pardew is running the equip and train program. It's not being run out of the Pentagon. There is not military participation in the training program. It's not being done by American soldiers. It's being done independently. With that introduction, to make you understand the ground rules here, the program is keyed up and ready to go. We're ready to begin training under IMET, and we're ready to begin equipping. And, indeed, the arms embargo ended, I believe, yesterday. It's been lifted by the United Nations. Operation SHARP GUARD has been stood down and we are now free to ship -- anybody can ship armaments into Bosnia. We do not believe that many armaments will be shipped in to tell you the truth. But the program is ready to go when two conditions are met. The first is that the federation, the Bosnia Croatian Federation, has to pass the defense law which unifies their two defense establishments and sets up a legal structure for running an Armed Forces. That has not been done.
Secondly, we need still certification that they have complied with the requirement of the Dayton Agreement that foreign forces be out of Bosnia. When those two conditions are met, the program will be able to begin.
Q: Have these forces been removed? The Iranian forces for instance --
A: Well, we think that there's been, we think that they have made enormous progress. We're still waiting final certification that Iranian military officials are out of Bosnia. And we have not received that yet, but as I say, there were two conditions. The first is the passage of the defense law and the second is the removal of Iranian military forces. And the program will wait until those two conditions are met.
Q: Ken, there's some reporting that in a sense, rivalry between the Muslims and the Croats, is so intense that there's really no immediate or near term prospect of meeting the requirement of the defense law and that there will not be any meaningful deliveries of U.S. weapons there, perhaps, until after December 20th. Is this a setback for the plan that would create a military balance then?
A: The primary foundation of the new military balance in Bosnia is through arms control. And, as you know, an arms control agreement was recently adopted by the sides in Vienna. That was a major step forward, and it will be the, I believe, the basis for a new military balance in the theater. The equip and train program was always secondary to both in terms of timing and in terms of importance to a broader arms control regime. So, we've taken the most fundamental step to achieving a new military balance and that's arms control.
Equip and train is a program that was insisted upon by the Bosnians to benefit the Bosnians, and it's -- when they believe that the program is absolutely necessary for them. I assume that they will do what needs to be done to pass the defense law and meet the other conditions and let the program go forward. We're ready to go. We're waiting for them to meet the conditions. When they meet the conditions, the program will go.
Q: They can do without it, presumably?
A: I think you should ask them. They wanted the program, that's why it's in the -- that's why it was attended to the agreement. I don't believe it's in the agreement, but it's something that's attended to the agreement. And I think you should direct that question to them.
Q: What if the federation force don't meet their level that's set in the arms control agreement -- they don't have the tracked vehicles. What arms -- armor to bring them up to what they're allowed to have, so even if the Serbs reduce their levels, the Muslim Croat Federation is still below. If all of [inaudible]?
A: Which makes their failure to meet the conditions all the more puzzling.
Q: Now that SHARP GUARD has been ended, who's going to -- the whole idea of the arms control is to make sure that neither side gets a preponderance of heavy weapons, heavy destructive weapons. Who's going to keep the Iranians from shipping weapons in there to the Muslims? If SHARP GUARD is gone, who's going to?
A: Well, there are 50 -- more than 50,000 IFOR soldiers in there. I think we're in a pretty good position to see stuff moving in and out of the country.
Q: Well, that's nice with the 50,000 IFOR soldiers are going to watch them --
A: Well, there are also, there are law enforcement authorities. This is a very carefully monitored country, and I think we're in a position to see what's coming in and out right now.
Q: But those warships and aircraft are not going to do that?
A: Well, we monitor what's going on in the country through a variety of means. We have people on the ground and we have a lot of ways to watch what's happening in the country.
Q: But could you prevent the Iranians from bringing in arms since the embargo has been lifted?
A: Well, all of the momentum is against that happening right now, and I don't see that as a problem at this time.
Q: New topic.
A: Sure. I should ask the crowd. Is the crowd ready to move on from Bosnia?
Q: Let me ask a question about Bosnia. Radovan Karadzic apparently was chosen to run for president. Has that prompted any rethinking of the policy of not going after war criminals?
A: As I understand it, a local party unit suggested -- chose him to run for president. It would be like the Howard County party apparatus deciding that Jamie McIntyre should run for president. We would all line up behind that but -- but it's only -- it's only a small group in a big country saying that and it's one group speaking on its own. I don't believe that the party structure has made that decision, according to the wire service report I read, and that's all I've read.
Q: But doesn't that present a problem for elections? If he's going to be, I mean, even if a small party -- he's obviously one of the most important people in Serbia?
A: I don't want to disguise the fact that there are many problems in Bosnia. We've spent six months working through those problems. We have now three months to go before the elections and then three months to go after that, after the elections until the IFOR mission expires. We are working diligently to deal with those problems, but it is true we haven't solved them all at once, but we're working.
Q: May I do one follow-up?
Q: Do we have reason to believe that Jamie McIntyre is a serious candidate? Do you have a platform?
A: I think you should ask that. As a government employee I cannot be Jamie's spokesman.
Q: The Senate Appropriations Committee today is marking up the spending bill.
A: I'm sorry, I don't know what this refers to.
Q: It's a question about the --
A: Oh, I'm sorry, the -- I've just been handed a note telling me that the Navy is not participating in the investigation of the crash of F-18. So, I guess McDonnell Douglas will be doing that on its own.
Q: I'll go sort it out with DDI to see if the Navy still owns the aircraft. I understand they leased it back but that's a little foggy. But I'll take it up with DDI. That's just wasting your time.
A: Okay. Yes, sorry.
Q: Senate Appropriations Committee today is marking up the spending bill, and unlike some of the previous mark-ups, it appears that they're trying to meet some of the President's concerns. Once example would be Nunn-Lugar funding. Is this a signal that maybe Congress is trying to reach some sort of compromise, maybe to prevent a Presidential veto?
A: Well, I hope it's a signal. I think that basically the Congress, the Defense Department and the Administration share the same goal, which is to maintain military readiness, to improve the quality of life for soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines and to build the military for the future. And, I hope we can do this in a way that doesn't infringe on the President's constitutional responsibilities and that doesn't unnecessarily exceed the budget. And, we're ready to sit down and talk, and I hope that we'll find Congress willing to sit down and negotiate over the terms of the bill, as well.
So, I can't psychoanalyze the Senate Appropriations Committee or speak for them, but I hope it is an encouraging sign.
Q: Has Dr. Perry communicated in any way with Grachev yet from Russia or is Grachev talked to Perry?
A: No, there has been no communications, yet. There may still be some in the future, but it hasn't occurred yet.
Q: What about Lebed?
A: I do not believe there has been any with Lebed either. I think that with the new -- with Lebed and new figures in the government, it's much more likely to occur after the July 3rd run- off than before.
Q: How about the acting defense minister?
A: Well, the acting defense minister is known to -- he's General Shalikashvili's counterpart, and General Shali and Kolesnikov have met a number of times. The Secretary has met Kolesnikov. I do not believe there has been any direct contact. But I'm not -- we'll check on that. I don't believe there has been.
Q: The nomination of Admiral Johnson to Chief of Naval Operations brought to light the situation of senior officers serving on, accepting paid positions on the boards of an insurance company. Now, is there a review of that policy underway, and can you update us on whether or not when we might hear something about that policy, and in the meantime, have those senior officers resigned those seats on the board of the insurance company, do you know?
A: There is a review underway. I don't when it will be completed. As you know, Admiral Johnson has resigned his seat on the board. I am not aware that other general or flag officers have, but we can check that.
Q: Who's in charge of the review?
A: Judy Miller, the general counsel.
Q: The GAO yesterday recommended that the Pentagon reconsider the FA-18 acquisition program. It said the new E&F model is only marginally better than a C or D and will cost a lot more. Is there any plan to re-evaluate that program given that the budget on the Hill calls for starting to buy this aircraft?
A: It's a good question. I don't know the answer. We'll try to find out.
Q: Do you have any reaction to the Senate action on abortion in the military hospitals?
A: Yes, we applaud the action. This, as you know, is something that President Clinton and this Department have supported. So, we're glad that the Senate acted the way it did. I will point out that it's too early to claim total victory here, because it still has to be settled in conference. But, the Senate action is certainly a step in the right direction.
Press: Thank you.