DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.
I've got a couple of announcements to begin with. First I'd like to alert you to the fact that the Secretary will be traveling to Europe and the Middle East next week. He's leaving on Wednesday, June 11th for a nine-day trip, and he'll start with NATO meetings in Brussels, and then he'll visit Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Oman in an effort to get to know members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and also to meet with American troops in the Gulf area.
I know that you've all been following the evacuation of American citizens and others from Freetown and Sierra Leone. Just let me bring you up to date with the final figures on that.
Since last Friday, the Marines aboard the USS Kearsarge have evacuated a total of 2,509 people including 451 Americans. This was done safely, quickly, and efficiently. All the evacuees have been taken aboard ship, processed, then flown off to Conakry in Guinea. The Kearsarge, we expect, will depart the area soon, and move up to the Mediterranean.
One of the issues that was left over, that came out of the Quadrennial Defense Review was the question of personnel cuts in the Army Reserves and the Army National Guard. As many of you know, there was a meeting between the leaders of the active Army, the Guard and the Reserve over the weekend to examine the proposed cuts. They have done that, and come up with a plan which the Army can brief you on if you're interested. Briefly, there will still be a cut of 15,000 people as provided in the QDR in the active duty Army. That's over three years. In addition, there will be a cut of 3,000 people in the Army Reserve, and a cut of 17,000 people in the Army Guard between now and fiscal year 2000. After the year fiscal 2000 there will be an additional cut of 25,000 soldiers, and that will take place approximately in the years 2001 and 2002.
Q: Twenty-five thousand?
A: Another 25,000 soldiers in fiscal years 2001 and 2002.
Q: From what? From the Guard, from the active?
A: That allocation will be decided later as the Army continues its force analysis.
Q: Is that additional?
A: This basically fleshes out, this gives more specificity to the numbers that were announced in the QDR. It's basically a slightly different schedule for the cuts than had been announced in the QDR. It stretches out some of the cuts to give the Guard component a chance to reshape some of its units.
Q: Do you have the number they will be authorized to have?
A: The Army has all of that and they'll provide that to you.
Finally, I don't know whether any of you were following the General Ralston story, but he issued a statement earlier this afternoon, and that's available to you all.
With that, I'll take your questions.
Q: I guess this all boils down to one basic question. The Secretary has spoken out strongly on behalf of strict military rules and laws all this week, and the week of the whole sexual scandal. Why does the Secretary feel that it was all right, why did he support General Longhouser's retirement and the retirement of others for committing adultery, and yet he would support General Ralston as the nation's top military leader for also violating military law, no matter what the circumstances?
A: First of all, I think you have to be very careful with the term "violating military law". The central issue here is actions that prejudice or affect or compromise good order and discipline in the military.
Every case is different. Every case responds to its own set of facts. I know that you, as members of the news media, live on facts. Facts are sacred. So you review the facts of each case very, very carefully. When the Secretary reviewed the facts of General Ralston's case, he did not see any indication that good order and discipline were compromised.
Q: It looks like he is taking two different stands. It looks like, on the one hand it's okay to do it, and on the other hand it's not okay to do it. That's the perception, whether it's a fact or not.
A: I think, again, if you walk through the various cases you'll see that they all differ. And of course all, since humans differ, the facts of their cases differ.
In the Ralston case, he had a relationship with another woman in the 1980s when he was separated from his wife. This woman was a civilian. She did not work in the Defense Department. She had nothing to do with the Air Force.
The Kelly Flinn case was obviously a completely different case. Lieutenant Flinn was charged with fraternization, which is an inappropriate relationship between an officer and an enlisted person. She was charged with disobeying a direct order. She was charged with lying. She was charged with conduct unbecoming to an officer. And she was charged with adultery. But there, if you add up all the charges, they come back again to activities, alleged activities, that compromised good order and discipline.
Q: What about Longhouser?
A: The Longhouser case. First of all, the most important point to make about General Longhouser is that he elected to retire. He made the choice to retire. He did this for the good of his family and he did this for the good of the Army. He said that in his statement last week.
Q: He could have faced charges, though. General Longhouser.
A: Are you giving this briefing, or do you want me to answer the question?
Q: It was a question, actually. He could have faced charges?
A: General Longhouser made this decision because he felt that he might be under investigation at a time when he was the convening authority at Aberdeen Proving Ground for the court martials that you have all been reporting on there. He felt that this could be an awkward situation for him.
He, looking at the facts, made the decision to retire.
Now the facts of that case clearly are different than the facts of the Ralston case.
Q: How so, though? Both of them involved women, civilians. One was five years, one was 14. What's different about it?
A: The Longhouser case, the elements are still under investigation and I can't go into all the facts on that, but there are other differences. But beyond that, I think the central point to focus on here is that he reached the conclusion that given his role as a court martial convening authority at Aberdeen, which has been the focal point of so much attention and so much legal activity, that to have a possible investigation of his activities going on at the same time could raise difficulties for him. Therefore, he chose to leave.
Q: Won't General Ralston, if he becomes Chief, won't he set the moral code for the entire military, just not the Air Force?
A: The whole issue here goes back again to good order and discipline. Is the activity prejudicial or damaging to good order and discipline? No one has found that General Ralston's activity was prejudicial to good order and discipline, and when the Secretary reviewed the facts of the case, he decided this was not a case that challenged good order and discipline.
This is a judgment call, but he looked at all the facts and he made this decision. He weighed it against other cases and he's comfortable that this is the right decision. And the decision is, to be clear, the decision is that this information, by itself, does not disqualify General Ralston for consideration as a candidate to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Q: In both General Longhouser's case and General Ralston's case, neither man discussed this issue, apparently, with their commanders until confronted by either an investigator, a criminal investigator in General Longhouser's case; and the issue came up through reports in the media in General Ralston's case. Is it not troubling to the Secretary that a man who is one of his top candidates, potentially, for the Chairman, did not discuss this with him? If you take the issue of good order and discipline as a measuring stick, should not an officer of that rank be more open with his superiors involving his own personal background? Or does the Secretary believe that these issues are private ones that really shouldn't come into consideration when an individual is being considered for such a job?
A: Obviously the Secretary believes it would have been better if General Ralston had raised this issue. General Ralston, however, explained that this was something that happened more than a decade ago, it was a purely personal relationship, it happened while he was separated, it did not involve anybody in the chain of command or working for the military or the Department of Defense. He did not believe that this had any impact on his ability to perform his job or to serve as an officer in the Air Force at any rank. He made that conclusion, and the Secretary, in reviewing all the facts, has also concluded that the incident, in fact, is not a disqualification for consideration for a higher job and is not something that compromises his ability to perform his job as an officer.
Q: This particular act of adultery which he admits to in 1987 was not then or is not now covered by the military code behavior? In other words, he did not commit an offense that would be viewed as such by the Air Force, is that correct?
A: The military does not worry about adultery for the sake of worrying about adultery. It worries about adultery as it affects an officer's or an enlisted person's ability to carry out a job. The defining term is prejudicial to good order and discipline. That's the term you have to go back to. That's the anchor for any consideration, any analysis of the case.
In this case the Secretary looked at the facts and determined that there was no prejudice to good order and discipline.
Q: To follow up on a question that's been asked earlier, it's absolutely standard practice when senior officers are being considered for a Senate confirmable job as with any other prospective promotion, there is the key question which is, is there anything in your conduct which would cause embarrassment to the President? Was General Ralston asked that in the process of winnowing for selection of the candidate for Chairman went forward? And if so, what was his answer?
A: I'm not the person who has the job of interviewing candidates for top military posts, so I can't tell you exactly what he was asked and what he was not asked. But General Ralston obviously determined that this was not an issue.
Q: What does that say about his judgment?
A: I think the Secretary has also determined that it's not an issue that would disqualify him for his job.
Q: Would you take the question, please, of whether General Ralston was asked that, and if so, what his answer was?
A: I will take the question, yes.
Q: You say this would not disqualify him, but how much does this tarnish his chances?
A: He's not the only candidate, there are other candidates. The decision hasn't been made. There are always a variety of factors that have to be weighed in making a decision of this sort. I think it's impossible now to say how much it tarnishes him, or if it tarnishes him at all.
Q: Do you think they ought to be asking those other candidates if they have incidents like this in their past?
A: I think the Secretary expects that in the future this information will be brought forward.
But again, this is a judgment call. We're dealing here with an intimate personal relationship that General Ralston felt had nothing to do with his ability to perform his function as an Air Force officer, and it did not occur while he was in command at an Air Force base. It occurred while he was a student at the National War College. That's where it started. I think he concluded that this was historical, it happened some time ago, and it was something that did not affect his ability to carry out his job.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the concern that Cohen apparently has that this is going too far? That questions about personal life, adultery, somehow that this issue is beginning to step over the line, and the concerns that you would have about other officers if everyone in the building was asked? Can you get into that issue?
A: Sure. Let me just set the stage a little.
The whole process of government is a process of finding the right balance. If you look at the way Congress spends a lot of time writing tax law, they're trying to balance equity versus the needs to gain revenue. They're trying to balance spurring growth with lower taxes against the need to gain more revenue. They're trying to balance whether to penalize certain activities like smoking or use of gasoline with efforts not to burden the economy with heavy taxes. You can look at Medicare legislation, civil rights legislation, equal opportunity employment legislation. It's all a question of finding the right balance.
Balance never maintains itself forever. Sometimes events can sort of knock the scales out of balance for awhile, and it may require some action to bring them back into balance. Sometimes cultural values change. Sometimes the way the world operates changes. So it's a question of weighing a variety of factors all the time.
Clearly, in the last couple of months there's been enormous attention paid to alleged sexual improprieties in the military. This is perfectly understandable given what's happened at Aberdeen. I think the Secretary, along with many other military officers, all military officers, is completely devoted to rooting out sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual activities that compromise good order and discipline in the military. Clearly, some of the cases brought to our attention at Aberdeen and elsewhere do that.
The question is, in setting up hotlines and reporting opportunities and other methods for bringing alleged indiscretions to the attention of leaders, has it also opened up opportunities to perhaps, that go a little too far in terms of allowing people to file allegations that can't immediately be verified or proven or disproven right away, but trigger investigations that can take time, that can take emotional energy, and that can be very costly to the targets of the investigations.
So the issue is has something driven the system out of balance? Was it in the right balance to begin with? Has it been knocked out of balance? Those are questions that have to be answered. It's a little difficult right now to answer them in the heat of the moment with the tension that's being placed on this by Congress and the media, but the Secretary realizes that this has to be addressed. The question is when and how. He's toiling with that question now. It's something he's considering. He's talking about it with his advisors. He's talking about it with members of Congress. He's made it very clear that we don't want a lowest common denominator morality in the military. What we want are rules that make our military as effective as possible. We want rules that make the military fair to all people. We want rules that make people feel they can serve to the fullest potential available to them. That's what we're looking to do.
So we will find, he will find an appropriate way to review what's been going on over the last couple of months to look at the regulations, to look at the way the regulations are implemented, to look at the way commanders are trained to implement the regulations, to find out if we've got the right balance.
That's probably not as specific as you want, but I think that's basically the answer to the question of what he is thinking about doing over the next couple of months.
Q: There is a concern, is there not, that maybe the question about morality and sexuality might be going too far?
A: The issue is have we gone beyond our goal? Our goal is to encourage the most effective conditions and behavior among military people to accomplish their mission, or to put it negatively, the goal is to avoid activities and to punish activities that are prejudicial to good order and discipline in the military. So yes, there's a fear on the part of some people that we may have gone too far. That we're in a situation now where people may be tarred unfairly by complaints that are filed in hotlines, that people... That some of the subjective decisions made may err on the side of moral absolutism.
What the Secretary is trying to do is to draw a line that makes it clear that good order and discipline is the goal here. Maintaining good order and discipline and avoiding blemishes to that is the goal. And in looking at the Ralston case, he doesn't believe that what General Ralston did, has admitted doing, compromises good order and discipline and weakens his ability to serve in a top military job.
Q: This goes to General Ralston's expression, judgment and honesty. When you say he had this affair with this CIA woman at the War College, it's my understanding the affair continued after he had reconciled with his wife, and his wife contends, or alleges in the divorce suit, that his continued relationship with this woman was the reason for her filing the divorce. Which makes it a messy divorce. It isn't like there's no contest or anything like that.
Is that correct? You've looked into this. Did Ralston's commanding officer review this and place it in his efficiency report? And when did the military chain of command first become aware of this? I mean when did Shali first hear of this?
A: First of all, I don't believe I identified the person with whom he was involved in any way. Second, I have read an account in a newspaper of what the divorce proceedings contained, the allegations or the statements made by Mrs. Ralston. I have not read those papers myself.
I do know that General Ralston has told me and who has told others who have talked to him about this in the last few days, that one of the grounds for this divorce was irreconcilable differences, and the account that his wife gives about the duration of the relationship, the other relationship, and the account that he gives are different. This may be one of the differences that is irreconcilable. But he contends that this relationship was not an active relationship when he was living with his wife. The issue here, of course, he has admitted that he had a relationship with another woman when he was separated from his wife. He maintains that this relationship occurred when he was separated at all times.
As far as when the Chairman knew about this, I can't answer that question. I'll try to find out.
Q: Was this report reviewed by his superiors?
A: I'm not aware that this was an element.
Q: It's a key point. Was this in his records?
A: I am not aware that it was in his records, no.
Q: It could have been. You don't know.
A: I do not believe it was in his records, but I can't say 100 percent, and we'll check on that. I have to assume, Pat, if it had been in his records this would have surfaced much earlier, so my assumption is it was not in his records.
Q: Isn't the divorce of a serving officer something that ends up in an efficiency report?
A: I see no reason why a divorce would... After all divorce is a fairly common activity in the United States today. I can see no reason why a divorce would be seen as a notable incident, but we will check into that.
I might caution you that I'm not sure what I can tell you about his personal records given the Privacy Act, but I will...
Q: The point of this whole issue became public knowledge or knowledge within the military community as he comes up the chain of command.
A: I hope you're not suggesting that divorce would be in some way considered a demerit.
Q: I think an indiscreet relationship at the National War College, which other class members were clearly aware of, shows a lot of indiscretion on Ralston's part.
A: I think, again, this goes back to the question of balance and what people do when they're separated, when they're struggling to sort out personal relationships, is maybe not something we're all qualified to judge from afar without knowing the dynamics of the relationships.
Q: You said that there was a fear that some people may have been tarred by allegations made over the hotline. Will that Army hotline be shut down? Any plans for any changes there?
A: I didn't mean to suggest that it would be. What I mean to suggest is that there's a concern that a hotline performs, first of all, a very worthwhile and cathartic function of allowing people to come forward with complaints, with grievances, that they might not feel they could bring forward otherwise without anonymity and without operating over the telephone. It does also, of course, present an opportunity for misuse by some people who might want to file charges for vengeful reasons. I don't know if this has happened. I don't know if it has happened, how often it's happened, but it does place a responsibility on the investigators to sort out as soon as possible what seems to be a legitimate complaint and what doesn't seem to be a legitimate complaint. I don't know what the Army plans to do with its hotline. I suspect that hotlines, which are very common in business and in government, will continue in some way.
Q: You said General Ralston is not the only candidate for the Chairman's job. Is he the leading candidate at the moment?
A: He is certainly a leading candidate, and I think that the Secretary's actions when he makes them, will speak about who the leading candidate is.
Q: Two years ago General Ralston relieved a three-star general for adultery and actually demoted him by one rank. Is it a concern to the Secretary that General Ralston apparently doesn't hold himself to the same standards that he meted out?
A: Again, I go back to my statement about facts and the necessity of being very clear about what the similarities and what the differences are between cases that you want to compare and contrast. The facts in this case are different than the facts in the Ralston case. Let me just cite one fact, which is that the general in question was married at the time and living with his wife at the time the other relationship was taking place. And secondly, the IG report, which is not completely available to the public, but the IG report I think substantiates the fact that there was considerable reason for concern about impact on good order and discipline in the general officer's unit.
Q: How does the UCMJ speak to adultery? You said it's not a crime, it's not against the law. How does it speak to it?
A: There are basically three elements to it. The first is that the accused, wrongfully, it says, the accused wrongfully had sexual intercourse with a person; that at the time the accused or the other person was married to someone else; and -- and this is the crucial part. This is what makes adultery cases when they're brought, makes or breaks them as a military concern. And, that under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces.
Now this is what's contained in the rules, in the manual for courts martial. Beyond that, there are -- And we can give you this if you're interested in it. I don't know what your appetite is for this. But the term "to the prejudice of good order and discipline" is defined further -- What it says here is, and I'll just read it to you.
"To the prejudice of good order and discipline refers only to acts directly prejudicial to good order and discipline, and not to acts which are prejudicial only in a remote or indirect sense. Almost any irregular or improper act on the part of a member of the military service could be regarded as prejudicial in some indirect or remote sense. However, this article does not include these distant effects. It is confined to cases in which the prejudice is reasonably direct and palpable, and act in violation of the local..." It goes on and gives some explanatory. But I think it makes a distinction there between a direct and harmful impact on order and discipline, and what it calls here as indirect or remote.
Q: If General Longhouser had moved into another billet, it would have been okay for him to stay in.
A: I don't want to comment on hypothetical cases.
Q: Given the fact that there are these differing accounts of when the affair ended, is the Secretary just going to take General Ralston's version of events, or is there going to be some attempt to discover truth here?
A: What is agreed here is that the marriage between General and Mrs. Ralston did not work and it was dissolved. I'm not sure that now, ten years later, it's worth going back and dredging up the reasons for that.
The Secretary is satisfied, based on his conversations with General Ralston, with the account of events that General Ralston has given.
Q: So the answer is no.
Q: Is not that a double standard?
Q: That you're not going to... Here's a person he knows, works with every day. Okay, I'll take your word for it. That was it. You only had this one year relationship, you didn't keep up the relationship even after you tried to reconcile with your wife. Whereas if some other officer who had no relationship to Cohen was the object of a hotline call, that officer wouldn't have the chance to give assurances to Cohen or to the head of his service that this is all that I did and that's it, there would be an investigation. So why isn't it a double standard simply to take General Ralston's word for it?
A: I want to say again, we're not voyeurs. We're interested in events as they affect good order and discipline, and the Secretary has made the determination here that this does not affect good order and discipline.
Q: Can you describe what activities the Secretary is doing today in regard to this? Is he continuing to speak with people on the Hill, for example?
A: He has, I believe he's continuing to speak with people on the Hill about this. Yes, he has been speaking to people about this, and he will continue to speak with them tomorrow as well.
Q: Why is he making sure he doesn't speak to the press about this?
A: He's issued a statement. I think his statement is very clear.
Q: Why doesn't he want to just talk to us?
A: I think he feels that his statement suffices and answers all the questions.
Q: Could you talk to the principal aspects of this? The Secretary's made it clear that on present form he still intends, he still regards Ralston as a leading contender for a recommendation to the President. So in present form the Secretary proposing to confront the President with a choice. Either he repudiates the choice of the candidate put forward by the Secretary of Defense, or this President, with all his baggage, has to elevate an admitted adulterer to the most senior position in the military. Does the Secretary of Defense think it is a sensible critical dilemma to face the President with?
A: I have to reject almost every single assumption behind that question, but let me just start with the first assumption, which is that this is the only candidate Secretary Cohen is considering proposing to the President. That's not a proper assumption, and the whole rest of the question falls apart because the first assumption's wrong.
Q: How many names will he send to the President?
A: He will send one candidate to the President. The question is who that candidate will be.
Q: Only one candidate?
A: Yes. That's what his plan is. He may discuss other people he talked about, other people he's thought about and considered, but I think his plan right now, as it was, for instance, when he made the decision to replace General Joulwan, when he presented the choice, was to say this is my choice. I did look at these other people, but I chose this one -- Wes Clark in the case of General Joulwan -- and give the reasons why.
Q: Still planning on about a week?
A: It will be a week or two.
Q: Does the Secretary intend to ask General Ralston to cut short his trip at all?
A: No. General Ralston is now traveling in Central Asia, and that trip is intended to end as scheduled.
Q: Have the two of them discussed at all the possibility that General Ralston might ask not to be considered as a candidate for the Chairmanship?
Q: You said earlier that you didn't know if ten years later it was relevant to look into the conditions for divorce. Should there be a statute of limitations for adultery in the military?
A: There is. It's five years.
Q: ...a couple of weeks ago, and ... to some extent or another agreed with the decision in the Kelly Flinn case. On Tuesday in the Longhouser situation, he said, I think it was the appropriate thing to do for the General to retire. On Wednesday he was supporting the Ralston cause on Capital Hill or putting it out there on Capital Hill.
Was the question of at least the perception of hypocrisy or a double standard discussed before the decision was made to go ahead and put General Ralston's name out there?
A: The issue is balance. The issue is trying to do the right thing. The issue is drawing the line.
The Secretary has expressed his concern that the military maybe going too far. A number of people have expressed concern about this -- people in the media, people in Congress, people in the general public. I think there is a feeling that there has to be a delineation of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. That delineation is what impacts good order and discipline. In this case, unlike the other cases the Secretary has commented on, and we've been through the facts and I'd be glad to go through the facts again of those other cases. But unlike the other cases, he decided this did not have an impact on good order and discipline, nor to use...
Q: ...no double standard here. That that was not going to be a problem.
A: He realized that he was going to be hammered on this decision either way. If he had ruled out General Ralston... (beeper going off) Maybe that's a better answer! (Laughter)
He looked at both sides, obviously, and he realized that this was going to be a difficult decision, and a decision that was criticized no matter how he made it. He made the decision that he thought was right. He made what he thought was the fairest decision. He made the decision that he thinks is the best decision for the military in terms of sending a message for where the line should be. What's acceptable and what's not acceptable. Again, what you have to focus on is what activity is prejudicial to good order and discipline and what is not.
Q: No double standard.
A: He does not believe there's a double standard.
Q: The way things are going now in these other cases, one suspects that if General Ralston, while he was a colonel, if this had come up, the extramarital affair, that perhaps he would have gotten a letter of reprimand or perhaps kicked out of the service. Does this mean that if someone can cheat on his spouse, keep it quiet for 14 years, then it becomes all right and it doesn't bother good order and discipline. Is that the question?
A: That's not the question. I think, again, the question is...
Q: It would seem... I'm sorry...
A: Let me answer that question by citing something for you, okay?
It's not my habit of citing CNN as an authority, but I did happen to see today on CNN retired Major General Perry Smith who was the Commandant of the National War College at the time General Ralston, then Colonel Ralston, was there. He said, he described it this way. "The event occurred when he was a student at the National War College. He had nobody under his command. Adultery is not a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice unless it undermines good order and discipline. In this case, that was not the case." That was the assessment today of retired General Perry Smith who was the Commandant of the National War College at the time.
So I don't accept the premise of that question. Again, I think we have to be very careful about the facts of every case, and we have to weigh them with diligence and fairness. And we have to weigh them against this standard that General Smith pointed out, which is, does it undermine good order and discipline.
Q: So the answer is not Longhouser on now?
Q: ...not morality at all. As you've said repeatedly, good order and discipline.
A: There are multiple issues, but the central issue from the military standpoint is good order and discipline.
Q: To a member of Congress this morning on the floor, Representative Schumer, he says, and I quote, "This morning women all over America are scratching their heads, wondering what kind of double standard exists in the Air Force. The Secretary should rectify that immediately and reinstate Lieutenant Flinn."
A: Could you recite, again, the charges that were filed against Lieutenant Flinn? Do you know what they are?
Q: Do I know what they are?
A: Yes. What were the charges filed against Lieutenant Flinn?
Q: Multiple charges against her.
A: Multiple charges, including fraternization...
Q: Somehow Congress didn't seem to get the idea.
A: Where does Congress gets its information from? I think we've been very clear from the very beginning about what the issues were in the Lieutenant Kelly Flinn case. They are completely different issues from this case. Every case has to be based and analyzed on its own facts, the facts here are different. Lieutenant Flinn was charged with fraternization. That is, having a relationship with an enlisted person. She was charged with lying. She was charged with disobeying a direct order. She was charged with adultery. And she was charged with conduct unbecoming an officer. Those are all serious charges.
One of the things illustrated by the Flinn case, and I know you're all aware of this because you've studied adultery in the military with great diligence over the last few months, but I know you're aware that adultery is almost never brought as a single charge. That is almost never the sole reason for an action against somebody in the military.
Last year in the Air Force there were 67 cases involving adultery. Only one of them -- court martials involving adultery. Only one of the court martial proceedings involved adultery alone. Sixty-six others involved other charges, as did the Flinn case.
Q: In most cases where adultery is involved, very quietly, it is administratively handled and the person leaves. That is, anecdotally -- the military itself has no statistics on how many adultery cases are handled administratively and people leave. But anecdotally, that certainly seems to be what happened when the issue comes up.
One of the issues which is being raised today is, instead of being asked to leave or quietly leaving, he's being promoted.
A: First of all, if you're trying to make another comparison to the Flinn case, let me follow up on that. Lieutenant Flinn was approached by a First Sergeant who complained to her on behalf of the wife of the man with whom she was having an affair about the impropriety and difficulty that this relationship was causing. There were attempts to handle this at a level before it reached the court martial level.
In this case we have to go back, again, to the facts. That no one at the time and no one now, has determined that what General Ralston did was prejudicial to good order and discipline in the military.
Q: Had he been in command? When you cited General Perry Smith, had he, had Ralston been in command when he was carrying on with this woman, you think at that point it would have been prejudicial to good order and discipline?
A: I'm not a judge, nor am I a commander who would be making that decision. I don't think it's fair for me to speculate on that.
But let me just say, clearly, there are a number of factors that come into play in making these decisions, and command does happen to be one of those factors. But we can't go back and rewrite the facts of the Ralston case.
Q: To follow up on the part of John's question that you did not answer, is there any thought of reinstating Lieutenant Flinn at all?
Q: Let's go to a good example. A military leader, any grade, leads by a good example. A good moral example by those being influenced by that leader.
Let me ask, this general officer had a negative example in this adultery episode. What has happened in his life since then that satisfied the Secretary and this Department that he is now fit to lead and to set a good example for his troops?
A: That's a very good question. The Secretary made it clear yesterday, and General Shalikashvili made it clear yesterday in his statement, that he looked at General Ralston's entire career of 32 years.
He was a combat pilot in Vietnam over North Vietnam and Laos; he flew 147 combat missions as a young officer in the Air Force. He since then has performed well at every level of command. Operating as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs he's provided very good advice. He's shown that he's calm under pressure. He's shown that he can deal with all the constituencies that members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have to deal with. That's everything from advising the President and top White House officials to providing information and counsel to the Secretary of Defense, to brokering solutions to problems from among the Chiefs when they work as a group together in the Tank, to dealing with members of Congress and explaining to them what our policies are, to dealing with the press, and as he's doing today right now in Khazakhstan -- he's probably asleep, but on his trip in Khazakhstan and Central Asia, dealing with foreign leaders and explaining American military policy in ways that we can work together with the militaries of other nations.
He has shown himself adept in all those areas. He can hit all corners of the field. That's what the Secretary has determined about him. That's what the Chairman has determined. I believe that's why Secretary Perry chose him for the job in the first place, because he felt that he could satisfy all parts of the job.
If he is recommended to the President to be Chairman, it will be on that basis.
Q: What about personal integrity? Has he gotten over the woman ...?
A: I think that's a question I can't relay to you. His marriage dissolved. He remarried. I know it's awkward, but people do get divorced and they do remarry. It happens all the time.
Q: Can I ask you a couple of questions on the mix gender hearings on the Hill today?
A: Sure. Are we through with this issue, though?
Q: Did the Secretary or anyone on his behalf consult with the White House before...
A: He talked to the President yesterday.
Yes, Mr. Lambrose. Did you have a question on this issue?
Q: According to the DoD standards, the sexual activity in the Army is moral or immoral?
A: The Army is not against sex. (Laughter) The Army is against inappropriate sex that compromises good order and discipline. The Pentagon is not against sex. We're against sex that interferes with the proper functioning of the military.
Q: A question on the Sergeant Major of the Army. I wanting to know what the status of his retirement request is. Is he facing continuing investigation or a possible court martial?
A: Well, he has submitted a request for retirement. Any member of the military has the option of doing that at any time. Even if an investigation is underway.
As you know, because it's been announced, there is an investigation underway pertaining to Sergeant Major Gene McKinney. As long as he's under investigation, approval of the retirement request would require a waiver from Army headquarters. So right now he has filed a request for retirement and it's under review.
Q: Will this decision come after the Article 32 hearing later this month?
A: I can't answer that question. That's more appropriately directed to the Army. I'm just not aware of the rules in this case.
Q: Is this a request for retirement with an honorable discharge?
A: I believe it is, yes.
Q: Does the Secretary have an opinion on this situation at all?
A: I have not discussed this case with the Secretary. The reason I haven't is the Secretary does not want to exert any undue command influence in this case. I know that he's been briefed on this and other issues involved in the Army, but I have no idea if he has an opinion or if he's shared it with anybody else.
Q: Are you going to preserve the Secretary for the weekend talk shows?
A: It's not the Secretary's intention to appear on weekend talk shows.
Q: He's not going to discuss this?
A: I think the Secretary is discussing this actively with members of the Hill and other people.
Q: Did he check with the Senate Armed Services, all the membership up there?
A: I can't say that he's checked with all the membership of the committee, but he has been checking with members of that and other committees.
Q: The Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel held hearings on mixed gender training today. They're looking into whether mixed gender training has contributed to some of the problems, whether it's the right thing or the wrong thing.
Is the military, the Pentagon, satisfied with the mixed gender training now? Are there problems with it? Is there anything you're going to do about it? I have a follow-up, too.
A: You have a follow-up to those three questions? How do I know it won't be a three-part follow-up?
Q: A different aspect.
A: First of all, I have not, because my attention has been strangely directed to other things this morning, had a chance to watch those hearings on C-Span. I did check in from minute to minute, in the free minutes that I had, and I heard Admiral Tracey and General Hartzog both testifying in strong favor of mixed gender training.
So I think the answer to your question about the military view of mixed gender training should be given by the military, and they gave it on the Hill today. In summary, you know that the Marines -- one, we're talking only about basic training. All services have mixed gender training beyond the basic level.
Three services have mixed gender basic training. They think it works well. That's the Air Force, the Army and the Navy. The Marines train males and females separately in basic training. They think it works well for them. They plan to continue that.
Q: Let me refocus the question. The people who testified did, in fact, say that everything seemed to be okay, small problems, we can fix that. My question is does the Pentagon share that view, does the command structure here share the view of these personnel chiefs?
A: What Secretary Cohen has said is that he believes this should be left to the services. They should decide what works best for them. Having said that, he has, as Secretary of Defense, endeavored to go out and review basic training in all four services. So far he's visited Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, to the site of Air Force basic training; and he's also been to Fort Jackson in South Carolina to look at Army basic training. He hopes he has a chance to get to the Marines and the Navy at Great Lakes.
So far, I don't think he's seen any reason to change his view that this should be left up to the individual services. They should be able to do what works best for them. Nevertheless, all of this will be looked at in the context of the report that is being written now for the Secretary of the Army, the Senior Review Panel. One of the issues they're looking at is the efficacy of mixed gender training.
My guess is that that will come out in support of mixed gender training, but that it may suggest ways to improve the effectiveness of mixed gender training.
Q: The other question. Senator Byrd asked the Army if they would accept, the General who was there, if they would accept an outside commission investigating the problems that they'd had. The implication was they'd rather do it internally. Byrd thought that was not a good way to do that, and even stressed budget considerations. Would the Pentagon be amenable to an outside commission studying some of the problems the Army has had with mixed gender...
A: Right now the Secretary of the Army has a special review panel. The Army Inspector General is conducting an investigation. I think we should let those investigations finish. We should review the results and then decide what to do next.
We are not immune to outside review. We sometimes invite outside review. But I think right now it would actually slow down the process to gear up another panel. If it's necessary to do that at a later date, sure, that's an option. But I think right now we ought to let the Secretary of the Army complete his work.
Q: A non-sex question? (Laughter)
A: A killjoy or something? (Laughter)
Q: On Monday, Secretary Cohen in a telephone call with Senators Lott and Cochran reportedly said that two additional destroyers would be purchased by the Navy and be built by Ingalls Shipbuilding in Mississippi. That appears to be not part of the Navy's plans. My question is, what were the contents of the phone call? Senator Lott has publicly stated that that's what he had said.
Also, it seems to me that if it's not in the Navy's plan, it's not the Secretary's place to make notifications like that or decisions like that. Can you clear that up?
A: Well, the Secretary talks to the Navy from time to time and has an idea of what their plans are. Let me tell you where we are right now and where we'd like to be in the future.
As you know, last year Congress authorized the building of 12 DDG-51 ships, destroyers. The Navy has said that they assume these ships will be allocated for industrial base and other reasons between two yards -- Bath Iron Works in Maine, and Ingalls in Mississippi. The Navy has recently come up with the idea of perhaps purchasing more DDG-51s; and they are in the process now of talking to Congress about the possibility of funding two more ships. This decision ultimately is in the hands of Congress. If those two more ships were built, if they were funded, then the Navy would have to decide how to allocate them, looking at all the factors it looks at under the law, and that's where it stands.
Q: That doesn't answer the question. Senator Lott put out a press release which said in fact Secretary Cohen told him that Ingalls would get additional work on destroyers.
A: Uh huh.
Q: Did the Secretary say that or is Senator Lott...
A: The Navy makes the final decision, but the Navy believes that if there were two more destroyers added to the 12 already scheduled, already planned for, that there would be an option for Ingalls to build those two more ships.
Q: Would Bath have that same option?
A: The thinking is that the ships would probably be built at Ingalls for matters that deal with the amount of work going on, the different amounts of work that would be going on in the two yards.
Q: The Navy presented that plan to the Secretary and that's what he was presenting to...
A: The Secretary discussed this with Senator Lott and with Senator Cochran. Also there's been a letter, as you know, I think you have this letter that's been sent by the Chief of Naval Operations up to the Hill on this issue. I want to be clear what's required here. We can't act unilaterally. This is something that Congress has to do. They have to decide whether two more ships should be built. It's up to the Navy to work out the details of the contract. But from what the Navy knows now, there would be an option for Ingalls to build those two ships.
Q: A federal judge recently, on the A-12 case, ruled that it was inappropriate for the Secretary of Defense to make programmatic statements of that sort, citing the case where Cheney made the comment about canceling the A-12 and the Navy felt pressurized to do so. It looks like it's exactly the same situation, where the Secretary has made a comment about having those ships being built at Ingalls, and now the Navy will be obligated to do so, effectively.
Do you see that there's a difference in those cases? And if so, how?
A: If I were a contractor I probably wouldn't be here answering questions on sex and other issues. (Laughter) I'd be tied to a desk someplace reading numbers. I can't answer that question. We'll try to get you an answer to that question. But I do want to point out two things.
What we're talking about here is a process that one, involves congressional action. They have to, right now the two additional ships don't exist, and then the Navy would make a decision based on the conditions at the time.
Q: Were you saying that when the Secretary discussed this with Senator Lott that he had first discussed it with the Navy, gotten its approval for the two ships, or the idea that they wanted the two ships, and then went to Senator Lott? Or was it not until afterwards that the Navy...
A: He's discussed... The Navy would like to have more of these high performance ships. It's essentially accelerating the purchase of some of these ships from out years. If you can build new ships, if you can add new ships to an existing contract, you can build them for less money. I think it's a savings of about $200 million a ship.
Q: ...didn't get out ahead of the Navy.
A: Right. I'm saying that.
Q: Did the Secretary ask Senator Lott for any assurance that that would be satisfactory to him, and that there wouldn't be some request for a 15th or a 16th ship?
A: I didn't participate in the call so I can't answer that question. But Senator Lott seems very free to talk about it. You can ask him that.
Q: What's the price tag for those two ships?
A: The number that sticks in my mind for the 13th ship is about $750 million, which is about... Is it $720? So it's $230 million less than what they would pay for the others. But you should check all those figures with the Navy. As Captain Doubleday just illustrated, they have their hands on the figures with more precision than I do.
Q: This has to do with the case of the Vietnamese commandos back in the Vietnam war who were parachuting back into enemy territory. Congress said yes, let's pay them $20 million, and the Defense Department has not, and now there are being questions asked. How come? Why have these people never been compensated? Most of them now live in the U.S., I gather.
A: Was the legislation passed? I don't know the answer to that question. I'll try to find out.
Q: One final point. I'm a little confused. It's your impression that Ralston's affair terminated at the War College? It only occurred while he was two years at the War College?
A: It's my impression that he was separated twice from his wife, and the first separation was when the relationship began, and there was a second and final separation. And that during those separations he did see this other woman.
Q: Explain the moratorium to discontinuing the violations of the airspace in the territory of what is the Republic of Cypress. I'm wondering, Mr. Bacon, if the DoD's in a position to monitor these Turkish violations? ...the 6th Fleet is in the area almost on a permanent basis.
A: I'm probably going to give you a less precise answer than you'd like. Do you still want me to proceed? (Laughter)
We are aware that there have been allegations of airspace violations over Cypress. We're aware of this through diplomatic reporting, and maybe even through press reporting. We follow events in the Eastern Mediterranean, indeed in the entire Mediterranean, quite closely. In this case we've been following them through our diplomatic channels and contacts. And through our discussions with other countries.
Q: Technically, you're in a position to monitor the area?
A: I think I'd just like to leave it that we're monitoring this through our diplomatic contacts in the area.
Press: Thank you.