Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.
I just want to welcome the visitors from the Defense Information School up at Fort Meade. There are 42 in the audience today.
We also have eight editorial interns from the Washington Times who are visiting today.
I have no announcements other than the fact that in about 13 minutes, my boss, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor are all going to be involved in a press conference over in Madrid, which I believe that at least one of the networks is going to carry live. So if anybody is interested in seeing that, we'll watch the time.
Q: Why would we want them when we have you?
A: I asked that. (Laughter)
Q: Can you bring us up to speed on the selection for the new Chairman for the Joint Chiefs, where we sit, any kind of timing? Is there a short list? Anything you can tell us at all?
A: Actually, I can tell you almost nothing on the subject except that the Secretary has told reporters that he will be focusing on this issue when he returns to Washington -- although they get back late Monday, he'll not be in the building until Tuesday sometime. would anticipate that sometime after that there may be developments.
Q: Has anybody been ruled out or ruled in on the short lists or we don't know?
A: At this point I don't think I can add anything meaningful to the discussion.
Q: Can you say if the Secretary has made an effort to interview people or if he has had meals with folks, face-to-face discussions at all? Any kind of description of how his process has been going forward?
A: The one thing I could say on that is that the Secretary, in his role, has an excellent opportunity on many occasions to meet with senior uniformed military personnel, so that the evaluation process can go on in many different venues and no doubt, does. With regard to specific meetings, I don't have any details on that, although the Secretary has talked to a number of people over the last few weeks on this subject.
Q: Did he ask them the "A" question, the adultery question, or does he just ask them is there anything in your background that could cause us an embarrassment in the future?
A: I can't answer that question. I think the Secretary has talked to news media representatives in the past, and has discussed the issue, although not that specific question. We'll see if we can't find a transcript for you that might enlighten you on that one.
Q: Do you have any information on troop movements or precautionary preparations for possible evacuation of the embassy in Cambodia?
A: First of all, I'll be glad to give you a rundown on what I know on that subject, but I want to point out that as you might imagine, people over at the State Department and in the embassy in Phnom Penh are focused very much on the safety of American citizens who are in Cambodia. This is, of course, a constant process of assessing what the situation is.
At this point, the ambassador has not made a decision regarding any kind of assistance from the U.S. military. Having said that, however, I can tell you that the military, always anxious to be prepared for any eventuality, has taken some steps. At this point the most obvious of those has to do with three ships of the U.S. 7th Fleet that are forward deployed and operate out of Sasebo. They are the ships of the Belleau Wood Amphibious Ready Group. Those ships were previously scheduled to participate in an exercise along with the embarked Marines, and plans to have the exercise are going to continue, but the ships will be in a position to move down into the South China Sea on very short notice once the Marines are embarked, so that they could be responsive in the event some decision is made that there is assistance required.
The three ships of that Amphibious Ready Group are the USS Belleau Wood, which is an LHA, the USS Fort McHenry, and the USS Dubuque. Right now the only one of those ships that is underway is Dubuque. The others are still alongside the pier at Sasebo; but my expectation is that sometime later today, which will be Wednesday in Japan, the ships will actually get underway and head toward Okinawa to embark the Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. The numbers there are just over 2,000 Marines.
Again, I want to stress that number one, the State Department and the embassy in Phnom Penh have the lead in any kind of request for military assistance. No request has been made, no decision has been made. At present, the plan is for the ships to continue on with the exercise that they previously had planned to conduct, which is in the vicinity of Okinawa.
Q: Two thousand Marines across the three ships total?
A: Yes, that's right.
Q: How soon could they get to Cambodia...
A: It would probably take four days or so to get there.
Q: From the exercise site?
A: From the exercise site.
Q: Is that just a U.S. exercise?
A: Yes, it's U.S. Right.
Q: Secretary of Defense Cohen traveling with reporters to the NATO Summit in Madrid indicated that the United States was not ruling out the use of troops for possible capture of war crime suspects. He said he wasn't ruling anything in, wasn't ruling anything out. I'm wondering if you could provide us any clarification about whether he was referring to troops of the NATO stabilization force, or whether he was referring to other troops that aren't part of the NATO force?
A: I think, at this point, we can provide you the transcript of what the Secretary actually said. To me, the real thrust of what he told reporters en route to Madrid was the fact that the Administration has taken a position that we should do whatever we can to strengthen the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. He went on to say that while he would rule nothing in or out, publicly he had nothing more to say on the subject. As I say, we can provide you a transcript on that one if you want to see exactly the context in which he was speaking.
Q: But he did indicate that at least this is not an option that's been foreclosed to use some sort of military force to capture war crime suspects such as Radovan Karadzic. Or am I misreading what he said?
A: I think you're misreading what he said. I think he did not get into any aspect of that.
Q: We had a story today about the Russians earlier this year...
A: Is everybody finished with that? We can give you a transcript of this thing today if people are interested in seeing the context.
Q: We reported that the Russians earlier this year practiced an exercise which simulated an invasion by NATO in Lithuania, and Polish forces and a nuclear counterattack. Is this something that's a concern to the Pentagon?
A: I think that you're aware, first of all, we're not going to comment on information from intelligence sources. I can tell you, though, that some of the reporting that was in your paper this morning regarding the Russians was accurate in that we are very much focused on engaging the Russians in the whole process of NATO. We, through many visits over there, through our contacts with the Russians, we certainly are aware of the fact that there are some Russians, probably many Russians, who view NATO as a potential hostile alliance. So we have taken many steps to overcome that perception.
We have developed the Founding Act, which NATO and the Russians have signed, and we anticipate that this is going to go a long way to alleviate and correct those perceptions. I think you're also aware that since the U.S. was involved in operations in Bosnia, the Russians have also been operating in the U.S. sector, and we have developed a very close working relationship with U.S. troops. Deputy Secretary John White visited that unit in Bosnia recently, and made a point of not only spending time with U.S. forces but also with the Russian forces there. His trip started at SHAPE Headquarters where there is currently a Colonel General Shevstov posted for the very purpose of working out many of the command and control arrangements with that unit in Bosnia. So we really expect that the evolving partnership between NATO and the Russians and between the U.S. and the Russians will continue to grow, and will continue to correct the misperception that NATO is an alliance that has any kind of negative impact on the Russians.
Q: A senior official last week told reporters here that the Russians had declined to participate in Partnership for Peace activities for this entire year. Officials said it was due to financial constraints, or is it possibly a sign of Russian displeasure at NATO expansion?
A: I think that everybody is aware that they, the Russians, have severe economic constraints on their military operations. They have certainly told us that the reason they are unable to participate in a lot of the Partnership for Peace exercises is because of their financial constraints. I think you may be reading more into it. Whether there is an element of that or not, I cannot say.
Q: When you say that some of the reporting was accurate in that piece, are you talking about the background that you just went through of the evolving Russian relationship? Or are you...
A: Say that one more time.
Q: You said that some of the reporting in the Times article was accurate. Are you talking about the evolving Russian...
A: As I recall the piece...
Q: ...or the exercise.
A: As I recall the piece it talked extensively about the fact that there was a perception amongst some Russians that NATO was a concern, and we certainly are aware of that.
Q: What about the...
Q: You're not confirming...
A: I'm not talking about the exercise itself. The only thing I would say about the exercise is that NATO is a defensive alliance, and any perception that NATO is going to be aggressive against another country is absurd.
Q: On the A-10, can you update us at all on what Air Force or military investigators think actually happened? Why Captain Craig Button veered his plane?
A: The Air Force has a number of investigations. They have not only the search of the accident site, but they have some investigations that are still underway. I don't believe any of those have been completed. We certainly have not seen any of them at OSD, Public Affairs. So you might want to check with the Air Force, but I have no insight into what conclusions they are moving toward with regard to their studies on that accident.
Q: So DoD hasn't been kept informed then on issues of whether theories are substantiated? There was so much speculation three months ago I've got to think there's some movement on that, either things have been ruled out or...
A: I certainly am not aware of any kind of conclusions that they've reached on it. Again, you might want to check with the Air Force to see if there's anything, but I am not aware of any results yet.
Q: Will the DoD weigh in with the Secretary of the Army at all in his decision whether or not to bring back -- to recall to active duty -- Sergeant Major Brenda Hoster who accused McKinney of sexual misconduct? Or will that strictly be an Army decision without any DoD advice or involvement?
A: The matter of disciplinary action and proceedings under the UCMJ is normally left at least in the initial stages to the individual services, and only if there is a requirement for OSD, or Secretary level involvement, do we get involved in those things.
Q: Last night ABC had a report on about attempts to smuggle U.S. weapons technology to China. In that report they referred to a case in which there was an attempt to sell F-117 parts to China. Are you aware of this incident? Did it happen? What's the value of F-117 parts? What can you... How valuable is that technology?
A: First of all, I'm not aware of any kind of incident like this. I do know there have been reports in the past on the demilitarization of U.S. [and] DoD equipment. In fact today there was testimony given on the Hill on the subject by Captain Randall Bayles, who is the Associate Executive Director for Material Management at the Defense Logistics Agency. He kind of outlines our program with regard to how we handle the disposal of military property, but with regard to the specific incident that you refer, I don't have any detail on that at all.
Press: Thank you.