DoD News Briefing: Mr. Dennis Boxx, DATSD PA
Mr. Boxx: Good afternoon.
I have one short announcement.
General Robert R. Fogleman will be formally welcomed as the new Air Force Chief of Staff during an arrival honors ceremony at Bolling Air Force Base tomorrow at 1:30. The Secretary of the Air Force, Dr. Sheila Widnall, will preside. Media interested in covering the event should contact the public affairs office at Bolling.
With that, I'll try to take your questions.
Q: Can you give us an update on the number of troops in the Persian Gulf region? And do you have any idea who it is that the President's going to be seeing?
A: We currently have 27,872 total forces in the region. As you know, the President will be visiting Kuwait and visiting the troops on Friday. He'll be meeting with individuals from the 24th Infantry Division and also be speaking, I think, to a group of joint service folks from all services and addressing them.
Q: Can you tell us how many ground forces, how many aircraft, and how many of those are combat.
A: There are 7,761 ground combat forces, and over 270 aircraft.
Q: Can you give us an indication now of what the time table is for bringing some of those troops back?
A: I can't, Jamie. General Peay is looking at that and will very soon be making recommendations to General Shalikashvili and Secretary Perry, and then they'll be making decisions based on what the requirements are, what the training requirements are, how the entire training evolution goes. So I don't have a time table.
Q: But you are going to conduct a large regional exercise of some kind while they're out there, is that correct?
A: I'm not sure it will be a large regional exercise. There will be a series of training evolutions conducted in Kuwait with Kuwaiti forces and independent U.S. forces. I'm not sure I can characterize exactly the scope of what the exercise will be yet, Jack.
Q: So it will only be in Kuwait. The other large country in the region that we have forces based in that we're not allowed to say the name of, there will be no maneuvers going on in Saudi Arabia?
A: I wouldn't foreclose it entirely. I think those are the things that General Peay and the commanders on the ground now are looking at in terms of finalizing some training requirements.
Q: Do you have any idea how many ships actually arrived and unloaded supplies there?
A: The pre-positioned ships? I don't have a final tally. I can get it, Suzanne. I think I saw it and frankly forgot it. I'll take the question.
Q: Did the Iraqi forces move all the way back to their original base?
A: The Iraq forces that had deployed south of the 32nd Parallel, the Republican Guard units, have now entirely moved north of the 32nd Parallel. In fact one Republican Guard unit that had been previously stationed below the 32nd Parallel, it too has moved north of the 32nd Parallel.
Q: Did they move back to their bases?
A: By and large they returned to their original garrisons or are in the final stages of doing that.
Q: Do you have a handle on cost yet of the deployment so far?
A: No, I think we're still working on cost figures. As you know, we're also discussing the cost sharing with the GCC, and I don't have any better numbers than we've used in the past.
Q: On Thursday afternoon, two senior defense officials gave a long background briefing which included a series of slides. DoD is now refusing to release two of those slides. Can you tell us why?
A: I have no idea. Which slides?
Q: The Iraqi deployment. It's the slides that show Iraqi deployment.
A: I'll check. I thought we had, frankly, distributed all of those.
Q: The number of ground forces, does that include the Marines off-shore? And are the 24th Mech, their 2nd Brigade still flowing in?
A: The answer to both questions is yes. The numbers included the Tripoli Amphibious Ready Group, and there are still members of the 24th Infantry Division that are flowing and will continue to flow over the next couple of weeks.
Q: Does that include those 4,000? Is that part of the 4,000?
A: What 4,000?
Q: The 4,000 of the 24th ID. That was the first mechanized brigade, it was supposed to be 4,000 guys from the 24th ID.
A: I don't have a breakdown. There are a total of 5,676 Army folks there on the ground.
Q: How many from the 24th ID?
A: I don't know.
Q: Is that full 4,000 person task force, that brigade, has it all completely arrived yet?
A: I'm not sure what the flow is. I'll take the question.
Q: Senator Glenn of Ohio is questioning U.S. ability to keep track of weapons. Based on a GAO report of Army Stinger missiles, GAO contended that the Army couldn't account for some 40 missiles, and Glenn says that it worries him that weapons like this could get in the hands of terrorists. What's the Department's feeling on this?
A: The bottom line for the Department of Defense is that we have physical accountability of all of our missiles. Neither the GAO nor anyone else has found that lapses in inventory procedures resulted in any thefts or unexplained loss of category one missiles.
I would add that we are concerned about the GAO's findings that improvements are needed in serial number inventory procedures, and as a result of that concern, by the end of this year we will complete a world-wide inventory of serial numbers of all category one missiles.
Q: How can the Department be sure that all missiles were accounted for? There are reports, one report indicates that some of these Stingers were found in Amnesty boxes along the sides of roads in Kuwait.
A: We're talking about two different periods of time. We have physically accounted for each and every one of those missiles. We have, in our hands, we can account for each and every missile that we have in our inventory.
The issue then becomes how complete and how accurate is the serial number inventory process, and we think we can do a better job there, and that's why we're going to pursue that. But to reassure those that may think otherwise, we have full physical accounting of all of our missiles.
Q: Category one missiles?
A: Those are Stingers, Red Eyes, and Dragons.
Q: How many Stingers are we talking about here?
A: I don't have a breakdown of Stingers. I know the Army has a total of 70,000 category one missiles.
Q: Category one of what, the (inaudible) or something?
A: Stingers, Red Eyes and Dragons, hand-held, accurate, lethal, and in most cases, ready to fire.
Q: Has the Pentagon (inaudible)?
Q: The GAO statement that the military can't account for 40 missiles is flat wrong? You can account for every single missile?
A: We are confident that we have accounted for every one of those 40 missiles. We reconciled those by quantity, not by serial number. That's the issue. We physically accounted for every one of those missiles.
Q: There's a little word game we're playing here. But you can't account for them if you have to go back into your inventory and say serial number XXY, it doesn't necessarily match the physical inventory you have, is that what you're saying?
A: The 40 missiles that we're talking about now are the missiles that were involved in the Desert Storm operation, some of the missiles that were involved in the Desert Storm operation. Because of the rapid flow of equipment and personnel into the Desert Storm theater, we did not completely inventory, by serial number, every piece of category one missile that went in there. Or if we did, as it got broken out to its individual units, it was not accounted for in each and every case by serial number. It was accounted for in quantity. That's what we confirmed. In quantity, we know that all of those are accounted for.
The Army can go into this in great length with you. I would encourage you to do that if you have any more questions. I think I've now expired every bit of information I have on it.
Q: ...discussion in terms of future use of these missiles as to an interlocking safety system whereby if one were to fall in the hands of unfriendlies, that they couldn't fire it.
A: I think I would refer you to the Army. I've heard discussions about that. I don't know how serious they were. I'm just not sure how far along those kinds of discussions are.
Q: On the (inaudible) PGM, the question you took one or two sessions ago was whether in light of Secretary Perry's comments about PGMs being one of the critical shortages, whether the DoD was going to increase its buy. You were going to take that. Did you ever...
A: I think we did take it and posted an answer. As I recall, it was "under review". That's almost as good as "working", when we post answers. But I believe the answer was it's something that's still under review within the Joint Staff.
Q: Have you made decisions on when you're going to start a large drawdown of Haiti yet, and can you tell us what the troop population there is?
A: The current troop strength on the ground in Haiti is 16,133. We would, as you see each briefing, the numbers continue to drop. We continue to believe we will be at the 15,500 range by the end of the month as General Shali indicated.
Beyond that, I don't think I want to go. I think we need to continue to look at how the situation on the ground evolves, how quickly we can begin to transition over to the UN force, but the time table for that, I don't have.
Q: How do you feel the situation on the ground is going, given early comments by the Defense Department that you were not going to be involved in police work? Do you still hold to that line, now that there's hardly any police force at all left in the country?
A: There is a decreasing number of former Haitian police force in the country, you're absolutely right. There is a correspondingly increasing number of interim police force numbers in Haiti. There are Guantanamo Bay trainees who are arriving to supplement the police force; there are...
A: I'm not sure. I think they are due any time. I think they are due there this week.
Q: In country, not on the streets.
A: No, on the streets is my understanding. There is also an interim police training program that began on Monday that consists of nine one-week training evolutions. There are about 325 individuals, 350 individuals in each one of those one-week training programs. We would hope to see 3,000 or so interim police folks in addition to the Guantanamo Bay trainees, in addition to some almost 700 international police monitors that are there on the ground now. So all of that is a long way of trying to describe while there is a decreasing former Haitian police presence, there is an increasing interim police presence that we think, backed up by the U.S. military presence, will be able to do a good job, and in fact are doing a good job. We see, as this moves along, decreasing violence, and I think all indications are that it's going to work.
Q: Can you update us on what the status is at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay? Are refugees still being moved out of there? Is there any prospect for the families that had to leave to make room coming back? Families with dependents...
A: Are we talking about Haitians?
Q: And Cubans. What's left there, and is the base getting back to normal?
A: Let me back up by saying there were 510 Haitians repatriated from Guantanamo Bay to Haiti yesterday, more than 1,000 today -- a total of about 3,500 scheduled to return to Haiti this week. Right now, that leaves us 6,400 Haitians in Guantanamo Bay. We also have 23,700 Cubans in Guantanamo Bay. So while the number is clearly declining on the Haitian side, there is not a lot of change in the status for the Cuban migrants. So until we get some resolution or are able to deal with that a little further down the road, we are not, at this point, making any firm plans to go back to the original missions that we had in Guantanamo Bay, although I'm sure that's something that's being looked at on a regular basis by the Joint Staff.
Q: Can you bring us up to date on what's happening with these Cubans? Are there discussions underway with Cuba as to what will happen to these folks? Or do they face an indefinite period of time in Guantanamo?
A: Just before I came out I was told that an injunction had been filed stopping the voluntary repatriation of Cubans back to Cuba from Guantanamo Bay. Up to that moment, we had been in a position of saying that those individuals who wanted to voluntarily repatriate to Cuba could do so. There was a mechanism for them to do that. This, obviously, temporarily puts a stop to that. The details of what all that means, I really think are better addressed with the Justice Department and INS, but clearly it will have an impact.
Q: How many Cubans are in Panama now?
Q: What kind of cost, just to review all of this, are we talking? Monthly, weekly, to maintain the large population?
A: There's a different set of cost figures for the Panama operation. I don't have them. I think we do. I'll take the question. I don't even have a better, newer number on the Haitian piece. I'll take the question.
Q: The injunction apparently came down right about the time that a plane was supposed to be going back to Cuba today, and there was some confusion about whether it took off. Did it actually leave, or was it held?
A: It did not take off.
Q: Has a decision been made on if you have Haitians left in Guantanamo after you have asked for volunteers who don't want to go back, what are you going to do with them?
A: I think we need to let the process continue to work. We see increasing numbers every day of volunteers who want to return. As conditions improve, as the word gets back to the Haitians in Guantanamo Bay, it's our belief that the vast majority, if not 100 percent of them, will in fact voluntarily want to return.
Q: On the discussions with the UN over this mechanism of timing of the hand-over, can you give us the status of those discussions? The UN didn't want to take over until (inaudible) of the country.
A: The UN Secretary General's representative, Mr. Brahimi, is in fact in Haiti now. He has been consulting with UN officials before he came to Haiti, and now in Haiti with President Aristide and Ambassador Swing and General Meade. I'm sure those discussions will continue. We will, as we move forward, continue to try to work through whatever issues there may be regarding the turnover.
I will go back to what I said at the last briefing. We don't see any significant differences in opinion of how this is proceeding or under what circumstances.
Q: Can you give us anything on the arms capture or buying program?
A: There are now more than 12,000 arms that have been either confiscated or purchased in the buy-back program. That program continues.
Q: You announced briefly from the podium the psychological team that was going into Haiti. Has there been any report from them, any feedback on what they're finding?
A: No. The investigations into those three apparent suicides continue. We don't have any confirmation or any more details at this point.
Press: Thank you.