Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon. Let me start with just a couple of announcements. First of all I'd like to welcome two television journalists from Hungary. They're both associated with MTV News, Prime Time News, and they're visiting the United States for four weeks as guests of the U.S. Government. We welcome both of you gents.
Then I want to remind everybody that following this briefing today, Captain Chris Rose, the F-16 pilot who is from the Washington, D.C. Air National Guard's [113th] Wing. He's the 1996 Kolligian Winner from the Air Force, and he's going to be here following this brief to give you a rundown on his experiences that led to that award. Basically, he had a disabled jet, which I think many of you are aware of, he landed successfully after this in-flight emergency, and I think there is some video which the Air Force has and can provide kind of a recap of what happened there.
With that, I will attempt to answer your questions.
Q: Who else is participating in that briefing? Just the captain?
A: I can't answer your question. (Laughter) We're off to a great start here. We'll see.
Q: Congresswoman Caroline Maloney today released a report on sex crimes in the military and alleged that sexual crimes are treated inconsistently, and that a lot of service members are committing sex crimes and going unpunished and being put out into the general population without military records.
Do you have any knowledge of that and any reaction to it?
A: I am aware that there has been some just very recent reporting on the release of such a report. We have not received it yet, but I'm sure we'll be most anxious to take a look at it. But I think it would be premature for me to react to the report until we actually have had a chance to review it.
Q: Has the military looked into the issue of sexual crimes in the military and how it's being handled?
A: I think you're probably aware that there are a number of cases that have occurred over the years in which we've taken very specific action, some of which are going on right now. If you're talking about the totality of the issue, I'm not aware of any kind of a study that has been done DoD-wide, but I am aware that the Army has a review going on right now on the issue of relations between the sexes in the military which is due sometime later this year.
Q: There was a finding in this report that there were 40 to 50 percent more rapes committed in the military than in the general population.
A: I would think that probably is wrong, but again, I'd like to see the context in which that figure is given, and we'll see if we can provide some reaction to that once we've had a chance to look at the report.
Q: The report does discuss sort of overall trends, and while I recognize you haven't seen the report, what the Congresswoman does is call for an independent commission to take a look at the military justice system based on a pattern that she sees of sort of the system's broken. What's your assessment of the military justice system? Is it working? Should there be a commission?
A: Again, Tammy, I think we're going to need to take a look at the report before anybody makes a reaction to it.
Q: Do you have any more information on the causes of the B- 2 stand-down?
A: I'm aware that there has been such a stand-down announced, but I don't really have any details. I think the Air Force will probably be in a position to provide more later this afternoon.
Q: Regarding the terrorist threat to Bahrain, it's reported that there are 1,000 U.S. personnel outside the capital at a 20-acre site, the capital Manama. First I would ask, is that perimeter of that particular base now completely secure from a vehicle bombing attack?
A: Bill, I think that it is not productive for me to get into the specifics of exactly what kinds of protective measures they've taken in Bahrain or any other place. I would like to point out that force protection has, for many months now, been receiving renewed and increased emphasis throughout the military, particularly in the Persian Gulf area. The Deputy Secretary of Defense, John White, recently made a visit to that area, and one of the major issues he was reviewing during that trip was force protection measures. So I think it's probably -- in a very general way I can report to you that all of the bases that we visited in that region have taken some very significant measures of late, and the bases in Bahrain within the last few days have taken additional measures to increase the security of personnel.
The measures that were taken in Bahrain in the last couple of days, I think, are being reported on a voice line which is available to reporters, but they include the fact that we have restricted liberty. We've also placed off limits restaurants, clubs, and bars. And we'll keep those measures in effect for the foreseeable future.
Q: Can you just outline the nature of the threat that caused the U.S. to take these additional security precautions?
A: I think you're aware that there have been some indicators over the last several weeks which have heightened concerns there. Again, without getting too specific, I just want to point out that there has been an increased flow of information from a variety of sources including, by the way, from press reports, which have led the officials there to take these increased security measures.
Q: What were those? What reports are you referring to? What indicators?
A: I'm referring to both intelligence indicators and also press reporting.
Q: Of what?
A: Threats being made against, particularly, U.S. military personnel in the region.
Q: Is this New York Times account correct when it says the United States has uncovered the outlines of a terrorist plan by dissidents to attack American troops stationed in the country?
A: You know we don't discuss intelligence in any great detail. I want to leave it just exactly where I have it right now, which is that we have a continuing flow of information that has led individuals there who are in a position of responsibility to take increased security measures.
Q: Can you make any comment as to the bottom line in Elaine Sciolino's article about the Bahrainian Party of God having connections to Shiite dissidents in Saudi and all the way to the financing of the Party of God by Iran. Can you make any comment on that?
A: No, I can't make any comment on that particular conclusion that she's reached.
Q: Could you run the numbers down for us, how many U.S. personnel are in Bahrain, how many civilian U.S., and whether there's any thought of thinning down the force or any kind of...
A: I don't have the numbers with me right now, except that there are about 1,000 U.S. military personnel who are ashore, or shore-based there in Bahrain. And there are no considerations right now being given to sending dependents home.
Q: That doesn't include the dependents, so multiply that by three or four?
A: I think we can probably get a more specific number for you, I just don't happen to have it up here on the podium today. I think if you check with Lieutenant Colonel Sivigny, he can give you a more refined number after the brief here.
Q: This 1,000 personnel, that's at the Headquarters of the 5th Fleet, correct? Is that still there?
A: The Headquarters of the U.S. 5th Fleet is there in Manama, and these are individuals who are associated with the 5th Fleet and with other support activities that are located there.
Q: We know you have one Navy ship there now in port at Bahrain. Have other Navy ships been told not to go to the area for awhile?
A: The number of port visits will be limited for the immediate future as a result of these increased security measures.
Q: By limited, can you elaborate a little bit?
A: I can't get any more specific than that right now.
Q: So they're still allowed to come for certain reasons, but you're not expanding any...
A: What I said was we restricted liberty. Not the port visits. So in cases where an upkeep might be required...
Q: But the Manama 5th Fleet Headquarters personnel can go into Manama and travel about, not to go to the restaurants, but they can go around the country, is that correct? Even though liberty is banned and further visits by Americans are banned, still those personnel at the base can...
A: I don't want to split hairs because I have not provided to you every detail about what personnel there have been given in the way of guidance. The reason I haven't done that is because I don't want to show my hand to others who might be looking to take advantage of that situation.
Q: I appreciate that.
Q: Are there additional security forces being sent to Bahrain?
A: I am not aware of any additional numbers. I would point out to you that there are a number of Marines who have been sent to Manama since the Khobar Towers bombing, and those Marines are very much in evidence, as anyone who's visited the area knows.
Q: (inaudible) there?
A: I think that that may be how they're characterizing it. I'm not sure that that's necessarily the full title of the organization.
Q: Rough numbers, how many Marines?
A: I don't know. Again, I think Colonel Sivigny can probably give you that.
Q: Dozens or hundreds?
A: I don't want to hazard a guess. It's more than dozens, though.
Q: On the QDR. We all know it's due by the 15th, but there have been some reports that it may come out early. Do you have anything firmer on that as to when there may be a briefing in here on the QDR results?
A: I don't have any detail on the exact schedule of the roll-out, but I think we should have more for you on that by the... probably by the early part of May.
Q: It looks like it won't be the 15th, per se. It could be earlier?
A: What I'm saying to you is that I don't have a full schedule on the roll-out now, but the roll-out is going to coincide with the delivery of the report to the Hill. So it's very much tied to that.
Q: The Naval Institute Proceedings in it's current issue, proposes for the Aegean in case of conflict between Greece and Turkey, separation of the Greek and Turkish forces by a maritime green line, deployment of multinational force under UN auspices, creation of a new status quo by an international (inaudible), and the final partition of the (inaudible) judicial process. Any comment since this publication is related to the Pentagon?
A: I would just like to point out that although the publication is widely read in the Pentagon, it is not an official publication of the Pentagon or of the United States Navy. The purpose of the publication is to express the personal and sometimes provocative views of the authors of those articles, and that's the way that this article and any other article should be taken.
Q: Greek (inaudible) nemesis, is organizing a music festival in (inaudible) of the Aegean on May 25th in order to (inaudible). I'm wondering if you are still monitoring the (inaudible) in the area, and how?
A: When we talk about monitoring an area, including this area, we talk about doing so by maintaining contact and conversation with the appropriate officials of the various governments involved in the region. We do not necessarily mean that we have eyes on the area. I think that our monitoring of the situation, including the one that you've just outlined there, is best described as keeping contact with the people who are in a position to know about events there.
Q: And the last one Captain. The Turkish Embassy, yesterday circulated a new spy item that the U.S., the Pentagon actually, agreed finally with Israel and Turkey to have joint military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, and I'm wondering, number one, if you include this Aegean Sea too, and number two, if the Israeli Minister of Defense the other day discussed this matter here at the Pentagon.
A: I am not aware of any kind of discussion of that particular issue, and what's more, I'm not aware of the exercise that you're talking about.
Q: Do you have any kind of update on this missing A-10? Or what's happening, the U-2 data. Has that been released yet?
A: The U-2 data, I understand they're still reviewing. This is a situation where the aircraft has been missing since the 2nd of April, which was last Wednesday. It was in a flight of three A-10s that were on a training mission at the Barry Goldwater Training Range near Gila Bend, Arizona. There has been an extensive search which has been underway ever since then. Thus far, we have not found any evidence of the aircraft, but we're continuing to search. Including an area now that extends up into southwestern Colorado.
Q: What theory are you operating under here about what might have happened to the plane?
A: I'm not sure that we're operating under a theory other than the fact that the aircraft has gone missing and we're trying to locate it. I don't think anybody at this point has a good enough idea of what occurred with the aircraft to have come up with any kind of a theory as to what might have caused it to go missing.
Q: Do you have any reason for why it was so far off course, where it was supposed to be, apparently, over the area by Telluride, Colorado?
A: No, at this point I don't have any good reason for why the aircraft might have gone so far astray.
Q: Back to the QDR, you mentioned that the roll-out will be in May, coincident with when it goes to Congress. Can you confirm various reports that not all the QDR will be in hand at that time, but you may hold out sections such as those on the Reserves until after the May 15th deadline?
A: I believe the Secretary actually talked about this issue with some of the media that he has been traveling with. And what he told them was the report will be filed on time, and it will be inclusive. He went on to say he didn't want to leave anyone with the impression that any component of the QDR will be missing from the report.
Q: Back to the A-10 for a moment. This mystery of what happened to this plane, is there any indication or any evidence that anything sinister or untoward has happened to this plane? Could it have been shot down, could it have been stolen by the pilot? Is there any evidence of anything other than just some sort of mechanical malfunction or problem with the pilot?
A: At this point what we know is that the aircraft is missing. That the last time it was seen was at 11:58 a.m. Mountain Standard Time on April 2nd. But beyond that, since we have not found any evidence of the aircraft or of the pilot, we don't have a good idea of what has occurred with the aircraft.
Q: Have the pilots of the other two A-10s that it was traveling with give any indication of what they thought happened to the plane?
A: I am not aware of any indicators that they've given at this point. There was a track which was developed and which the U-2 flew which led up into Colorado, and the purpose of that flight was to see if the U-2 could uncover any evidence of the aircraft on that track.
Q: . ..anything of the fact that this pilot apparently often flew training missions to Colorado?
A: No, I don't think that is necessarily relevant in this particular case.
Q: Are criminal investigators from CID looking into this case at all?
A: Not that I'm aware of.
Q: Assuming that you don't find it, when do you stop looking? Is there a cutoff date? It would seem there are a lot of assets being used to track...
A: Well, there are a lot of assets. We've got the Civil Air Patrol units from Colorado, we've got units from the Arizona Army National Guard, we've got the 162nd Air National Guard from Tucson, we've got an EC-130 Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center aircraft, we've got that U-2 from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale [AFB, Calif.]. The whole effort is being coordinated by the Air Force Rescue Center at Langley Air Force Base here in Virginia.
I can't forecast for you when the search might be suspended. We never totally suspend looking for any kind of a missing aircraft until we have evidence of what might have occurred, but I'm not sure that the full range of assets that are presently being applied to the search will continue indefinitely.
Q: Are severe weather conditions over Colorado hampering search efforts right now?
A: Well, the situation there is, of course, in that part of the state at this time of year, a lot of the terrain is covered by snow. My understanding is there has been snowfall since the aircraft went missing which no doubt could frustrate the efforts to find the aircraft.
Q: There was an analogy made to the movie Broken Arrow in a report yesterday. Given all the assets involved in this search, is there any reason to believe that this aircraft was ditched and its weaponry stolen...
A: There is absolutely no reason to think that.
Q: Apparently one of the concerns about the plane is that it did have live bombs on board. Could those bombs be accidentally detonated, or detonated by somebody else if they were to fall into the wrong hands?
A: I would have to get you a real expert, but I can tell you that the bombs that were on that aircraft were designed to be dropped from an aircraft. By the way, I am also told they are also designed so that they would not detonate if the aircraft crashed.
Q: Have you confirmed the reports that people heard the plane in Colorado?
A: I don't think we have good confirmation that this particular plane was heard over Colorado.
Q: Isn't this a mystery? There have been civilian planes that disappeared and were found years later, but have you ever heard of a military plane that just disappeared, nobody heard about it for years?
A: In fact I think you might want to talk with the Air Force, but there are cases where aircraft disappear in the winter and then turn up some time later, after the snows have melted.
Q: As far as you know, this plane and this pilot were equipped with the typical beacons, or were they equipped with typical beacons that would be used if they went down, signals of some sort?
A: I think you want to talk to the Air Force about what triggers the beacons. The aircraft and the pilot have the normal beacon system. I'm just not certain whether you have to eject from the aircraft in order for the beacon to be activated.
Q: On Albania, (inaudible) Italian government expressed today grave concerns about the unpredictability of the military mission in Albania, because much of the country is controlled by rebel groups and criminal gangsters. Are you planning to deploy forces to (inaudible) in Albania without military presence?
A: Are we planning to deploy forces to Albania?
A: The answer is no, we are not planning to deploy forces to Albania. I think there are 100, plus or minus a few, Marines which are providing security at the embassy in Tirana, but we have no plans to deploy any additional forces, and as soon as the security can be arranged through other means, we'll be bringing those Marines out of Albania.
Q: One more quick one on the A-10. I guess it was Friday before last, another A-10 crashed on landing up in Willow Grove Naval Air Station, I believe. Would the Pentagon be looking at maybe trying to find out what happened, or what was the cause of that crash and trying to determine, maybe, what happened here?
A: I'm, frankly, not aware of that one. You might want to check with the Air Force and see if they have anything for you on that aspect of it.
Q: An update on Africa, if there's been any change in the deployment there.
A: The situation...
A: That's right. Actually, though, the U.S. military personnel who are associated with that operation are not in Zaire. The situation is that we've got the USS Nassau still off the coast with the Marines embarked. There are about 256 military personnel in Brazzaville, in the Republic of the Congo, and over 100 in Libreville in Republic of Gabon.
Some of the special operations people who were originally there to provide the evacuation capability have redeployed and are now back in their home stations. Others are in the process of redeploying. Over the next days and weeks, the European Command will be finalizing their plans to kind of make adjustments in the number of troops that are deployed in the region now that the Nassau and the Marines are in position off the coast.
Q: How many Americans are left in Zaire? Just American citizens. Do you know?
A: I don't have a good figure with me up here. I'm sure we've got that back on the desk. After the brief you can check.
Q: Congressman Tony Hall on tour in North Korea is reporting North Korean soldiers showing signs of being decimated themselves by the famines, and he states, I think, also the North Koreans are rapidly descending into "a hell of severe famine."
My question would be, what is first, the impression of the Department of Defense regarding these reports? And secondly, what is the position and the policy of the Department of Defense regarding feeding North Korean troops?
A: First of all, I think it's widely acknowledged that there are severe food shortages which are affecting the DPRK at this point. With regard to the feeding of the North Koreans, that really is a matter that you need to talk to the State Department. I think you're well aware that we have provided some assistance in that regard, and I am not aware of any kind of modification to that.
Q: Is the Defense Department seeing this famine crisis as urgent, insofar as getting more food to the North more quickly, or do you have any particular perspective on that?
A: I don't really have any perspective for you on that one.
Q: A recent Time Magazine article suggested that the Pentagon favors lifting the ban on foreign military sales to some South American countries because of the positive changes in the governments down there. Can you comment on whether or not that reflects the view of Secretary Cohen as reported in the Time Magazine piece?
A: What I want to point out with you on the Time Magazine piece is I think it was wrong in several different respects. One, the authority that was granted to aircraft companies, essentially allowed them to provide technical data in this particular instance where there is a decision forthcoming on an aircraft buy. It did not allow the sale of any aircraft.
The other thing I'd like to point out is there has been no decision by the President regarding that issue. And the issue is still in a matter of discussion.
Q: Has Secretary Cohen recommended that that ban be lifted?
A: I think at this point we will just leave it where I've put it and will not talk about what his recommendations will or won't be with the President on that issue.
Q: On your first point when you say that it was just to allow U.S. companies to provide technical data to the governments...
A: So a bid could occur.
Q: So a bid could occur. But in the cases where United States companies eventually do win a bid in that circumstance, don't they almost always then get approval for the sales to go forth?
A: I don't have any historical perspective for you on that.
Q: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman responded somewhat negatively to the Secretary Cohen remarks this weekend that 100,000 U.S. troops in the region were not into containing China. Anyway, so this person said maybe Asian nations should preserve the peace (inaudible), and also he said we believe Asian nations are fully capable of doing (inaudible). Do you have any response?
A: I'd just like to point out that we have maintained a forward presence in that region of the world for many, many years. Our presence there has added to the stability of the region. We're there at the invitation of the governments of Japan and the government of the Republic of Korea. The Secretary has indicated every intention of maintaining that forward presence in that part of the world for the foreseeable future.
Press: Thank you.