News

[EXCERPTS] DoD News Briefing

Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD(PA) Tuesday, April 29, 1997 - 3 p.m

Q: On Friday there was an incident in downtown Washington
involving what was originally thought to be a biological agent,
and it was responded to by the FBI and by the District
government. The District government is one of... The only city
governments, municipal governments, at this point that has
received some training from the Pentagon in how to respond to
that. I understand there's a special health unit in Washington that
as been trained to spring into action on these situations. Can you
tell us what sort of role you have played in that situation and
what other assistance the military offered on Friday? 

A: What kind of role the District of Columbia special health unit
played in that situation? That's what you want to know? 

Q: Right. 

A: Let me deconstruct your lengthy question, if I can use an
academic term. The Defense Department did give some limited
training to a unit of the D.C. Government called the
Metropolitan Medical Strike Team. We did that training prior to
the inauguration in January of 1997. 

In addition, as you know we have a new program that's being
put into effect under a piece of legislation called
Nunn/Lugar/Domenici, which is a domestic preparedness law to
help... It calls for the federal government to train state and local
governments in ways to deal with weapons of mass destruction. 

There will be assessments done of the WMD response
capabilities of 27 cities this year, and Washington, D.C. is
among those cities, but I don't think the assessment has taken
place yet. I think it takes place maybe next week, the end of this
week or next week for Washington, D.C. 

To refer specifically to the medical strike team in the District of
Columbia, that's part of a broader, hazardous material team, I
gather. In the District of Columbia. That was the team that was
called out by District authorities in the course of this threat last
week. 

Q: Was the special health team called out? 

A: It's not my impression that it was, but the FBI ran this
operation. We didn't run the operation. It was the FBI that was
in charge. 

Now the FBI issued a press release on April 24th in which it
said that the District's hazardous materials team performed
superbly. The "it" referred to the broader hazardous materials
team, which is sort of the father of the medical strike team, in the
District. 

Q: ...or any other military unit specializing in biological or
chemical hazards to assist the FBI on Friday? Was it made by
telephone? 

A: The only assistance I'm aware we gave was that the material
was taken to the Naval Medical Research Institute where it was
evaluated and found not to be a biological agent. 

Q: Since the military is working on this preparedness program
with cities, is the military at all involved in assessing how the
district performed in this situation? 

A: As I said, this was an FBI operation. The FBI ran it. We
provided the help the FBI asked us to provide -- no more, no
less. The FBI actually complimented us on the help we provided
through the Naval Medical Research Institute. I think they're the
people to comment on what happened in the District and what
sort of people rallied around to help resolve that potential
problem.