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M2 Presswire

DOD News Briefing

July 10, 2001
Copyright © 2001 M2 Communications, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


Q: Yes, on Vieques . Yesterday the chairman of the DNC, Terry McAuliffe, came out very forcefully in support for the immediate and permanent cessation of the bombing or all training in Vieques . Will that influence the secretary in any way to recommend to the president to end training or bombing in Vieques now?

Quigley: Oh, I think there's a variety of voices that have said that we absolutely need to use the facilities that are present on Vieques until May of 2003, while the search goes on for an alternative way to train Marines and sailors before they forward-deploy. So I think the short answer to your question is no.

Let me just accent something that Secretary of the Navy Gordon England has said today in testimony and from here, I believe, a couple of weeks ago. This is not about finding an alternative site to Vieques , per se. This is about finding a system of training that will provide good training and preparation for sailors and Marines before they forward-deploy. So it isn't a "finding this place instead of that place," necessarily.

It's about the quality of training. And that could be done at more than one place. But the bottom line is the quality of the training that's provided to the sailors and Marines and the where of that is being done is certainly an issue, but it isn't necessarily a one-for- one trade-off.

Q: Has the Navy or the department abandoned combined integrated training?

Quigley: I don't know what that means.

Q: Well, the concept of doing the amphibious landing, naval gunfire support, aerial bombing, materially -- artillery shelling all from one location, or --

Quigley: No, I don't think so. I mean, that's premature to put it that way. But it isn't about Vieques per se, it's about training for sailors and Marines. And Secretary England has not yet named the members of the panel that -- he has said that he will. But I'm sure he will do so in the near future. And their charter is going to be to determine a good way to provide that training to the sailors or Marines before they forward deploy. It could be in more than one location. We'll just have to see what they come up with.

Q: Along those lines, Secretary England has stated his intent to at least keep on using Vieques throughout May 1st 2003 two weeks ago when he said as early as today. Does Secretary Rumsfeld support that position?

Quigley: Indeed. Indeed.

Q: And I have two other follow-ups. Since -- I mean, now Puerto Rico has enacted legislation to hold a local referendum on July 29th --

Quigley: Twenty-ninth, right.

Q: -- with three options: one, the immediate cessation of training; second, leave in 2003; and third, ask for the Navy to stay. If the Viequenses vote for the immediate departure of the Navy, would the Department of Defense change their recommendation to the president?

Quigley: Well, I think you need to understand a couple of things here. One is that the referendum on the 29th of July is a non-binding one. And simultaneously we have said that we are trying to change and delete -- change the law, the current law that's in place to require us to hold the referendum on the 6th of November, which had been part of the agreement between President Clinton and Governor Rossello. We'll see if we're successful in that regard. If so, there will be no referendum, the law would be modified, and we'll proceed with the May 2003 intention. But if not, then we'll proceed towards the referendum that will be binding in November of this year. So two different, very different courses of action.

Q: Has the legislation been introduced?

Quigley: It has not. We are slow on that. We are working closely with the Office of Management and Budget to craft the legislation, but it has not yet gone over.

Q: And what happens with the 40 million [dollars] or the other clean-up efforts or the range?

Quigley: Well, I believe that a portion of the 40 million has been released. I think it's up to 8 million now that has actually been released for several smaller projects on Vieques , and the rest of the money we will see in the months ahead to make sure how it is best used. But I believe the intention is to continue on with the 40 million. I mean, that is in the law as well.

Q: Could we stay on Vieques for a second?

Quigley: I'm sorry, who's -- oh, Dale. Yes. I'm sorry. I didn't see you.

Q: Could we stay on Vieques ?

Quigley: Yes.

Q: Secretary England testified this morning that before this announcement that the training would end by the middle of '03 that he did not seek any sort of assurance from the governor that, for example, she might withdraw the lawsuit or that there might be some explicit guarantee of security provided around the base at the time of training. Can you tell us why no such guarantees were sought? Several senators made the point that the department has now given something with no assurance of anything in return from the governor of Puerto Rico . I wonder if you could just respond to why such assurances weren't sought.

Quigley: No, I don't think I can give you a good answer. I don't know.

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