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DoD News Briefing: Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, USA, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Presenters: Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, USA, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
April 17, 1997
Speaker: The Chairman is with us today to say a few words about the CWC. I also wanted to mention two other things. One, we have a statement, a joint statement which we will be providing to you a little later in the day regarding the CWC, which has been authorized by former Secretaries Brown, Perry and Richardson on this same subject.

And then at 2 o'clock this afternoon, we have Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Environmental Affairs Sherri Goodman coming down to talk to you about an initiative that is connected with the environmental area.

And with that, I'll turn over the proceedings to General John Shalikashvili, the Chairman. Sir.

General Shalikashvili: I know that you have heard and read an awful lot in the last few weeks about the Chemical Weapons Convention. And I want to let you know where this country's military leaders, that is the Joint Chiefs and the combatant commanders, stand on the CWC.

From the beginning of our CWC debate in 1991, the Joint Chiefs then and we, their successors have supported this important convention. We have consistently done so because no matter how much we analyze the provisions of this convention, we always came to the same conclusion, that our troops will be safer with the convention than without it.

Simply stated, the CWC will greatly reduce the likelihood that our troops and citizens will face chemical weapons in the future. Furthermore, well before the CWC was negotiated, Congress had already directed the destruction of the vast majority of our chemical weapons stockpile. The CWC will require other state parties to do the same. And under very strict international controls. So since we are already destroying our own nuclear... Our own chemical weapons, it makes great sense to level the playing field and the CWC does just that.

Important as well, we do not need chemical weapons to provide an effective deterrent. Deterrence is based on a defensive capability and on an ability to rapidly deliver an overwhelming and devastating response. And we have both of those capabilities. And the CWC is not going to lure us into complacency. We are fully committed to the continued improvement of our chemical defensive capabilities and our aggressive intelligence collection.

We recognize that there are rogue states that will not sign up to the convention. But even there, the CWC will make it harder for rogue states to acquire chemical weapons by imposing strict trade restrictions on relevant chemicals required to make such weapons.

While this is not the full answer in dealing with rogue states, here too, it is obvious to us that we are better off with the convention than without it. Furthermore, this convention enjoins the world community to forego an entire class of weapons of mass destruction. It implements a regime of enforcement to include most rigorous inspections and it impairs the ability of those outside the convention to obtain materials to make chemical weapons.

In a final analysis, despite the objections sometimes raised, the CWC makes great sense to me, to the other Joint Chiefs, and to our combatant commanders. And we continue to urge its prompt ratification.

And with that, I'm ready to try to answer your questions.

Q: Mr. Chairman, I wonder if we might have a couple of questions on other subjects if we might. NORAD announced yesterday that it had gone on an increased state of alert because of a security problem. I wonder if you might -- could you give us any details on the security problem? And with the second anniversary of Oklahoma City coming up, do you plan to put domestic bases on a higher state of alert on the possibility that there might be a bombing?

A: As far as NORAD is concerned, they had indications that they might have a security difficulty. And so they did the natural thing and that is to increase the security posture on NORAD. Somewhat similar as we do sometimes here in the Pentagon when we get some kind of indication that someone is threatening the security of this building. It's no more than that.

As far as the second part of your question is concerned, we will remind all commanders of the upcoming anniversary and will urge them to take the measures appropriate in their particular locations.

Q: Could you give us a little more detail -- I'm sorry. Just a follow up, briefly. Could you give us a little more detail on the security threat at NORAD, the nature of it? Was it a local threat or does it seem to be part of a larger --

A: No, they simply had some information that someone was going to try to threaten the facility and so they took the necessary precaution. Since then, they -- that time has come and gone. What they are doing now is simply taking this opportunity to check out their defensive capability. And I suspect that in the not too distant future, they will return back to normal.

Q: General Shalikashvili, today your predecessor, General Powell, testified on the Hill. He supported the Chemical Weapons Convention. But he also said that the revelations of the past couple of days, that the CIA had failed to list panacea on a list of suspected Iraqi chemical weapons sight was quote, "outrageous", and said that if he were still in office, he would be ranting and raving about this. You are in office. What's your reaction to the news of the last couple of days?

A: Well I am -- I would let General Powell make his own judgments how he would react to it. I'm not one who rants and raves. That doesn't mean that I'm not very much concerned with any kind of information that indicates that we could have provided some warning and didn't. The proper thing to do now in my judgment is to ensure that the correct investigations are conducted into the reasons why such information might not have been made available and ensure we fix the system so that in the future, if in fact there was this omission, something like that cannot happen again.

Q: Is this an intelligence failure in your opinion?

A: I have no idea. I don't know enough about it either than what the CIA has revealed about that case, so I think it's too early to draw any conclusions.

Q: General, on the Chemical Weapons Convention, as I understand the Chiefs' position is that you feel that you can deter the use of chemical weapons based on the Gulf War without having a chemical weapons deterrent. In your statement of the use of overwhelming and devastating response, does that include the use of nuclear weapons or is that strictly limited to a conventional response?

A: I don't think it would be very useful for me to be terribly specific on that issue other than to tell you that we do not exclude any capability that's at our disposal.

Q: General, if I could change the subject to Aberdeen for a second, it seems that sex is a bigger problem at the Aberdeen training facility than at other U.S. Army training facilities in the United States. Do you have any indication why that may be the case?

A: No again, I think it's too early to tell whether this is some systemic problem or whether this is simply an issue of individuals having done something very, very wrong. I'm a little reluctant to speak at great detail about any kind of my impressions as long as there is this judicial process ongoing because I don't think that would be very helpful. I think as chairman, I better tell you that we need to be very careful before draw any conclusions whether there is a systemic problem or whether this is simply a transgression on the part of individuals.

Q: If I could follow, General, will you be involved in any of way in the Army review of this matter that's to come with Togo West this summer. And secondly, sir, what would you say to the parents, to the families of these female recruits -- Army personnel that questioned the safety of their daughters in the Army under these circumstances?

A: I would -- first of all, I don't know specifically what review you are referring to that Secretary West and the Chief of Staff of the Army would undertake this summer. I can only assume that this is an Army issue and so they will conduct their review. I'm sure when they are finished, they will inform me and will inform Secretary Cohen of their results and we'll take it from there.

As far as the parents are concerned of those daughters who - - those parents who are afraid for their safety, I would say first of all how deeply I and all the other leaders regret what might have happened there. But on the other hand, we'll tell you that I have every confidence that everything is being done by the Army as well as by the other services to ensure that such events do not occur. And I think the commitment of the leadership of all the services have been very strong in that matter. And we're very well aware of our responsibilities to ensure that anybody, regardless of gender or whatever, receives the fair protection and maximum protection and the opportunity to grow and do his or her job. So that 's our responsibility and we recognize that.

Q: I'd like to go back to Aberdeen. We talked about the Air Force review of the bombing at Khobar Towers and the clamor that someone should be held responsible, upper leadership. Do you believe the same thing is true at the Army installation at Aberdeen, that we should be looking at the highest command at Aberdeen?

A: I think in each case, we should look at everyone who might have been responsible. When there is suspicion that some wrong was done by anyone in a chain of command, we need to investigate it and if the investigation leads us to concluded that wrong in fact was done, then we take the appropriate action in accordance with the Code of Military Justice if that's what's called for. I don't think there's anyone who's excluded from that process. Not I nor anyone else. Nor is this a going in assumption that simply because you're in a chain of command, you must be somehow guilty.

Q: The missing A-10 in Colorado has captured the imagination of a lot of people across the country. I'm sure you've heard some of the theories that are being tossed about. Do you have any opinion on what the situation is there? Do you have any concern that perhaps the plane might have landed as some people have suggested rather than crashed with the upcoming anniversary of Waco and Oklahoma City, the trial going on there, a confluence of events, and are you concerned enough in any way to have taken any precautionary steps with the anniversary coming up?

A: I think that the first thing that needs to be said, that I feel very much for Captain Buttons' family in all of this. And secondly, that I'm satisfied that everything is being done to try to find him and the airplane. As far as theories as to what might have happened, obviously I follow very closely all the suggestions as to what might have happened. I simply don't know. As we're now finding out, despite our high tech attempts and hard work, we have been unable to locate it. We have not overlooked the idea that the plane might have landed somewhere. As you know, we've looked in a number of places where that could have happened. So far without any results. So I won't add to the speculation, but right now, my interest is that we continue doing everything we can to answer that question and hopefully to find Captain Buttons and the airplane.

Q: Given how curious the situation is and the confluence of events and the anniversaries and so on, are you thinking about taking any precautionary for the anniversary? You mentioned that you were going to remind your commanders throughout the country about the anniversary and the strange situation here. Any additional steps being considered?

A: I do not have enough information to lead to me to believe that there is somehow a connection between that incident in Oklahoma City nearly a year ago and the disappearance of this airplane. My intention is to call to all the commanders' attention the fact that the anniversary is coming and that it's prudent to reevaluate the security situation at their particular installations.

Q: General, I wonder if we can sneak a quick one in on the QDR while we have you, realizing that no decisions, final decision's been made yet. You and the other Joint Chiefs said four years ago that you couldn't do with fewer than 1.4 million troops. Given the problems with the budget, the fact that spending's going to be cut and you need to modernize, would you guess that you're going to wind up with a smaller force and fewer bases as a result of the budget problems and the need to modernize?

A: It's very difficult for me to talk about what we will end up with if the decisions have not been made and Secretary Cohen has not yet made this series of decisions. I can only tell you what we are looking at. We have pledged from the beginning that we would look at everything. And so we have looked at bases. And we have looked at end strength and we have looked at programs and we've looked at the strategy and we've looked at all of it. We've looked at overseas presence. Very often, we've looked at these things to ensure that when we reject them, we have good rationale for rejecting it.

In some cases, we've looked at it to reaffirm that we really can't touch that area of this. And in other cases, we've looked at them because our judgment today might be different than it was before. We might find that we can make some adjustment. The bases is a perfect example of that. It is very likely that we continue still to have more bases than we need. Whether our final recommendation will be to ask for another base closure is too early to tell. So I'm satisfied that we're looking at everything we that we ought to be looking at so we can present that as a coherent package to Secretary Cohen.

In each case, though, we want to make sure that whatever changes we propose, we take that back to the strategy and bounce it off the strategy and say if we make this adjustment here, make this reduction there, can we then still execute the strategy. And so for us, the litmus test for the QDR is whether the force that we come up with can execute the strategy today and that we have the programs in place to have a force in the future that will be appropriate to environment as we see it out there.

Q: Thank you. Come back soon.

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