Pentagon Spokesman's Regular Briefing
DoD News Briefing
Tuesday, November 14, 2000 1:30 p.m. EST
Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
Q: Could you talk to us a little bit about what we read today in the
Washington Post with regard to the rules of engagement and the orders
that were given to the crew of the Cole on deck? Are you able to
confirm that those sailors were correct in their characterization of
their crew direction?
Bacon: I have nothing to say about that story. As you know, we have a
number of inquiries underway right now; one by the Navy, another by
General Crouch and Admiral Gehman, another by the secretary of the
Navy, looking specifically at measures that could be taken to improve
All of these inquiries are ongoing. The idea is to produce a holistic
picture of what happened from start to finish, and I just don't want
to speculate on various slices of these inquiries until they're
Q: Will those sailors - are they in any trouble for talking and going
on the record about it?
Bacon: It's a free country. People can talk to the press, but what we
want is a complete picture of what happened.
Q: Can you just say, without, maybe, referring to the Cole
specifically, but just generally speaking, what would the procedure be
in terms of whether sentries on a ship would have ammunition in their
guns or at the ready, if they are operating under Threat Condition
Bravo, as was the case with the Cole? Can you just speak generally
Bacon: That's a very penetrating question, which I am going to
deflect. There is no question of that type that doesn't bear directly
on the inquiry, the inquiries that are currently underway. And I think
we should respect the process. We all want the most complete
explanation of what happened and why and the way to get that is to
allow the inquiries to reach their conclusion.
Q: Let me try one more stab at it. Who determines the rules of
engagement? Is it, in fact, the captain, or the CINC?
Bacon: That's a more complex question. Basically, the activities that
-- the actions that should be taken are laid out generally in military
instructions that conform with the various threat warnings or threat
conditions, and then every commander files an individual force
protection plan for various events, and those force protection plans
will lay out specific actions that are supposed to be taken. So --
Q: And they're approved by the CINC?
Bacon: They are approved by the CINC or his representative.
Q: But you can't even say whether or not it would be unusual for
sailors who are assigned sentry duty on a ship to be issued their
ammunition but not load their weapons, or is that - can you just say
whether that is normal --
Bacon: There is nothing I can say about this that won't have some sort
of impact, real or imagined, on the investigations.
I have a clear goal, which is to say nothing that would cast any light
on the inquiries that are ongoing. And that means not answering these
Q: Try casting light on what peacetime rules of engagement, wherever
in the world, allow a serviceman with any service to do if he feels
Bacon: Nothing I can say about this will avoid the possibility of
misinterpretation or over-interpretation, and I'm just not going to
create that risk. So I'm not going to talk about this story. I'm not
going to talk about - all these are wonderful questions, but this
isn't the time to answer them.
Q: Let me try one - a slightly different tack. Other than the
guidance on the threat conditions, do commanders in the field get any
other guidance from the CINC when they're setting the rules of
engagement, or do they simply look at that general guidance I think
we've probably all seen - draw up rules of engagement, send them up,
get them approved or disapproved - or is there some further guidance
that the CINC provides?
Bacon: It depends a lot on the situations. It depends a lot on what
the intelligence is. I don't think that - there is a certain amount
of flexibility here, and - I mean, there are rules, but there are
ways to interpret the rules. And this particular procedure is designed
to provide them most appropriate force protection plan for the
circumstances into which the ship is going. And I don't want to say
anything more beyond that.
Q: Generally speaking, though, aren't U.S. troops allowed to defend
themselves if they feel threatened? I mean, isn't that a sort of basic
rule of engagement, whether troops - wherever they're deployed, in
Kosovo or Bosnia or anywhere? I mean, if a U.S. military personnel
deployed in an operation believes that they're threatened or their
life is in danger, aren't they authorized to defend themselves? Isn't
that sort of one of the - isn't it rule one?
Bacon: Well, of course I'm not responding in any way to the article in
the Washington Post this morning, but you've heard General Joulwan and
General Clark and many other people from this podium speak about
robust rules of engagement designed to protect American soldiers in
And the whole point of rules of engagement is to allow military people
to protect themselves. But the rules of engagement have to fit the
circumstances at hand.
Q: You've been the guy who's been away, not me. When the Cole
explosion was first described here, it was said that the little boats
were helping it moor. And that story went on for two days until Navy
Times did a time line and then pointed out that the mooring exercise
was all over. My confusion is that, if anything, these modern ships
have instant communications. I mean, they can talk to you as quickly
as you can talk across the river to the Wall Street Journal. Was there
any attempt, or any conviction in this building that perhaps they were
trying to gild the lily a bit, and not come forth with the fact that
the mooring was all over and therefore it was less confusing than
portrayed by Secretary Cohen two days in a row?
Q: I mean, why the confusion? Why were they saying for two straight
days that this boat was participating in the mooring exercise?
Bacon: First of all, I believe, actually, it was longer than that that
the - I believe it was longer until the story was corrected. And I
think Admiral Clark explained it very clearly. He said that it just
was not on anybody's mind. They were concentrating on the ship, on
saving the ship and taking care of the wounded, recovering the dead.
This is what they were concentrating on. It wasn't until, actually,
until Navy Times, based on an e-mail, filed an inquiry to the Chief of
Naval Information that the Navy began to look into the time line and
found that the initial report had been incorrect, and as soon as they
found that out, they corrected it. Admiral Clark did that himself, and
that happened within, as I said, I think it happened a week after the
Q: And the other question was, how much did the Cole have to pay the
Egyptian Canal Authority to transit the Suez Canal?
Bacon: We have all that information. You can get it from DDI. I just
don't have the figure in my head.
Q: Could you get that?
Q: At one time, it was a million dollars.
Bacon: No, no. It's not that at all. I think a carrier pays far less
than that. It's based on weight and, obviously, a destroyer would pay
much less than a carrier. So it's not - I don't believe it's a
million dollars for a carrier. It's less than half that. [Costs to
transit the Suez Canal are based on tonnage. A carrier typically costs
around $440,000. Costs for other ships typically range from $10,000 to
Q: Thank you.