Monday, September 16, 1996
Shalikashvili, USA, Chairman, JCS; General Wayne Downing, USA (Ret); and Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD/PA)
Mr. Bacon: Good morning. Thank you for coming to our briefing on force protection.
The briefing will be in four parts. First, Deputy Secretary John P. White will start with an opening statement. He'll be followed by General John Shalikashvili, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Then Retired General Wayne Downing, the former Commander of the Special Forces will report on his report, the Downing Assessment, which was the basis for many of the changes we're announcing today. After that, we'll take your questions.
Secretary White: Thank you, Ken. Good morning.
The June 25th attack on Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia signaled that terrorism is now an ever-present and serious threat to U.S. forces overseas. Nothing can bring back the 19 Americans who were killed or erase the injuries to 500 others, but we must do all that we can to protect our forces from additional attacks. Every tragedy contains lessons for the future.
Immediately after the attack at Khobar Towers, Secretary Perry took a series of actions to enhance the force protection in the Gulf and around the world. First, with the agreement of the Saudi Arabian Government, he decided to move our forces to less vulnerable locations. For example, air operations in Saudi Arabia will complete their relocation from Dhahran and Riyadh to the remote Prince Sultan Air Base at Al Kharj this week. Secretary Perry visited the base on the weekend and told me on Saturday how pleased he was with the progress that had been made.
Second, he substantially reduced the number of military dependents in the Gulf region.
Third, he asked all unified commands around the world to review the adequacy of their force protection measures.
Fourth, he asked Retired General Wayne Downing to conduct an independent review of our security procedures at Al Khobar Towers and beyond.
Today I am releasing a force protection report that Secretary Perry has personally reviewed with the President. Today we are also sending this report to the Congress. It builds on our recent, extensive anti-terrorism efforts and the recommendations in General Downing's candid report.
The United States has worldwide interests and worldwide responsibilities. These include promoting freedom and democracy, protecting our friends and allies, and advancing our economic interests and humanitarian values. Protecting our principles and values requires us to maintain military forces in areas vital to our interests. No region illustrates this better than the Middle East. It has long been a strategic focal point for the U.S. and our allies because it contains two-thirds of the world's oil supply; simmering ethnic, religious, political and economic conflicts that can lead to wars; and crucial navigation routes. Stability in the Middle East depends on the presence of a strong U.S. deterrent force. We simply cannot protect our interests abroad solely from barracks at home.
Saddam Hussein's current actions highlight the threats to peace and stability that we face in the region. He has attacked his neighbors with brutal force. He has developed chemical and biological weapons. He poses a continuing threat to stability as events over the last two weeks represent. Without American leadership and military might in 1990 and 1991, Saddam Hussein would have maintained control of Kuwait and could have moved south and taken over other oilfields.
Since the Gulf War, the U.S. and its allies found it necessary to build and maintain a substantial deterrent force in the Middle East. More than 20,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are patrolling and exercising in that region today. A coalition force polices no-fly zones that cover 60 percent of Iraq's airspace. This ready force deterred aggression in 1994, and we are prepared to use it now to protect our national interest.
Our policy is clear. We have shown that we are determined and able to contain Iraq in order to protect our vital strategic interests. Our commitment to military strength and forward deployment makes our military the most capable and responsive force in the world.
As a consequence, some enemies are turning to terrorism to try to undermine our resolve and drive a wedge between us and our friends. They will not succeed. Allowing terrorists to succeed would damage our interests as much as a military defeat.
Until last year, U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia didn't face significant threats from terrorists, but on November 13, 1995, terrorists attacked the Office of Program Management for the Saudi Arabian National Guard in Riyadh, killing five Americans. As a result of that attack, we strengthened our intelligence, hardened our facilities, and tightened our security.
At the Khobar Towers housing complex in Dhahran, more than 130 steps were taken to improve security. These steps, combined with superb medical care after the attack, helped limit deaths from a bomb that Defense Department analysts now estimate may have been larger than 20,000 pounds.
The central lesson of Khobar Towers' attack is that we must adopt a radically different mindset in response to the threat of more sophisticated terrorist attacks against American forces overseas. Therefore, we are taking a different approach to force protection, both in Saudi Arabia and around the world. The relocation of our forces in Saudi Arabia and in other Gulf states and the repatriation of dependents has reduced our vulnerability. Commanders around the world have reviewed their force protection posture and recommended changes. General Downing's independent report also contains many specific and important recommendations.
Prior to evaluating the Downing report, Secretary Perry asked the Secretary of the Air Force to examine disciplinary and other issues raised in the report concerning how the Air Force supports forces deployed to unified combatant commands such as Central Command. After reviewing the report, Secretary Perry has taken many additional steps. These changes make force protection an integral part or mission accomplishment. We know that we can never provide 100 percent protection against terrorist attacks, but we are doing everything we can to reduce risks.
Let me outline the most important additional force protection initiative the Department is taking. Yesterday, Secretary Perry issued department-wide standards for force protection. These turned previous advisory standards into a directive that will lift the priority and ensure the consistency of force protection measures. We are also taking steps that will improve the collection and use of intelligence, move certain force protection responsibilities from the Department of State to the Department of Defense, raise funding levels and resource visibility for anti-terrorism programs, strengthen cooperation with host nations, give local commanders operational control over force protection, and make the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs the focal point for force protection activities.
Now I'd like to turn to General Shalikashvili, and he will give more details in terms of these various initiatives the Department is taking.
General Shalikashvili: Thank you very much, Dr. White.
Let me start out by once again stating how very much our hearts go out to the families of those brave airmen who lost their lives in this tragedy.
As we all know, since the Gulf War the dedicated men and women of Central Command have remained on the Arabian Peninsula and have flawlessly executed their many, many missions. OPERATION SOUTHERN WATCH, the enforcement of the no-fly zone in Southern Iraq is, of course, their best known mission, and it has been a very busy one, indeed.
Since 1992, it has entailed on the average over 2,300 air sorties each month. Concurrently, however, the men and women of Central Command conducted maritime intercept operations, and within the last two years, five major contingency operations -- including most recently, of course, the airstrikes in the southern no-fly zone. And all of this was accomplished over lines of communication extending more than 7,000 air miles and more than 12,000 sea miles between the United States and the Gulf. And until recently, these very demanding military operations were the single focus of Central Command in the region.
But as Secretary White just mentioned, in November of 1995 when a bomb exploded near a U.S. security assistance facility in Riyadh, terrorism in Saudi Arabia became a top priority security issue. In the Gulf, and indeed worldwide, we then aggressively began to improve our posture against terrorism.
However, in June of 1996, the attack on Khobar Towers demonstrated that terrorists in Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf had reached a new level of sophistication and destructiveness.
Before turning to our actions following the bombing of Khobar Towers, let me first say a word about the professionalism and the spirit of our military personnel.
The heroic actions of those at the scene exemplified a quality of our people that I see every day, wherever I go. As an example, the two sentries who risked their lives to alert the occupants of Khobar Towers; the prompt medical attention administered by our many dedicated servicemen and women assured that the tragic loss of life was kept to a minimum.
It is important to remember that the men and women in Khobar Towers were skilled, dedicated professionals, seized with their mission and working very hard to protect Khobar Towers and their base from any terrorist attack.
With that, let me now turn to some of the major areas that are elaborated in the Secretary's report and in the report submitted by General Downing.
Let me begin with unity of effort. As Secretary White just mentioned, yesterday Secretary Perry directed that I serve as his principal adviser with responsibility for all force protection matters within the Department of Defense. In turn, I'm establishing a permanent office within the Joint Staff to deal with all matters of combating terrorism, and I will draw on existing combat support agencies and others in and out of government to help with that effort. Among its many tasks, the new office will help me assist field commanders with force protection matters and will help me ensure that force protection considerations are included in every aspect of our activities worldwide. To do this we will look into force protection doctrine, standards, training, requirements, as well as force protection programs and levels of funding. We will also look into innovative technologies and coordinate with our allies.
Finally, to ensure better coordination overseas, and in agreement with the Secretary of State, CINCCENT is being given force protection responsibility and authority for all Department of Defense activities on the Arabian Peninsula, other than those that are integral elements of the country team.
Along with improving our unity of effort, command and control arrangements are, of course, a critical consideration in the organization of every joint task force. As an immediate step, we have given the commander of our joint task force in Saudi Arabia the specific authority and responsibility for force protection of all combatant units in a region operating in support of SOUTHERN WATCH. As a further step, we will continue to investigate the feasibility and advisability of establishing a Central Command forward headquarters in the region that could assume force protection responsibilities for all forces on the Arabian Peninsula.
At the same time, we are reviewing all joint task forces worldwide to assure there is no ambiguity about who is responsible for force protection.
Further, to help improve continuity of our units on the Arabian Peninsula, we have lengthened the tours of senior leaders and we have minimized the short tour rotations of individuals as well as units.
To strengthen our posture further, we require viable force protection standards, sound force protection doctrine, and first rate force protection training. As Secretary White mentioned, while we had force protection standards, we have now issued them as a directive and we, in our new office, will be further revising these standards to ensure that they fully address the new terrorist threats. We will be reviewing our extensive joint and service doctrinal publications to ensure that they, too, address the new threat, and that we have common guidance, procedures, and standards at all levels of command.
We will also review our force protection training to ensure that our schools and training centers teach the right material, and that we have force protection training requirements which are tailored to specific needs of each regional command.
Let me give you some further examples of some of our current efforts to improve training.
We have learned a great deal about specialized pre- deployment training requirements from our efforts last year to prepare our forces for deployment to Bosnia. Drawing on that experience, the U.S. Atlantic Command in conjunction with the services and the other unified commands has developed a draft anti-terrorism training plan to ensure that we provide theater- specific training to our deploying individuals and units.
Finally, I directed the National Defense University to review the status of anti-terrorism and force protection instruction in our professional military education system to include risk management for our leaders.
The last area I would like to address is intelligence. Despite our best efforts, some important improvements in tactical intelligence are warranted. They fall into three areas: the collection of information, the analysis of that information, and dissemination of the resulting intelligence.
The intelligence collection problem focuses on human intelligence, and our efforts to gain inside information on terrorist organizations and their plans. We are reviewing how we can increase the funding and the number of people needed to satisfy our human intelligence requirements.
On the issue of analysis, we have already increased the number of analysts who are working in anti-terrorism cells at every level from the Pentagon down to the joint task force. Most of these cells are on a 24 hour watch. Our primary concern here is to make sure we have enough analysts properly trained in terrorism-related issues assigned to these critical, analytical positions.
The dissemination problem is principally a matter of classification of intelligence. We must ensure that intelligence we acquire about terrorists can be sanitized and then quickly passed at the lowest classification possible to the individuals who need it.
In conclusion, two considerations remain key. We must continue to pursue our national interests, especially our vital national interests such as those we have in the Gulf region. No adversary, and certainly no terrorist group can be permitted to stop us. But at the same time, we as Americans, because of what we stand for, will continue to be targets of terrorist attacks worldwide. This is certain. But just as certain must be our resolution to do everything we can to protect the lives of our men and women in uniform and Americans everywhere.
To ensure that this happens will continue to move out with dispatch on the initiatives outlined in Secretary Perry's force protection report, and the recommendations in General Downing's report.
With that, let me thank General Downing and his team for their most helpful assistance, and let me now turn the podium over to General Downing.
General Downing: Thank you, General Shali.
Our charter, as given to us by the Secretary of Defense, directed us to assess the extent to which the casualties and damage sustained at Khobar Towers were the result of inadequate security policies, infrastructures, or systems. The Secretary also asked the team to recommend measures to minimize casualties and damage from such attacks in the future.
Within 24 hours of receiving this charter, we began to form a team of officers, non-commissioned officers, DoD civilians and retired personnel from the Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy, and the Air Force. We also included on our team representatives from Department of State, Department of Energy, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
During the course of our assessment, we interviewed over 400 individuals from General Peay, the Commander in Chief, Central Command, to the sentries on the roof of Building 131 at Khobar Towers the night of the bombing. We analyzed hundreds of documents. And I must tell you that we received full cooperation from everyone that we talked to and that we worked with. This includes all the military organizations, all federal agencies, the Saudis, the governments of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, as well as our friends and allies the British, the French, the Israelis, and the Jordanians. Everyone we talked to recognized the importance of the task force mission to the future security of U.S. forces deployed overseas and fully supported our efforts to find more effective ways to defeat the terrorist threat.
Terrorism represents an undeclared war against the United States. The military forces of this country are currently and clearly superior to all others in the world. Convinced of the futility of challenging our forces directly, some enemies are waging war against us asymmetrically. They use terrorism. Some of these enemies feel our greatest vulnerability is our intolerance for casualties. If we prove ourselves incapable of responding to terrorism, the terrorists will continue to represent a significant threat to us, especially to our servicemen and women deployed overseas.
The Secretary of Defense's report to the President is gratifying to the task force, because we feel it adequately addresses the main findings and recommendations that we have made. But I must point out to you, ladies and gentlemen, that the devil is in the details. That is how is it going to be enacted? What is the follow-through going to be to ensure the actions that we have recommended are implemented and not forgotten?
Since Secretary White and General Shali have discussed the majority of our findings and recommendations, let me just highlight a few. The first, unity of command.
In order to get a unified approach to force protection, one man needs to be in charge in the Gulf region. The Goldwater/Nichols legislation assigned great power to the unified combatant commanders. I believe the law's intent was to strengthen joint operational command while leaving the services the mission of training, equipping, and sustaining the force. Force protection is an operational issue. There are training and equipping pieces to it, but ultimately, it is an inherent function of command. Leaving two service components -- the Air Force and the Army -- in charge from a distance 7,000 miles away in the United States satisfies the letter of Goldwater/Nichols, but it doesn't satisfy the spirit of the law. While a commander in chief may, under Goldwater/Nichols, delegate operational control of forces in his theater to the service component, doing so dilutes the concept of unit of command and circumvents the real intent of the law which was to put joint commanders in charge of operational matters.
As the Secretary of Defense's report states, they're going to look very, very, carefully at putting a CENTCOM forward headquarters, and that's one example of how unity of command could be achieved.
We in the task force believe it is very important to assign operational control of all forces operating in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region to one forward deployed headquarters.
Proper resource and manning. Our units overseas must have the resources to do the job, and especially they must have this capability when conditions change. Short term missions often become semi-permanent. We've got to re-look at our force structure.
Additional missions are often added. We call that mission creep. Again, we've got to look at the force structure. A major new element is introduced like a terrorist threat. Again, we've got to look at how we've structured our forces for this. And our manning policies and our rotation policies must support continuity and cohesion.
Intelligence. Intelligence did provide warning of the terrorist threat to U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia. As a result, those responsible for force protection had both time and motivation to reduce vulnerabilities. However, it was not enough. Tactical details were needed, and they could only have been provided by human intelligence. The Long Commission investigating the 1983 Beirut bombing found that our human intelligence capability and counter-intelligence capability had eroded. Admiral Long and his commission back at that time in 1984, recommended that we take immediate action to address these significant shortfalls.
Today, 12 years later, we still have enormous difficulty in gaining first hand, inside knowledge of terrorist plans and activities. The Department of Defense must invest more time, people, and funds to develop human intelligence and counter- intelligence capabilities in threatened areas in order to help thwart further attacks.
The Director of Central Intelligence personally has assured me that he will carefully examine our perception that restrictions on the recruitment of sources currently hamper the efforts of national intelligence agencies.
We also need theater and national analysis of long term trends, intentions, and capabilities of terrorist forces.
Use of technology. The task force found a manpower intensive approach to force protection used in the Gulf. Sentries armed only with binoculars and their weapons on 12 hours shifts in 120 degree-plus heat. Bomb dogs with an effectiveness of 15 to 30 minutes on guard on gates. Crude highway traffic control devices used as blast protection barriers.
American technology is the best in the world. We can and we must provide our forces with state of the art sensors, blast protectors, automated entry points, cargo inspection devices, and we also need teams to assist our commanders in applying this technology. We've got enough inspectors out there, we've got enough people going out and telling commanders what is wrong. We need people to go out and help, to point out deficiencies, and then remain and make corrections, and help commanders overseas install these advances systems.
Size of the bomb. We believe that the Department of Defense estimate of a 20,000 pound bomb is inaccurate. Our estimates approximate the bomb size to be 3,000 to 8,000 pounds; most likely 5,000 pounds -- not 20,000.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to personally offer my condolences and sympathies to the families of those brave Americans who lost their lives on June 25th at Khobar Towers. I can tell you that the loss of your loved ones was our motivation and our inspiration to make this assessment as thorough and as objective and as complete as possible. It is our most sincere desire that our recommendations will help prevent such tragedies in the future.
Secretary White: Thank you, Wayne.
Let me just make one other comment. As you know, the report itself that we are providing today includes the full report from the Secretary to the President, as well as General Downing's report, as well as our point by point response of how we're going to implement General Downing's recommendations.
Now we'd be happy to try to take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could you tell us and the families of those who have lost their loved ones, if this report gets you any closer to finding out who is responsible for this terrorist act, and also who, inside the Pentagon or inside the military chain of command, should lose their job over this? Is there serious consideration that that should be done?
Secretary White: Let me answer the first question by saying that the issue around the direct culpability for the attack itself is the responsibility, of course, of the Saudi Government and of the FBI and the Department of Justice -- not the Department of Defense. So we are not involved in the Department of Defense in terms of that effort.
Secondly, let me say that our focus here has been on the fact that terrorists killed these people. Americans didn't kill these airmen, terrorists killed these airmen. Our focus then is on what we can do in order to make sure that we minimize and protect against these kinds of enormous, complicated, and sophisticated terrorist threats in the future.
Q: But the General was quite clear that years ago recommendations had been made that intelligence capabilities be improved. It's quite clear that from the report itself, that commanders were given information, yet they didn't act.
Secretary White: That's not true. The commanders acted extensively, and if it were not for the actions of those commanders we would not have saved the many lives that we did. Over 130 steps were taken at Khobar Towers alone. Based on the intelligence that we had, extensive steps were taken.
Q: This question for General Downing and also for the Chairman, if I might. Gentlemen, are you able to say yet, and I'm sorry, I haven't seen the report but let me get right to it, are you able to say yet, if groups harbored by Baghdad, in Baghdad, or the Iraqi Government had anything to do with this? There are also reports that the Syrians were allowing training of Saudi dissidents in their country by Iranians. Is Iran complicitous? Can you tell us anything about who's hitting us?
General Shalikashvili: The responsibility for the investigation of that incident is in the hands of the Saudi Government and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Those investigations are not yet completed. I have no information that could answer your question.
Q: A question for General Downing and perhaps General Shalikashvili, you could take it, too, that's within the purview of this report. A common criticism of these kinds of investigations is that they focus on the people on the scene who made the most immediate decisions, and let off the hook higher- ups in the chain of command. I have read most of this report, and it seems to come down quite heavily on the wing commander, although it does mention other people. What portion of the responsibility do you allocate to those commanders on the scene, and what portion up the chain of command as far as General Shalikashvili?
General Downing: I think if you read the report in detail, you'll see that this assessment takes a look at it from the Department of Defense, the JCS, Central Command, the U.S. Air Force, and the forces in theater. It points out that there are deficiencies. It's very explicit and I think it's very candid and very forthright. It outlines what those deficiencies are. It also makes some very explicit recommendations as to how we ought to get about fixing them. So it does not concentrate at just any one place in the chain of command.
Q: Do those deficiencies extend all the way to the office of the Defense Secretary, William Perry?
General Downing: The deficiencies are laid out for the Defense Department. The purpose of this investigation, explicitly stated in my charter, was not to determine culpability. It was not a criminal investigation. It was not culpability. But I was advised that as I found failings and found shortcomings, I should make note or those, which we did. And we have referred them, as you'll see in those findings, to the Secretary of Defense and to the chain of command.
Q: General Shalikashvili, if I could just follow up. When we talked shortly after the bombing, you expressed surprise at the size of the bomb, and I understand there's a dispute about exactly how powerful this bomb was. But yet the report indicates on page 56 here that the procedures that were in effect were inadequate for even a 200-pound bomb, and it estimates here that there would have been between 5 and 11 deaths from just a 200- pound blast 80 feet from the defense perimeter. Doesn't that indicate that it wasn't simply a surprise by the size of the blast, but the securities there were, indeed, inadequate?
General Shalikashvili: I think the mere fact that people were killed indicates that we need to do more on security measures to provide every possible protection that we can to our men there at Khobar Towers and other places. We have been, I think all of us have been surprised by the size and the sophistication and the destructiveness of this attack. So I don't see any inconsistency between what was said before, what we are saying now, for that matter, what is in General Downing's report. I think we do have an issue with General Downing's team on just the very size of the device that was used. I think in your report you will see a very, to me, convincing analysis that was conducted by the Special Weapons Agency and others, and that leads us to conclude that the device to have created that kind of damage, that kind of a crater and that kind of [assault] must have been much larger than we even initially anticipated.
Q: General Shali, while we're on the topic of the Middle East, can you tell us, are new airstrikes against Iraq imminent, or are we standing down based on the fact that Saddam Hussein seems to have blinked?
General Shalikashvili: No, we are not standing down. I think I have said, and the Secretary has said all along that Saddam Hussein has now indicated that he will not attack our airplanes unless we attack them. But I've also said all along that we have heard words from Saddam Hussein before, so it is much less important to me what we hear from him than what we see on the ground. And intelligence on the ground yesterday, and continues to be today, mixed. We see some sites returning back to garrison. We see others still out in field locations moving around, as if they were trying to evade us. We will watch that very carefully because what this is all about is the safety of our pilots who are enforcing the no-fly zone, and we will make the right decisions, depending on what we see -- not what we hear.
Q: ...Can I follow up, please? Going back to the first part of my question, are airstrikes imminent?
General Shalikashvili: Whether airstrikes will be necessary or not will very much depend on Saddam Hussein's actions, not his words.
Q: Sir, are you saying if he holds his fire, we will now hold ours?
General Shalikashvili: No, I didn't say that. I said it will depend on his actions. If there are actions there that threaten our pilots, we in turn, will take appropriate action.
Q: Sir, can you give us a definitive answer on the number of troops going from Fort Hood to Kuwait and when they will go?
General Shalikashvili: As you know, Secretary Perry when he was over there, consulted with the Government of Kuwait and made the offer that we would, it might be useful to send two battalion's worth of troops from Fort Hood to Kuwait. The Kuwaiti Government is right now still discussing the issue, as far as I know. And until I hear what their answer is, I think it would be very much inappropriate for me to speculate on when these troops would be going. But it's two battalion's worth.
Q: General Downing, can you explain why the whole annex in the report on Saudi cooperation and information sharing is classified?
General Downing: Because some of the people that we talked to and some of the information that is in it is sensitive. And it is classified.
Q: Can you provide some general guidelines and information about the level of Saudi cooperation?
General Downing: The Saudis cooperated with us fully while we were on the investigation. They certainly cooperated with our people in country.
Some of the deficiencies that we found are explicitly stated, and that was the problems, if any, that we had with the Saudi security was never brought to the attention of the senior leaders in the eastern province, in Dhahran or in Riyadh.
Q: General Downing, you made a point in your report that there's so much technology out there that's not being used to protect our troops. Is there any cost estimate of what would be needed, and how long would it take, do you think, in your opinion, to bring security to the level that you think it should be at?
General Downing: The cost I don't know. I could give you a ball park figure. But I think on the timing, there is current, state of the art equipment out there right now that we could get and literally after a survey, in a matter of weeks, could be installed at some of our bases overseas. It's simply a matter of priority. And I think you'll see in the Secretary of Defense's report, it's certainly stated explicitly in ours, that once you get that priority, and it looks like we will get it -- General Shali has put this on the Joint Staff now. He has the capability of focusing this effort so they can go out to a team, or to a commander with this team and give this commander what he needs to do his job.
Q: A simple question. Who is the highest ranking person to blame for this?
General Downing: The purpose of this assessment was not to assign blame. It was to determine the facts, determine what happened, determine how that bomb was able to be detonated at Khobar Towers, and to make recommendations on how we can better do our job not only in the Middle East, in the CENTCOM AOR, but throughout the world. That's what we've done. We have laid that out and in the course of that, we have laid out a series of deficiencies, things that we found wrong, and have referred this to the Secretary of Defense and to the chain of command, which is exactly what we were asked to do. What happens to that from here on out, I think both Dr. White and General Shali have told you this morning. It's referred to the chain of command. They're looking at it. They will now do the in-depth analysis, the in- depth investigation to determine what has to be done.
Q: Two points of clarification. We were told shortly after this event that there had been attempts or requests made of the Saudi Government to get permission to move this fence line out. In your report here it says that Brigadier General -- the wing commander there -- did not raise the issue of expanding the perimeter with his Saudi counterparts. Can you tell us what the truth is? And also, can you explain why your estimate of the bomb damage is different than the Pentagon's?
General Downing: To take the fence, the purpose of moving the fence was not to move it out 400 feet to get standoff for blast, it was to move it out about 10 to 20 feet to get better observation.
Members of the wing out there at Dhahran claim that they requested this at lower levels from the Saudis. The Saudis say that they did not. The commander at Dhahran did not bring this point up with his counterpart, his Saudi counterpart, as being a problem, nor did he refer it to anybody in the chain of command as a problem. So that's the story on the fence.
The bomb, we had some very good explosives people on our team that analyzed the bomb. The basic reasons that we think the bomb was around 3,000 to 8,000 pounds and probably about 5,000 was one, the crater, and the type of soil, the sandy soil with the very, very low water table. And also the fact that there was an airman who was within 80 feet of the detonation of that blast running towards the building -- he was a security policeman -- to assist. This man survived. In fact not only survived, he had some injuries which included punctured ear drums, but he survived and was on his feet the next day.
The second reason is when I got to Saudi Arabia and inspected this, inspected the vehicles, I looked at the effect of the blast on the vehicles, and also the effect of the blast on the foliage on the trees and bushes out there in that parking lot. There is no way that bomb could have been 20,000 pounds and had that man survive and have the really superficial damage that was done to some of the outlying vehicles and vegetation.
Q: General Downing, can you, as one looks at this report, one of the things that becomes very apparent is that you have dipped into a mission which has grown tremendously and which has gotten various spurts of attention. And because of the rotation patterns of all of the people there, you seem to have uncovered, maybe unwittingly, a massive case of mission creep that has not been addressed at the highest level to try to deal with just this issue, but maybe other issues as well. Can you take a stab at trying to explain what you have found here in terms of the mission creep issue?
General Downing: Basically what we found was a joint task force that was formed in 1992 to go over there and enforce the UN sanctions on the no-fly, and then expanded to the no-drive zone over southern Iraq. This mission expanded in 1994. But then when we had the bombing of OPM SANG in November of 1995, we had the previously secure Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the first time with a viable terrorist threat. So you had a mission creep in terms of mission expansion, and then all of a sudden you had a new dimension which was a very, very viable, and a very, very credible terrorist threat.
It was hard for us, it was hard for our forces to keep track of this. The orientation remained, and it was done very, very well on flying the missions up in the box over southern Iraq. I think one of the great credits to the 4404th Wing is the fact that within 48 hours they were up there flying that mission after that bomb blast at Khobar Towers. So we were structured for a, really a short term mission which turned into a long term mission, and the conditions changed under which we were conducting it.
General Shalikashvili: Can I address this for a minute also, if I may, Wayne?
I want to be careful that we not throw the term mission creep around because it has some kind of a negative connotation, as opposed to expansion of a mission, depending on the threat and the situation on the ground.
In, I think it was in '94, we required of CENTCOM to very deliberately and specifically review all aspects of Joint Task Force Southwest Asia to determine whether command arrangements were correct, whether the manning was right, and so on. And CENTCOM in fact did go through a very deliberate effort and sent us back a report which revalidated the command arrangements and also the manning of that headquarters.
In the early summer of '95, I sent a team from the Joint Staff to go inspect all aspects of Joint Task Force Southwest Asia because yes, we had since then given them additional tasks and missions, and we wanted to make sure that they were right. They came back and gave Joint Task Force Southwest Asia very high marks in the execution of their missions. They did raise the issue of the specific command arrangement in place, the one that General Downing alluded to, and we then had an extensive dialogue with General Peay about the appropriateness of that command arrangement. And it was concluded that they were capable of executing their mission.
So I don't want to leave the impression that somehow over the years we've kind of drifted along and we didn't pay any attention, either here in the Pentagon or they down in Joint Task Force Southwest Asia. What had changed was that with the bombing in OPM SANG and then the Khobar Towers bombing, it became very apparent that the concentration could not be just on mission accomplishment -- that is flying and enforcing the no-fly zone against Saddam Hussein. But that we now had a very significant new aspect of this mission, and that was force protection -- something we did not deal with before. And it is, therefore, that I concur with the observation made by General Downing that in light of this terrorist threat now and the proportion of the terrorist threat, we need to give this commander the responsibility and the authority for all force protection measures, and we also obviously must give him an anti-terrorism cell and other assets he needs to do it. And ideally, if we can, if we can in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, establish a CENTCOM Headquarters Forward, a major headquarters, then we ought to put all forces under that as well. But remember, part of our issue too is how we can lower our profile. So we need to resolve the issue between those two competing issues. We will certainly examine that very carefully.
But again, let me finish by saying, be careful how you use the word mission creep. There has been an expansion, a deliberate expansion of the mission and a careful, step-by-step review of the ability of the task force to accomplish that mission, until that issue of the terrorist threat came up.
Q: On the point of chain of command. The thing that kind of jumps out of this thing to me is the similarity between this report and the report on Lebanon, 1983. The fractured chain of command was held largely responsible for the failure to take corrective action in Lebanon. Since 1983 we've had Goldwater/Nichols in place that supposedly clarified those chains of command and is supposed to eliminate the service kind of control... It's supposed to be a direct line from the JCS through the CINC to the operating forces. That seems not to have worked here.
General Shalikashvili: I would tell you that Goldwater/Nichols was a result partly of what happened in Lebanon. It put the CINC directly in charge of all operating forces. The CINC is in charge of all operating forces. It's was very different than Lebanon. The CINC, in turn, commands those forces through a combination of joint task forces and component commands.
One of the things that was highlighted as a great plus by General Downing was the fact that the naval component command in the region is doing its job of force protection and others exceedingly well.
The problem is not that the component commander was given the task. The problem is that you have more than one individual who is responsible for force protection, and the two of them are so far away. That's an issue that we need to resolve. But I will tell you that we have unique circumstances in CENTCOM that we don't have in the European Command or the Pacific Command, because there we command forces essentially like we do in Central Command except the CINC is right there in the AOR. Here we have unique problems we need to deal with, and we need to, in some cases, find unique solutions.
General Downing's report is most helpful in pointing out to us that there are perhaps better ways of getting at this than we had in place so far. But there's no... I don't see any contradiction between Goldwater/Nichols and Central Command. I think it is the geography that is so different here than it is in our other major commands.
Q: Your answer to critics who say that we're going to point to this report and say that the Secretary of Defense should resign. Can we just get a comment on that? General Downing? They're going to point to your report.
General Downing: I'm not going to comment on that. (Laughter)