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DoD News Briefing, Thursday, January 7, 1999 at 1:45 p.m.

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
January 07, 1999 1:45 PM EDT

Kenneth Bacon, ASD (PA)

Mr. Bacon: Sorry I'm late. My New Year's resolution to begin all briefings promptly at 1330 clearly isn't going too well, like all my New Year's resolutions. Charlie is laughing.

I'd like to start with two announcements. First, tomorrow in this room at 10:00, Gen. Anthony Zinni, the commander in chief of the United States Central Command will appear to brief on current developments in Iraq. He'll provide the latest in an update in the bomb damage assessment as well as take your questions on what's happening in the no-fly zones, etc. The southern no-fly zone, of course, because he doesn't control the northern no-fly zone. That's under the European Command.

Second, also tomorrow, here, we will give a briefing on Secretary Cohen's trip to Japan and Korea. He leaves on Sunday for Japan and Korea, and there will be a background briefing on that trip here at 1:00.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: How long is he going to be -- going to be a week in Japan and Korea?

A: He'll be gone about a week, yeah.

Q: Is this a make up for the trip that was canceled?

A: Yes, it is. He'll have his standard consultations in Korea, which are very important, and also a chance to meet with troops in both Japan and Korea and to meet with his counterparts in both countries, and also to meet with commanders, U.S. commanders, in both countries.

Q: Could you fill us in on the incident in the northern Iraq no-fly zone?

A: Sure. At 3:00 Eastern Standard Time this morning, a U.S. F-16CJ picked up indications as it was being tracked by the radar of Roland missile system. At 3:12, the F-16 and an accompanying EA-6B picked up the signal again. The F-16 launched a HARM high speed anti-radiation missile at the radar and immediately made a defensive maneuver away from the area. We do not have a picture of what happened to the Roland, but the radar stopped beaming at precisely the time the HARM was to impact the radar, so we assume that it was a hit. But as I say, we do not have a picture of it because of cloud cover in the area. And we have not seen what the results of this strike were.

As you know, a Roland is a mobile system on a tank chassis, essentially. It is a rocket and radars. And that's basically what happened in the northern no-fly zone early this morning.


Q: So the radar that illuminated the second time stayed on from the time of the launch of the HARM --

A: According to our best information, it stayed on long enough for the HARM to go in and hit the target. As I say, we do not have a picture of that, so until we -- we'll still search aggressively to find out what the result was.

Q: Do you know exactly where it was?

A: It happened in an area called the Saddam Dam area. And it was about 20 miles northwest of Mosul.

Q: How long is the United States going to be content to simply respond to each one of these challenges, or are you considering taking any sort of action to put an end to this constant testing of the enforcement of the no-fly zone?

A: I think you could turn the question around and ask how long will Iraq be content to see its assets eliminated by our missiles, because that's exactly what's happening. We have fired missiles on several occasions at surface-to-air missile sites. As you know, we fired at Iraqi planes and they beat a hasty retreat out of the no-fly zone two days ago. And we will continue to protect our forces and to protect the no-fly zone by whatever means we feel are necessary.

Q: Is the U.S. considering any preemptive strikes at airfields or other targets that might deny Iraq the ability to violate the no-fly zone?

A: We've shown in December and before that we can strike with speed, force and surprise at the time of our choosing, and we have that ability today just as we had it in December. Should the circumstances arise, we can respond in a variety of ways.

Q: Are these -- the Joint Chiefs Chairman testified that these incursions and violations were militarily insignificant. What does he mean by they're militarily insignificant?

A: I think precisely that. They're basically cheat and retreat actions. They're timid for the most part. I'll give you an example. There were two violations of the southern no-fly zone this morning. One last seven minutes. One lasted four minutes. These basically were performed by two MIG-21s who darted into the no-fly zone for a very brief period of time and at a time when U.S. aircraft were not in the area. So, as I say, it was timid, cheat and retreat. And that's basically the pattern we're seeing day in and day out. There have been some longer violations. Typically, they take place when U.S. planes are not in the box, so to speak, not flying in the no-fly zone. I think these -- I don't know whether these are being done as a way to make Saddam's pilots feel good that they're able to tweak our nose or whether they're doing it to give them practice flying over areas they haven't been able to fly over since 1992. But the fact is they're militarily insignificant because they tend to be darting across the line and going back, for the most part.

They certainly do not represent any control over his air space. The air space is under coalition control. Sixty percent of Iraq's air space is under coalition control.

Q: Did the violations today occur while there were no coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone?

A: Coalition aircraft were just entering the no-fly zone, and they were a good distance away from where these violations took place.

Q: Did they attempt to give chase?

A: The distance was too far away. And as I said, the violations lasted -- one lasted seven minutes and one lasted four minutes.

Q: The other day when you were talking about the air to air, I guess you would call it an engagement, you said they were still gathering details. Have they gathered any more details on ranges or any of that on the two incidents the other day?

A: I don't have any more details. I'm sure that the Joint Staff has more, but I don't have them.

Q: Are the presence of air defense missiles in the no-fly zone, is that in itself a violation of the no-fly zone?

A: Well, there have been air defense missiles in the no-fly zone for some time. We deal with those, we follow them very closely. We have, as I said, attacked those surface-to-air missile sites from time to time. It's something we live with.

Q: The no-fly zone, it's not something that Iraq ever agreed to. Has there ever been a condition that they not put mobile SAMs down in the no-fly zone?

A: SAMs have been there for years. We have had disputes with them over moving SAMs into the no-fly zones. We've demarched them about them, and we've attacked their surface-to-air missile sites. And we will continue to do that.

Q: They moved them in the last couple of weeks into --

A: They have moved some more in there. I think they know what our position is. We know what their position is. And we're taking military action against these SAM sites as appropriate.

Q: Is there any consideration of issuing a demarch to Iraq to remove some of these missiles that have been moved in recently?

A: We have recently been speaking with missiles, not demarches. And I think they're getting the message.

Q: Can you quantify in any way to what extent since, for instance, the end of DESERT FOX, that Iraq has increased the number of missile batteries in the no-fly zone --

A: There has been an increase. I can't quantify it.

Q: Different subject?

A: Sure. Are we through with this?

Q: Does Secretary Cohen still feel that Jonathan Pollard should remain in jail under a life sentence?

A: Still feel from when? I'm not aware that he's ever revealed what his feelings were about that.

Q: If I remember correctly, [I from this] podium late last year said that the Pentagon said it saw no reason to change the current arrangement at the time.

A: The Secretary has been asked along with other senior officials to make recommendations to the White House. He has done that. And that recommendation will be private. It will be up to the President to disclose the recommendations. Parts of the report are based on highly classified information.

Q: You said you didn't -- you said from this podium, though, excuse me, follow up, that you didn't expect any change.

A: That's true. I don't expect any change. The Pentagon has been strongly opposed to the release of Jonathan Pollard in the past, and I don't expect any change from that position.

Q: Different subject. Is the Pentagon prepared to make unilateral reductions in the nuclear arsenal regardless of Russian actions or lack of Russian actions?

A: That remains to be seen. As you know, right now, there's a law that prevents us from going down unilaterally to the START II levels until the DUMA ratifies START II. Senator Warner, I believe, said earlier this week at a hearing that that would be -- that this is something Congress would review. And it's something that the administration will be glad to discuss with Congress. But right now, we are following the law, and we will continue to follow the law. Whether Congress decides that it makes sense for us to reduce remains to be seen. But we remain hopeful that the Russians will ratify START II because they have to deal with the same problem we have to deal with, which is there a cost to maintaining the START I levels. The cost bites them much harder than it bites us. And therefore, they have a much greater incentive to go down to the START II levels under the START II treaty than we do. We will be able to incur the costs should we decide to do that.

Q: Can we come back to one thing -- I'm sorry. Can I come back Pollard for one minute?

A: No. We're through with Pollard.

Q: You made a quite adamant statement that the Pentagon is strongly opposed and you do not expect any change?

A: I said in the past, the Pentagon has been strongly opposed.

Q: And that you do not expect any change now?

A: I see no reason to expect a change.

Q: That's pretty specific. If there was some change, what would Secretary Cohen do?

A: I'm not going to talk about hypotheticals.

Q: Different subject. The Philippine defense minister, I believe, was here earlier today. Can you tell us something about his talks and whether those talks included any requests for increased aid or U.S. demonstration of support given the hanky panky on Mischief Reef?

A: The main focus of the talks was Filipino efforts to modernize their force. And this is something that Secretary Cohen discussed when he was in Manila earlier this year and it was what Minister Mercado wanted to talk about here. One key to that, of course, is Philippines ratifying this so-called visiting forces agreement that we've signed with the Philippines that will allow us to send forces on short term deployments to the Philippines to work with units of the Filipino military. And he expressed confidence that that would be ratified by the Philippines relatively soon, which would be very good news. That was the main topic of conversation. He did, of course, raise Filipino concerns about the Spratly Islands. So it was an issue of discussion.

Q: Speaking of the Spratlys, did the Pentagon say definitively whether there was any Chinese military presence being built up there, or is there not?

A: I have nothing new to say about that. I was asked about [that] on Tuesday and I have nothing to add.

Q: That's why I'm asking, because Bill thought it was an insufficient response. You're not prepared to go beyond that?

A: If he believes it was insufficient on Tuesday, he will find it insufficient on Thursday.

Q: Can you say he raised the issue of the Spratlys, they discussed the Spratlys. Specifically, was there any request for some kind of a demonstration or a show of U.S. support?

A: Our view on the Spratlys is very clear. We have not taken a position on the sovereignty of the Spratlys. We have taken a very clear position on the view that this is a dispute that should be settled peacefully by the parties -- and there are four or five countries that have various interests in the Spratlys or claim to have interests in the Spratlys -- that this is something for them to work out peacefully and it should be done in a way that does not hinder free navigation in that area. And those are the points we've made repeatedly. And those were the points that we made again today.

Q: What were the -- just in terms of Filipino modernization, what were some of the --

A: I'm sorry, I wasn't at the meeting, so I can't give you any specifics. But we can get you those facts.

Q: So towards the end of peacefully settling it, the construction by a party to that dispute of military facilities backed up by forces protecting those facilities would be useful or not?

A: The fact of the matter is that at least four and maybe five countries have outposts or facilities at various places on the Spratlys.

Q: What about the issue of the mutual defense agreement and whether the United States would be bound to come to the Philippines aid -- to the aid of the Philippines if it were attacked in a dispute --

A: Our view is that this dispute will be resolved peacefully and that's what we're working to advance.

Q: If not, what are U.S. commitments to the Philippines?

A: We assume that there will be a peaceful dispute -- peaceful resolution of this dispute. (Laughter) See, you're driving me to distraction with all these niggling questions on the same topic. This is an important issue, but it's an issue we believe will be and should be resolved peacefully.

Q: Is the United States acting as an interlocutor with China on this?

A: The United States has made its view clear to all parties. We want a peaceful resolution of any disputes on the Spratlys.

Q: Can I go back to Iraq for a moment?

A: Please.

Q: In his testimony on the Hill the other day, Gen. Shelton provided the first casualty estimate as a result of the strikes on the Republican Guard barracks and facilities. Can you clarify when he talked about the numbers of casualties, was he referring to estimated troops killed or killed and wounded? And can you give us any context of how the Pentagon arrived at those estimates?

A: I think those are great questions to ask Gen. Zinni tomorrow when he appears he. And he will be prepared to answer questions like that.

Q: When he said casualties, are those estimated deaths, or are those killed and wounded, those numbers that he gave?

A: I believe those are fatalities, but I'd have to go back and check on that. And those are just raw estimates. It's very difficult to make such an analysis. And so those were estimates.

Q: Can you say whether they were in line with the results the Pentagon was expecting as a result --

A: Well, without commenting specifically on those figures, I can tell you that the impact of the strikes, the results of the strikes during DESERT FOX have, we believe, been extremely successful. And as we have continued our analysis, we have found more success rather than less success. And I think Gen. Zinni will be prepared to discuss that with you tomorrow.

Q: Ken, DESERT FOX was primarily almost exclusively an air operation, although there are unconfirmed reports constantly coming out of the area that some U.S. troops actually penetrated the Iraqi border on the ground at least during the initial 24 to 48 hours. Is there anything to that?

A: Not that I'm aware of, no. It was an air operation.


Q: Do you have anything on the report that China received information about the W88 nuclear warhead via the Los Alamos --

A: All I can tell you on that is that it is under active investigation by the FBI, and they should probably be the people to talk about that.

Q: Can you say anything about whether standards have been tightened at the --

A: Yeah. Standards have been dramatically tightened at the Department of Energy labs. This was -- this issue involves Department of Energy laboratories where work on nuclear weapons is done. And in the middle of the last decade, the government identified security problems at Department of Energy laboratories and a series of steps have been taken, some in the last few years, to improve security and reduce the possibility of compromise to our nuclear weapons program. Some of those actually were outlined in the article you referred to, but they involved increasing budgets for counterintelligence, increasing personnel for counterintelligence, setting up new counterintelligence forces and intelligence offices at these labs and taking some other steps that deal with computers and information transfer at those labs. So there have been a number of steps taken in the last several years.

Q: Can you quantify at all the suspected amount of damage that might have been done here?

A: I cannot.

Q: What is the status of the review of the National Missile Defense, both in terms of what was reported today and about the budget as well as the three plus three strategy and any changes there might be to it?

A: Well, I guess I can tell you several things about National Missile Defense. Our basic program is on track, which is to develop -- work to develop a National Missile Defense system that has the capability of providing defense against a limited attack, that is a relatively small attack. We will -- the development phase is set to continue to the year 2000. And at that point, we'll make a decision whether to begin deploying the system, or it could be made after that. But at that point, if the development stage goes successfully, we will be at a point where we can make a decision about deployment. No decision about deployment has been made. However, there will be money included in the future year defense plan, approximately $7 billion, to give us the option of moving toward deployment should that decision be made. Now, we're talking about a National Missile Defense system, which of course, is different than Theater Missile Defense systems.

The system, as you know, is designed primarily to protect us against nuclear errors that could come from one of the nuclear powers, an unexpected launch, or against an attack from a rogue nation that is in the process of developing long-range missiles that could be fitted within any types of warheads. As I say, it's not the type of system designed to deal with a saturation attack, but a very limited attack.

Q: It protects certain points in the country, or would it --

A: All 50 United States.

Q: Has a decision been made on whether or not an additional year or two will be needed in the three plus three strategy either to decide to deploy or to actually deploy?

A: Well, we're going to have a crucial test in June. And it will be an interceptor test. I think that will give us a good indication of where this system stands. There are other interceptor tests planned for later in the year or early next year. So based on that, we'll make a decision about the schedule for the program. Right now, today, we're still with the three plus three program, three years to develop and then from the time we decide to deploy, three years to deploy. Whether that changes remains to be seen.

Q: (Inaudible)

A: Pardon?

Q: The June --

A: No. It's a full system test. I'm sorry. There's an intercept test in June of this year. And there will be a full system test in the year 2000. And the full system test will involve sensors to discriminate between warheads and decoys. It will involve the radar picking up the target, discriminating the target from the decoys and then actually trying to hit it.

Q: (Inaudible)

A: The June test is a National Missile [Defense] test. This is different. I mean --

Q: That's Boeing?

A: Boeing is the lead system integrator for the National Missile Defense program. But what we're dealing with here is a National Missile Defense, and it may be worth just running through some of the differences between National Missile Defense and Theater Missile Defense. National Missile Defense, first of all, you've got 15 or 20 minutes, maybe even longer from the time you detect the launch -- you probably have 15 minutes to find the target and to shoot it down. The target may be 100 miles up in the atmosphere. The target is extremely hot. Therefore, it throws out a heat signature that is easy to find through infrared detectors because it's in space. But the target is moving at probably 12,000 miles an hour. And therefore, it has to be hit with an interceptor that moves at exactly -- at least that speed. The Theater Missile Defense is much lower altitude. You probably have much less time, maybe five or six, eight minutes to lock onto the target and destroy it, and it doesn't throw out the same heat signature that a long-range ballistic missile warhead would. So they're significantly different, and they pose significantly different technological challenges.

Q: Ken, to what extent has (inaudible) arms treaties with Russia hindered or channeled the directions in which we can conduct research and development and testing of the various systems on --

A: First of all, the anti-ballistic missile system treaty applies primarily to National Missile Defense. And the Theater Missile Defense is for much shorter range operations. And much of the Theater Missile Defense would be located away from the United States in the theater in which the threat occurs, such as the Gulf or around the Korean peninsula, for instance. National Missile Defense, the managers of the program say that the development of this program has not been influenced or changed in any way by the ABM treaty. We are in the development stage. We've made no deployments, and there has not been -- we would not have conducted the development any differently in the absence of the treaty.

Q: On the $7 billion, is the majority of that pushed to the outer years? What's the span of time? Do you have any breakdown --

A: Well, I think it's over a six-year period, and I don't have a breakdown. It's approximately $7 billion, not exactly $7 billion. And all of this will become clear at the appropriate time when we release the budget.

Q: Will it start in '00 or --

A: It depends. I tried to be very clear that there are a number of decision points ahead of us. And how we proceed will depend on the success of the tests that are coming up in June of this year: the very important interceptor test, followed by some other interceptor tests, then a full system test in the year 2000. Based on the -- there have always been the two T's have driven this program: threat and technology. And the program is designed to allow us to best match the technology with the threat. And we're still proceeding in that way.

Q: Even if the technology had been proven viable, that in 2000 the administration could decide not to issue a deployment order right then. They could kind of put it on hold.

A: As I said, no decision has been made on deployment and that won't be made for some time. It is clear from the Rumsfeld report and other information that there is increasing concern about the threat. But we will continue to evaluate the threat and exactly where potential adversaries stand in the development of longer range missiles. And as we go ahead and work on the technological development of this program, at the appropriate time, which will be the year 2000, we'll make a decision about what to do.

Q: Different subject. Over the last two days, various news accounts have charged that the United States has intelligence officers among the UNSCOM inspectors. My question is are any of the UNSCOM inspectors on the Pentagon's payroll, and are any of them on the Defense Intelligence Agency payroll? Or the CIA for that matter, since I can't ask at the CIA briefing since they don't have briefings.

A: Well, you could still ask them. Let me explain how UNSCOM worked. UNSCOM --

Q: Worked?

A: Well, it's not working now. We hope it will work in the future. That does raise a very important point. The reason we have UNSCOM and the reason UNSCOM did work for eight years was because the Iraqis, through a combination of delay and deceit, prevented UNSCOM from finding out the extent of its weapons of mass destruction program by consistently violating U.N. Security Council mandates. Iraq refused to comply, refused to cooperate, always chose confrontation over cooperation. And therefore, UNSCOM had to become increasingly aggressive about its own monitoring and information gathering techniques. In order to do its job, UNSCOM, which is a disarmament and a monitoring agency, not an intelligence agency, about 40 different countries at various times to support its mission. And it would requisition people from various countries, experts in various fields that it felt would enable it to do its work. And these countries, including the U.S. and China, France and Russia, would put forward people who met the UNSCOM requirements, and then UNSCOM would pick and choose among those people to put together missions that could go out and do the job of inspecting for chemical or biological weapons. Nuclear weapons, of course, have been handled by another agency. And also to look at the missiles and other vehicles needed to deliver those weapons. So we responded to UNSCOM's requests. The American contribution to UNSCOM's missions involved experts from a variety of agencies. And UNSCOM would choose them as necessary.

Q: When you say variety of agencies, would that include the CIA, the DIA and the NSA?

A: It includes a variety of agencies where experts work.

Q: In that long explanation of what UNSCOM did, did you or did you not say that UNSCOM, in fact, spied on Iraq?

A: I did not say that. I said UNSCOM was not an intelligence agency. It was a disarmament agency. It is a disarmament agency. I think Ambassador Richard Butler, the director of UNSCOM, made that very clear in his comments yesterday at the U.N. And I'm sure if you were to call him and ask him about UNSCOM's purpose or to go onto the web page and get a description from UNSCOM of its purpose, it would tell you that it's a disarmament agency.

Q: So despite the fact that you said that UNSCOM had to be increasingly aggressive about its job, as you pointed out, that increasing aggression did not include spying.

A: It had to work hard to gather information. And as you know, it worked very hard to try to send teams out on inspection missions to look for weapons at places it believes they existed.

Q: Where do you draw the line between spying and just gathering information?

A: I don't. There's no need to. UNSCOM was a disarmament agency, not a spy agency. That's what Richard Butler said.

Q: So this was open and above board, not clandestine.

A: I'm saying that's what Richard Butler said about UNSCOM, and I agree.

Q: So it would not be inconsistent, though, if the United States were contributing experts with particular expertise for some of those experts to come from U.S. intelligence agencies?

A: Without getting into specifics, we provided experts for UNSCOM to choose to support its mission.

Q: Was data collected by UNSCOM used for planning of say, Operation DESERT FOX?

A: Much of UNSCOM's information was made public. They issued lengthy reports, many of which are available on the Internet, to anybody who wants to read them. Anybody who got those reports and read them, could use the information in any way they wanted to.

Q: Did the assistance the U.S. provided to UNSCOM have a dual purpose, dual military purpose?

A: The -- we helped UNSCOM gather information that UNSCOM used for its own purposes. Obviously -- let me give you an example. We helped UNSCOM gather information by flying U-2s over Iraq. UNSCOM would specify the route the U-2s were to take. The U-2s would go over, and this was no secret to the Iraqis because we notified the Iraqis about U-2 flights within certain window of days. And the U-2 would fly over and take pictures. That's what U-2s do. And we would give the pictures of the sites to UNSCOM, and of course, we could keep copies of the pictures, the sites. And we did that. This information is fungible. So, to the extent that that was collecting information, we had the benefit of that information we also provided to UNSCOM. Many other countries did the same thing. The French flew planes over Iraq in support of UNSCOM, and I'm sure they kept the photographic products of those flights. The Russians, I don't know whether they ever did, but [they] talked about joining the overhead observation mission and I'm sure they kept the product of what their planes photographed as well, if in fact they flew. I just can't recall.

Q: Did the U.S. provide signal collection capability to UNSCOM?

A: UNSCOM had a -- we provided help that UNSCOM requested. And I don't want to go beyond that.

Q: Did we use our signal collection capability on UNSCOM?

A: We provided -- our job -- when UNSCOM asked us to support them, we supported them.

Q: When UNSCOM selected from these various experts that were offered by different countries, were any people picked Pentagon employees, either military or civilian?

A: Isn't this a variation of a question you asked me earlier?

Q: I don't think I got an answer earlier.

A: Right.

Q: So you're not going to answer that question?

A: We put up [a list of] experts, and UNSCOM chose the experts that they needed.

Q: Did any of them work for the Pentagon?

A: I'm saying we put [up] a list of experts, and UNSCOM chose the ones they felt help them do their job.

Q: When you say we, do you mean DoD?

A: We would put up the experts. UNSCOM would chose them. It was we, the U.S. government, who would put up people in response to an UNSCOM request. UNSCOM would choose the people it needed to do its job.

Press: Thank you.