DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.
I just want to start with a brief comment about the military child care program. As you know, earlier today the President highlighted the quality of military child care and asked the military to work with civilian organizations to help them improve the quality of child care around the country. We will work with HHS in order to do that. This is being handled by Carolyn Becraft who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Personnel working under Ed Dorn.
There are, of course, very good military child care facilities in the area, and I'd just like to highlight four of them for you if you want to go out and pursue this issue. I'll give you one from each service. The Army has one at Fort Meade; the Air Force at Andrews; the Navy at Anacostia Naval Station and the Marine Corps at Quantico. Those are all nearby, and we can get you contacts and numbers for those if you're interested in pursuing this.
With that, I'll take your questions on child care or anything else.
Q: Isn't there a child care facility here at the Pentagon?
A: There is one at the Pentagon, yes, and we can certainly arrange for you to go to that child care facility as well, if you want to review that.
Q: Do you have the Secretary's and the Pentagon's reaction to the Diet approval today. The law required continued lease of private property in Japan to the U.S. military for basing?
A: We are pleased by that approval. As you know, when the Secretary was in Japan he met with Prime Minister Hashimoto, and he emerged from that meeting with confidence that this would be approved by the Prime Minister's party, and it was. We believe that the continued presence of U.S. troops in the Asia Pacific, in Japan, and in Okinawa is important, and this will allow our troops to continue defending the Asia Pacific area.
Q: Would you give us the latest you have on the missing A- 10? One of the news organizations is reporting as of a couple of hours ago that the Air Force is scaling back the search and just turning it over to the Civil Air Patrol, and that the three-star general has been recalled to Tucson.
A: He is going back to Davis Monthan, but he will be replaced by another general who will continue with the search. There's no diminution of our concern and of our efforts to get to the bottom of this. General Campbell also said that we had been able to detect what he called an infrared event at the time when the plane may have been lost, and we will investigate that further. The problem is that the location where that occurred is in a very high avalanche area. Apparently the location is under some 18 feet of snow, and it's not an area that can be explored at this time, so we have to wait for either avalanche crews to go up there and shake loose the snow to reduce the threat or for some melting to take place.
Q: Is the building, the Air Force, the Secretary, whomever, satisfied now that the plane in fact did crash into the mountains in that general area around Vail or Aspin?
A: I think we just have to wait for the search to continue and come to a conclusion before we speculate. There's been a lot of speculation about what happened. Frankly, I'd rather wait for the results. Speculation won't help find the answer at this stage. Only searching will help find that answer.
Q: A DoD official yesterday delivered a background speech on the Greek-Turkish differences here in Washington. According to Athens News Agency, the semi-official news agency of the Greek government, your official stated that the package has been formulated for the solution over the Aegean issue (inaudible) by DoD, the White House, and the State Department which has been already coordinated by your ambassadors in Athens, Ankara and Nicosia, somewhere in Europe two weeks ago. And most important, that this package is at (inaudible) President Clinton to be announced as U.S. initiative. Since the Greek spokesman today, Mr. Repas has denied the existence of such a package. Could you please confirm the context of the speech by your official?
A: I believe that the official who was talking on background yesterday said that our ambassadors to Athens, Ankara and Cypress had met recently to discuss the situation there. I don't believe he said that there was a new package that had been presented to President Clinton. We continue to work very hard for a peaceful resolution of this dispute. You know our position as well as anybody. It's been explained to you many times by Mr. Burns and others. We do believe that there should be a peaceful and durable solution to the Cypress problem. We're working towards that now. I think it would be... We've been working towards it for a long while and will continue to work towards it.
Q: Do you know where in the Europe they met? The ambassors (inaudible) officials? Do you know where?
A: Where they met?
A: I think they met in Zurich. They met with a Department of State official who had been traveling in the area, Kerry Cavanaugh, and at the end of his trip he met with the three ambassadors in Zurich. Our embassies continue to work towards a solution of this.
Q: Could you please clarify? If the whole speech as it was delivered yesterday included the question (inaudible) DoD policy vis-a-vis to the Aegean issues in Cypress or that's his special opinion?
A: He was a DoD official talking about our policies.
Q: The last question, it was reported that the controversial special to the Greek Prime Minister Cristos Rozaks, most recently was here for more than 30 days. I would like to know if he met with DoD officials during his stay here in Washington.
A: I don't know the answer to that. We'll try and find out.
Q: Can the DoD confirm a test about two weeks ago by the Iranians of a medium range ballistic missile with an unconventional capability and warhead? This was reported by the Israeli Defense Minister early this week. Have you any knowledge of that?
A: I do not and I cannot confirm it.
Q: In Jane's today there's a report of the Iranians publicly proclaiming they're going to drop all of their missiles, all their missile programs purchased from the Koreans or the Chinese, because they're afraid that if they don't, they actually want to drop the pretext of a preemptive strike by the Israelis of their nuclear facilities. Do you think this is smoke, or do you have any comment?
A: There is no need for the Iranians to build up their forces in the Gulf, and it certainly would be prudent for them to make a commitment to peace rather than to war, make a commitment to disarmament rather than armament. The Iranian economy is facing difficulties now, and they could well use money to promote their economic growth and stability rather than an arms race in the Gulf. I cannot comment on that particular report. That sounds to me as if it's a question the Iranians should answer because they can best describe their own weapons purchase programs.
Q: Obviously. I'm asking if you thought it was critical what they were saying about avoiding attack by the Israelis by scrapping their missiles.
A: I think the Iranians are best able to comment on the credibility of their own weapons purchase programs.
Q: Is there any indication that Iran is attempting to buy anti-aircraft missiles or hand-held missiles from Russia? Have we had any discussions with Russia about that?
A: This was addressed at great length by Mike McCurry at the White House yesterday. I don't have much to add to that. We have discussed, as Mike McCurry said, with the Russians over several years our concern about a buildup by the Iranian military with Russian help. We believe that the area will be more stable if arms sales are held to a minimum to Iran, and we also have told the Russians that we believe that arming Iran could ultimately be a threat to all countries in the area.
So we've made our position very clear to the Russians. It is brought up almost every time President Clinton meets with President Yeltsin, and it's brought up at other levels as well.
Q: On the QDR, people said that once the Secretary had his Asia trip behind him he'd be getting deep into that. Can you give us a sense of what kind of meetings he's attending or how many hours a day he's spending on this issue, what his plans are before the run-up to the QDR?
A: As you know, he went to Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday and just returned from Florida, and as soon as he got back he went to the Blair House, a meeting with congressional leaders on foreign policy last night for the foreign policy retreat with the President. He has 34 hours planned for making decisions on the QDR issues between now and the middle of May. It will be one of his primary preoccupations. He's set up a series of Saturday meetings to go over QDR issues in depth. That's what he will be spending a large block of his time on over the next month. He also, of course, has to run the Department and do all the other things the Secretary of Defense does. One of the things he'll be working on, certainly, is winning Senate approval, ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention. You got, earlier today, the statement from three former Secretaries of Defense in support of that, and also General Shalikashvili's remarks.
Q: Could you give us a couple of examples of the sorts of things that the Pentagon is doing with child care and child development that caught the White House's attention?
A: I'd be glad to do that.
Basically, the President focused on a number of ways in which the military child care is exemplary. The first was a much higher percentage of military child care programs have been certified by the National Association for the Education of Young Children than throughout the country as a whole. More than 70 percent of the military child care programs have been so certified versus five percent nationally.
So he focused basically on that as a model, and asked us to help work with other child care programs -- state, local, private child care programs -- to help them through the certification process and to teach them what needs to be done to win certification.
He focused also on a number of other things that the Pentagon has done. One is provide adequate financial support for its program; two, strict oversight of the programs including unannounced inspections; three, providing attractive wage and benefit programs for workers in the child care program so that we get high quality workers providing high quality care to the children of men and women in the military; and four, mandatory training for child care providers. We recruit good people, we pay them well, and we train them. The other I've already mentioned, which is meeting the national accreditation standards at a much higher level than nationally.
Q: A final one on the A-10, if I could. You were asked if they're going to cut back their search and you said there's no diminution of our concern or our efforts to get to the bottom of this. I assume you meant by this that you're not going to cut back, the search is not being cut back.
A: The tempo of the search may change from day to day, depending on weather condition, depending on the number of sites left to search or access to the sites. We are not going to diminish in any way our effort to find out what happened to that A-10.
Q: This week, as you know, is the anniversary of the raid on the Branch Davidian compound and the bombing in Oklahoma City. With the proximity of the search to Denver where the trial is going on, of Mr. McVeigh, is there any plan by DoD or any effort underway to make sure that air defenses in that area are secure, in light of the fact that this airplane is unaccounted for?
A: We always try to make sure that our air defenses are secure, and I think that it is... We are... I think I haven't a thought about that... (Laughter) . ..about that proposal, about that speculation.
Everybody seems to believe that a crash is the most likely outcome of what happened to this plane.
Q: In the coming weeks there's a couple of senior leaders in DoD who are leaving -- Dr. Kaminski, Secretary Paige. Can you give us an idea of where the process is in finding replacements for them? I know Dr. Kaminski, for example, said May 9th would be his official last day. He may come back for a couple of days afterwards, but...
A: I can describe the process in a word -- active. I believe that we will be able to announce a successor to Secretary Dorn, Under Secretary Dorn, relatively soon. There is an active search underway for somebody to replace Under Secretary Kaminski, but that has not produced a firm candidate yet. We hope that in the next couple of weeks it will. I don't know where the search to replace General Paige stands, but that is ongoing as well.
Q: Has the White House put out any limits on the number of Republicans that can fill those positions?
A: No, the White House has not limited the appointments by Secretary Cohen in any way.
Q: In that line. Has the Secretary made any recommendations in terms of filling the number two slot at the CIA with a military individual?
A: I don't know the answer to that question.
Clearly a return to the past practice of having a senior military official operate as the Deputy at the CIA is under consideration. It's something that's always been an option, and it's under consideration today. We, at the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, would clearly be in favor of such an arrangement. About 80 percent of the intelligence budget is consumed by military programs, and we have a very strong interest in the overall management of these programs by the DCI. We have had very smooth relationships, obviously, with Director Deutch when he was at the CIA, and I anticipate that we'll have very smooth relationships with Director Tenet, should he be confirmed by the Senate as I expect, whether or not there's a senior military officer there, but clearly a senior military officer would bring a type of expertise that would be helpful.
Q: Have you any reaction to a claim by Iranian dissidents that their sources inside the Iranian government have conclusive evidence that the Iranian government gave the orders -- they not only prepared for it, but executed the orders of the bombing of Khobar, the Khobar Towers. This is, by the way, in line with a German judge's proclamation that the Supreme Security Council of Iran is giving the orders for these kind of terrorist attacks. Have you any reaction to that, sir?
A: The Justice Department is handling this investigation, and I think all questions on where that stands and what we think happened should be left to the Justice Department at this stage.
Q: A question on Khobar Towers. Has Secretary Cohen begun to look at the latest Air Force review?
A: He has not.
Q: According to documents, secret Greek/Turkish negotiations are taking place now in Brussels over confidence (inaudible) the Aegean sea with NATO and U.S. involvement. The Turkish sided stated that so far there are no maritime borders in the Aegean. [They] consider the entire area, totally open, all the way through, six miles off the coast of the mainland of Greece. And also the Turkish side stated that it does not recognize the limits of the Athens of FIR, demanding all the Greek lands to report direct to the Turkish aviation authorities. My question to you, since you are involved in those discussions, how do you define the area of the Greek/Turkish borders, and the Athens FIR during your military presence the last years up to the present?
A: Mr. Lambros, did you say those were secret negotiations taking place in Brussels?
Q: That's what I said.
A: I'd be the last person to comment on secret negotiations taking place in Brussels.
Q: (inaudible) on the (inaudible). My question to you is how do you define the Greek/Turkish borders and the Athens FIR during your military presence in the area?
A: I don't want to get into that right now. I can't define it. I don't know the definition. We'll get you our definition if we can.
Q: Mike's birthday is today. We'd all like to know how old he is?
A: I think that's a question you should address to Mike, but I can tell you, he's as old as I am.
Q: How old is that?
A: Thank you.