The White House Briefing Room

April 1, 1999


2:28 P.M. EST

                                THE WHITE HOUSE

                         Office of the Press Secretary
                              (Norfolk, Virginia)
For Immediate Release                             April 1, 1999     

                               PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                            ADMIRAL PAUL REASON AND	
                            LT. GENERAL THOMAS KECK
                               Norfolk Naval Base
                               Norfolk, Virginia

2:28 P.M. EST

	COLONEL CROWLEY:  If I could have your attention, please.  During the 
course of the President's stay here in Norfolk, following his arrival, he had a 
chance to interact for about 30, 45 minutes with a cross-section of military 
families from the Tidewater area, representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and 
Marine Corps.  Some of those families are deployed in the European theatre and 
participating in the operation in Kosovo.  I think one family, at least, came 
from -- whose military member is deployed to the Gulf region, as well.
	But I thought before we leave it would be a good opportunity for you to 
hear a little bit more about the meeting with the family.  And at the same time, 
following the meeting with the family, the President had a brief conversation 
with the crews in the ready room at Aviano Air Base before they were going out 
to launch an additional mission.

	Norfolk is a very important military center, where you have both the 
NATO Command here, the United States Unified Command and then the subcomponents 
for the Army, Navy and Air Force.  And we have two representatives here to give 
you a little bit of insight into the President's conversation with the families 
and with the crew at Aviano.

	So first, we'll have Admiral J. Paul Reason, who is Commander of the 
United States Atlantic Fleet; followed by Lt. 
General Tom Keck, who is the Vice Commander of the Air Force Air 
Combat Command.  And these folks are the force providers who are 
providing many of the forces that are participating in the 
operation in the European theater.

	  So we'll hear first from Admiral Reason and then from 
General Keck.

	  ADMIRAL REASON:  Thank you.  Well, good afternoon,  
ladies and gentlemen.  When the President arrived in Air Force 
One here at Naval Station Norfolk this morning, he went into a 
session with about 18 family members -- spouses and children of 
soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that are deployed from this 
region.  Some are in Europe, some are at sea in the Mediterranean 
or the Adriatic.  Some are as far away as the Persian Gulf.  But 
to a person, they were very focused in providing information 
about their own personal situations to the President.

	  He was exposed to how these families that were 
represented are coping with their service member's being deployed 
in an arena where every day the tension is heightened a little 
more than the day before.

	  Some of the exchange was very pointed; some of it was 
full of candor, perhaps, as a force provider, beyond the point 
that I would have expected.  There was one military wife who 
explained to the President -- and she was accompanied by her 
three children -- that even though her husband was in a very high 
pay grade, an E-6, he had lots of years of service -- that, in 
fact, she was drawing welfare.  And she explained exactly how 
that could happen and the fact that it is not uncommon; but that 
as a patriot, that really concerned her and bothered her and she 
felt that that was wrong.  And she made that crystal-clear to the 
President and to everyone that was gathered, so that there was no 

	  There were others who were there that talked about 
family separation.  There was one wife whose husband had just 
deployed only two days ago for six months, and she expressed the 
situation that she was left with her family to face.  And as just 
an aside, she was pregnant, and she was due to deliver before her 
spouse would return home.
	  So these were very graphic images and graphic 
explanations that the Commander in Chief was exposed to this 
morning.  Now, there was a lot more, but if you need more you can 
ask questions right after you hear a few words from General Tom 
	  GENERAL KECK:  I am Lt. General Keck, the Vice 
Commander of Air Combat Command up at Langley.  For those of you 
who are not familiar with ACC or Air Combat Command, we are the 
prepare and provide force -- the force provider for our service 
CINCs that are overseas.

	  We have a very large number of aircraft that are 
deployed right now, supporting, actually, two small-scale 
contingencies right now, in Kosovo as well as the one in 
Southwest Asia.		       		      We number over 
101,000.  We have changed our culture significantly as we've 
moved to the expeditionary Air Force -- that is a light, lean, 
lethal force that deploys on very short notice with great power.
	  Following the meeting with the families this morning -- 
and I have to say the Air Force and all the services -- soldiers, 
sailors, airmen, and Marine -- greatly appreciated the President 
spending time with the families.  We have a saying in the Air 
Force that we recruit the individual, but we actually retain the 
family.  And if a service member can deploy and know that his or 
her family is being taken care of back home in a safe 
environment, with a great network out there to take care of them, 
they can perform their task while deployed overseas much more 
efficiently and effectively, as they concentrate on their work.
	  Following the meeting with the spouses and the 
families, the President came upstairs.  We had patched into a 
ready room at Aviano one of the squadrons there, but they 
actually had members from three different squadrons there -- some 
F-16s, some air-to-ground F-16s, some HARM-targeting F-16s, and 
some A-10s.  We had maintainers in the room, communicators and 
intelligence supporters, the entire shooting match.
	  I have to tell you, morale was extremely high.  The 
individuals were getting ready to step.  The President's words 
were that he was extremely proud of them for what they're doing.  
He also told them that America is behind them and pulling for 
	  Again, it was fairly short, as a lot of the crew 
members had to go to their aircraft.  But I know -- I got to talk 
to them while we were waiting for the President to come up -- it 
was really important to them.  And again, morale was extremely 
	  I'll turn it back to Admiral Reason.
	  COLONEL CROWLEY:  They're here if you have any 
questions you want to ask about this or -- you don't get that 
much interaction with the military -- if you've got any kind of 
military questions that are on the fringes of the operations that 
are going on over -- the Admiral and the General would be willing 
to take those questions as well.

	  Q    When you said there were some pointed exchanges --
	  ADMIRAL REASON:  Not pointed, there were exchanges that 
were steeped in candor.  They were very frank.  They were honest, 
somewhat emotional sometimes.  But there was nothing 
	  Q    I mean, did any of it involve the current 
conditions in Kosovo?  Or was it mostly military life and --

	  ADMIRAL REASON:  It was the life of the individuals 
that were there conversing with the President.  You know, it was 
all focused on having the President, the Commander in Chief, 
understand and appreciate that also those who remain at home 
serve and serve diligently.  

	  And the President made the point to each of the spouses 
and the children, individually, how proud he was of the fact that 
they served, that they sacrifice, that they went through hardship 
in the name of supporting their spouses who are doing what they 
want to do.  They're volunteer, American patriots.  And so there 
was never a complaint that cast any doubt on the fact that they 
were doing what they wanted to do.  It's just that it's tough; 
it's hard; it's a very difficult lifestyle.

	  Q    Did any of the family members there express 
concern about the three captured Army soldiers and what their all 
concerns are about possible capture for their loved ones?

	  ADMIRAL REASON:  Yes, there was an expression that said 
when you're involved in conflict and the situation escalates, it 
reaches into every family.  It reaches into every home of those 
who are deployed in association with a conflict.  There was some 
expression that the nation needs to recognize for these people 
who are deployed in that arena that they really are involved in a 
	  And for them, it's very personal.  And the ships that 
their spouses are attached to fire weapons -- for them at home, 
it's very real, it's warfare.  And so they wanted to make sure 
that the President understood that very clear fact that, in their 
home, their husbands are off to war. 

	  Q    But they specifically mentioned this particular 
capture incident, and that they expressed that concern to the 
President about the capture?
	  ADMIRAL REASON:  They did.  They did very much.  And 
I'm sure that impacted the comments that he made in a larger 
forum here, how strongly the entire nation stands behind those on 
the front line.  It was very clear this morning.

	  Q    Was there any concern expressed by perhaps family 
members of Enterprise crew members about the possibility that the 
carrier is going to be coming back later than its currently 
scheduled return date, and what did the President --

	  ADMIRAL REASON:  There was not a specific concern about 
Enterprise coming back later.  However, there was the expression 
of concern that a given other ship might return late from 
deployment and, fortunately, I was there and as the 
commander-in-chief of this fleet, I assured that wife the ship 
would be back on time.

	  Q    Can you make that same promise for the other ships 
that are deployed right now, including the Enterprise?

	  ADMIRAL REASON:  I believe that I can, but we're 
professionals at this, and when situations change that cause us 
to extend schedules or change schedules, we do what the nation 
asks of us.

	  Q    -- the President referred to talking about 
financial hardships.  Was any of that in relation to this, or 
this was generally about military pay not being high enough?

	  ADMIRAL REASON:  It's one in the same.  Like I said, 
there were personal situations.  And those situations talked 
about, one, the level of pay, but the impact that that level of 
pay, which was universally predicted as low, not high, impacted 
their families -- especially the ability of a spouse to work.  
And a couple of wives expressed that they could improve their 
financial position if they could work, but to work generates a 
child care need which may offset the gain they might enjoy.  So 
it's a tug of war which was expressed by at least three spouses
-- of work, child care, spouse being deployed, so not at home to 
help in the rearing.

	  Q    Admiral, the President said America takes care of 
its own in his speech in relation to the three personnel who were 
taken.  Did he reassure the families in any way that everything 
that could be done, would be done to either rescue these service 
personnel or go after the people who did it?

	  ADMIRAL REASON:  That did not come up.
	  Q    You said they talked about this tug of war.  What 
was his response?  What was the President's response when people 
described, like this woman on welfare described her situation -- 
what was his response?

	  ADMIRAL REASON:  The President did not respond 
specifically to every bit of information that was provided to 
him.  He gave a general response after several people had 
informed him of their particular situations, that it was 
important to him that they understand that the nation appreciated 
their service and the service of their spouses.  He also 
expressed that it was very important to him that their quality of 
life be as high and be as full as could possibly be engendered.  

	  You know, there were many people in that room, sort of 
spectators along the back wall -- the Secretary of Defense, the 
Secretary of the Navy, Senator Robb, Congressmen Sisisky and 
Scott, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs -- they all heard this entire 
series of interchanges.  So he looked to the back of the room to 
sort of indicate that we can do things to make this better.  But 
he could not address and did not address specifics to the 
individuals of what would be done.

	  COLONEL CROWLEY:  Okay.  Thank you.  You will notice, 
for Admiral Reason this is a welcoming home to the White House 
Press Corps since he served as Military Aide to President Carter.  
So you see the presidential service badge here, so I know several 
of you have met him in a prior engagement. 

	  Very good.  Any other questions?  Thank you very much.

             END                      2:44 P.M. EST