News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, November 30, 1999 - 1:30 p.m. EST
Presenter: Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, DASD PA

Admiral Quigley: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have just a couple of announcements for you this afternoon and I'll take your questions.

Today Secretary Cohen attended a Southeast European Defense Ministerial Plenary Meeting in Bucharest, Romania. He met there with Romanian President Emil Constantinescu, Minister of Defense Victor Babiuc, and Prime Minister Radu Vasile. Subsequently, he departed for Germany, where tomorrow he is scheduled to address the Bundeswehr at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time. After his address, he will travel to Garmisch, Germany, where he will address students at the Marshall Center. And German Minister of Defense Rudolf Scharping will accompany Secretary Cohen and will also make remarks.

The second thing I want to talk about this afternoon is Vieques. I'm going to lead with that, understanding that that is an element of many of your questions. I want to tell you about a couple of things that have happened and will happen in the next couple of days.

Elements of the USS Eisenhower Battle Group and the USS Wasp Amphibious ready group began getting underway yesterday for a Joint Task Force Exercise -- we call it JTFEX -- in preparation for an upcoming deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Gulf. The remainder of the two groups will get underway day after tomorrow, December 2nd. Upon getting underway, the carrier will conduct routine carrier qualifications for its carrier airwing and then will join the remaining ships in the battle group for the remainder of the Joint Task Force Exercise. The ships will conduct the majority of the exercise in the Atlantic Ocean off the southeastern coast of the United States. Some units may utilize portions of the Puerto Rican operating area, depending upon the outcome of current discussions.

The Joint Task Force Exercise is considered the battle group's final preparation for deployment. It is advanced training, required before the battle group can serve forward deployed in regions of potential conflict overseas. The exercise tests the battle group's ability to work complex war-fighting scenarios with other units in the battle group, and includes an amphibious assault ashore for the Amphibious ready group and Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The type of war-fighting scenarios that will be tested during the JTFEX, but not involving Vieques or live fire, are as follows: undersea warfare, carrier qualifications, air-to-air combat, coordinated targeting, and Tomahawk engagement planning.

Now, I have the names of the ships and the submarines both in the carrier battle group and in the amphibious ready group. I won't go through them here unless someone wants those. We'll have those in DDI subsequent to the briefing this afternoon, but we do have a complete list of those units for you.

So with that, I'll take your questions.

Q: Admiral --

Admiral Quigley: Martha?

Q: Oops. Sorry. Go ahead.

Admiral Quigley: I didn't see your hand, I'm sorry, Bob. Go ahead.

Q: It's all right. It's all right. So there's no live-fire exercises? And what does this mean for Vieques, I mean the whole - I don't understand the context of this.

Admiral Quigley: All parties here are working very hard towards a resolution of this issue. I don't have anything to announce for you today, but I will tell you that the president, as you know, has been very engaged in this, the governor of Puerto Rico of course, Secretary Cohen, the national security adviser. On a daily basis Secretary Cohen has been in contact with the president, with the national security adviser, and all parties are working very hard to a resolution of this as quickly as they can.

Q: But the battle group is going to begin its deployment without this live-fire exercising which --

Admiral Quigley: No, I didn't say that. This JFTEX that I just described here involves a variety of training. Those elements that I listed specifically have nothing to do with Vieques, and yet those are all critical warfare mission areas that any battle group, an amphibious ready group, needs to be qualified on. So there is much training that needs to be done and will be done off the Southeastern coast of the United States and in the waters at sea, involving those training areas. And then we remain working hard toward resolution of the issue here in the days ahead, and we're working as hard as we can with everybody pulling towards the same goal here to get to a resolution that is agreeable to all parties.

Q: So does that mean --

Admiral Quigley: Martha, go ahead.

Q: A resolution is one thing, and it doesn't look good for any live-fire practice in Vieques. So what will you do if you don't get that? I know you don't like to talk hypothetical, but it seems that that's something you have to do. You've said it in the past, you have to have these live-fire exercises and these are --

Admiral Quigley: I'm not going to break down the ongoing discussions into their component parts for you. I don't think that's helpful. I think it's counterproductive. I will tell you that those discussions are ongoing and have been for some time, as you all know. Folks are working very hard to resolve this as quickly as they can. And we will announce the results of that as soon as we have something definitive.

Q: In all the people you mentioned who are involved in these discussions, I didn't hear any -- Governor Rossello or anyone from Puerto Rico. Is all the discussion, all the work going on --

Admiral Quigley: If I didn't mention, I should have, yes.

Q: Okay. So there are active discussions with the government of Puerto Rico.

Admiral Quigley: Oh, indeed.

Q: This isn't just something that's being worked inside the building at this point.

Admiral Quigley: Oh, no. No. The secretary of Defense, national security adviser, the president, the governor of Puerto Rico, all very much involved.

Q: Just to follow, the exercises you mentioned, they would all go on off the southeastern coast. None of those would be on the outer ranges in Puerto Rico, off the coast.

Admiral Quigley: No. The ones I described here, the initial stages, at least, of JTFEX are all southeastern coast of the United States, say Virginia south.

Q: Could I just back up a second here?

Admiral Quigley: Sure, Steve.

Q: Does the Eisenhower Battle Group have to have -- is it a judgment of the Department of Defense right now that the battle group has to have some kind of live-fire exercise somewhere before deploying, or is it an option to send it out without any live fire?

Admiral Quigley: We will provide the training that the carrier battle group and amphibious ready group needs.

Q: You said earlier this does include live-fire training. Is that right?

Admiral Quigley: I did not say that today.

Q: Maybe I misunderstood you, then. None of this is live-fire training that you described to us?

Admiral Quigley: The elements that I described a minute ago, that are a portion of the JTFEX, undersea warfare, carrier qualifications -- and that's pilot and air crew proficiency, but also deck crew, air traffic controllers and things of that sort, all part of the team that just make airplanes launch and come back from a carrier. Air-to-air combat -- again, that's not live fire. Okay? Coordinated targeting and Tomahawk engagement planning. None of those involve live fire.

Q: Okay.

Admiral Quigley: And those are all elements of the mission areas that a battle group must be proficient in before they forward deploy.

Q: What other mission areas must they be proficient in? Is there a list of other things that you won't --

Admiral Quigley: I don't have the rest of that list with me. I'm sorry. No.

Q: Admiral, on another topic?

Admiral Quigley: Any other --

Q: No, let's stay -- let's stay on it.

Admiral Quigley: Let me come back to that, okay? We'll stay with this for --

Q: Well, what about the bottom line? If there are no live-fire training exercises performed, will the Eisenhower deploy?

Admiral Quigley: Those are your words. They are not mine. My words today were that discussions are ongoing. We are working hard towards a resolution of this, and we have nothing to announce today, but we will when that resolution is found.

Q: Can you answer yes or no to the question of whether it will be fully deployed without live-fire exercises?

Admiral Quigley: Again, we will provide the training that the sailors and Marines of that battle group and amphibious group need.

Q: Including live-fire?

Admiral Quigley: David?

Q: But you would not contend that without live fire, you would be deployed at a lesser state of readiness than you would with live fire?

Admiral Quigley: Say that again?

Q: If you do not have live fire, is it not a fact that you will be deploying at a lesser state of readiness than if you had live fire?

Admiral Quigley: That's a hard one to answer. I don't know if I can provide you a clear response. No. I'm going to stick with my answer, that it's all part of the ongoing discussions that are going on now.

Q: Admiral, do you expect the secretary to make the formal recommendation to the president this week? And as a second part of that question, do you -- will you be using Navy assets to implement the president's decision, particularly to clear out the range and prevent other protestors from coming to the range?

Admiral Quigley: Well, let me take the first part of the question first. Secretary Cohen has had a series of informal discussions with the president, with the National Security Advisor, starting, I believe, around Veterans Day earlier this month, and those discussions continue. The secretary has not yet provided his formal recommendations to the president. He's working on that, but it's all part of the ongoing efforts that are going on right now. And I won't discuss any conjecture as to what might happen with protestors on the range in Vieques.

Q: How can discussions be so far advanced with the government of Puerto Rico without knowing what the -- without the secretary of Defense having submitted his recommendation? I mean, the sequencing of this looks like the White House tries to cut a deal, the best deal it can get, with the government of Puerto Rico, and then that's what the secretary of Defense recommends, so he doesn't have to recommend something that the president can't deliver on. I mean, this really does seem like a --

Admiral Quigley: I don't agree with your characterization. The secretary has been very engaged in this, but this is very much - this is very difficult. It's very complex and it's very delicate, trying to accommodate the needs and desires of many different parties with many disparate views. And --

Q: But the military has told him what --

Admiral Quigley: The Rush Panel has made its recommendations - and you all are aware of those -- to the secretary; correct.

Q: The two services involved, the Marines and the Navy, have told him what they can live with and what they can't live with.

Admiral Quigley: And those are all elements, certainly, of knowledge that are in hand, that are a part of this.

Q: Well why doesn't he submit his recommendation? He knows what the military requirements are.

Admiral Quigley: Because he knows that this is a very delicate, complex issue that is best handled via these ongoing discussions with the various parties concerned. When the time is right for the secretary to make his formal recommendations to the president, he will do so.

Q: Just to follow, in their report last summer, Admiral Fallon and General Pace said that anything less than live-fire training would result in a deployment of C-3 or lower. Can I take it from your answers today that that's not necessarily the department's position, that the department is evaluating that and that might be the department's position but it might not?

Admiral Quigley: I am not familiar with the particulars of the -- let me start again. A battle group will deploy with a certain readiness to do a variety of mission areas. The readiness rating is a very complex process, some of it very objective, some of it very subjective. The ongoing discussions on the use of Vieques very much take that into account. And I will stand by my statement that we will deploy the carrier battle group and the Amphibious ready group with the training they need.

Q: You explained a couple of weeks ago that under the memorandum of agreement with Puerto Rico the Navy has to notify them I think -- what is it? -- 15 days ahead of time --

Admiral Quigley: In accordance with 1983 Memorandum of Understanding, yes.

Q: As of today, has the Navy made that notification?

Admiral Quigley: This is -- I think I mentioned this a couple of briefings ago, if memory serves. But you're absolutely right on the number of days of notification. But in this particular case, this is an exception to that, clearly. And as part of the ongoing discussions, that notification period is wrapped up in these discussions as well. So there's an element there of time as part of the discussions, and that will be announced as part of the overall resolution of this.

Q: Can I just get straight on this? Didn't David ask you if the carrier battle group would be any less ready, and you said - if they didn't have live fire -- and you said no. Would you just explain your answer to David's question?

Admiral Quigley: Well, the --

Q: Did you mean they wouldn't be less ready if they didn't get live fire, so live fire is not imperative?

Admiral Quigley: The benefits -- many people from this podium and other places have described the benefits of live-fire training to the armed forces of the United States. That's true. But there are ways that you can accomplish that and there are other ways to do things that are all part of the ongoing discussions right now. And I just -- it would not be helpful to break that down any further.

Q: That's helpful, actually.

Admiral Quigley: Okay.

Q: How long will these exercises last, the ones you described?

Admiral Quigley: They end the 18th.

Q: They start when?

Admiral Quigley: Well, the small elements of the two groups got underway yesterday. I think the training actually starts tomorrow, but in a small way. So, roughly the 1st through the 18th, Bob.

Q: You said, I think, at the beginning of your statement something about the areas, the outer ranges off of Puerto Rico --

Admiral Quigley: Yes.

Q: -- might be employed pending the outcome of current negotiations. So even things that are strictly done at sea that don't really involve Vieques at all, that is also the subject of negotiations?

Admiral Quigley: Well, the Puerto Rican operating areas are very large, in its airspace, its sea space, its undersea space and its land space. And the -- but that's a long flight or steam for a ship from the southeastern coast of the United States. Whether or not any elements of the very large Puerto Rican operating areas would be used are going to be contingent, probably, on the discussions in the near term here as to whether or not that would be an effective use of time, distance, to do some training in portions of the operating area or not. So that's why I had to equivocate on that.

Q: So in other words, if you can't do anything on Vieques itself, it might not be worth steaming all the way down there to do the things just at sea?

Admiral Quigley: Well, we're not ruling that out. We're keeping that as a possibility, let's put it that way.


Q: You say small elements --

Admiral Quigley: David, one second.


Q: You were talking about other ways of dealing with the live ammunition training. Are you talking about non-explosive bombs, or what some people would call "cement bombs"? Is that taken into consideration, and would that be done in Vieques?

Admiral Quigley: There's live ordnance, there's inert, there's simulators, there's a variety of ways to train military forces. The -- you've heard many people, as I said before, talk about the benefits of live -- the use of live ordnance in training those military forces, but the specifics of what may or may not be used on Vieques, again, are a part of this ongoing discussions and I can't be more specific. I'm sorry.

David, go ahead.

Q: You said small elements of two groups have gotten underway yesterday?

Admiral Quigley: Yes. I think there were some elements of the Marine Expeditionary Unit and some of their rubber raiding craft loaded onto an Air Force jet for movement down to some of the amphibious operations off the southeastern coast, but very small.

Q: When does the carrier --

Admiral Quigley: The day after tomorrow.

Q: Day after tomorrow.

Admiral Quigley: The second of December.

Q: And that's when the Wasp gets underway, too?

Admiral Quigley: I believe so. I -- let me double check, but I believe that's true, as well.

Q: Where is the Wasp now?

Admiral Quigley: Norfolk.


Q: Now?

Q: Yes, media reports in Puerto Rico have stated that apparently some elements of the agreement, or of the ongoing discussions, call for the Navy withdrawal in three years and also the use of inert bombs. Does it seem to be that inert bombs is the stickler point for all involved, or is it the --

Admiral Quigley: I'm not going to -- I'm aware of that media reporting coming out of the Puerto Rican media, but I'm not going to comment on that one way or the other.

Just one or two more questions on Vieques, and move on to another subject.

Q: Different subject.

Admiral Quigley: Chris?

Q: I just wondered, could you comment on -- the U.S. is involved in -- typically, at any time is involved in many negotiations around the world for the use of bases or training areas or whatever. What do you think the ramifications would be if it cannot - the United States cannot convince American citizens to allow it to train in U.S. territory, for those other base negotiations?

Admiral Quigley: I don't think I can answer that hypothetical.

Q: Another subject?


Q: Thank you.