Mr. Boxx: Good afternoon.
I have a two short announcements.
The George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies graduated 76 students from its first class yesterday at Garmisch, Germany. The speaker was Senator Richard Lugar. Yesterday's graduates included 53 military officers and 23 civilian defense and foreign ministry personnel from 23 nations, most of them former Warsaw Pact countries. This is a milestone event for the Marshall Center, which is just one of our programs to promote closer ties and greater openness between the armed forces of the United States and Central and Eastern European countries. The focus of the course was how democratic nations organize, control, and provide for their armed forces under civilian leadership.
Finally, Secretary of Defense William Perry will present a speech honoring the veterans of the Battle of the Bulge at the 50th Anniversary Commemoration banquet in St. Louis, Missouri, this Saturday evening, December 17th, at 7:40 p.m. central time. He will conduct a media availability prior to the event at about 6:20 p.m. News media representatives interested in attending the media availability and/or covering the event should contact Major Deb Faber at the hotel. Phone number (314) 241-9500, Extension 5171.
With that, I'll try to answer your questions.
Q: Are the Bosnian Serbs keeping their promises to Jimmy Carter?
A: At this point we've seen some reports and some initial indications that convoys may be moving into the Bihac area. But, beyond that, I really haven't seen any other indications.
Q: Does the Pentagon welcome Mr. Carter insinuating himself into the Bosnia imbroglio?
A: President Carter has contributed significantly in other areas, where he has provided this kind of an offer, so we welcome that in that sense. As was stated last night, although we're skeptical about the Bosnian Serbs' intentions, if, in fact, the steps outlined by Mr. Karadzic are implemented, they would help reduce tension and ease the humanitarian situation in Bosnia. This would certainly improve the climate for efforts to reach a negotiated settlement.
Q: From your first answer, I haven't seen anything to suggest that they are not keeping their promises.
A: That's right. I think, though, for real time kinds of information, your best bet, frankly, would be UNPROFOR who are the people on the ground who will be making some of those assessments.
Q: Is the Pentagon going to provide transportation for Mr. Carter if he goes to Sarajevo?
A: That has not been determined. Secretary Christopher spoke with President Carter today and offered any way we could to facilitate this trip, if, in fact, it comes about, which is not, as you know, certain at this point. Whether that would include logistical support from DoD, including transportation, is something that is yet to be determined. I'm sure if President Carter desired it, we would be certainly happy to provide it.
Q: Can you give us an official reaction to the Los Angeles Times story by our colleague, yesterday, concerning an incident involving the KITTY HAWK carrier task force and a Chinese PRC submarine? And, especially, a reaction from a high defense official in the PRC that, if it happened again, they would shoot first. Can you go into that, please?
A: I think the basic facts of what occurred have been fairly widely reported, and I don't really dispute the basic facts. There was, in fact, some tracking of a Chinese submarine by aircraft from the KITTY HAWK in late October. But, specifically, to the last part of your question, we've heard -- I have, in fact, heard reports about the comments regarding this shoot-to-kill notion. Even without knowing if they are true, my understanding is that those are comments made in a social setting -- a cocktail party -- and I don't believe that constitutes any official position of the Chinese government. They certainly have not expressed any concern or raised the issue through diplomatic or military channels, at least that I'm aware of.
Q: I talked to the Chinese this morning at the embassy, and they cannot confirm or deny the accuracy of the story, and they are waiting on Beijing to come back. It seems like an awful long wait for Beijing to make some kind of reaction to this matter, don't you think?
A: Not if they view it as we viewed it initially, and that is not a particularly significant event in the course of world affairs. But I, again, think you're talking to exactly the right people in the embassy, and I would encourage you to go back and seek their view of that.
Q: Will the discussions of tax cuts by the Administration have any impact on the six year plan outlined by the President earlier, or any budget impact that you know of on DoD? Since it's come up after that announcement about the $26 billion, and since it will obviously have budget implications.
A: To my knowledge, unless I missed something in the last few hours, there has not been any announcement yet by the President on what his specifics of the speech are going to be tonight. So, I think the best thing we can do is listen to the speech carefully, I know I will be paying great attention.
Q: There's fairly wide reporting that a sort of general announcement or general request has gone out from the White House to Cabinet agencies to look at what can be cut in this context. Has such a request come to DoD?
A: I'm not aware of that, John. I'll check, but I'm not aware of such a request to us.
Q: Is the Air Force, or anybody at the Defense Department, involved in the investigation of yesterday's crash in California of the leased Air National Guard plane?
A: My understanding is that is an investigation being conducted by the FAA.
Q: There's no involvement from here at all?
A: That's my understanding, right.
Q: The Air Force Times published a story about Operation Provide Comfort in Turkey. They criticized Turkish government's role around that region. Have you seen that story?
A: No, I'm sorry. I have not.
Q: What's going on about -- on Provide Comfort between Turkish government and United States?
A: I think that's probably a better question pointed at my able colleague at the State Department. I'm sorry, I can't help you.
Q: Do you have any details on Russian military movement around Chechnya?
A: Nothing that we can talk about. Obviously, we are watching it carefully. But, I have no information in terms of troop movements that I can give you.
Q: We were told that there was going to be some sort of detailed response to the Defense report on readiness. Any progress report on that?
A: No. I'll take the question. I know there have been some responses that have floated back and forth. I'm not sure if it's in final form yet. I'll take the question, though. We'll see where we are on that.
Press: Thank you.