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DoD News Briefing, April 14, 1998 at 1:40 p.m.

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
April 14, 1998 1:40 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

First I'd like to welcome a delegation from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia including my Macedonian counterpart, Peter Atenosov who is here with Colonel Markovsky, right behind you there, and their translator who is Natasha Kolikevshka, I believe. My Macedonian's a little rusty, but I hope you'll pardon it.

With that, I'll take your questions on Task Force Able Sentry in Macedonia or anything else.

Q: Ken, regarding the story in the New York Times about the International Criminal Court move by the Pentagon to make sure that it's set up the way the United States wants it. Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, are accusing the Pentagon of encouraging military officers who might have reason to fear prosecution by the court, of fighting to weaken it. Are you trying to weaken the court?

A: No, absolutely not. We're trying to make sure that the court is set up in a way that can work. We have been working hand in glove with the State Department on this issue, and hand in glove with the White House, to make sure that the establishment of an international criminal court, which we support and have been working for for some time, we want to make sure that the court is set up in a way that keeps it focused on very specific crimes, specifically very specific war crimes as already defined in international law. These include genocide, crimes against humanity, and a general category called war crimes.

What we're concerned about is that the court not be set up in a way that gives it very broad authority to pursue a vague definition of aggression that could be confused with legitimate defensive action to protect our national security interests or the national security interests of other countries who back the idea of setting up an international criminal court.

Second, and this is very important, we want to make sure that there's a clear differentiation between a sovereign nation's legal system and the international court. The point is that we and many, most civilized nations have a real interest in making sure that military forces carry out their operations in strict compliance with international law and with general standards of good conduct. We enforce those through our own legal system. In cases where a country monitors its own activities and moves against violations of its own laws, we feel that the national legal system should be given precedence over an international prosecution.

This is what we've been discussing with our allies and with many countries around the world. We think these are very important issues, and they're issues that should be well understood.

We have prepared, as was mentioned in the New York Times article today, a three page summary of our position which we'd be glad to provide to anybody who wants it after the briefing. I don't have copies of it here to hand out to you, but we'd be glad to provide that.

Q: Do you have a three page summary on the hidden cost overrun on the F-22?

A: I'm afraid I don't have a three page summary on the cost of the F-22, and I can't tell you now whether there's a hidden cost overrun or not. That's your statement which I can't...

Q: I'm referring to George Wilson's article in which the Comptroller argued, Mr. Gansler to make public the cost overrun figure on the F-22. My question really is, has Secretary Cohen been informed of this cost overrun? Based on an interdepartment analysis, I gather, has Secretary Cohen been apprised of it, and are you withholding it from Congress as well as the public, or what?

A: As you know, in the early stages of any weapons program, there are a number of estimates of what that program will cost, and there are constant efforts being made to try to reduce costs and to manage them in the most effective and efficient way. That's going on with the F-22 program. We have no announcement to make about new cost estimates. At the appropriate time, if there's a change in the cost estimate, we will do that, but right now...

Q: This is year five for the F-22. This is not a new program.

A: I understand that, but of course the program hasn't gone into production yet. It's still in the development stages. We talked a couple of weeks ago about the first production models of the plane. The money won't even be obligated or the contract let until late this year according to the current schedule.

This is a program that's under intense analysis, and I would say fairly active management at this stage, and when it's time to announce new cost figures, we'll do that.

Q: In the face of slipping congressional support for this program, has there been any decision to take another look at exactly where you're going with it?

A: Sure, and that's one of the things that as you perceptively pointed out, George Wilson talked about in his article. He talked about a series of meetings that were called to review this program, and those meetings are ongoing. But we meet, people in the building meet all the time in programs.

Q: Do you think this one is in difficulty in Congress?

A: I think that's for you to determine. I think that Congress is going to have to weigh the need for a technologically advanced 21st Century fighter and look at how it will enhance the capabilities of our Air Force and enhance its ability to do its missions and weigh that against the cost of the program and also weigh that against the other tactical air programs that are on the books right now. But the Air Force...

Q: The other part of my question, does this ratchet up the opportunity for the Air Force to buy the Joint Strike Fighter as opposed to the F-22? Are you looking at that kind of option? Is Secretary Cohen looking at that...

A: Secretary Cohen has made it very clear that he sees a... He looks at three major tactical air programs and they all work in checks and balances against each other. There's the F-18E/F, there's the F-22, and there's the Joint Strike Fighter. And to a certain extent, they are all in competition with one another. If one program doesn't work, if its costs are too high or its capabilities are lower than anticipated, then we would be in a position to focus more energy and more resources on one of the two other programs. Obviously, they're not directly comparable programs, but they're competing for the same pool of dollars, and they do have some missions that overlap.

So, the Joint Strike Fighter and the F-22 are designed to be the first new fighter aircraft of the 21st Century. They're stealthier, less observable. They have newer designs than the F-18 and some of the 20th Century airplanes. So the Secretary has made it very clear that he wants this checks and balances to continue, and that's one of the reasons why he decided during the Quadrennial Defense Review, last year, to proceed with all three programs at once.

Q: If I understand correctly, the decision's now been made finally, after another meeting yesterday between the Air Force and Dr. Gansler, to in fact use the first two aircraft that will be bought, that were going to be Low Rate Initial Production Lot 1 (LRIP 1), this December, to make them pre-production vehicles. What does that mean? How will they be different than regular production items?

A: I can't answer that question. They'll be basically the same planes they would have been before. I think they may be tested somewhat differently, but I'll try to get you an answer to that question. I don't know at this stage.

Q: And what their purpose is. Does this include for testing? They weren't going to be test items, as such...

A: It will allow more time for testing.

Q: On napalm, there's napalm headed on a train toward Indiana, but it looks like Indiana doesn't want it now. The contractor there. What's going to happen to this napalm?

A: Good question. The Navy is going to be working this issue. They will come up with a solution.

Let me explain what's going on here, because I think this issue should be seen in proper context.

The napalm has been sitting in California for about the last 25 years. It is stable. It's in a gelatinous form. It is not explosive. It is very safe to transport. There are 23 million pounds of napalm sitting in California. The Navy wants to destroy this napalm. It has to do that by taking it out of canisters and putting it into tanks which can be transported to a place where the napalm can be destroyed.

What they had arranged through the Patel Institute was to work with a company in Indiana that would take the napalm and combine it with other waste, and then burn it in cement kilns where it would be used to dry cement. So this was -- in a way it was a triple win because one, it would get rid of the napalm; two, it would get rid of other hazardous waste; and [three], it would do this in a productive way by helping to dry cement.

I've read that the contractor that was actually going to do this job, Pollution Control Industries, has decided not to do it, and so the Navy will, I'm sure, be talking to... This contractor was a subcontractor to Patel. I'm sure the Navy will be talking to Patel about what its fallback plans are. It would be trying to decide whether this is an irrevocable decision on the part of Pollution Control Industries, and it will also be looking at other options for disposing of the napalm.

Q: There was presumably a contract regarding the disposal. Negotiations have gone on for about two years, as I understand it. Is DoD involved legally in trying to enforce this contract? Is it purely Navy?

A: I believe this is a contract that the Navy had worked out with the Patel Institute and Patel had gone to a subcontractor that was actually going to destroy the napalm.

Q: The train that is en-route, that's a commercial train?

A: It's a commercial train. Let me point this out. Every day, some eight million barrels of gasoline are transported in this country by tank cars and by tractor trailer trucks that go into nearly every community in the nation delivering gasoline. Gasoline is a far more volatile, dangerous product to transport than napalm is. Napalm is much more resistant to either conflagration or to explosion than gasoline is.

What we have here is one tank car of napalm carrying 12,000 pounds of napalm from a place in California to a place in Indiana. This is a carefully worked out plan by the Navy. The napalm is being carried in two special containers that are loaded onto one car. They had never planned to run entire trains of this. They had always planned to keep the shipments to one car at a time per train. They had, I think, developed a very safe and careful plan for transporting this, and they had depended on contractors to develop safe, environmentally acceptable plans for disposing of the napalm.

The disposal plan had been approved by the EPA and by other agencies, so everything was set up for this to work. Right now the Navy is, with this letter that they've received from Pollution Control Industries, is now relooking at what its options are. Obviously one option would be to carry out the contract as written, and they'll have to work this out. They're in the process of doing that now.

Q: Do any of the other services have stockpiles of napalm?

A: I can't answer that question. We'll find that out.

Q: A group of health experts today is once again warning... I guess they're making a prediction that a biological terrorism attack in the United States is likely in the near future, and it says that the United States, including the Pentagon, is ill prepared for such an event. Given the recent announcement by the Pentagon about increasing the budget in this area, can you just comment on whether or not the United States is ill prepared for an act of biological terrorism?

A: We are working very hard to improve our ability to deal with any active biological terrorism. I think that we start with law enforcement and intelligence. Clearly that's the first line of defense, and we saw several weeks ago, law enforcement agencies did, in fact, arrest somebody suspected of dealing with anthrax. There is every year or so, sometimes twice a year, stories about law enforcement agencies arresting people who are thought to be carrying or fiddling around with containers of anthrax.

The Defense Department is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- FEMA -- under a piece of legislation called the Nunn/Lugar/Domenici Act to build up the ability in 120 cities to deal with potential biological or chemical challenges or events. And that program is ongoing. Thirty cities were surveyed the first year, that was last year. We're doing about 30, 40 more cities this year. I think it's a three year program to survey the capabilities of these cities to deal with chemical or biological attacks.

In addition, as you know, Secretary Cohen announced last month that he was setting up, delegating Guard and Reserve units to become experts in helping domestic law enforcement and disaster assistance agencies in dealing with chemical and biological accidents or incidents. So this is something that's receiving an increasing amount of attention.

We did, under Secretary Cohen's leadership last year, and the Quadrennial Defense Review, increase the amount of spending devoted to improving the military's ability to function in a chemical or biological environment. Better protective suits, better detective devices and, as you know, the most public thing we've done from a military standpoint is to begin inoculating troops against exposure to anthrax, and that is ongoing. More than 25,000 troops in the Gulf, it's probably up to over 30,000 now, have had their first shot and many now have had the second of the six shots required. So this is something that we're focusing on more aggressively, and I think more effectively.

It remains a worrisome threat, and basically it's a threat that we will continue to address.

I want to make one point that you should all stress in your coverage, which is that dealing with domestic threats is not a military responsibility in this country. It's the responsibility of domestic law enforcement agencies. We provide assistance. We do that through our laboratories. We do it with well trained people who are skilled in collecting and disposing of this material. We provide assistance as required to domestic law enforcement agencies if the need arises.

Q: One quick follow-up on the anthrax inoculations. Have there been any more reported cases of servicemembers refusing the shots, or have any of those who refused them had a change of heart and...

A: I'm not aware that there's been any change in that regard. I think maybe they should all read the press release put out by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases which talks about the threat that anthrax and other biological agents could pose to civilians or to military people. This is a threat that we're trying to address in a very rational and systematic way. Obviously, when you're dealing with a threat of unknown dimensions, and perhaps unknown timing, it's difficult to know exactly to what you're responding. But all we can do is try to move forward in a measured and intelligent way, and I think that's what we're doing.

Q: There are a lot of things... Balking troops are concerned about side effects. Is there any way the Secretary could get the Commander in Chief to take an anthrax inoculation to show them it's perfectly safe?

A: Wel, both the Secretary and General Shelton have been inoculated or have started the program. They've each had three shots. The Deputy Secretary, John Hamre, has started as well. They've shown no side effects.

You say a lot of these people are resisting. Only 16 people have resisted that I know of so far.

Q: ...about side effects.

A: Well...

Q: What about the Commander in Chief?

A: This is a drug, the vaccine has been used for several decades, widely used by veterinarians and others. It's also been administered to some of our special forces personnel on a fairly regular basis. It has almost no side effects whatsoever. In fact, last week when Under Secretary DeLeon returned from the Gulf where he surveyed the vaccination program, he reported that there had been only two cases of side effects. One was a fever blister that went away relatively soon, and one was a slightly elevated fever for a short amount of time. So I think that the top, that the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs have set a very laudable example by taking the shot.

Q: The Commander in Chief?

A: I don't speak for the Commander in Chief. I'm sure that he has no fears about taking this vaccine. No one else should have any fears about taking it, either.

Q: Has there been contact between Radavan Karadzic's people that you know of with the International War Crimes Tribunal?

A: I'm not aware that there has been.

Q: Is there a stepped up effort to apprehend him or to frighten him that you know of by forces in Bosnia?

A: No. I think it's very clear to people who follow what's been happening in Bosnia, and certainly very clear to people who move in and out of Pali, that we believe that Radavan Karadzic should be in the Hague where he should be tried on charges of war crimes for which he's been indicted. That is the goal of the United States and the international community generally.

Having said that, the current leaders of the Republic of Srbska, Madame Plavsic and Prime Minister Dodik, have stressed the desirability of Karadzic turning himself in as a step toward justice and a step toward healing the wounds in Bosnia. We agree that he should do that.

The international community has done its best to make it difficult for him to move around, to make it difficult for him to communicate unimpeded with either political cronies or with his business associates from whom he derives a lot of income through corruption and smuggling and other nefarious economic activities. There has been considerable success in that regard over the last year or so or more, and those efforts continue. But we have never set out, the international community has not set out specifically to nab Radavan Karadzic as far as I know.

Q: But you do have, as you have described, a broad-based program to cut off money and cut off communications. Do you feel there has been a measure of success?

A: Well, I think the program -- you have to -- to talk about this you have to go back to the Dayton Accords. The Dayton Accords and the implementation of those Accords made it very clear that our goal was to stop his political influence in the Republic of Srbska. He had to step down as president. The international community has worked very hard to limit his political influence in every way possible. We've also -- the international community also has worked hard to limit his economic clout. The money he has gathered through smuggling and corruption and other means is used largely to bankroll his security force and his other operations in and around Pali.

He does not, as you know, reside in the American sector. He resides in the French sector. And, in fact, I believe the Italians have responsibility for Pali. But the goal of limiting his economic and political influence is shared by all members of SFOR and it's one that all members of SFOR have worked to carry out.

Q: Do you feel that you are moving briskly toward that goal now of really limiting... I mean he's vanished, for all practical purposes, has he not?

A: I think that the program has been successful, but the true measure of success will be getting Radavan Karadzic to the Hague for trial on the charges on which he's been indicted.

Q: There have been reports that he was interested in surrendering, but that he wanted to place conditions on any surrender. Would conditions be acceptable?

A: I believe he should go to the Hague and he should stand for trial as the other indicted war criminals have gone to the Hague to stand for trial. I think over 25 have done that and either been detained and sent to the Hague or have voluntarily turned themselves in.

Q: The increase in military activity around Pali is just routine military activity, supposedly.

A: The tempo of military activity fluxes from time to time. There was a period last year when there were inspections of the Famos Factory which is part of his center of operations. It was done mainly to look for special police units and other groups that we were trying to, that SFOR was trying to clear out. It was seen, there was some reporting at the time that this was an effort to capture Radavan Karadzic, but it was really an effort to go in and enforce the then new SFOR mandates, efforts to shut down these special police units.

Q: There were some very recent reports of that same kind, for that same purpose, to shut down...

A: I can't comment on those specifically, no, just because I don't know the details...

Q: Do you know the whereabouts of Mr. Karadzic?

A: We believe he's in Bosnia, yes.

Q: More specifically than Bosnia, do you...

A: I don't ...

Q: ...hanging out at the house?

A: ...exactly what we know.

Q: Is he moving from place to place every night? Does he appear to be a man on the run?

A: These are all very interesting questions which will be answered at a different time.

Q: General Wilhelm from SOUTHCOM has openly criticized the reforms -- the recent reforms of [the] Colombian military. Also the Washington Post quoted a supposed DIA intelligence report Friday, saying that Colombia could be -- the military could be defeated in five years by the guerrillas. How concerned are you of the instability, the situation of instability in Colombia at this point?

A: We're concerned. I think General Wilhelm has made it very clear that we're concerned. I can't comment on any reports about intelligence analysis, but we have been looking at, monitoring the situation in Colombia. I think General Wilhelm gave a very full description when he testified before Congress of exactly what his concerns are. He enumerated seven specific concerns, as I recall.

Q: Are you concerned about the situation for the region strategically or also for the fight against drugs and how important it would be for the military to be strong in Colombia?

A: We are concerned for both reasons, but our primary reason is the worry about the flow of narcotics out of the area. That is the primary reason why we have a military mission of about 200 people in Colombia manning radars and doing other things to try to stop the flow of drugs out of Colombia and out of the region generally.

Q: Will you consider ever a more direct participation, like sending peace forces or anything like that at some point to Colombia?

A: We are not involved in counterinsurgency operations in Colombia and we don't have any plans to become involved. What we are doing is working with the Colombian military through training programs, the so-called IMET program, for instance, small unit exchanges, educational programs, to try to make the Colombian military more professional. That's a program that's been going on for some time. We're spending I think about... We're also providing some radios and other equipment to help the Colombian military deal with some of the problems that General Wilhelm enumerated. One was communications, for instance.

So there's some assistance through equipment and some assistance through training.

Q: Is there a concern more to the government, not having the support of the government in Colombia?

A: I guess I don't fully understand that question.

Q: More like the military might need, a national strategy. There might be a military strategy but not a national strategy that supports that military strategy. Is that a concern that you...

A: I'm sure that President Sampere is concerned about the state of the military. One of our major concerns right now is to make sure that the elections take place as scheduled and smoothly. In the past, some of the insurgent groups there, the National Army of Liberation and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, have interfered with the electoral process by killing people or kidnapping people, and otherwise, wreaking havoc. We hope that does not happen, that the elections can proceed in a democratic and orderly fashion.

Press: Thank you.

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