DoD News Briefing

DoD News Briefing
Rear Adm. Craig R. Quigley, DASD PA
Thursday, November 2, 2000 - 2:45 p.m. EST

Q: Craig, is the Blue Marlin underway yet? And if not, when will it get underway, and which way will it head?
Quigley: I don't believe that Blue Marlin is underway yet. They're still being very cautious to make sure that the Cole is safe and secure on board for the transit. We have no intention of disclosing the route that the vessel will take as it returns to the United States. But I will say that there's a couple of issues that will drive that decision.
Is security one of those issues? Absolutely yes. But so is the weather in the bodies of water that the Blue Marlin will transit on its way to the United States. So there's a variety of factors all being weighed very carefully.
Also, there is still an engineering assessment team on board, and will be on board during the weeks ahead in the transit back to the United States, to make sure that - not only to assess the full scope of the damage to the Cole, but also, at this stage of the process, to make sure that the ship is, again, supported adequately for a safe ride home.
Q: Just a brief follow-up. I understand that the weather is unusually good around the Cape of Good Hope now. Can you confirm that?
And number two, the Navy is - senior Navy officials are saying that since it will take so long to repair the Cole, that the extra 10 days it would take to get around the tip of Africa really wouldn't be that much of an addition.
Quigley: Well, that's, again, another factor, Charlie, that goes into the equation: what are the operational requirements here? And you're talking about the Cole being moved back to the United States for an extensive period of repair. So there are no operational needs here that need to have a particularly timely return to the United States.
Even as the vessel is en route to the United States, we're going to be very mindful of the weather along the route chosen, and will not hesitate to divert from the intended track in order to avoid rough weather. The goal is to get Cole home as safely as we possibly can, and speed is just not an issue.
Q: Yeah, I take it from your comments that a decision hasn't been made yet on which route to take; is that right?
Quigley: I don't know that it has one way or the other, to be quite honest with you. If it has, again, it's not going to be a decision that we will share publicly, I'm sorry.
Q: Does the crew get any kind of special leave, as a result of the explosion? What are they facing when they go back home? I read that they're getting some leave, but is it like some traumatic-event leave, or are they pulling on their annual leave, or what?
Quigley: I don't have that level of detail, Pam. I'm sorry. You'd have to check with the Navy on that.
Q: I understand the captain of the Cole was conducting the JAG Manual investigation. Who will review his actions?
Quigley: No, that's not correct. A Navy captain is conducting the JAG Manual investigation, but not the commanding officer of the Cole, no.
Let me just throw something in here, if I could. I've seen several pieces in the last two or three or four days that are very speculative in nature, about what actually happened and what we're going to do next and the extent of damage to the ship and things of that sort. I would just caution all of you there's all kinds of armchair quarterbacks out there that are offering unattributed comments to you, what they know to be the facts in this case. I would submit to you that very few, if any, of them have that information as a matter of fact. So I would just caution all of you to be cautious in that regard and avoid the speculation of what might be or could be.
We have a very disciplined, methodical process that has now been put in place to take a look at this from three different perspectives that - the ones that General Crouch and Admiral Gehman just described. And that is the vehicle or those are the vehicles by which we're going to have a thorough understanding of the facts in this case.
So I'm sure you all have no shortage of voices talking to you about what they think to be the case. I would just offer a voice of caution.
Q: Has your "disciplined process" managed to wade through the political waters of the different members of Congress that say this ship is going to be repaired in their district? Do you have any guidance for us on how that "disciplined process" is going?
Quigley: Well, again, it's kind of a similar answer to Charlie's question, although from a slightly different tack, John. The engineering assessment team that is on board - and these are Naval Sea Systems Command ship repair specialists, things of that sort - are still taking that thorough look and will continue to take that look, to get the extent of the damage as precisely defined as we can during the transit back to the United States.
I don't believe a decision has been made yet. We don't have to make the decision quite yet. So other than a broad goal of getting back to the United States, that is still a work in progress.
Q: Can you say to us that politics is not going to play a role in where this ship is repaired?
Quigley: I do not think that will be the motivation. I think you're looking at the capabilities of the location chosen. I mean, as you all know, this particular class of ship, the Arleigh Burke class destroyer, is built in Pascagoula and Bath. But in the Hampton Roads area we have extensive ship construction and ship repair capabilities. There's also a very strong tug here to keep the crew members of the Cole co-located with their families, most of which are in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. So there's a variety of factors. And layer on top of that the as-yet-to-be-completed analysis of the exact extent of the repairs to be needed, and you've got a variety of factors at work here. I think those are going to be the ones that will dictate.
Q: Admiral, shortly after the incident, we were told that Commander Lippold and a certain number of the crew would remain on board for the transit back. It was announced yesterday that the entire crew, including the skipper, are coming home. What was the reason for that decision? And does Commander Lippold still remain in command of the Cole?
Quigley: I can't offer you an explanation for the change except that this was a very - lots of initial decisions were made, relooked and reconsidered, and thought, hey, this might be a better way to go. The Cole, as it sits in the cradle on board the Blue Marlin and coming home, needs, certainly, to have watch standers on board for fire, to keep - flooding, any other sort of emergency that might be on board, the spaces, the ammunition magazines to be maintained within proper ranges. So you need people on board, but you need a fairly small number of people. So in addition to the engineering assessment team, you're looking at a variety of volunteers that will be riding the Blue Marlin and Cole home to take care of her along the way.
The Navy took another look and said it makes more sense to reunite the balance of the crew, including the captain, back in Hampton Roads with their families, and no real purpose to be served by having them ride back on a ship to perform the duties, certainly in the numbers that I mentioned, before. So all will be flown back, due back to Hampton Roads tomorrow afternoon. And the captain of the ship firmly remains the captain of the ship.
Q: Pictures of the Cole show - now that it's completely out of the water and you can see the area where the bomb hit - show the full extent of the effect of the bomb blast. Just looking at it, we notice, for instance, that you can see more of the damage that was below the water line now. Obviously, that was covered. Is there any indication that the damage to the Cole is any greater than was first suspected?
Quigley: I still think that's a work-in-progress, Jamie. With the engineering assessment that's still going on, those folks are intending to ride the Cole all the way back to the United States. So that is still very much a work-in-progress. I can't give you a good answer to your question until their work is complete.
Q: Well, has there been a revision on the size of the hole?
Quigley: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q: There's something you said about where the ship will be repaired confused me. You said that there's an interest in keeping the crew with their families. Why would the crew go with the Cole to Pascaguola or to Bath, or - ?
Quigley: Sure. Yeah, good question. Typically when a ship goes into an overhaul, or for a refit period, or for a modification period or whatnot, no matter where that might be - at a private yard or a Naval shipyard, the crew remains with the vessel. There's a variety of ship's work to be accomplished, even while extensive repairs are being done.
So that is the more typical example that we do when a ship goes into overhaul or refit, or what have you; even for an extensive period of time - several months, let's say. But again, we're going to take a look here in the totality of it all and see if that is still the right thing to do and where might this work best be done; trying to incorporate all of the factors that go into this decision.
Q: Going back to your caution to everybody, you know, ever since the attack, a number of Navy officials have made sort of patriotic statements about the Cole will be repaired and will sail again. But is in not absolutely accurate that you really do not know at this point if this ship - you have no final answer yet if this ship is so badly damaged it will be able to sail again? Is that not accurate?
Quigley: I have not heard anybody make a definitive declaration on the extent of the damage. So, and again, this is still an engineering assessment that is in progress right here.
Q: So --
Quigley: So, that is an open issue. I'm not going to try to prejudge what their findings will be. They need to take extremely detailed assessments of the damage to Cole, and we'll let the chips fall where they may.
Q: Is there a reason that you haven't released still pictures of the Cole now that it's - or any pictures of the Cole now that it's completely out of the water, that shows the size of the hole on the port side?
Quigley: Yes. This is battle damage. And we're not going to release any imagery, whether it be still or video, that would be of assistance in a future organization or individual in trying to make a similar sort of attack. We're not going to provide any assistance in helping them gauge the effectiveness of this attack on this ship.
Q: Pictures are out there on the Internet, and floating around in cyberspace. Many people have seen the pictures. So what's the point?
Quigley: Well, the point is simply we're not going to contribute to that process. If there are other images, still or video, that are out there, I can't stop that, Jamie. But we can certainly not contribute to the process, and it's something that we're very serious about. In providing some sort of a tipper as to whether or not this was an effective way, or How could I do it better next time?, we're just not going to help in any way to that ongoing process.
Q: Yes, another one. The other day, the Washington Post reported that during the NATO exercise U.S. Forces General Joseph Ralston succeeded to reach a truce agreement between Greece and Turkey for Greek planes not to fly over Greek islands of Limnos and - (inaudible) - in the Aegean. Do you know what's that about? And referring to the NATO military exercise - (inaudible).
Quigley: I read the report, but no, I don't, Lambros, I'm sorry. I'd refer you General Ralston's folks. I know that exercise was - we consider that a pretty successful exercise, recently concluded, I believe. But it was done under the aegis of NATO, and I would refer you to General Ralston's staff on the NATO side of the house.
Q: One more question?
Quigley: Sure.
Q: Last week, Greek and Turkish retired officers, in a two-day session at your National Defense University, with the participation of Western Policy Center and a number of active U.S. officers discussed security matters pertaining to the DMZ and specifically the Greek islands. Do you know how this - (inaudible)?
Quigley: No, I don't. I'm sorry. That was at the National Defense University?
Q: Yes, that's correct.
Quigley: No, I'm sorry. They might have more details there on - if they were the host of the event, but I'm sorry, I don't have that detail.
Q: Admiral, we've heard about the outlines of three investigations that are going on - the FBI, the Navy JAG Manual, and the Cole Commission. None of them have the purview to look at security at U.S. bases, such as, for instance, the Norfolk - the U.S. Naval Base in Norfolk, Virginia. Is anyone going to review security at domestic bases in the United States, or is that simply something that's not being addressed by any of these?
Quigley: As a separate and focused effort, Jamie, not that I am aware of. But this is something that we expect of our commanders on a continuous basis, here in the United States, abroad. You've had a terrible event here, with the Cole, with the attack on the Cole, that demands a very disciplined, methodical approach, and we think we've put that in place with these three separate efforts underway right now.
In the United States, I don't know of the various home ports and home stations - I don't know of such a similar effort, but it's something that we expect local commanders to always be looking at. Despite the fact that these installations are in the continental United States, you still have threat assessments, you still have intelligence information that is assessed by local commanders, and they have the authority to raise or lower a threat condition on a local basis, based on their best judgment and the inputs of that intelligence information and the threat that they perceive to the installation and the forces that are stationed there.
Q: It also sounded, from what we heard from Admiral Gehman and General Crouch, that no one was going to be looking at the question of whether or not - whether there was a mistake or a bad judgment made in sending the USS Cole to Aden to refuel; that there would be no review of the decisions leading up to that. Am I wrong about that?
Quigley: Well, I heard - I don't remember who asked the question before, but, boy, I heard General Tony Zinni spend a lot of time in testimony before the Congress, a couple of weeks ago, addressing that very issue. So I --
Q: But General Zinni wasn't in command at the time the Cole was ordered into the port of Aden.
Quigley: No, that's true; that's true. But he has not been gone from command of the Central Command very long. He was very much aware of the policies in his former region of the world, and I think very supportive of the rationale and motivation for the engagement policy that we have.
Q: So no one has been asked to look at the decisions of General Franks, Admiral Moore in allowing the ship to refuel in Aden? That is not something that is under review by any of these investigations?
Quigley: I think I would put that under the description that General Crouch and Admiral Gehman described as "the system." Remember, they said that they're going to start with the Cole and try to take a look at the entire system above the Cole of the Department of Defense that would support them.
Q: But they also said that they're not going to be judging anybody, and they're not going to be - have any finding of culpability or responsibility.
Q: And they're not (inaudible) to anything besides DoD.
Q: So, is this a case where we're going to simply blame whatever happened on the system and not hold anybody accountable?
Quigley: I didn't hear them say anything about them not assigning culpability or responsibility.
Q: Yes, they did.
Q: I think I have a direct quote --
Quigley: Let me - let me try this another way. Please read the charter that the secretary of Defense provided to both of them. That's what they're going to do.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Any change in the alert status in the Gulf region?
Quigley: Sorry?
Q: Has there been any change in any of the alert statuses in the --
Quigley: The threat conditions, you mean?
Q: Yes.
Quigley: I have nothing to announce on changes in threat conditions.