United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


Final DoD News Briefing by Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
January 24, 2001 1:30 PM EDT

Thursday, January 18, 2001 - 1:30 p.m. EST

(Also participating: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen; former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry; Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy de Leon; White House Spokesman Jake Siewert; Former White House Spokesman Joe Lockhart; National Security Council Spokesman P.J. Crowley; State Department Spokesman Phil Reeker; Marine Corps Gen. Jim Jones, Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps; Army Gen. Russ Davis, U.S. National Guard; Navy Rear Adm. Steve Pietropaoli; Marine Corps Brig. Gen. John Sattler; Air Force Brig. Gen. Ron Rand; Coast Guard Rear Adm. Pat Stillman; Army Col. Barry Willey; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Douglas B. Wilson; Navy Rear Adm. Craig Quigley; Reuters Pentagon Correspondent Charlie Aldinger; CNN Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre; Cliff Bernath, director, American Forces Information Service; Celia Hoke, director, Programs and Community Relations; Pat Bursell, director, Management; Navy Capt. Tim Taylor, director, Defense Information; Staff Sergeant Ruben Gonzales; Staff Sergeant Jake Johnson; and Darcy and Katie Bacon)

(Laughter, extended applause.)

Mr. Bacon: Thank you very much. It's a touching tribute to be invited to be the first speaker at the First Annual Pentagon Bow Tie Wearers' Association. (Laughter.) I think it's another example that the U.S. military, the best in the world, can make the impossible possible and the unconventional conventional.

I thought I'd take this opportunity today to introduce the new BDU bow tie. (Laughter.) This is something I've worked long and hard on with the services. And I remember that General Shinseki announced the Black Beret Plan at the Association of the U.S. Army meeting, so I thought it only appropriate for me to announce the BDU, or combat, bow tie at the First Annual Convention of Bow Tie Wearers.

Because I've worked so well with the military on this, of course I have not just done the green cami tie; we've also designed the desert camouflage bow tie as well. (Laughter, applause.) So we are prepared -- this is because I've found that briefers, even -- particularly those with bow ties, have to be able to brief in all climates. (Laughter.) So I will leave this for my successor, whoever he or she may be, and they can be prepared for all.

In light of this special event, I think it only fair that I give the first question to my first boss at the Pentagon. (Laughter.)

Q: (Off mike) -- (laughter).

Mr. Bacon: I was going to ask -- I was actually -- could you be a little more polite? I was going to ask Secretary -- all right, sir, go ahead.

Secretary Cohen: I think we've had enough of your obfuscation. (Laughter.) I have actually a question, then a follow-up question. (Laughter.) Number one, I've heard it reported that Saddam Hussein has called for a U.N. investigation into the use of depleted uranium. I'd like to know what your opinion is about that request and the secretary of Defense's opinion. (Laughter.)

And then, as a follow-up, do you see any connection between that and mad cow disease? (Laughter.)

Q: Is there any daylight between you and the secretary? (Laughter.)

Mr. Bacon: This -- actually, this issue goes back to Secretary Cheney's time in the Pentagon. (Laughter.)

And I tried to reach him because I expected this. And he was too busy to take the call. (Laughter.) So I'm going to refer that call to my successor, because I think he'll be in a better position to reach Secretary Cheney.

I would say, though, that I fought very hard to keep mad cows out of the briefing room during my six years here -- (laughter) -- and I hope this is a policy that my successor will continue.

Now, I followed the Warren Christopher rule, which is if you're asked a multi-part question, you can choose which part to answer. And I just chose to answer the second part. (Laughter.)

Dr. Perry: Having excluded mad cows from the briefing, do you intend similarly to exclude bull from briefings -- (laughter, boos).

Mr. Bacon: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the question. (Laughter.)

Q: It's part of his repertoire. You can't take that away.

Mr. Bacon: Yes.

Q: Following up on the same question, if the trace amounts of transuranics are insignificant in depleted uranium, then why has Uranium 236 been found in the bodies of veterans?

Mr. Bacon: This is actually a serious question, so I'd like to refer this to Dr. Perry. No -- (laughter).

First of all, you're referring to the lab reports that came out of the labs yesterday or the day before. We are looking further into that. Let me just bring you up to date, fill you in on the background here.

As you know, we discovered some stray elements of transuranics, they're called, in depleted uranium, the Department of Energy did a year or so ago. These consisted of plutonium, neptunium, and americium. Now, these are very, very small amounts. And as soon as they were discovered as indicating possibly a flaw in the production process, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission suspended the operation at this plant, which is in Paducah, Kentucky. And after 90 days of examining what was going on, the NRC allowed the production to begin again. These trace elements are extremely small. That's where we were about a year ago.

Now, the labs in Europe have found tiny elements of U236, which is not normally in depleted uranium.

These are also extremely small amounts; so small that the U.N. Environmental Program yesterday issued a statement saying that they were extremely, extremely low amounts of U236 in the depleted uranium, and it is so small that the radioactivity, or "radiotoxicity" is the term they use, was not changed at all by the discovery of these minute traces of U236.

We are looking further as to whether these were accurate lab studies. We're not disputing them; we're just looking into them, and we're looking into how this could have happened. That's all I can tell you right now. It remains under study.

Secretary Cohen: I think it's time I rescue you -- (laughter) -- before we get too serious.

Mr. Bacon: This is the real expert! (Laughter, applause.)

Secretary Cohen: I wanted to take this occasion to show you that I could, indeed, wear a bow tie. (Laughter.) Mine, unfortunately, is not tied by me, but has come prearranged. (Laughter.) But the symbol of Ken Bacon globally -- he is recognized as having perhaps the most familiar bow tie -- I was going to say face, but -- bow tie in the world. And I think that's an appropriate symbol for Ken himself, and you all just saw an example of why he's been so important to this department.

When you look for the official spokesperson of the Pentagon, you definitely want to have someone who is professional, who has a background in journalism, if at all possible, but who is a great student, because this job requires one to be briefed daily, on an hourly basis and sometimes even on a momentary basis, to keep up with all of the facts and the issues that come flying at you with incredible speed. And so Ken is a great journalist, but a great student.

And he also has something I think that all of you appreciate, and that is integrity. He tries to inform himself of all of the issues and then to come before you and submit himself to your tender mercies, which are not always quite so tender and certainly not so merciful.

But nonetheless, I think that you have always appreciated the fact when he tells you what he knows and also tells you what he can't tell you, and does so in a very calm and, I think, again, exquisitely professional manner.

I think that's the reason that Secretary Perry, who is with us today, and Lee -- great to see the both of you here -- Janet, welcome to you as well -- that is why Bill Perry selected Ken to serve in this position. It's why I decided to follow in Bill Perry's footsteps in keeping Ken as the official spokesperson for the Pentagon. It's because of our high respect for his intelligence and his hard work ethic, his honesty, and his commitment to the men and women who serve us.

I, Ken, want to tell you how many times how appreciative I've been when you come up at this podium. On all of the tough issues by the murderous gang that you can see associated -- certainly in the front row, Charlie -- (laughter) -- (chuckles) -- and others -- but to come up here and to be as open as he possibly can and consistent with his obligations to the security and safety of our men and women who serve us, it's really a very tough job and one that he has done well.

So I wanted to be here today, and Janet and I wanted to be here today, along with Secretary Perry and Lee and so many others who have had the privilege of working with Ken, of traveling with him, of discussing issues with him -- hopefully, he's never leaked anything to you that I'm aware of -- (subdued laughter) -- I won't ask you to raise your hands on that. (laughter) -- but basically to say how proud we've had -- to have person of your character and talent and devotion and duty.

I'm a little bit, I guess, jealous of the size of the crowd that turned out for you. (Laughter.) But nonetheless, I understand their affection, admiration, and support for you. So, Ken, thank you for an extraordinary job. Well done.

Mr. Bacon: Thank you. (Applause.)

First, let me thank Darcy and all the other co-conspirators. I see my father-in-law and others here, the commandant --

Q: (Off mike) -- conspirators. (Soft laughter.)

Mr. Bacon: -- and these conspirators behind me.

But I want to say, to the extent that I've had any success in this job, it's because of the great support I've had from my bosses, Secretary Perry and Secretary Cohen, but also from everybody with whom I've worked, both military and civilian. I see a lot of you -- Frank Kramer, Kurt Campbell -- everywhere I look, I see somebody who's helped me somewhere along the way, and I thank you very much for that. (Applause.)

Mr. Wilson: Ken, just a minute. We're going to invite you to take a seat. For anybody else, this would be a roast. Your last name is Bacon, so this is a fry. (Laughter.) So thank you, Jamie, for --

Craig and I are here to present the award for "Best Performance by a Government Spokesman Who is a Cool Guy in a Bow Tie." (Laughter.) And there is one nominee, and there are actually many people who are here to make some brief presentations.

But we want to start with the dean of the Pentagon press corps, Charlie Aldinger of Reuters.

Mr. Aldinger: Unaccustomed as I am, and two hours before the briefing usually starts -- (laughter). Ken, of course, I haven't --

Mr. Bacon: You mean the 1:30 briefing?

Mr. Aldinger: Right. And I haven't had the six-hour pre-brief. But I wanted to just say just a word or two on behalf of the hacks who cover the Pentagon, in appreciation of Ken. After six years, as we've often said, of frying the Bacon, we couldn't have had a better man on the job. I mean, Ken's job is to uphold the Constitution and protect and coddle the person upstairs, and he's done that well, and sometimes it's frustrating for us. But he's also been extremely helpful. Extremely helpful to us in the past six years. And I think, being a former editor and reporter for the Wall Street Journal, his heart has been in the trenches with us, and he's been a great help to us. There might have been a few leaks by people around. I'm not going to name any names, but -- and his great note-taking at meetings, be it NATO or all around the world, to come out and tell us what went at meetings afterwards.

And I must say that I, as I'm sure many of you are not surprised at all that Ken is moving from affairs of high moment in national security to helping people around the world who truly, truly need it. (Applause.)

Mr. Wilson: And Ken, we're going to invite you to have a seat while we change the set a second.

Mr.: This won't take long.

Mr. Bacon: Like an electric chair. (Laughter.)

Secretary Cohen: Strap him in! (Laughter.)

Mr. Wilson: Secretary and Mrs. Cohen, Secretary and Mrs. Perry, Deputy Secretary De Leon, General Jones, Secretary Danzig, and ladies and gentlemen, we are delighted that so many of you were able to turn out for what Ken thought was going to be his last briefing. But we'd like to invite a couple of folks, Ken, to come to the podium and say a few words.

We've heard from Secretary William Cohen. It's my pleasure now to introduce former Secretary William Perry. (Applause.)

Dr. Perry: I have a serious and a frivolous statement I want to make. The serious statement is simply, I could not have said better than Bill Cohen said his regards for Ken Bacon. It was said beautifully and eloquently and right on the mark, and I endorse that.

The frivolous statement -- I thought, what could I say in a frivolous way, and I decided to write a limerick for Ken -- (laughter) -- and you're now going to be subjected to that limerick.

A press secretary named Bacon

Told his boss, "That's news that you're making."

I wish you had said,

"No comment," instead

Now I'm stuck with the job of faking!

(Laughter, applause.)

Mr. Wilson: I'd like to ask to come to the podium the deputy secretary of Defense, Rudy de Leon.

Mr. De Leon: Thank you very much. At a moment like this, what I would like to do is not make remarks of my own, but instead, read from the Ken Bacon Story.

This is February 18th, 1997:

"Question: In recent days, there has been confirmation that millions of years ago an asteroid hit this planet, led to the extinction of dinosaurs and life as the Earth knew it at that point, and it took 4,000 years after that for the Earth to recover. If something of a less catastrophic incident would happen today from an asteroid, does the Pentagon have any plans that they would move into action, move troops around the country to help in such a tragedy?"

This is real. (Laughter.) The unvarnished words of the press spokesman of the Department of Defense: "The issue is 65 million years old. (Laughter.) Clearly. (Laughter.) And 89 years ago when a large asteroid exploded coming into the atmosphere over Siberia, devastated trees, we did not have the capability to spot asteroids whose orbits were changing far out in space. Now, we're developing such a capability."

This goes on, "If it were to happen -- " So the press reporter says, "So, what you're saying is, if it were to happen today then, the answer is no, we'd be defenseless."

"Look. Asteroids range in size from very small objects to very large ones." (Laughter.) And then, Ken announces that there is a working group on asteroids. (Laughter.)

The question: "The working group. Can you tell us when it was established?" Answer: "It was not spurred by the movie or the mini-series. It was something that flowed naturally." This goes on just one round too many, and he says, "Asteroids clearly are something that we have to take seriously, but I'm not sure we have to take them seriously every single day. As you know, NASA is the chief asteroid police in the galaxy of our government." (Laughter.)

He has never been at a loss for words, and he has always been a man of integrity. Thank you, Ken. (Applause.)

Mr. Wilson: It's now my pleasure to introduce the commandant of the Marine Corps, General Jim Jones.

Voice from Audience: Oo-rah! (Laughter.)

Gen. Jones: Thank you. I simply, Ken, on behalf of the men and women in the Marine uniform and, I really suspect, all uniforms, just want to thank you for helping us bridge the gap, if you will and enter into a genuine partnership and friendship with you and members of the media. And we -- I guess the best compliment that we could pay to you is that whenever there is something of substance that we know has to be discussed openly and freely, that we turn to Ken Bacon for guidance and advice, without any reservation, without any hesitation.

And on a personal note, Ken, I just want to thank you and Darcy for your friendship. Your understanding of the culture of men and women in uniform and why it's so unique, and your appreciation of the work that they do on the world stage. And you'll be missed. You're a great American.

And I would like to associate myself with Charlie's words that your chosen pursuits, among the many things that you could have done, what you are about to do is probably even more important, and I wish you Godspeed. Thank you. (Applause.)

Mr. Wilson: Ken, as you know, White House spokesmen come and go, and you remain eternal. (Laughter.) But we have some of those White House folks here today, and so I'd like to invite current spokesman from the White House, Jake Siewert, his predecessor, Joe Lockhart, and NSC Spokesman P.J. Crowley to come to the podium. (Applause.)

Mr. Siewert: I was saying to Joe that I think we ought to make the White House correspondents dress in bow ties. They don't look quite as ferocious out there. (Laughter.)

Ken, we are here to pay tribute to you today, and we appreciate particularly at the White House that you create, unlike some other Cabinet issues, very few problems and follow-up questions for us over there. In fact, I can't even think of one, in my short tenure there.

But Joe and I spent a good portion of the morning trying to convince the president that as a tribute to you, he ought to wear a bow tie at his farewell address tonight, but like the commandant of the Marine Corps, he declined. (Laughter.) But he did send a note, and Joe has that for you today, here.

Mr. Lockhart: It's kind of nice to be back here. Sort of feel --

Mr. Bacon: Step back in time. Your last day. (Laughter.)

Mr. Lockhart: Who -- who is this new guy? Anyway, let me read the letter.

"Dear Ken: Thank you for the tremendous efforts, not just on behalf of the administration, but on behalf of military men and women, their families and the civilian employees of the Department of Defense. They are a great team, and they've had a great spokesman for more than six years.

"Your predecessors during the Cold War had it easy. We understood who the good guys were and who the bad guys were and why we needed to maintain a strong, effective military. Today, even though the American people are less certain about what the military needs to do in this dynamic world, thanks to your efforts, public support and respect for the military as an institution remain at an all-time high. Your efforts to help explain why we took action in Haiti, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo were critical elements in maintaining public understanding of those complex, yet necessary, military operations.

"Hillary and I are deeply appreciative of your service to the country and congratulate you on continuing your service to the people of the world as chief executive of Refugees International.

"Best wishes in the next phase of your life. Sincerely, Bill Clinton."

Let me just say a couple of personal words. As many of you know, when I took the job, not grounded in a lot of training on how to talk about the military, I relied heavily on Ken and his expertise. What you probably don't know is Ken tried to reciprocate and help me in my way, going through what were some difficult times. And I finally had to cut him off on an important day when the president was doing something distasteful, having to talk to prosecutors, and Ken kept calling and sending me faxes with his advice on how to do it. And Ken, he never for a moment thought of wearing a bow tie when he sat across from Ken Starr. (Laughter.) It just wasn't in the cards.

Let me finish, before I introduce P.J., by saying those of you who have covered national security in the two years that Ken, Jamie Rubin and I were around I think understood the rule: If you wanted a pithy, partisan quote, call me; if you wanted something more erudite and diplospeak, call Jamie; but if you wanted the facts, call Ken. And I think a lot of people did that. Thank you. (Applause.)

Mr. Crowley: I just want to add to what Jake and Joe said, that I pay tribute to someone who I consider a great boss, mentor and also a friend. And he's established such a great standard as a dapper dresser here, that I gather your successor will have to come next week in a bolo -- you know, with one of those string ties.

But he has the knack of being candid in a very gentle way. I guess starting on Saturday we'll have to -- the buzzword will be "compassionate." So Ken was very compassionate with me when he called me into his office to interview me to be his military assistant six years ago. And he said, "I've reviewed your record. You're eminently qualified to be my military assistant. You also have the virtue of being the only one who applied for the job." (Laughter.) He also has demonstrated not once, but twice that the Peter Principle does work, by sending me to the White House not once, but twice, to go back to the NSC.

But it is a great tribute to be here. Actually, I was also here eight years ago when we were saying goodbye to another great spokesman, Pete Williams. At that time, David Martin of CBS got up and said, "No one has done it better." And I think today we can pay the same tribute to you, that, in fact, no one has done it better, and it's been done as well if not better under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. That's why many, many times you will always remember that in response to a difficult question that has not yet got an answer because we're, like the commercial of the airplane that we're building as we're flying it, it's kind of like the Defense policy has been for the last eight years. And Ken's -- I always remember, his first line has always been, "Well, you know, this is complex." (Laughter.)

It has been a complex six years that Ken has been at the podium, but, you know, through it all, professionally and personally, he's maintained his perspective, his composure, and his sense of humor, and I think as the man in the arena, he really has come out as a great champion.

I just want to come, you know, pass on regards from someone who I work very closely with. "Dear Ken: Looking back on the past eight years, this has been one of the most dynamic periods in our history. Even when enjoying unprecedented peace, prosperity and relative power, we saw new and dramatically different threats to our security. We expanded how we defined our national security, intervened in vastly different ways to protect our national interests, and faithfully safeguarded our nation's defense during this period of unprecedented change.

"We have long understood that a successful military must have the support of the American people to be effective. In your six years at the Pentagon podium, you have been on the front lines helping to build public understanding and support for the president and our military as we undertook difficult operations in Haiti, Bosnia, Iraq, East Timor and Kosovo.

"You should take great pride in your significant contributions to this record of accomplishment in helping the American people understand the continued importance of a strong military in an increasingly complex world.

"Thank you for your dedicated service to the country and the president. You have set a high standard of credibility, clarity and grace under pressure that has earned you the rightful admiration of two of our most important institutions -- the military and the media.

Signed, "Sandy Berger, National Security Advisor" (Applause.)

Mr. Wilson: Ken, when we were planning this, we took every step to make sure there were no leaks to you out of the Pentagon, and there were no leaks. I can't say if there were out of the State Department, but there was nothing out of the Pentagon. (Laughter.)

But it is my pleasure to invite the deputy spokesman from the State Department, Phil Reeker, to come and convey greetings from the State Department.

Mr. Reeker: Wow. I've discovered something I always guessed: Ken, your podium is bigger. (Laughter.) Richard Boucher would have loved to have been here today. I left him at the department still trying to tie his bow tie. (Laughter.) You know the old joke, "How many diplomats does it take ..." But he sends his very best regards and was involved in a real briefing. (Laughter.)

My history with Ken Bacon goes back to the beginning of my career in government when I was a first-tour foreign service officer, the junior press attache in Budapest. And Ken and Secretary Perry paid us a couple of visits. I think he got me to take Charlie out to dinner. (Laughter.)

I moved on to Macedonia, and Ken was obviously so impressed that he came and visited me there too. (Laughter.)

So we've worked together quite a lot, and I've learned a lot from Ken Bacon. It's been a terrific experience.

We have a few gifts and parting mementos for Ken. First of all, to personally commemorate our time in Macedonia, some fine Macedonian wine for Ken to take with him to enjoy in his days ahead. (Laughter.) Obviously the refugee crisis --

Mr. Bacon: This wine comes from a Muslim country. (Laughter.)

Mr. Reeker: We won't go there.

The refugee experience in Macedonia obviously wasn't enough for Ken, and so he's moving on to his next assignment.

From the State Department generally, we wanted Ken to know that he'll always have a friend in the State Department as he continues to travel the world. So we bought him this nightshirt hoping that he'll sleep in comfort knowing that someone at the State Department -- (applause.)

And finally, many of you know that we at the State Department have a new briefing room that we just inaugurated a little over a week ago when Secretary Albright cut the ribbon and we joined the ranks with a similar plaque. Our old briefing room, as you may recall, had a map of the world behind the podium. And of course as soon as the new briefing room was ready, there was a frenzy to take pieces of that map of the world, journalists ripping their favorite part of the globe off the wall. But we wanted to save something for Ken, and we tried to get Iraq, but it was still in its box. (Laughter.) We tried to get the Balkans, but we really want them to be a part of Europe. (Laughter.) And so we did get one piece for Ken, and that would be Shemya Island -- (laughter) -- from the Aleutians. (Laughter.)

So Ken, this is from the State Department. But more seriously, really, all the best certainly from us in public affairs, Ambassador Boucher. And on behalf of Secretary Albright, thank you for all you've done for the entire effort these many years. And we look forward to keeping in touch. Thanks. (Applause.)

Mr. Wilson: We'd like to welcome to the podium the Pentagon correspondent for CNN Jamie McIntyre.

Mr. McIntyre: First of all, I'd just like to say that it's really inappropriate for us to be applauding the spokesperson. I feel very uncomfortable about it. (Laughter.) I knew that when Ken came in, he looked -- he realized he was going to get pretty much an easy ride today because he looked out and could see right away David Martin wasn't here. (Laughter.) And that's usually the sign.

We just have a brief presentation. Chris, I would ask you to come up and join me, Chris Plante. We have a tradition we've started where we've been given -- you know, you can say anything you want, Ken, but if nobody hears it, it really doesn't have a whole lot of effect. And nobody hears you more than on CNN. And so we wanted to present you with this picture of yourself on CNN, and I've written a little inscription here just says, "Voir Dire," which, because I'm an impartial reporter, I'll leave you to decide whether it's a commentary on your performance or maybe an exhortation for the future. (Laughter.) And Chris has written, "Save the world," which I believe is your next mission. (Laughter/applause.)

Adm. Quigley: Could I ask the director of public affairs for the Central Intelligence Agency, Mr. Bill Harlow, to come on up.

Q: He is up. (Laughter.)

Mr. Harlow: It's the new CIA. First, I should apologize for the lack of bow tie. I didn't get the word. Another intelligence failure. (Laughter.) Ken, you certainly have left your mark on this place, and we in the intelligence community couldn't let you leave without taking note of it. And I have just a couple small presentos for you.

One is a citation from the Central Intelligence Agency, and in the interest of time and good taste, I won't read it. (Laughter.) But it is a very nice citation. (Laughter.) At least the parts that are not redacted. (Laughter.)

And the next item is really special. It really is. This is the actual language from the FY-01 Intelligence Conference Report, Section 304 on the prohibitions of unauthorized disclosure, or as it's known at Langley, the Bacon Clause. (Laughter.) And there's a heartfelt inscription on the bottom, "Ken, appreciate your help and support on this bill. All the best, George Tenet." (Laughter.) With a "Veto." (Laughter/applause.)

But seriously, you've been a great pleasure to work with, and we've enjoyed it, and we wish you all the best. (Applause.)

Adm. Quigley: There's one group of uniformed officers with whom Ken comes into contact nearly every day, and those are the service chiefs of public affairs. And to start off here from the United States Army is the deputy chief of public affairs, Colonel Barry Willey.

Col. Willey: Ken, it's an honor to be here. Major General Gottardi is traveling, so he sends his regrets, but also his best wishes.

It really began about six years about for both of us. You were getting off the plane with Secretary Perry on the tarmac at Port au Prince Airport in Haiti. I'd been there a few days. You had been in the job a few days. This was my first assignment in the Pentagon, and that's where I was. And things were rather confusing those first few days and weeks, as many of the correspondents and those that worked on that operation know. And we registered 1,300 journalists over the course of the first few weeks. And that's just the ones who signed in with us. There were hordes out there on the street. There were more of them than us for the first few days I believe.

And I just remember very clearly you coming straight into a press conference first of all with the secretary, and then after that, talking to me. And I remember your words. Don't remember exactly what they were, but I remember them as being calm, steady, poignant and wise. And I think that kind of set the tone for the rest of your tenure here in the Pentagon. Certainly those words helped me get through those first few days and weeks. And so I want to personally thank you for your guidance. I want to also thank you for your guidance and wisdom over the years I was with the SACEUR in the start-up of the Bosnia mission. Again, we talked almost daily, the conference calls. So you've given me a lot of guidance and wise counsel and steady counsel over these years, and I appreciate that.

And on behalf of the Army, all of our soldiers and civilians and families and all of the PA pros down the hall and all over the world, on behalf of them I would like to thank you for that wise counsel and steady guidance and support in everything we've done. And we have had, in your time here, literally thousands of soldiers deployed around the world every day, today, many of them in harms way. And you have always represented them in the best possible light and their best interests very professionally and very skillfully. And we really appreciate that. And I want to thank you on their behalf for all your support to the Army.

And I've got a couple things I want to give you. First is a case of materials that are currently being passed out to our recruiters. We have a new advertising logo, and we just literally rolled it out a few days ago. And inside here are some pretty neat posters that the recruiters are going to put in their recruiting stations. And perhaps you can post them on the wall of your den or somewhere around the house. (Laughter.)

There's also inside one of these little banners, which has the same new advertising logo. And I would hope you would maybe put this in the window of your living room of your house. (Laughter.) And as the 18- to 23-year-olds tool by and it catches their attention and knock on your door, you can just tell 'em "Go to your computer and hit goarmy.com, and you'll find all about the Army and all the great opportunities that are there." (Laughter.) So we want to provide that to you, sir.

And also, we like to do for our heroes, departing heroes, I put you on the cover of Soldiers magazine, and this is your Soldiers magazine cover with our coins at the bottom. "Presented to Mr. Kenneth, assistant secretary of Defense, public affairs, from your friends in Army public affairs." And the caption here is: "OSD's Bacon Leaves Legacy of Excellence." And down at the bottom: "Unflappable Spokesman Served With Honor." (Applause.)

Mr. Quigely: Next up, from the United States Marine Corps, Brigadier General John Sattler, the head of Marine Corps Public Affairs.

Q: Oo-ah.

Gen. Sattler: That wasn't me that did that Oo-ah earlier, sir. It was someone else. (Laughter.)

Mr. Bacon: General Davis.

Gen. Sattler: Sir, I was only on the agenda in case the commandant got pulled to do something else. But as General Jones already articulated, this was much too important this morning -- or this afternoon to leave to me, so General Jones did come down and so eloquently passed on our concerns, our thoughts, our thank you for all you've done for us in the United States Marine Corps over your six years.

I would just like to add just personally, I've been on the job approximately six months, and you've been a tremendous counsel to me, sage adviser, but more important, a mentor. Any time of the day, early in the morning, late at night, if we had to call, as General Jones indicated, when something came up that we weren't sure about, and when I roared in with my hair on fire, a small fire, I might add -- (laughter) -- he never hesitated to beat it out with a flapper. (Laughter.) No, never hesitated to take the time to sit me down and not tell me what to do, but walk me through options on how we might present our position and how we might roll out the Marine Corps position.

So, Mr. Bacon, we had lunch with you. We had a little bit of fun earlier this week. We have a matching tie. It's a set of press briefs that will go with the tie -- (laughter) -- so when you're off there with the refugees, that you'll fit in just in case the weather's hot, sir.

But I just wanted to tell you on behalf of all Marines, to add to General Jones' comments, sir, personally, thank you very much, and you're going to be missed, sir. Hoo-rah!

Mr. Bacon: Thanks.


Adm. Quigley: And now the Navy's chief of information, Rear Admiral Steve Pietropaoli.

Adm. Pietropaoli: Thank you, sir. I'll make it brief, since this is going long. Mr. Bacon and I probably go back about four years. I've been around longer than that, but I don't think I came onto his radar screen until I came down to work for the chairman about four years ago. And we've had a series of lively discussions about possible approaches to public affairs -- (laughter) -- all of which he won, but all of which were indeed lively on my part. (Laughter.)

I have enormous respect for him. He was always right in each of those discussions ultimately. (Laughter.)

Q: That's not what you told us. (Laughter.)

Adm. Pietropaoli: You're the court of last resort, which is going direct to the audience. So -- (laughter) (inaudible) -- enormous respect. And another thing, it's really not about us inside the Beltway here. I mean, it's really about, in my case, for the sailors out there. And we had the opportunity to take Mr. Bacon out recently to the fleet. This commemorative edition of All Hands magazine captures that image of Mr. Bacon in front an F-18, where he set, I think, an individual single-day record for arrested landings and catapults. (Laughter.) The inscription reads, "As he does in his day job, Ken Bacon flies by the seat of his pants." (Laughter.)

And on a more serious note, a more serious gift from his fans and admirers at CHINFO, both of them wanted you to have this. (Laughter.) That's just joking.

(Cross talk. Laughter.)

(Mr. Bacon unwraps gift.)

Adm. Pietropaoli: It's bubble wrap. It's the Navy's new bubble wrap. (Laughter.) (From you ?) to BWI. (Laughter. Applause.)

Adm. Quigley: Next, the head of Air Force public affairs, Brigadier General Ron Rand.

Gen. Rand: This is going to start sounding like a broken record, but Mr. Bacon has touched a lot of people, a lot of institutions, a lot of organizations along the way. On behalf of Secretary Peters and General Ryan and all the women and men of the Air Force, sir, I'd like to say thanks for always courageously telling our story. Thanks for always looking for opportunities for us to tell our story. Thanks for always supporting us in everything that we did. You always did it with integrity, service and excellence. You always did it with a sense of humor. You always did it with a sense of style.

As we thought about ways to pay tribute to you, we also put you on the cover of this month's "Airman" magazine. It says, "Ken Bacon: The Man, the Legend, the Tie." (Laughter.) Good luck and Godspeed. Thanks for always leading, and thanks for always supporting. So, let me give you that. (Applause.)

Mr. Bacon also appreciates fine music, and Air Force Public Affairs also owns all of the Air Force bands, some of the finest bands in the world. So we've put a gift set of CDs together; the Singing Sergeants and the Big Band kind of music I think you'll appreciate in some of your quiet moments. (Soft laughter.)

And then the last gift I have for you is the Air Force hat, new official symbol. We were also trying to -- we sat around at our meeting with General Ryan and Mr. Peters about six months ago. We were trying to figure out what our new slogan should be, and we were watching on the Pentagon Channel 13, and one of your briefings came on. And Secretary Peters said, "Boy, that Bacon is good. Nobody does it like him." And the chief says, "No one even comes close." And that's what turned into our new slogan, the Air Force slogan -- "No one comes close." And now you know how it came to be. We were watching you. (Laughter, applause.)

Adm. Quigley: Although not a part of the Department of Defense, it's an organization with whom we work more and more often as time passes, and here representing Coast Guard Public Affairs, Rear Admiral Pat Stillman.

Adm. Pat Stillman (U.S. Coast Guard): Simply put, the man has a heart and soul of a sailor. And he didn't take his bow tie off and wrap it around the Coast Guard; he took a metaphor -- a bowline -- and brought the men and women of the Coast Guard into his grasp and embraced them, and made us better for it. And for that, we have learned a great deal and we've grown and we are forever in your debt, sir.

I would like to briefly introduce Master Chief Vince Patton, who has a presentation that he'd like to make.

Master Chief Vince Patton: Mr. Bacon, always good to see you again, sir. I thought it was very important that on behalf of all the men and women of the Coast Guard, and particularly the fact of allowing us the opportunity to be part of this group. That is something that you've done very well -- to bring the Coast Guard to the forefront, that we are part of the armed forces.

So with that, I'd like to personally present to you a personal membership into the United States Coast Guard as an honorary member and "with all the rights pertaining to," which means that next time you get boarded on a boat, you just flash that and -- (laughter). (Inaudible) -- which says our core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty, and that's something that you certainly have upheld the whole time in your job. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

Mr. Bacon: Thank you. Thanks a lot, Chief.

Adm. Stillman: Sir, we also have a photo that is a remembrance of your time with the Coast Guard on more than one occasion, and we ask that you put that on the bulkhead and view it with pride and -- (pause) -- see if you can do it again. (Laughter.)

And finally, we'd like to present you with the Distinguished Public Service Award from the Coast Guard. John, if you could briefly read the citation.

John (?): Happy to, sir.

Adm. Stillman: Thank you.

John (?): "The Honorable Kenneth H. Bacon is hereby cited by the United States Coast Guard for distinguished public service from September 1994 to January 2001 while serving as assistant secretary of Defense for public affairs. Assistant Secretary Bacon masterfully brought together the public affairs communities of all five military services to raise the visibility of the military in the media and in the eyes of the general public. Through his leadership, the finest attributes of all five services were showcased in such public outreach efforts as the Reconnect With America Initiative, the Annual Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, the New Economy Orientation Program, and in a multitude of joint service efforts designed to improve recruiting.

"Assistant Secretary Bacon has invariably remembered the Coast Guard, even taking his personal time during a recent vacation to visit a small boat station in Massachusetts, where he made himself available for an in-depth briefing on the numerous Coast Guard operational activities in that coastal area.

"Assistant Secretary Bacon's keen judgment, strong leadership and dedication to duty are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard."

Adm. Stillman: We would sail anywhere with you. God bless you. (Applause.)

Adm. Quigley: Another organization that has played an ever-larger part on the world stage is the National Guard. And as the head of the National Guard Bureau, I'd like to invite Lieutenant General Russ Davis to the podium.

Gen. Davis: Well, thank you very much.

It's been said that Ken Bacon is cool and calm under fire. And one day about four years ago, we decided to test that in the National Guard. We had had an incident with an aircraft coming out of Atlantic City. It had flown near an airline and there were a few perturbations that took place, and there was some requirement for explanation. (Laughter.)

(Off-mike comments and laughter among attendees.)

We went down to his office, and the head operator for the United States Air Force was there, and Ken. And I knew about the meeting, so I said I'd wander down and visit with them and see how things were going. When we got there, no sooner than we walked in the office and Ken said, "Russ, have a seat, sit down," and they went on with their discussion, prepping Don Sheppard, who was then the director.

In the middle of this conversation, a gentleman runs in and hands Mr. Bacon a piece of paper. And you talk about cool and calm under pressure. We had just gotten one situation under control when one of the unit -- aircraft from the unit I used to command at Andrews, an F-16, comes flying back into Andrews and flies very closely to another airliner. So here we are working one incident with another second incident piling on top of it. And he says, "Don't worry about it, we'll just stick to our story." (Laughter.) A remarkable man under fire, who really has the -- (inaudible).

Well, Ken, we'd just like to say on behalf of the men and women of the Army and the Air National Guard, many thanks to you for the outstanding support you have given us and for your calmness and coolness under fire. We're a little unique, in that we -- nobody knows where we fit in. This gentleman to my left really has a good grasp of it.

And to you and to Darcy, I'd like to give our best. I've known Ken a few years longer than some of you. He and I go to church together, been doing it about 20 years -- and just a great gentleman to know, on duty as well as off duty.

So, Ken, thanks, and God bless you.

Mr. Bacon: Thank you.

Gen. Davis: And may you always keep the wind at your back. Head winds can be a real terrible thing. (Laughter, applause.)

Mr. Wilson: Ken, as we begin to bring this ceremony to an end, we're going to --

Secretary Cohen: You'll have to get a budget increase after -- (off mike). (Laughter.)

Mr. Wilson: (Laughs.) Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Mr. Bacon: Thank you very much.

Mr. Wilson: We're going to end by bringing this to your home here in OSD Public Affairs, with a few people who have just a couple of final things to pass to you.

And I'd first like to introduce the director of the American Forces Information Service, Cliff Bernath.

Mr. Bernath: Well, Ken, it's never easy to say goodbye to somebody who you've worked with as closely as we've worked. I believe I was the first person to greet you at Public Affairs. If that's not true, this would be the wrong time to correct the record. (Laughter.) Ken can do that later. (Laughter.) But we have worked closely over the years, and it's been a distinct honor to do that.

You've heard, from all your other admirers, many of the traits that have made you extremely successful over your past six years, and I would like to add at this time that Ken is the longest-serving assistant secretary of Defense for Public Affairs in the history of the office, beating out Arthur Sylvester by about three months.

(?): Whew!

Mr. Bernath: The traits that have made you successful -- I'd like to add one more to that, and that is your concern for the internal audience. Now most of you know Ken as somebody who works with the media and works hard to keep the American people informed through the media, but there's a whole other audience we call our "internal audience," the men and women in the armed forces, who also have a mission that needs to be informed. And Ken has done that better than anybody who I've ever worked with, whether it's working with the Navy to kick off the direct-to-ship initiative, which now allows satellite service to the Navy while embarked; whether it's your support for the Defense Information School, keeping our reporters in front of the secretary of Defense as much as possible, making sure that we have room for that.

Secretaries of Defense like to say that the -- our armed forces are the best-equipped, the most ready, and the most trained -- best-trained armed forces in the world. I would like to say that because of Ken Bacon, they're also the best-informed troops in the whole world.

So today what I'd like to do is give you a historical gift, not Charlie Aldinger -- (laughter) -- and I'm sorry that everybody's picking on you, Charlie. And to do that, I'd like to just talk a little bit about the AFIS history.

AFIS began in 1942 as the American Forces Radio Service. And at that time its mission was to boost morale, it was to provide a touch of home, and it was to provide counterpropaganda to the likes of Tokyo Rose and Axis Sally. So from that, the American Forces Radio Service was launched.

They actually had an Armed Services Radio Orchestra, believe it or not, comprised of draftees from Hollywood who were the best musicians in the country at the time. They were drafted because of union problems and they couldn't perform unless they were in uniform. The Department of War took care of that. (Laughter.)

I actually have some pictures (I was about ?) to give, but this is what they looked like when they were performing. They also provided background information -- background music for the likes of Bob Hope and Jane Russell and other people who supported the war effort.

Their music was not recorded, but it was transcribed on 16-inch radio discs, which probably Ken is very familiar with, because I've never told him anything that he didn't already know. (Laughter.) And those radio discs looked like this. This is an actual 1942 -- the year that it came out -- record. It's still got some of the 1942 dust on it. We didn't want to take that off. (Scattered laughter.) Also, the Armed Forces Radio Service Orchestra -- very rare -- of their recordings, and we would like, on behalf of the men and women of the armed forces, of the American Force Information Service, for you to have this. (Applause.)

Mr. Wilson: I would like to ask the following directors to please come to the stage: The director of the Department of Programs and Community Relations, Celia Hoke, she's the acting deputy assistant secretary of Communications, along with Sue Walitsky; the head of DDI, Captain Tim Taylor; Ken, your senior military assistant, Colonel Vince Ogilvie; and Colonel Lane Van De Steeg, who heads our Plans Unit; and Pat Bursell, the head of our DM Administrative Unit.

If the four of you would come to the podium with your presentations, and we will make these to you.

Ms. Hoke: May I start?

Mr. Wilson: Yes.

Ms. Hoke: Oh.

Ken, as two secretaries of Defense and so many others have so well stated today, for just over six years you truly have been the master of this podium. I'd just like to add, on a lighter note, that you've also amused us and kept us wondering as you punctuated your many pronouncements with quite a lexicon -- with what bloviates and (inaudible) -- kept us wondering what was coming next. (Scattered laughter.)

But from the least and certainly to the greatest, as spokesman for two secretaries of Defense, and our fearless leader of the PA pack, you always made us proud. And as a parting memento, we have a framed SecDef flag with good wishes from all of us in Public Affairs. (Applause.)

And since all of us, particularly those in the Directorate for Programs in Community Relations know, Public Affairs is not just about media. Under your leadership we've conducted a number of opinion-leader and outreach programs that I think have been significant.

One of those was the 50th anniversary of Armed Forces Day, which you will recall last year. It included a number of special initiatives and outreach efforts, as well as a couple of special ceremonies here at the Pentagon, one of which was a postal service ceremony with the first state-issue, a cache envelope saluting the armed forces. And so, as a souvenir of that now-historic event during your tenure, we have a framed cache envelope from that ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Armed Forces Day. All good wishes. (Applause.)

Capt. Taylor: Okay, my turn. When you work in the press office, like we do, the one thing you learn immediately is the insatiable appetite that Ken Bacon has for facts. He always wants more facts. He can never get enough facts. (Laughter.)

So we have this symbolic box here to indicate all the facts that we have. And he often asks for insignificant quotes, which we have to provide, and even background information, and even occasionally something else that we don't even talk about too often. (Laughter.)

But today, after all these years, the box is empty. There are no more facts to have. I mean, we're completely out of facts. It's his last brief. I mean, I don't know what --

Mr. Whitman: Hey, Tim?

Capt. Taylor: Wait. What?

Mr. Whitman: Oh my goodness, there's one more.

Capt. Taylor: One more fact. Bryan could always be counted on to find another fact, to get that last answer. What could it possibly be?

Mr. Whitman: Sir, the last fact we have for you is that the whole DDI gang will miss you. Your wit, your wisdom, your friendship will always be cherished and remembered. And best wishes to both you and Darcy for all that you have done for us, and for the many ways in which you have enriched our lives and made this a fun and rewarding place to work. Thank you. (Applause.)

Capt. Taylor: And the one small -- the one small permanent contribution from our team, which we're unveiling today, is the official photograph that will appear outside the door of 2E800. This is the first one of these series to be in color; all the rest have been in black and white. And it will help all of us and all of our successors to remember you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Col. Olgilvie: Sir, these coins were presented to you by the leaders and commanders from units with great pride and gratitude for the work that you have done for them. The sum of all of their pride and gratitude is represented by Lane and myself standing here with this framed container of these coins saying thank you very much for your support, your assistance and your great mentorship. Sir, thank you very much. (Applause.)

Pat Bursell: Almost the best to last. Tomorrow, the events of the day become memories, and this book is our attempt to capture the moment and generate future smiles.

Mr. Bacon: Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Mr. Wilson: Ken, in the final presentation to you, it's very appropriate that that be made by two young men in uniform, because we're here because we're serving our men and women in uniform. And our young tour guides, led by Staff Sergeant Ruben Gonzales, the director of the Pentagon Tour Program, and Staff Sergeant Jake Johnson, the deputy director of the Tour Program, have something for you.

(?): You should walk up backwards. (Laughter, applause.)

SSgt Ruben Gonzales: Nothing amusing to say, but I just want to say a few words, and that is that your face is plastered all over the United States, all over the world, and people see you at this podium on a regular basis. They come to us and to the Pentagon, and what I think is your home -- he's gone now, so I can say that. (Laughter.) And we represent the men and women of the Department of Defense every day, not just the service that we belong to, but the Department of Defense, and all the uniforms that you have here today, we represent them on a daily basis and we're proud to do it. And we appreciate everything that you've done for the Department of Defense. And a small token of our appreciation, our national flag and, of course, your flag.

Mr. Wilson: And I think our last words, before we turn this to you, Ken, are to your wife, Darcy, and to your daughter, Katie. And I guess in presenting this to you, we'd like you just to take a look around the room and understand that what you've heard today are from an awful lot of people who hold your husband and father in great esteem. And he is, as was so eloquently put just a minute ago, known all over the world as the man with the bow tie. But he is also known by our men and women in uniform as a leader and as an ally. And he is known by his colleagues throughout the building as someone who can sit across the table from them and know and understand exactly what they're talking about, regardless of the topic. And he is known by all of us in Public Affairs as a friend and a mentor, as well as a terrific boss.

And we want to say to you, thank you for loaning him to us for six years because he is a great spokesman and a really good guy. (Applause.)

(Flowers are presented to Darcy and Katie Bacon.)

Darcy Bacon: I mean, I'm stunned. How am I going to deal with him after all this? (Laughter.)

I just want to thank all of the people who have been so incredibly polite and nice at all hours of the day and night, all days of the week. I mean, I -- people ask me all the time if I've minded. I can't imagine -- I always think how -- the fact that they're working, and I've been really grateful for all the considerations. It's been a lot of fun. Thank you. I'm proud of him too. (Applause.)

Mr. Wilson: There are refreshments down the hall.

But, Mr. Assistant Secretary, the final word is yours.

Mr. Bacon: I want to say again I'm very flattered and honored that you all took the time to come. I have been working -- my staff asked me months ago if they wanted to arrange a move, and I said no, I've got it figured out; if I just take one box or a couple of bags of stuff home every day, it will be all done by Friday the 19th. But you've just set me back -- (laughter) -- and I might have to reconsider! Plus, I might have to build a new house with more walls! (Laughter.) I know the Perrys have been through this, and they did get a new house! (Laughter.) But I'm not planning to, that's the problem!

Second, just let me say that I've always had this belief that I should look up to everybody and talk down to nobody. Given the meager experience I had when I took this job, it's been very easy to follow that rule. But everybody here in this room, and many people who aren't here, have made this possible, and I really do thank you for all your help.

And I guess I can reveal this now that you've had this huge tribute to bow ties, but in my new job, I hope to move from bow ties to no ties, and I'm very much looking forward to it. (Laughter.) Thank you very much. (Applause.)

(?): How soon do we get a transcript? (Laughter.)

Adm. Quigley: And the refreshments Doug referred to are over in the news desk right next door. Please join us.


Additional Links

Stay Connected