DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
[This media activity occurs following a Honor Cordon welcome Minister of Defense Hans Haekkerup, of the Kingdom of Denmark, to the Pentagon.]
Secretary Cohen: I'm going to take this opportunity to welcome Minister Haekkerup to the Pentagon. This is not, certainly, his first time. He has been here many times before. He established a very close working relationship with former Secretary Bill Perry. It is my hope that and my belief that we will have a continuation of that very strong friendship. Denmark is one of America's strongest allies and friends and we're working very closely together. Not only in Bosnia where Denmark has troops on a peace keeping mission, but thanks to the leadership of the minister, he's been very instrumental in promoting Partnership for Peace, programs helping to integrate the Baltic states into the Partnership for Peace programs and continues to be a leader of strengthening the bond between the United States and the European countries. So it's my pleasure to welcome you here once again to ground that's very, very familiar to you.
Minister Haekkerup: Thank you very much.
Secretary Cohen: Would you like to make a statement?
Minister Haekkerup: I would just like to say that, thank you very much for your kind words of welcome. I hope also that the relationship I had with your predecessor will continue and I know it will.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I wonder if we might ask, without asking you to comment on the merits of the Simpson case itself, do you worry that this whole scandal in a highly publicized event such as this is still raising questions in people's minds about the ability of the Pentagon to control its people and the rights of women in the military?
A: Again, I can't comment on the Simpson case. All I can indicate is that the Department is looking intensively into the issue. We believe that the problem has to be dealt with head on, directly. We are attempting to do that. And it's my belief that we will deal with the problem as we have in the past with other types of issues such as that of racism in our services, also drug abuse in our services and we've been able to overcome those particular challenges and I'm sure we'll do the same with respect to this issue.
Q: The District of Columbia, where there was a suspected biological terrorism event, turned out not to be one, but did that offer any lessons about whether or not the United States is prepared adequately to deal with incidents of chemical or biological terrorism?
A: That's precisely the reason we have instituted a program to select some 120 cities in which we can help coordinate activities that obviously have to be lead at the local level. But the Department is now in the process of helping to integrate and oversee the nature of how we can coordinate these programs, train individuals, help them to identify what the toxins might be or the chemical might be, how to deal with those who have been afflicted, to remove them safely and to then treat them.
All of that takes a good deal of planning. We are now in the initial stages of that planning. We have a long way to go. But we have a program underway that's being funded this year, will be funded next year. And it's important that we proceed with it as vigorously as we can.
Q: The U.S. - Baltic charter, when do we expect that to be signed and how do we foresee the Danish (inaudible) Baltic states?
A: Well that's an issue that obviously we'll be taking up. We hope to work with the Baltic states very closely in the coming years. They are going to participate in various Partnership for Peace types of activities, hopefully, and also we will work with our Danish friends to help have a further integration of operations throughout Europe. And that's something that we will talk about today.
Q: Will the U.S. - Baltic charter be signed before the Madrid summit?
A: I do not know if it will be signed before that.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.