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DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
April 29, 1997 10:00 AM EDT
[This media activity occurs following a Honor Cordon to welcome Minister of Defense Victor Babiuc of Romania, to the Pentagon.]

Secretary Cohen: I take this occasion to welcome Minister Babiuc to his first visit to the Pentagon. We hope to discuss a number of issues. Obviously the issue of NATO enlargement will be discussed, along with other issues that affect our relationship. Romania has made tremendous strides in recent years in terms of reforming their economy, civilian control of their military, seeking to upgrade the quality of the military itself. And so we will discuss ways in which the United States can be helpful in furthering this relationship that continues to develop in a very positive way.

And now I'll entertain your questions

Q: Mr. Secretary, might we ask, with the QDR coming up next week, have you made any major decisions on that, and do you plan to seek major cuts in forces structures such as the 50,000 that was reported today in the Army, and will you emphasize that new base closings... are new base closings needed?

A: You want to repeat that question? (laughter).

First of all with respect to the QDR, no decisions have been made at this point. As we're nearing the conclusion of the examination process itself, then obviously decisions will be made. These recommendation will first, of course, be previewed with the President of the United States and also key members of Congress -- the key committees who will be passing judgment upon the quality of the product.

As I've indicated on many occasions in the past, this is just the beginning of the process. It is a blueprint for the Congress to look at to see whether or not we can reach a consensus for how we modernize our forces for the future, how we maintain the right strategy for today and well into tomorrow. So, no decisions have been made at this point. The stories that you've read about [it] are speculative in nature. They are premature and beyond that I can't comment.

Q: Could we just follow-up briefly? Are new base closings needed? Will you emphasize that to the Congress?

A: I think it's been clear for some time that there is an excess capacity of infrastructure. It's clear by virtue of the fact the we've had roughly a 33 percent reduction in force structure, but about an 18 percent reduction in infrastructure. That leaves a fairly significant excess capacity which has to be addressed. Whether or not it comes in the form of a BRAC or some other process is something we intend to discuss in the next several days.

Q: Mr. Secretary, would you like to characterize, or to address Romania's chances to integrate into NATO into the first wave.

A: Well of course Romania is one of those countries under consideration. It has the support of a number of countries, but obviously this is something only NATO can pass judgment at it's meeting in July. What we will discuss is ways in which we be helpful to Romania to continue to modernize its military in ways in which it can be more fully integrated into NATO operations leading up to that decision. But that decision is yet to be made, and we'll have to wait [for] the meeting in Madrid.

Q: Would Minister Babiuc like to characterize the purpose, the goals of his presence here at the Pentagon?

A: I have two objectives in my visit here. One objective is to discuss the philosophy of our integration into NATO, and of course the process of adaptation, of adapting to NATO standards related to the expansion of NATO. I'd like to... I will try to convince the U.S. officials that the expansion that the expansion has to be done on both flanks -- north and south -- because otherwise the coherence of this alliance will be affected.

The second objective is the bilateral military relations between our two countries. And it in this context that starting from the idea launched by Secretary Albright and the Foreign Minister Severin in Washington a week ago, we do want to give consistency and substance to this partnership idea from a military viewpoint. It is in this context that I will present the Secretary of Defense with a number of suggestions.

Q: Mr. Cohen, does the U.S. support Romanian integration into NATO, and also later today when you with the Chinese foreign minister, are you going to call on China to limit their military sales to countries that are considered dangerous to the United States?

A: Well first of all, the United States has taken no position with respect to any of the countries who have been at least considered for recommendation for accession or admission into NATO. So that has to await the judgment of the full NATO members and the U.S. has taken no position on any country at this point.

With respect to my later meeting with the Foreign Minister of China, I obviously will discuss a variety of issues which would have an impact upon our military to military relationship, including the sales of weapons to countries such as Iran. So that will be a topic of discussion obviously.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

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