News



[EXCERPTS] DoD News Briefing
Tuesday, April 28, 1998 - 1:50 p.m.
Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA

....................


Q: Mr. Butler has said that there's been no progress over the last six
months in verifying that Iraq has destroyed the weapons of mass
destruction Mr. Cohen had talked about on Sunday, the 50 SCUD
missiles, 25 armed with biological agents, four tons of nerve gas.
What kind of time table is the United States recommending? Is there a
deadline now that the United States is recommending to the UN as far
as Saddam, get your weapons out, show us where you destroyed them,
where they're buried or whatever?


A: That's a good question. This is, of course, Saddam Hussein's
birthday today. If anybody were to ask me what advice I would give him
on his birthday, I would advise him to give the Iraqi people the
present of peace and prosperity by honoring the UN mandates and by
meeting the terms that the UN has set to get rid of his weapons of
mass destruction, to end his capacity to build them, and to meet all
the other terms such as full accounting for Kuwaiti POWs and MIAs,
return of equipment, etc. Because it's only after he does these that
the sanctions will be able to be lifted, and the people of Iraq will
be able to return to some semblance of prosperity. It's only after he
does this that his neighbors in the Middle East will be certain that
he has relinquished the aggressive energies that he's deployed against
Iran and against Kuwait in the past. And against Saudi Arabia as well,
and Israel.


So it is, I think, important for the Iraqi people and for Saddam to
honor these mandates, to comply with them as soon as possible so that
Iraq can turn to better times.


There is no deadline right now. I think that it's been very clear to
Saddam Hussein since 1991, when these mandates were adopted by the UN
Security Council, that he should comply, and that's why the sanctions
have remained in place. That's why they're in place today and that's
why they'll be in place tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, until he
complies with them.


The next review of the sanctions is, as I understand it, set for
October, so the sanctions will be in place until October and the UN
Security Council will then again look at his degree of compliance.


In this particular case that's received so much attention around the
world, weapons of mass destruction, as Ambassador Butler said today,
as his report said last week, he has not made progress. He, Saddam
Hussein, the Iraqi government, has not made progress toward compliance
with this mandate.


I can run through again, as I have many times, some of the figures
here, but he has yet to prove, for instance, that he has destroyed, as
he said, the 25 SCUD warheads he claims to have filled with biological
weapons, for instance. There are many other failures to comply that I
can enumerate.


Q:  But the pressure will continue to be on sanctions...



A:  Yes.



Q: And the continued presence of higher levels of U.S. forces in the
Persian Gulf region, is that putting a strain on the U.S. military?


A: The U.S. military, particularly the Navy, is used to deploying and
fighting and patrolling from a forward presence. We usually have from
20,000 to 25,000 people in the Gulf, depending on the number of
carriers there and other ships. Now we're up to around 36,000, 37,000,
so there has been an addition over the last several months. It's not a
huge addition out of a force of 1.4 million people. Seven thousand of
those people are in the Army. So this is something that we can work
with and have worked with and could continue to work with if we have
to.


Q: But it's not something that you are comfortable with from a fiscal
point of view and from an operational tempo point of view...


A: We've asked Congress for more money because it is more costly to
have larger deployments in the Gulf. A large part of the cost is
getting them over there and getting them back, so the supplemental
does request more money to pay for the increased mission in the Gulf.


Obviously it does create some operational tempo problems, particularly
for the Air Force, which has larger deployments than normal over there
now. It also will, in time, could create some operational tempo
problems for the Navy -- more in terms of force deployment, I think,
than anything else. There hasn't been a carrier in the Mediterranean
for awhile because we've had two carriers in the Gulf. So we've also
had to deploy some extra air assets into the Pacific because the
INDEPENDENCE, which is usually in the Pacific, has been in the Gulf
for the last couple of months. But these are what military planners
are paid to do -- make these decisions and make these deployments, and
they've done it, and they've done it very well and very smoothly.


Q: The Navy has said for awhile that they really need 15 aircraft
carriers instead of 12. Doesn't this kind of make that case that the
United States is short a few aircraft carriers?


A:  Would one of them be named the ADMIRAL KENDALL PEASE?



I think that the aircraft carriers we have now are performing well and
are deployed all around the world as necessary. Whether or not we need
more carriers is a decision that the Navy and the Secretary of Defense
and Congress would ultimately have to make.


Q: The Navy has two deployed aircraft carriers in the whole world, and
they're both sitting in the Persian Gulf. Other ones are in workup,
but there's only two that are actually in deployment.


A: I think the EISENHOWER is deployed right now in an exercise. Didn't
it leave Norfolk over the weekend for an exercise?


Q: On an exercise, then it's going back to Norfolk. It's not what they
call deployed.


Q: Speaking of carriers, are you going to pull the INDY out of the
Gulf on schedule at the middle of May? Are you going to leave it there
awhile longer? Are you going to deploy the IKE from Norfolk more
quickly?


A: All those questions will be answered after the President decides on
what level of forces should remain in the Gulf. He hasn't made that
decision yet. I anticipate he'll be making it in the next couple of
weeks, but that's something for him to decide.


Q: Just to clarify, so when we heard that a decision had been made to
maintain the level of forces, that was not the final review?


A: I think the right way to describe it is no decision has been made
to change the level of forces.


Q: Has the Secretary recommended a change, or has General Zinni
recommended a change?


A: I think their recommendations should remain private until the
decision is actually made. They are recommendations to the President,
and it's ultimately the President's decision.


Q: How long of a period is the President considering? This decision
that he's got to make in the next week or two is for how long of a
period?


A: First of all, we've asked for funding to maintain two carriers in
the Gulf until the end of the current fiscal year, which is September
30th. The President will have to decide whether two carriers is the
proper level or whether we should move down to a lower level.
Remember, before this began our level of deployment was... We had one
carrier there 75 percent of the time -- 270 days out of the year we
had a carrier there; 180 days out of the year we had an amphibious
ready group, a Marine expeditionary unit in the Gulf.


The President will make a decision, and I suppose that whatever he
decides will be subject to change when and if conditions change.
That's been our history in the Gulf. When there was a need to deploy
more assets, more planes, more soldiers, more ships, we did it.


Q:  ...even be considering this right now?



A: Well remember, when this buildup took place, when it began, two
things were happening. The first was that Iraq was threatening to
shoot down planes patrolling as part of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. It
was also publicly threatening to shoot down U-2s that were flying in
support of the UN mission. He had thrown inspectors out of Iraq, and
was threatening to violate, to continue to violate UN mandates.


Since then, since February, he has worked out an arrangement with the
Secretary General of the UN to allow inspectors back in to certain
sensitive sites. Those inspectors have gone in and done their
inspections. Mr. Butler said that they have to be able to inspect
more, and in different sites, and we hope they'll be able to do that.


He had stopped threatening publicly to shoot down American and allied
planes around the end of October, early November, when we deployed the
George Washington into the Gulf, so the language is less bellicose,
less threatening, and his actions have been more receptive to UN
Special Commission inspectors. Those are two things that have changed.


In addition, the UN has decided to leave the sanctions in place until
October when they'll be reviewed again, and no one expects the
sanctions will be lifted in October unless Saddam Hussein dramatically
changes his policy and is more forthcoming with the inspectors and
more aggressive about destroying his weapons of mass destruction. But
right now, I think the conditions are somewhat less threatening than
they were several months ago when the forces were built up.


Q: Can you tell us why it takes another week or two to make the
decision? Has the President asked for more information or some other
input or... It seems like the facts are out there. He either decides
to do it or...


A: I don't think this is an unreasonable amount of time. The UN
Security Council just reviewed the UNSCOM report yesterday. It voted
on the sanctions or decided to leave the sanctions in place yesterday.
I don't think this is an unreasonable amount of time at all.


This is a complex decision. It affects potentially thousands of
people. It also will be interpreted, rightly or wrongly, as sending
some sort of a message about how we see the situation in the Gulf. So
I think it's fully appropriate that the Secretary take his time to
review this and that the President take his time to review it and make
sure he has all the facts.


Q: Is a presidential matter and a decision on the force structure
focusing primarily on the two carrier option, or will he also be
looking at the number of aircraft?


A: I think he'll look across the board at aircraft, ships and soldiers
in the Gulf. As you know, we have some extra bombers there, some extra
fighters. The F-117s, for instance. There's an air expeditionary force
in Bahrain.


Q: Is it more likely that... Will this decision entail whether or not
to go down to one carrier, or possibly to having one carrier in for a
brief period of time then going back up to two when the EISENHOWER is
scheduled to...


A: I think whatever decision the President makes in the next couple of
weeks when he reviews this will be subject to change if conditions
change. We would like conditions in the Gulf to remain peaceful. We
would like Saddam Hussein to cease from threatening his neighbors or
threatening military forces in the area that are carrying out UN
mandates. But if he refuses to remain peaceful and placid, then we
will have to build up our forces again if the circumstances call for
that, and I'm confident that we will.


One of the things we've proven over the years since DESERT STORM was
that we can surge forces into the Gulf very quickly, and we have built
up our infrastructure in the Gulf quite dramatically with
prepositioned equipment and continuing operations throughout the Gulf
so that we can accommodate a large surge in forces. We've shown that
time after time, and no one should doubt our resolve to do it again if
we have to. We could surge our forces beyond where they are now.

.............


(end transcript)