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DoD News Briefing, 20 August 1996

Presenters: Captain Michael Doubleday, USN, DASD (PA)
August 21, 1996 1:30 PM EDT

Tuesday, August 20, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.

Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon. Let me start with two announcements and then I will try to answer some of your questions.

The first is, that the Department is going to begin eliminating chemical weapons at the Tooele [Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility], the chemical agent disposal facility there in Utah this Thursday. For those of you in the Washington area, we're going be conducting a briefing here in the briefing studio on Thursday at 1:30. Dr. Ted Prociv who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Matters, and Mr. Gilbert Decker who is the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research, Development and Acquisition will be on hand to brief you on the start-up and to answer some of your questions.

Members of the media who are interested in covering the event from Tooele itself should read the press advisory that we put out earlier today. It has a list of officials who are going to be available for briefing individuals out there on the whole evolution. And if anybody has lots of questions about what is planned for this whole evolution see Bryan Whitman in DDI.

Secondly, I want to let you know about some upcoming events involving the Defense Information Systems Agency, DISA, which is going to be holding some briefings on its role in the Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration which runs until the 30th of August. JWID is an annual information technology demonstration; and playing the role of the National Command Authorities in the JWID scenario, DISA is going to hold two demonstrations of its activities for the press. One is on Friday, at 10 o'clock in the morning, at the Agency's Virginia Square location; and the second would be on Monday at 3 p.m. here in the Pentagon. If you want to sign up for these events and get more information, you can call DISA's public affairs office at 607-6900. That's area code 703.

And we also have a very extensive press release -- went out on the 5th of August -- that you can get back in DDI. With that I will be happy to take some of your questions.

Q: I know you said there is going to be a briefing on Thursday about this, but can you give us any background on why it is that the United States is destroying chemical weapons now? Is this something that had to be worked out with some sort of treaty or something?

A: Well --

Q: How is it that you are suddenly destroying chemical weapons stockpiles?

A: This is a program which has been under way for some time. And you may recall that we actually have built a prototype destruction facility at Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, where we have been destroying weapons since 1993. The significance of the events that are going to start at Tooele is that this will start the large scale destruction of chemical weapons, which is a long-term goal of the United States. The goal actually has us dismantling the destruction facilities by 2004 with the stockpiles destroyed the year before that.

And essentially what we are doing here is, we are eliminating an entire class of weapons. And we are doing it in a very safe and secure way. This involves some pretty awful weapons that exist, and so there is a lot of technology which has gone into assembling these destruction facilities, which have been tested over and over and over again to make sure that they are secure and safe for the environment.

Q: Will Thursday mark the first time that a chemical munition has been destroyed or purposefully destroyed on [inaudible] continental U.S. soil?

A: To my knowledge that is correct, although there are other facilities in the United States that will ultimately be in operation. But this is certainly the first large-scale destruction that's going to take place. And we have got over a million items to destroy.

Q: To follow up Jamie's question, is this part of treaty requirements, or is this a unilateral decision to rid the stockpiles?

A: Let me get Bryan to give you some information on that part of it.

Q: On another subject. If these weapons are so awful, why do you say that this is such a safe procedure?

A: Well, the weapons themselves can be rather unpleasant weapons. But the procedure itself in destroying the weapons is one that has applied high technology to the destruction of the chemical agents in a way that maintains safety for the environment in the area around it. And as I say, we have been testing and destroying weapons at Johnston Atoll since 1993 and have done so successfully.

Q: I know in the past there's been some criticism that incineration of the weapons isn't in fact all that safe. Is it safe to say that the kinks have been ironed out?

A: Yes. I know that there has been a lot of criticism, but what I can tell you is that we have been using the technologies that have been developed over the years to destroy these weapons. We have done so successfully and we expect to do so successfully in the future too as we bring the stockpile down to zero by 2003.

Q: Do you know what type of weapons will be the first to be destroyed?

A: I don't know. Both nerve and blister agents, which are commonly known as mustard agents, are going to be destroyed.

Q: Are there any problems with the Johnston Atoll destruction? Any injuries...?

A: As far as I know there have been -- you know from time to time some news reporting on fears of that. But to my knowledge everything there has gone extremely well.

Q: Who certifies that? Is it the Army that certifies that? I mean if something goes wrong at Utah, who is responsible?

A: Well, you mean who is totally responsible for the -- I think what you need to do is to come on Thursday and ask the technicians all of these questions because they will be here for the purpose of answering these kinds of details. I can assure you that there is a monitoring system that has been set up that does watch out for all kinds of potential problems in this thing. And as I say, they've been operating this one on Johnston Atoll since 1993 very successfully.

Yes? This is a new subject?


Press: This is a new subject.

Captain Doubleday: Bill?

Q: Yes, Russia, and specifically Chechnya, there seems to be some doubt as to who is in command in Chechnya. The Commanding General, Pulikovsky is preparing to level Grozny and Mr. Lebed had achieved some kind of a cease fire. Apparently that will now be violated by the Russians and there is a power struggle going on in the Kremlin over all of this. Can you shed any light on this at all?

A: I can't really untangle that one for you today, Bill. I do know that the State Department had a little bit of information. As far as we know, the chain of command in Russia is intact, but the details that you cite there in various news reports I really can't untangle for you.

Q: Can you tell us anything at all about whether the Defense Department believes that Mr. Yeltsin is currently in command or too sick to rule?

A: The Department believes that President Yeltsin is in control in Russia. I think we are certainly aware of medical problems but beyond that I don't really have any specifics.

Q: Finally, Mike, does this administration, through the Department of Defense, have an opinion about whether there should be a cease fire or an offensive on the part of the Russians?

A: We believe that the situation there needs to be settled peacefully and as quickly as possible. Okay. Mark?

Q: The status report on the outfitting of cockpit flight voice and flight data recorders on all these various planes that Dr. Perry ordered some months ago after the Ron Brown plane crash?

A: I think what you are probably referring to is the tragic accident that occurred over the weekend. The C-130 which crashed on Wyoming's Sleeping Indian Mountain, where eight crew members and one FBI agent, or Secret Service agent, were killed. This was an aircraft that was providing some support to the President's recent trip to that area. There is a news report that this particular aircraft did not have a certain piece of equipment which had to do with a warning system, a ground proximity warning system.

The Air Force timetable for the installation of those devices was to install the device on the newest aircraft first. And in fact all of the aircraft which have been built since 1988 already have this device installed. The aircraft that were built in the period from 1978 to 1987, they're in the midst of the installation of this device on those aircraft. The aircraft that crashed was actually built in 1974. And this class of aircraft, those that were built 1974 and earlier, will actually get installation of this device starting in the third quarter of fiscal year '97. So that gives you a run down on that particular device that was talked about.

Now there are other pieces of equipment which are being installed on aircraft that carry passengers and distinguished visitors. And those aircraft are primarily, but not exclusively, Air Force and Navy aircraft. And the piece of equipment, well actually there are two pieces of equipment, that are specified for installation in those passenger carrying aircraft. They are global positioning systems and flight data recorders. And I can go into more detail about exactly what the timetable is on those two pieces of equipment. But let me say in general all the passenger carrying aircraft will have this global positioning equipment installed by the year 2000 and the flight data recorders by 1999.

Now most of the Air Force and most of the Navy aircraft are actually going to have an interim GPS system -- global positioning system -- established in the cockpit. They will have it introduced into the cockpit by the end of this fiscal year. And they are going to do that by buying some of the off-the-shelf technology that exists and then as the program develops, they'll buy a much more elaborate system that will be actually integrated into the cockpit. But because they are able to do this off-the- shelf buy they are able to get that technology into their cockpits at the end of this fiscal year.

Q: Is there any evidence or is it possible to say whether this crash ground proximity warning system would have been a factor in this C-130 accident on Saturday?

A: I have not talked to anybody who's, at this point, willing to say that.

Q: Does it warn you of a mountain in front of you, as well as the ground below you?

A: It, to my knowledge, warns you of the ground below you. It is not a forward looking device. It is a device that gives you an idea of the terrain over which you are flying.

Yes, Tammy?

Q: Is there word yet of the black boxes or when you expect to have them?

A: No. The black boxes were recovered yesterday afternoon. They were located in the tail section which was the only part of the aircraft that was left intact and they have been sent to Oklahoma City for analysis.

Q: When that analysis is done, does the military or the Pentagon or the Air Force intend to release the pertinent information from that; or are they intending to keep all of this confidential until the entire investigation is complete?

A: I haven't heard exactly how they'll do it. If there is no reason to keep the information locked up for any period of time, I am sure we will put it out. If there is any way we can get it out, we will put it out. But I have not heard any kind of forecast on: (A) when they will finish it; and secondly when we may be able to put out the information.

I know alot of times as they do these accident investigations, rather than piecemeal the information, they try and put it together in some kind of a meaningful way. And frequently, the information you get from a black box is not conclusive in nature. So you have to really kind of wait and put that together with other evidence that is gathered at the crash site.

Q: There have been reports that the plane was experiencing mechanical difficulties?

A: Really, I have heard several different comments on that. And I think that I will stay away from clouding that issue, since I frankly do not know.

Q: There has been no further light shed on that?

A: No further light shed on that aspect.

Anything else on this one? Okay. Another one?

Q: On Haiti?

A: Yes.

Q: Can you tell us, there was a report yesterday from AP that there was some kind of an armed assault against the central police station in Port-au-Prince and the reports today in The Times are much the same. The State Department denied it yesterday. Can you clarify as to what may have happened there on Monday night?

A: Bill, I don't want to get into doing a play-by-play for what's going on in the security situation in Haiti. The one thing I can tell you, is that yesterday I think we put out a piece of paper that said that there was a group of Marines going down there for one of our regular rotations. There's been a delay in the airlift that was going to get them down there. So they actually are going to start their readiness exercise -- which this is part of -- they will actually start that tomorrow.

And as you know, we also have some units that are down there in an exercise called FAIRWINDS that has been going on for a long period of time. These are people who are engineers and medical people that do kind of humanitarian projects. So, we still have a presence down there. Our presence is not related to the security of Haiti. It is related to the humanitarian exercises called FAIRWINDS and to the security of those exercises and of course the embassy and that sort of thing.

Q: So you can...

A: I can't really --

Q: Deny what happened Sunday night?

A No. I just don't have any specifics on what happened down there. Suzanne?

Q: Do the rules of operation for those Marines that are going down there include perhaps assisting in some [inaudible] events?

A: Not when it comes to incidents that involve Haitian on Haitian. What these individuals go down there for is readiness and exercising their joint capabilities in providing security to, as I say, these FAIRWINDS exercises and also to the U.S. Embassy personnel that exist down there.

Q: Have there been threats against people taking part in these exercises?

A: Not at all.

Q: Is that why you have to have continued deployments from the U.S.?

A: No. It is actually -- it's a prudent thing to do because we -- the Marines in general as you probably noticed over the past year have been called upon to -- actually, not only the Marines but in some cases the Army people -- have been called upon to go into areas where we have got embassy personnel that are still on scene and there is a lot of turmoil. This is not limited to Haiti. That is done in a lot of other locations like Liberia for instance. And what we do in these exercises, in Haiti -- but we do them elsewhere to -- is to go through kind of a dry run of kinds of exercises, operations that they might be called upon to do. The communications that are required, getting down there quickly, where they go, what they do, how they operate, those kinds of things.

Q: The Marines are no longer off Liberia?

A: Yes, that's correct.

Q: And when was that?

A: I'd have to refer you to the EUCOM desk back there. You might go to Rick Scott. He can give you the exact date to the end of that operation.

Q: Is this a specialized unit that would ordinarily do this?

A: Well, this particular group that is going down there is the, let's see -- [I] Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune. It is one of the units that would be designated to go down there in some kind of contingency. But they are not the only ones that have been down there, because last month we actually had people from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment that went down there. So what they are trying to do in USACOM is to kind of rotate Marines and these Army units so that they share the wealth.

And if you look at what we did in Liberia you'd see how it worked there. The first people in, in the case of Liberia, were actually Army personnel and Air Force personnel. And then we moved in with Marines, later on, for the sustainment phase.

Q: The House International Relations Committee said it got complaints on the first group; that they were going through the streets of Port-au-Prince with machine guns on trucks. Will these people be going through streets?

A: Well, I can tell you that the Marines are not shy about (A), being visible. By the way, the Marines and the 82nd Airborne are not shy about being visible in their uniforms; and secondly, showing the weapons that they have to do the kinds of force protection that are necessary.

Q: Are you aware of an incident involving some U.S. Navy F- 18s that apparently provoked some concern on the part of a commercial airline pilot in Japan?

A: I have seen some press reports, but beyond that I really don't have any in-depth knowledge.

Q: So you don't know what the details are? Whether those planes were in any way appeared to be threatening this airline or whether --?

A: I don't have -- I really don't have any detail on that one at all.

Does that answer -- go ahead.

Q: I have another question, although the subject would [inaudible]

Q: That answer about the Marines not being shy, doesn't this suggest that all of this is -- is to train obviously -- but is there any purpose in showing the Haitians that the Americans are ready?

A: I don't think you should read anything into it that is not there. But you know, when we deployed military personnel for these exercises, we go out of our way to announce the fact that the deployment is going to take place, not only here but also in the country where the deployment is occurring. And as I say, our military people, for the most part, wear their uniforms when they deploy and so it's certainly no secret that they are in the area when they are in the area. We certainly don't go down there in any kind of a provocative way, but on the other hand, I don't think that there is any reason for the Marines or the 82nd Airborne, or anybody else to be shy about the fact that they have a capability, they have a mission and they are down there to fulfill that mission.

Q: What message do you hope the Haitians will get from the Marines' presence there?

A: The message that I hope the Haitians will get from the U.S. presence there, the majority of which is associated with FAIRWINDS, is that we want Haiti and the government in Haiti to succeed. We think that the democratically elected Haitian Government is the best solution for Haiti. We have set down a whole, long list of deploying units which have provided both medical and engineering assistance to Haiti. And the reason we've have done that is because we believe that this is an island nation that has potential and can succeed.

Q: I guess what my question really was is, what message do you hope the opponents of that democratic government get from our military forces?

A: I think that they should realize that not only the United States, but that also the United Nations and other nations in the hemisphere, are watching very closely what's going on.

Q: Another subject. Has the Pentagon been able to confirm yet any of the reports that say the Saudi Government authorities have taken suspects of the bombing in Dhahran into custody and they have in fact have received some confessions? Has the Pentagon either been informed of that or has the U.S. been able to independently confirm whether that's true or not?

A: No, we have been -- there has been no change on that one, Jamie, and I also would like to refer you to the FBI for any further information on developments on that.

Q: Ken Bacon said last week, I believe, that there would be a gradual reduction of the number of U.S. dependents accompanying American servicemen in Kuwait and some other countries, Bahrain perhaps. Can you tell us whether those plans have firmed up at all, or whether or not we will be seeing dependents coming out of other countries in the Middle East beside Saudi Arabia?

A: Okay, now, you are aware on Saudi Arabia that, that the dependents --

Q: I am asking about other countries other than Saudi Arabia.

A: On the other countries, right now Saudi Arabia is the only country where the family members have been affected. But the Central Command is re-evaluating its policy on DoD family members in other countries in the region. There are, in Kuwait for instance, I think about 100 military personnel in-country and about 33 families.

What we are going to do on that situation in Kuwait and in other areas is to take a look at the situation and see if it needs to be adjusted somewhat and then take appropriate action. But right now, Saudi Arabia is the only one where the families have actually departed the scene. I might also report that there were a hundred animals, including a 34-pound cat, which made the trip out of Saudi Arabia safely over the weekend. And I am sure if anybody wants to go back and review the footage on that, the stations down in Charleston can provide you with lots of coverage.

Q: Do you have the sex or the name of the cat?

A: I don't, but it appears to me that there must have been a lot of mice in the desert.

Q: In the other countries, is the reason also security or is it more sensibility of the countries having --?

A: Well, the CENTCOM assessment on what we ought to do there will take into account all the factors. But certainly the security is high on the list there. Force protection, as you know, has been very, very -- our prime goal in that whole region as we experience these tragic bombings.

Press: Thank you.

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