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DoD News Briefing: Captain Mike Doubleday, USN, DASD (PA)

Presenters: Captain Mike Doubleday, USN, DASD (PA)
June 17, 1997 1:30 PM EDT

Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.

Let me just start by making sure that you all know that earlier today the State Department held a ceremony out at Andrews Air Force Base to commemorate the 500th humanitarian airlift mission to the new independent states of the former Soviet Union. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was scheduled to participate in the send-off ceremony. The senior DoD official was Dr. Ted Warner, who is the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Requirements. Under his office fall the peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance programs.

This State Department program which has delivered over $1.8 billion in privately donated, and Department of Defense, excess medicines, medical supplies, food and clothing since 1992 under the auspices of OPERATION PROVIDE HOPE is funded under the Freedom Support Act.

There was a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft which was involved in this current mission. It is scheduled to deliver approximately $7 million in privately donated medicines and medical supplies that will be distributed to people in the outlying regions of Uzbekistan. Ambassador Richard Morningstar who is the Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on U.S. Assistance to the Newly Independent States, is going to be accompanying this flight to Tashkent.

Additionally, there are some members of private, voluntary organizations responsible for acquiring and distributing the medicines, representatives of pharmaceutical manufacturers that donated products, and a 25-member military medical team also on board this flight. Some of you may have had reporters out there, but I just wanted to make sure you were aware of that.

With that, I'll be happy to try and answer some of your questions

Q: Can we ask you a little bit about Secretary Cohen's statement this morning in Bahrain about the latest Iranian military capability, an air-launched version of the anti-ship cruise missile? How much does this increase Iran's military capability in the Gulf?

A: This is another step in the program that Iran has underway to expand its military capabilities. What the Secretary said this morning was that certainly by words and by actions, Iran suggests that it wants to be able to intimidate neighbors and to interrupt commerce in the Gulf. The Secretary also made it clear that the United States was present in the region and has been for many, many years as part of our policy to make sure that this doesn't happen.

With regard to the overall program, I think you're aware that the Iranians have possessed cruise missiles for over a decade. Last year, I think they had used ground-launched cruise missiles during the Iran/Iraq War, and in fact one of the missiles struck a freighter during the war, and I think you recall that incident.

Last year the Iranians acquired their first ship-launched version which was a Chinese missile called the C-802, and with this latest test they have started working on another version which is called the C-801 which is a version which is fired from aircraft.

The tests that took place recently occurred on the 3rd of June, and then there was a second test on the 6th of June. Again, what this was, was an air-launched cruise missile. It was fired from F-4 aircraft.

We, of course, have the capability to track their cruise missiles and in fact to destroy cruise missiles in the region if they pose a threat to us, but these were tests.

Q: This gives them a new dimension of capability, though, does it not? And is it not a significant concern?

A: It certainly provides an additional arrow in the quiver, but at this point they're working in the test phase. As I understand it, the tests were conducted against barges which were reflector barges, which enhanced the signature of the target.

Q: Did this test violate any U.S. policy, any international law, any arms agreements? And the second part of the question, does the export of this technology, these missiles from China, violate any agreements, U.S. policy or sanctions or anything like that? Was there any violation by Iran in testing these missiles? And any violation by China in exporting them to Iran?

A: Let me first say that as Secretary Cohen pointed out today, the concern that he had and that the United States has with regard to Iran is that they have a track record of exporting terrorism, of at least sounding belligerent toward neighbors, of talking in terms of closing down the Strait of Hormuz, all of which does not certainly signal very peaceful motives on the part of the Iranians.

We also acknowledge that any country has the right to self defense, and as far as I know the acquisition of these missiles does not violate any international arms agreements.

Q: What is your assessment about why they have acquired them? And do you have any idea how many they've acquired?

A: At this point I just want to say once again that these were some tests that were done, the initial tests. I can't give you any idea of how many missiles they actually have.

With regard to what their overall motives are, I think that basically the Iranians are interested in developing a military that can counter any other military in the region; and as I say, they have made statements which certainly would give one the impression that they also may, at some point, wish to intimidate their neighbors. They also were embarked on the development of weapons of mass destruction, which is a concern that we've had for some time, and a concern which has been voiced by the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, and others in the Administration over many years.

Q: Doesn't this beg the question of sanctions against China?

A: As you know, we watch very closely the transfer of arms technology worldwide, and certainly we are concerned about the transfer of technology that is in violation of international arms agreements. My belief, however, in this particular case, is that this particular weapon does not, but it is of concern to us from a broader perspective simply because it shows an increase in the capability on the part of a country that does not have a track record that could be called peaceful.

Q: You said in this particular case, but what about the case cited in today's Washington Times which talks about Chinese missile technology of a different sort, a land-based short range ballistic missile capability?

A: As I said, we continue to watch these developments. We continue to watch very closely the transfer of this technology. But we are not in a position at this point to make any judgment about the extent of the transfer and any possible reaction that we may have with regard to the Chinese.

Q: Does the U.S. Government still believe that Iran is sponsoring terrorism at a fairly vigorous level, even though they now have had elections and a more moderate element has come into power.

A: I don't think at this point the moderate element that you're talking about has had the length of time to take effect with regard to policy. As far as I know, there has been no radical shift in certainly any actions they have taken with regard to terrorism, and to my knowledge they have not voiced any change with regard to terrorism.

What the Secretary has said with regard to Iran is that he was optimistic that the change in leadership would signal a change in their overall policy, but he is also skeptical.

Q: You said a minute ago that the United States has the ability to track these missiles and to destroy them if necessary. Is it fair to say that from this increased capability, if indeed that's what it is, we don't see it as any threat to American ships.

A: I just want to make it clear that we are watching this very carefully. We have forces in the region. The Secretary made it very clear in his press conference today that we intend to be there as long as we and our friends in the region feel it's necessary for U.S. military presence to be there. We maintain a very robust military presence in the region, and we will continue to watch developments on the Iranian front just like we do with the Iraqis.

Q: We don't regard this as any more of a threat than the Iranians already present to...

A: We regard this, as I mentioned before, as another arrow in their quiver. It is certainly something that we are going to be watching very carefully.

Q: With the anniversary of Khobar Towers almost upon us, does the U.S. Government have a clear picture of the culpability of Iran in that affair? There have been hints by Secretary Perry, by Secretary Cohen, by Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright. What is the state of thought on Khobar Towers and Iran?

A: The state of thought on Khobar Towers is that this is a matter that is still being investigated and that no final conclusions have been made.

Q: This morning at Senate hearings on economic espionage, the question of technology transfer to nations like China it was stated that there were DoD officials who had things to say on these matters and they were prevented from saying them to that committee in one form or another, and I wonder if you have any clarification. To your knowledge has there been any DoD policy to prevent people in the Department from speaking on these questions to congressional committees or...

A: No, as far as I know any time a congressional committee asks for someone to come up to testify, we provide people to go up and testify. I think you're also aware that we in the Department watch and are part of an inter-agency review of technology that is to be transferred to various countries overseas, but I am not aware of anybody who has been muzzled in connection with a hearing up there on the Hill.

Q: There were some reports that American-made technology, especially with guidance systems for missiles, has been transferred to China, and in return, those missiles are being shipped and sold to Iran and Pakistan or other countries. Is there any truth or evidence of American-made technology finding its way to Chinese missiles?

A: For guidance systems for missiles? Not that I'm aware of. I'd be willing to take the question and see if anybody has any further information, but I'm certainly not aware of anything like that.

Q: On the missile, is this missile a missile that only can be fitted with F-4 aircraft or other...

A: I can't say. The test was conducted using F-4 aircraft.

Q: Is there any information that they are using other aircraft to be fitted with this...

A: I don't know at this point.

Q: Are they American-made F-4s?

A: As far as I know, we're the only ones that ever made F-4s.

Q: Where was the test conducted?

A: I can't specify the exact location. I don't happen to know. It was in the Gulf region, though.

Q: How are the Iranians obtaining their spare parts and weapons for the F-4?

A: I don't know. We can see if we can take the question. They may have used a little reverse engineering.

Q: Do you have offhand in your briefing--in your notes there--the percentage of the world's oil supply passing through the Strait of Hormuz these days?

A: No, but I'm sure that we could get that for you. It's a significant portion. [Answer: 20 percent.]

Q: Is the Pentagon being updated on the potential extradition of this gentleman from Canada to the United States in terms of his possibly giving evidence in the Khobar Towers bombing?

A: That's an interesting way you have phrased that question. Let me just say that that matter is one for the Department of Justice, and I would refer you to the Department of Justice for comment on that case.

Q: Landmines. Secretary Cohen when he was Senator Cohen, supported the ban on anti-personnel landmines. Does Secretary Cohen still support a ban on anti-personnel landmines, and what is the DoD policy regarding the ban, the proposed ban?

A: As you know, the Department of Defense is working very closely with other government agencies and also with the international community to pursue a global anti-personnel landmine ban through the Conference on Disarmament. One of the top U.S. priorities in the 1997 Conference on Disarmament session is to establish an ad hoc committee with a negotiating mandate on anti-personnel landmines.

The President on January 17th decided to take two unilateral steps on this issue. One was a permanent ban on anti-personnel landmine export and transfer; and also a stockpile cap at the current inventory levels. I think you're also aware that the Department is embarked on a research and development program to find an effective alternative for anti-personnel landmines which hopefully will ultimately end in our reliance on anti-personnel landmines in certain military situations.

Q: What specifically is the problem with Senator Leahy's bill? What's the Pentagon's objection to his plan?

A: My understanding is that there is a push to essentially abandon the approach that the Administration is pursuing at this point with the Conference on Disarmament, and to go with what is called the Canadian proposal, the Ottawa process.

The problem with that is that the Conference on Disarmament actually involves a lot of the major producers of landmines, specifically Russia and China. We believe that by including Russia and China, who have made it very clear that they are not, at least in the case of the Russians, that they're not willing to participate in the Ottawa process but will participate in the Conference on Disarmament, and in the case of the Chinese who have not yet made any decision on the issue, that there is a greater chance of total success in ultimately banning landmines altogether.

Q: But the Pentagon does not support the Canadian proposal?

A: We don't find the two proposals exclusive. We believe, and the Administration believes, that you could actually pursue this thing on both tracks. As a result of that, we've had, the United States has had observers at the meetings that have gone on the Canadian track. But we do believe that the appropriate forum to solve this problem is through the Conference on Disarmament, which is a U.N. instrument, and which involves a much larger number of countries than does the Ottawa process at this point.

Q: If the goal is the ultimate total ban of landmines, why doesn't the United States or the Pentagon advocate a unilateral abandonment of landmines, or is it believed that there's some bargaining advantage to be gained from holding on to some landmines for some certain amount of time?

A: Well, I think you're aware that in the case of the Korean Peninsula we believe there is an important military reason for retaining landmines as part of the protection of South Korea.

Q: ...makes an exception for Korea. Korea aside.

A: We just believe that there needs to be an all-inclusive approach to this thing which can only be accomplished through the Conference on Disarmament.

Q: Does Secretary Cohen continue to support a ban on landmines as he did when he was in the Senate?

A: The Secretary is part of the Administration, and as far as I know, he supports the Administration's approach on this thing.

Q: Do you know when there will be a replacement's name for Dr. White and Dr. Kaminski?

A: No, I do not.

Q: Are we getting sooner?

A: Frankly, I have no prediction for you. Of course we won't make those announcements here. They're Presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed positions. My expectation is the announcement will be made once the President has decided on who his nominee will be for those positions.

Q: Do you have a substantive reaction to the proposal Congressman Barney Frank is floating on the decriminalization of consensual sex between military members?

A: Mark, I think we want to wait until that actually is reported out of committee and the legislative process before we make any comment on that.

Q: Neither version of the Defense Authorization Bill that came out of the House and Senate committees would permit a base closing round in 1999. How important to the Department is it to get that authorization this year? Could you go and have base closing in '99 if you didn't get authorization this year?

A: That's a good question. I think it's highly unlikely that we would be able to get to the point of BRAC rounds without action being taken on this authorization bill. I think, as you know, the Secretary feels very strongly that we need to find additional monies for our force modernization program, that we have excess infrastructure and we need to get rid of that.

I think you're aware that we have brought down the base infrastructure in the United States, that is domestic bases, by 21 percent while at the same time we brought down the force structure, that is personnel, by 36 percent. We think this is a mismatch that needs to be corrected. We need to get rid of this excess infrastructure simply because we can save something on the order of 1.4 billion in every BRAC round, and we need that money to ensure that we have the kind of modern, capable force that we project in the Quadrennial Defense Review for the year 2005 and beyond.

Q: If you don't get a BRAC in '99, will there then have to be further cuts in the modernization program? And can you tell us something about that?

A: First of all, I think everybody remembers when the Secretary talked about the Quadrennial Defense Review. It was clear that our calculations for the defense budget over the coming years is that the budget is not going to grow in size particularly in an era where you've got balanced budgets and you've got other budgetary constraints that are going to be at play.

We know what size force we need. We know that we are going to have to modernize in order to make sure that we have the kind of force that retains its competitive edge. The Secretary has said on many occasions, we're not looking for a fair fight, we're looking for an unfair fight. We want there to be no question that if it comes to the point of having to defend, we're going to be in a position to immediately and very quickly win in any battle. That is why he feels that this modernization program is very important.

If you don't have an increase in budget and if you have an idea of the force size that you're going to need in order to do all the military missions that you've specified in your strategy, there is not a lot of leeway on where money can come from. Right now we're looking at getting rid of the kinds of extraneous costs that we don't need to be paying for. We're looking for economies in the way we do business in the Department of Defense in order to find those additional dollars. Certainly closing these excess bases is one way to do this. It is an important way, and that's why we have proposed through the Quadrennial Defense Review to do two additional BRAC rounds.

Q: Is there any legal bar to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff being from the same service? Is there any requirement that they be from different services, or is that simply a custom?

A: No, there is actually a part of the law that specifies that the Chairman and the Vice Chairman will be from different services except, and there are two exceptions, as I recall. One is in times of war when the President can make an exception. The other occasion is during times of transition when there is a new Chairman or a new Vice Chairman.

Q: Meaning that that would be a temporary situation?

A: Certainly the latter situation would be a temporary one. The law foresees the occasion in a time of war when it might be necessary to have, for any number of reasons, both the Chairman and the Vice Chairman from the same service.

Q: Just to make sure we're clear on this. So, for instance, could Secretary Cohen, if he wanted to, nominate an Air Force general to be the next Chairman because General Ralston as the Vice will be leaving at some point in the future, or would it have to be a shorter term? You say in times of transition. Theoretically, you could say there's a year of transition because he has a year left on his term or something, so you could say well he's in his last year, it's a time of transition. Is that just a gray area or is it pretty clear?

A: I, frankly, think there is no impediment, given the schedule of events here, for the President to nominate a member of any service that he wants for the position of Chairman at this point.

Q: Is there any timeframe under which the Secretary needs to act in order to get the new Chairman confirmed?

A: No, in fact, as I recall General Shalikashvili, when he was nominated for the position, was nominated and confirmed in the same month. And it was the month of September. So it's very clear from everything that I've seen to this point that General Shalikashvili intends to retire at the end of September, so that is the date that is out there that I think people are keying on.

Press: Thank you.