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[H.A.S.C. No. 10665]
THE ATTACK ON THE U.S.S. COLE
COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
OCTOBER 25, 2000
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One Hundred Sixth Congress
FLOYD D. SPENCE, South Carolina, Chairman
BOB STUMP, Arizona
DUNCAN HUNTER, California
JOHN R. KASICH, Ohio
HERBERT H. BATEMAN, Virginia
JAMES V. HANSEN, Utah
CURT WELDON, Pennsylvania
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
JIM SAXTON, New Jersey
STEVE BUYER, Indiana
TILLIE K. FOWLER, Florida
JOHN M. McHUGH, New York
JAMES TALENT, Missouri
TERRY EVERETT, Alabama
ROSCOE G. BARTLETT, Maryland
HOWARD ''BUCK'' McKEON, California
J.C. WATTS, Jr., Oklahoma
MAC THORNBERRY, Texas
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
SAXBY CHAMBLISS, Georgia
VAN HILLEARY, Tennessee
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJOE SCARBOROUGH, Florida
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
LINDSEY GRAHAM, South Carolina
JIM RYUN, Kansas
BOB RILEY, Alabama
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
MARY BONO, California
JOSEPH PITTS, Pennsylvania
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
STEVEN KUYKENDALL, California
DONALD SHERWOOD, Pennsylvania
IKE SKELTON, Missouri
NORMAN SISISKY, Virginia
JOHN M. SPRATT, Jr., South Carolina
SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
OWEN PICKETT, Virginia
LANE EVANS, Illinois
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, Guam
PATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH, Illinois
SILVESTRE REYES, Texas
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTOM ALLEN, Maine
VIC SNYDER, Arkansas
JIM TURNER, Texas
ADAM SMITH, Washington
LORETTA SANCHEZ, California
JAMES H. MALONEY, Connecticut
MIKE McINTYRE, North Carolina
CIRO D. RODRIGUEZ, Texas
CYNTHIA A. McKINNEY, Georgia
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
ROBERT BRADY, Pennsylvania
ROBERT E. ANDREWS, New Jersey
BARON P. HILL, Indiana
MIKE THOMPSON, California
JOHN B. LARSON, Connecticut
Robert S. Rangel, Staff Director
Laura Truesdell, Staff Assistant
C O N T E N T S
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF HEARINGS
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Wednesday, October 25, 2000, The Attack on the U.S.S. Cole
Wednesday, October 25, 2000
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2000
THE ATTACK ON THE U.S.S. COLE
STATEMENTS PRESENTED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Skelton, Hon. Ike, a Representative from Missouri, Ranking Member, Committee on Armed Services
Spence, Hon. Floyd D., a Representative from South Carolina, Chairman, Committee on Armed Services
Franks, Gen. Tommy R., USA Commander in Chief, U.S. Central Command
Slocombe, Hon. Walter B., Under Secretary of Defense (Policy)
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Walker, Hon. Edward S., Jr., Assistant Secretary of State (Near Eastern Affairs)
[The Prepared Statements can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Franks, Gen. Tommy R.
Skelton, Hon. Ike
Spence, Hon. Floyd D.
DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD:
[The Documents for the Record are pending.]
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD:
[The Questions and Answers can be viewed in the hard copy.]
THE ATTACK ON THE U.S.S. COLE
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCHouse of Representatives,
Committee on Armed Services,
Washington, DC, Wednesday, October 25, 2000.
The committee met, pursuant to call, at 2:30 p.m. in room 2118, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Floyd D. Spence (Chairman of the Committee) presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. FLOYD D. SPENCE, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM SOUTH CAROLINA, CHAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
The CHAIRMAN. The meeting will please be in order. We have been delayed by votes on the floor so people understand the drill. The Committee meets today to examine the circumstances surrounding the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen. On October 12 of this year, 17 brave American sailors lost their lives and nearly 3 dozen others were wounded as a result of the latest despicable act of terrorism against the United States. Our condolences go out to the families of those killed and wounded in the attack. This tragic instance is yet another reminder that freedom is not free. Those who wear the uniform of our country place their lives on the line every day to ensure our freedom and security. Terrorism directed against the United States' interest and personnel is not new, especially in that part of the world.
Four years ago, 19 United States service personnel died in the bombing of Khobar Towers, the complex in Saudi Arabia. Two years ago, scores of people were killed and injured in the bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Regardless of who is ultimately found to be responsible for this attack on the Cole, the enemies of the United States should take note the United States as a global power with global interests will not be driven out of the Middle East or anywhere else as a result of terrorist acts. This or any other terrorist attack will only strengthen our resolve to protect our interest, and we are firmly determined to swiftly identify and punish the cowardly perpetrators of this attack.
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However, at present, many questions related to this incident remain unanswered. While we mourn the senseless loss of many young lives, we have an obligation to begin to understand the circumstances and situation that led to this tragedy. The U.S.S. Cole was en route to the Persian Gulf to conduct maritime operations in the legitimate pursuit of our national interest, national security interest abroad. It was moored at the port of Aden for refueling.
Why Aden was chosen as the place to conduct this refueling operation is important to understand. Were there viable options that could have been chosen that could have placed our sailors at less risk? Could the Cole have refueled at sea? Published reports indicate that we received intelligence warning of a possible terrorist attack against the United States target in the region last month. Were these warnings assessed as credible? In the light of the escalating violence in other parts of the Middle East, should threats to the United States have been viewed with more seriousness than usual? Initial reports indicate that the boat that attacked the Cole was assisting with the mooring of the ship in the Aden harbor. The Navy has now revised its account stating that the Cole had been moored for nearly an hour and a half and was well into the refueling process when the attack occurred.
How is it possible that a small boat carrying hundreds of pounds of explosives could approach the Cole as it was refueling without the boat being challenged? These are questions that are asked of me by my constituents and other members and their constituents.
The American public in general are asking these questions. I am confident that the answer to these questions and many others that will arrive will help us to ensure that a similar tragedy never occurs again.
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This Committee and the Congress have a responsibility to diligently pursue answers to these questions so that the American people may feel confident that their mothers, fathers, sons, daughters in uniform are as safe and secure as possible when they are called upon to exercise their duty in defense of our country and its interest.
In this regard, I must take a moment to express my frustration with the difficulty the Committee has had in getting the Department of Defense to support today's hearings. The Committee requested that the Secretary of Defense, the Commander in Chief of Central Command, the Chief of Naval Operations appear today to discuss in both open and closed sessions the U.S.S. Cole incident. Instead, the Department has agreed to provide a partial witness lineup for today's open session and has taken the position that they will only discuss one narrow subject.
I want the record to reflect that I consider the Department's position unacceptable and completely contrary to historical precedence and practice. Let me be absolutely clear: This is not about how to handle the classified aspects of this issue. The Committee is first to recognize and agree with the need to have a separate closed forum to properly protect associated classified information. As a matter of fact, we are going to have such a meeting immediately after this one.
My objection relates to the Department's attempts to dictate which nonclassified information it is willing to openly discuss with Congress and under what circumstances. This position directly undermines the long-standing relationship between the Committee and the Department of Defense, and it runs counter to the rules of House of Representatives in our system of open government.
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With that clarification, let me advise members that we will proceed today by first hearing from Walter Slocombe, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; General Tommy Franks, United States Army Commander-in-Chief of the United States Central Command; and Ed Walker, assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asia.
The Committee, as I said before, will then move into executive session to also receive testimony from Admiral Vern Clark, Chief of Naval Operations. At that time, we will proceedand we do have Admiral Thomas Wilson, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
At the appropriate time in the hearing today, I will entertain a motion to authorize the Committee to continue in the executive session for national security purposes as I said before. This session will be conducted at top secret code word level and will be held in room 2212, which has been properly secured for this purpose. Before turning the floor over to our witnesses, I would like to recognize our Committee's ranking member, Mr. Skelton, for any comments he would like to make.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Spence can be found in the Appendix.]
STATEMENT OF HON. IKE SKELTON, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM MISSOURI, RANKING MEMBER, COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. Let me join you in welcoming our distinguished witnesses today. As a preliminary matter, I want to publicly commend the Department and especially the Navy for the dignified memorial service conducted last week in Norfolk and for the sensitive manner in which support has been provided to the families of the crew of the U.S.S. Cole. It is my hope that the families of those who gave their lives in this tragic incident are reassured that their loved ones did not die in vain. We remain grateful for their sacrifice.
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Turning to today's hearing, Mr. Chairman, the recent terrorist attack against U.S.S. Cole has again demonstrated that being the world's superpower often comes at a very high price. Over the years, the Navy has conducted many deployments worldwide protecting our national interest under the rubric of forced presence or for engagement. I, for one, support such activities, because I believe it is in our national interest to promote the expansion of democracy and to maintain global stability.
Nevertheless, when incidents like the attack on the U.S.S. Cole occur, we do have an obligation to inquire into the circumstance of the attack and to determine whether our force protection measures are adequate as we commit our forces around the world. The reality is that our military might is such that few adversaries are likely to attack us head-on. My belief that the so-called asymmetric attacks like that done on the U.S.S. Cole are only going to become more frequent. Harbor boats and truck bombs, not intercontinental range missiles, have become important elements of the threats we face today. Some scenarios may be the new weapons of choice by our adversaries. As a result, we must do everything possible to protect our forces who go in harm's way. We should learn everything we can from this toward that end.
Along that line, Mr. Chairman, let me make reference to the Wall Street Journal article entitled Crisis in the Mid East by Neil King, Jr. and Christopher Cooper, which says in part, ''Meanwhile another U.S. official said that at the time of the Cole attack, the U.S. embassy in Yemen's capital was on the highest state of alert while the destroyer, which was refueling in the port of Aden, was at a more relaxed Bravo level.'' Bravo is the lowest grade of alert employed by U.S. forces in the Middle East region. I hope that issue will be addressed today by our witnesses.
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Let me add, Mr. Chairman, that I believe it is premature to make public inquiries about the attack on U.S.S. Cole. At this time, we can not hope to know with certainty who is behind the attack on Cole and whether we could have done more to prevent it before the investigation by the FBI and the Department of Defense is complete. Moreover, Secretary Cohen has appointed two very distinguished military officers, retired Army General William Crouch, former vice chief of staff of the Army, and Honorable Harold Gehman, former commander in chief, U.S. Joint Forces Command, to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the incident and distill what lessons may be learned from it. I believe we should let the investigations and assessments proceed before we come to conclusions about who is to blame and what should be done in response to the attack.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, I want to compliment General Zinni, former commander in chief, U.S. Central Command, for clearing up the matter of responsibility for making the decision to use the port facilities at Aden for U.S. warship refueling. As the precedent was set by the late Harry Truman when he said the buck stops here, General Zinni's last testimony last week left no doubt about the matter when he said in the Senate, the refueling of that ship in Aden was my decision. I want to be clear. I pass that buck on to nobody. And want to be clear that the decision oftentimes that we may take is not received or agreed with by others, but it is my decision.
General Zinni's testimony makes clear that the decision to refuel at Yemen was an operational one that I hope today we do not second-guess this judgment or attempt to grab political motives onto that decision. I believe the Congressand I believe the Congress and our national interest will be served by doing so.
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[The prepared statement of Mr. Skelton can be found in the Appendix.]
The CHAIRMAN. I see we appear to have a quorum. The Chair will now recognize the gentleman from Arizona, Mr. Stump, for the purpose of a motion.
Mr. STUMP. Pursuant to House rule 11 G and Committee rule 9 A, I move the Committee be authorized to close the hearing at the appropriate point for reason of national security, which closing does not apply to appropriately cleared members of the Committee staff.
The CHAIRMAN. House and Committee rules require a roll call vote. The clerk will call the roll.
The CLERK. Mr. Spence.
Mr. SPENCE. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Spence votes aye.
Mr. SKELTON. Aye.
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The CLERK. Mr. Skelton votes aye.
Mr. STUMP. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Stump votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Hunter.
Mr. HUNTER. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Hunter votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Kasich.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [No response.]
The CLERK. Mr. Ortiz.
Mr. ORTIZ. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Ortiz votes aye.
Mr. HANSEN. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Hansen votes aye.
Mr. PICKETT. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Pickett votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Evans.
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The CLERK. Mr. Hefley.
Mr. HEFLEY. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Hefley votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Saxton.
Mr. SAXTON. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Saxton votes aye.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Abercrombie votes aye.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Buyer.
Mr. BUYER. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Buyer votes aye.
Mr. MEEHAN. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Meehan votes aye.
Mrs. FOWLER. Aye.
The CLERK. Mrs. Fowler votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. McHugh.
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The CLERK. Mr. Kennedy.
The CLERK. Mr. Talent.
The CLERK. Mr. Blagojevich.
The CLERK. Mr. Everett.
Mr. EVERETT. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Everett votes aye.
Mr. REYES. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Reyes votes aye.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Bartlett.
Mr. BARTLETT. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Bartlett votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. McKeon.
The CLERK. Mr. Snyder.
Mr. SNYDER. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Snyder votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Turner.
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The CLERK. Mr. Thornberry.
The CLERK. Mr. Smith.
Mr. SMITH. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Smith votes aye.
The CLERK. Ms. Sanchez.
The CLERK. Mr. Chambliss.
Mr. CHAMBLISS. Aye.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CLERK. Mr. Chambliss votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Hilleary.
Mr. HILLEARY. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Hilleary votes aye.
Mr. MCINTYRE. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. McIntyre votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Rodriguez.
Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Aye.
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The CLERK. Mr. Rodriguez votes aye.
Mr. JONES. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Jones votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Graham.
The CLERK. Mrs. Tauscher.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Aye.
The CLERK. Mrs. Tauscher votes aye.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RYUN. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Ryun votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Riley.
The CLERK. Mr. Gibbons.
The CLERK. Mr. Andrews.
Mr. ANDREWS. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Andrews votes aye.
Mrs. BONO. Aye.
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The CLERK. Mrs. Bono votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Hill.
Mr. HILL. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Hill votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Kuykendall.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Kuykendall votes aye.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THOMPSON. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Thompson votes aye.
Mr. SHERWOOD. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Sherwood votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Larson.
Mr. LARSON. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Larson votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Spratt.
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The CLERK. Mr. Kasich.
The CLERK. Mr. Weldon.
The CLERK. Mr. Evans.
The CLERK. Mr. Taylor.
Mr. TAYLOR. Aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Taylor votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. McHugh.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [No response.]
The CLERK. Mr. Kennedy.
The CLERK. Mr. Talent.
The CLERK. Mr. Blagojevich.
The CLERK. Mr. Allen.
The CLERK. Mr. McKeon.
The CLERK. Mr. Watts.
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The CLERK. Mr. Turner.
The CLERK. Mr. Thornberry.
The CLERK. Mr. Hostettler.
The CLERK. Ms. Sanchez.
The CLERK. Mr. Maloney.
The CLERK. Mr. Scarborough.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CLERK. Ms. McKinney.
The CLERK. Mr. Graham.
The CLERK. Mr. Brady.
The CLERK. Mr. Riley.
The CLERK. Mr. Gibbons.
The CLERK. Mr. Pitts.
The CLERK. Mr. Hayes.
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The CLERK. Ms. Wilson.
The CLERK. On that vote, 33 ayes, zero nos.
The CHAIRMAN. The ayes have it and the motion is agreed to.
Secretary Slocombe the floor is yours.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. May I suggest that we begin with General Franks and then Ambassador Walker, and I have very brief additional statement.
The CHAIRMAN. General Franks.
STATEMENT OF GEN. TOMMY R. FRANKS, USA COMMANDER IN CHIEF, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
General FRANKS. Chairman Spence, Mr. Skelton members of the Committee, I would request that my prepared remarks be entered for the record.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. They will be. So ordered.
General FRANKS. I welcome the opportunity to participate in this very important hearing. First, sir, let me say that I join the members of this body in expressing my deepest sorrow and condolences to the families and the loved ones of the sailors who were injured and who gave their lives on U.S.S. Cole in the service of our country. The military is a special family. And this tragedy affects us all.
I would also like to express my appreciation to the members of this Committee who represented this body in Norfolk last week to pay tribute to these American heroes. Sir, I would also like to express appreciation to those nations who have assisted during this time in ongoing operations in Yemen by providing medical assistance, basing and overflight clearance, and in fact, a great deal of support.
Mr. Chairman, as you know, we have investigations and inquiries underway. What I would like to do now is give the Committee a status on U.S.S. Cole. We have 216 sailors aboard the Cole today. The ship is stable, she is structurally sound and is preparing for movement the Blue Marlin. A great many people are providing security and messing assistance for some 400 people who are on the ground in the conduct of the investigations and the inquiries. We have about 5,000 people in the local area embarked aboard ships along with the investigators that I previously mentioned. And we have the Tarawa with the marine expeditionary unit standing by there and providing support and assistance. Rear Admiral Mark Fitzgerald is the on-scene military commander. He is embarked aboard U.S.S. Tarawa.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, we are in fact determined to get to the bottom of the attack on U.S.S. Cole. We will put the events that led up to that attack under a microscope. And we have begun that process. We will find the facts we need to find and we will use the lessons we learn to continue to provide the very best possible protection for our servicemen and women who operate in this very dangerous environment. Our forward deployed forces face this high risk every day. They face that risk because they do their jobs in a region where the United States of America has vital interests; the security of more than 200,000 American citizens in that area; access to the vast energy resources of the Gulf with more than 65 percent of the proven petroleum reserves in the world in that region; key air and sea lines of communication as well as serve stability and security, which is the issue where, in fact, instability is the rule.
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Today more than 21,000 men and women in uniform are conducting these operations in this essential region. They are enforcing no fly and no enhancement zones in Iraq with Operation Southern Watch and Operation Northern Watch. They are engaged in maritime interception operations to reduce the elicit flow of smuggled oil by Saddam Hussein. They are continuing to train, they are continuing to exercise today involved in 13 countries in that region. As we conduct these operations, naval forces are rooted in and out of the region.
The U.S.S. Cole was, in fact, en route, as the Chairman said, in the Arabian Gulf to join our operating forces and was scheduled to refuel in the port of Aden. As General Zinni testified in open session with the Senate, the decision to use Aden as a refueling port was based on solid military judgment.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I agree with that decision because it met our mobility and our mobility requirements in terms of time and location. It provides something that no other port in the region provides and that is stand off from a pier. It included the appropriate assessments of vulnerabilities. And sir, I will say that as U.S. Commander in Chief (CINC) said today, I am now responsible for operations in the central region to include the operations conducted in the port of Aden. And I am also responsible for the safety of the men and women who execute them. I take these responsibilities very seriously.
We will reduce the risk to our people in every way we can, Mr. Chairman, but we will never drive the risk to zero. Our forward presence in this region is key to preserving America's vital interests. Neither America nor the United States central command will back away from this mission. The U.S.S. Cole serves as a reminder to all of us of the dedication and the commitment of all those who serve.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am prepared to answer your questions.
[The prepared statement of General Franks can be found in the Appendix.]
The CHAIRMAN. Secretary Walker.
STATEMENT OF HON. EDWARD S. WALKER, JR., ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE (NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS)
Secretary WALKER. Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I want to, first of all, join the General in expressing my deepest condolences to the families and to the friends of the 17 American servicemen and women who were killed in this attack on the U.S.S. Cole 2 weeks ago. I also want to express my most sincere wishes for a speedy recovery for those who were injured in this horrible attack. The Secretary of State expressed her deep sorrow at the incident last week and she has asked me to reiterate those sentiments here today.
I assure you that we will seek, with all of our resources, to determine the facts around this tragedy. Moreover, we will continue taking every step we can to protect our troops and our diplomats and our citizens. While we will not retreat from our responsibilities, I can assure you that there is no higher priority for our diplomacy than the safety and security of our troops and personnel serving overseas. We do not put diplomatic relations above the laws of our people.
From the very beginning of this crisis, the Department of State has worked closely with the Yemeni government and all concerned agencies to facilitate relief efforts and the investigation. Both the President and Secretary Albright have spoken with President Ali Abdullah Saleh and I have spoken to Prime Minister al-Iryani. Our ambassador, Barbara Bodine, has worked around the clock to maintain regular contact with the Yemeni government and to ensure the highest levels of coordination and cooperation. We have all received the strongest assurance of Yemen's cooperation with the investigation, and by all accounts to date, those assurances have become a reality on the ground.
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Politically, this tragedy occurs when we have been working with the Yemeni government to encourage democracy and economic reform. We still have our differences, often the Middle East peace process, historically, we have had differences on Iraq. Nonetheless, Yemen has made strides in strengthening regional security by settling long-standing border disputes with Saudi Arabia, Oman and Eritrea. The decision to refuel in Yemen, as General Zinni explained, was his decision, but it was consistent with the policy of an incremental approach at a measured pace in developing our relations with Yemen.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Secretary Slocombe.
STATEMENT OF HON. WALTER B. SLOCOMBE, UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE (POLICY)
Secretary SLOCOMBE. Mr. Chairman, I want to add only very briefly to what has already been said to respond to the question that the attack on U.S.S. Cole has rightly raised, which is why were we refueling ships in Aden. The decision to use Aden for refueling and to continue so using it was made, as General Franks says, on solid military grounds by the CINC and by his naval component commanders. That decision took into account, and took into account on a continuing basis, assessment of force protection issues at Aden and possible alternatives. Those assessments included surveys made often by the Central Command (CENTCOM) joint security directorate and firsthand observations by U.S. officers, including the CINC General Zinni and Commander Naval Forces Central Command (COMNAVCENT) personally. The decision was made in the knowledge that there were risks involved, but also in the light of a balanced assessment of those risks and on a judgment that they were manageable and acceptable.
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It is certainly true that for the reasons that General Zinni read out in his testimony earlier Yemen is important from a geo strategic point of view, a military operational point of view and a foreign policy point of view. The use of Aden served important operational requirements to support the force presence which is essential in the region to our national interests and it was consistent with broader policy decisions on the desirability built of closer engagement with Yemen.
The arrangements in Aden assured dependable provision to U.S. Navy ships of large quantities of needed fuel, operationally optimal location. Helping build better relations with Yemen was an additional benefit, but if there had not been an assessment that forced protection requirements could be adequately met at Aden, the decision to refuel Navy ships there would not have been made.
The Department of Defense will now review all the relevant facts, both to find out what happened and why and to determine how our practices can be improved.
As Congressman Skelton mentioned, in addition to the FBI investigation, to find out how the attack was conducted and by who, and the Navy's Judge Advocate General (JAG) manual inquiry, Secretary Cohen has asked two distinguished retired officers to examine all the relevant procedures and practices and identify improvements.
We owe it to our Armed Forces to ensure that every feasible step is taken to be ensured that they can accomplish their missions at the lowest possible risk. However, as General Franks has said, we have to recognize that no procedures can guarantee 100 percent against terrorist attack. Men and women in our armed services face real dangers every day in carrying out their duties. It would be far more dangerous for the United States and for our interests to let the real terrorist danger prevent us from maintaining the overseas force presence our national defense and our national interests require.
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Let me conclude by saying we will pursue the facts, we will punish those responsible, and we will take appropriate action to minimize the risk in the future. We cannot guarantee that there will not be such incidents because we face a very real terrorist threat. We now stand ready to answer your questions.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much. I will forego the Chair's asking questions first and instead yield to Mr. Skelton.
Mr. SKELTON. I yield my time to the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Ortiz.
Mr. ORTIZ. Thank you very much. I cannot help but see the pictures coming out through the news media of those that had been killed and injured in this incident. I can remember when I was in the military in the middle 1960's that everybody perceived the military to be an Anglo male. But now we can see that the diversity, as you look at the pictures of those that were killed and injured, and, of course, America and Texas was jolted, you know, by those that we lost in this incident.
We had Petty Officer Third Class Ronchester Santiago from my district who was killed. Of course, Seaman Elizabeth Sanches Lafountaine from my district who was injured, and then we had a neighbor, Gary Swenchonis who was killed. But you know, as you look at all these pictures, you see females, minorities and it is like, look at this picture. I saw the picture of America. As one who served in the military, I am very, very concerned for the safety. Of course, I think it is appropriate for us to try to reassure our military personnel and the families and the dedicated civilians who support them that we understand and appreciate the hardship that they endure and the dangers that they face in guaranteeing our freedom.
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You know, I would like to know if I know that some time in the past we have more oilers in the fleet than now and most refueling was performed at sea. I would like for the witnesses to provide their assessment of the adequacy of the oiler fleet and the advantages and disadvantages of the at-sea refueling of United States warships. Maybe you can elaborate. Maybe a smart thing to do or maybe it just won't work.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. Sir, weit has never been the Navy's practice, even when the fleet was very much larger.
Mr. ORTIZ. Can you get closer to the mike. I can barely hear you.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. It has never been the Navy's practice to have tanker support for individual ships on transit. It is certainly the case that there are fewer tankers in the fleet now than were some years ago. But the reduction in tankers is actually smaller proportionately than the reduction in the fleet as a whole. Obviously, there are some advantages to refueling at sea. And that is what is now being done for the ships in the Area of Responsibility (AOR) while we complete the assessment of the situation. That does have the problem that the tankers then have to go into port periodically to take on fuel to then pass on to the ships at sea.
One of the issues which we will be examining is our policy with respect to the use of tankers. However, I have to say that it hasthere are real tradeoffs here if we rely entirelyto rely to a substantially greater degree on tankers.
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Mr. ORTIZ. I know we will be going into executive session later on Mr. Chairman. I am pretty sure at the appropriate time that maybe you will be able to.
Mr. HUNTER. Would the gentleman yield just for a second?
Mr. ORTIZ. Yes.
Mr. HUNTER. Thank you, Solomon. I noticed in the hearing before the Senate, if I wasn't mistaken, that General Zinni when asked about his estimation of the cause of this or the something that might have prevented it, he himself stated and I paraphrase, in the old days we refueled everything at sea and today we don't have the oilers that we had in the past. And as a result of that, we have to go in because we have got the smaller fleet and we have gotten rid of the oilers. I did the same analysis that you did with respect to the ratio and not with just oilers, but Auxillary Oil Explosive's (AOE), but didn't General Zinni have a different opinion than you have on this issue?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. My recollection of General Zinni's testimony was he said he had been told that.
General FRANKS. I believe that is right sir.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. I don't know the exact circumstances with reference to what period of time and where. I am informed that it is and in fact has never been the Navy's practice that individual transiting ships in general are fueled at sea. I mean there are periods when it is true. It happens in the AOR in the region. It happens to be true today. But I do not believe there was ever a time when that was the general practice.
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General FRANKS. I believe also, sir, that General Zinni was speaking in the context of the central command being a forced receiver from the various services, certainly as this Committee knows, as well as from the other three geographical or regional commanders in chief. In the context of the operational environment, I would and I believe general Zinni would always say that the greater flexibility that is available, the better our operations can be.
Specifically, with respect to oilers, I think that your comment, sir, is on the mark in that when we go closed, Admiral Vern Clark will be there, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), and I think he can give us a lot more insight into it.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Hunter, you are on your own time now.
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman if the gentleman will yield. According from General Zinni's testimony in the Senate, ''I was never given an option to have an oiler full-time to meet these requirements. They could have refueled these 27 ships that were done in Aden plus the other refuelings that were done in other ports in the region coming down to that point. There obviously are oilers when you have an interior battle group or a significant number of ships co-located as in the Gulf. But to have them positioned and located there we did not have the option.''.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Hunter.
Mr. HUNTER. Just first, to follow up on Mr. Skelton's statement, does thatdo we still have a difference of policy here, Mr. Slocombe?
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Secretary SLOCOMBE. I don't think so. The main reason that oilers are used to refuel the battle group as a whole has to do with keeping the battle group on station so that it does not have to be pulled off off-station and be in port to be refueled. I think, in a sense, that is the primary reason that the oilers have been focused on the battle group and on the Air Reserve Components (ARC) rather than on individual ships in transit.
Mr. HUNTER. Are we going to continue to use Yemen as a refueling port?
General FRANKS. Sir, I will tell you the truth, I am not sure right now. I believe it is premature for us to make a decision on what we are going to do. Certainly, as you know, we use within central command 13 ports in this region. As virtually all of those 13 ports are high risk ports. And so what I believe we are doing now, we are going to gather the facts and we are going to be sure that there isn't something that we missed, and then we will take that decision. As the Secretary mentioned what we are doing now sir, is we have sorted the vessels and we are replenishing at sea.
Mr. HUNTER. Okay. According to the joint staff publication, ''Joint Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for Anti-Terrorism,'' there are specific security measures that can be taken by naval vessels to counter terrorist threat when you perceive it. A lot of these are specific actions. Some of them include the posting of additional armed top sight sentries, tape warnings in English and local language to warn small craft to remain clear; the rigging of firehoses to repel small boats; and the use of ship boats toas a picket line of sorts, to keep unauthorized small craft away from the ship.
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Given that you had a fairly high theft of terrorist activity in Yemen, were there any of these increased defensive measures, in effect, aboard the Cole at the time of the attack? And to follow on to that question, was there a recommendation that you establish a picket line, if you will, through which no small ships could come there by affording a separation between the local ship community and the Cole?
General FRANKS. Sir, there were measures, in effect, at that time. And sir, without specifying if I could in this forum, some of the measures that you specified, in fact, were in place. But to get to the specifics, I am certainly prepared to do that. But sir, I would request that we do that in closed hearing.
Mr. HUNTER. Okay. I think one thing that members of the Committee and I think the American people are concerned about, I think we are going to have a vote here shortly. I think one question that people are concerned about is we watch the testimony and we have heard and we had our initial briefing with you, Secretary Slocombe, I think it is still somewhat unclear as to whether or not this was a required refueling, where Yemen was a place where you had to go because of the location of your ship and the fact that your gas tank was almost empty or whether there was a Chamber of Commerce dimension to this or a State Department dimension to this.
And I can remember being in Beirut while they were still shelling the embassy there before we had the incident with the Marines, and the first question the Committee asked when we got there is how come we are down here on the low ground and the guys with the artillery were up on the high ground? And the answer was the State Department thought this was where we ought to be. And I always remembered that. If Yemen is not necessarily a must-go-to place, and you are saying that it is now going to be looked at in the context of the other ports and we may not use it, was it a military requirement or was there a diplomatic mission in terms of using those commercial resources and sending some American dollars to the local economy and trying to develop a friendship with Yemen as a result of that? Was there a diplomatic aspect to this directive that we refuel in Yemen?
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General FRANKS. Sir, the U.S.S. Cole refueled just prior to entering the Suez Canal. Her transit to move into the northern Arabian Gulf to join her battle group in the maritime interdiction mission is 3300 miles. She was programmed to refuel in Yemen because it is halfway. It was, in fact, an operational decision. Our standing procedure is to not permit our warships in terms of fuel level to go below 50 percent. She was programmed to be at 53 percent fuel at the time she got to Yemen. She was scheduled for that purpose. And the duration of her scheduled stop was to be 4 to 6 hours with no one getting off the ship. Sir, it was an operational decision.
Mr. HUNTER. Okay. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. I think we should have a recess for this vote and we will be right back.
The CHAIRMAN. The Committee will please be in order. Mr. Snyder is recognized.
Mr. SNYDER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Slocombe, I am not sure who to address the question to. I have concerns about us being premature as far as a congressional hearing, but I want to ask a general question. In terms of coming to conclusions about what occurred and who or what was responsible and what could have been done differently by us and perhaps by other governments, who makes that final decision?
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Secretary SLOCOMBE. I am sorry, sir, I couldn't hear the question, the end of it.
Mr. SNYDER. In terms of the investigation that is going on and concluding who or what was responsible and what we could have done differently, what other governments could have done differently, who will make that final decision and sign off on that final report when Mr. Spence gets a report that says this is our conclusion, who signs off on that and whose report will it be? Will it be the CINC commander, will it be the Secretary of State, the President, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), what willwhose decision is it?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. The Gehman-Crouch review will report to the Secretary of Defense. And the Secretary of Defense will be responsible through the CINCs for making whatever changes in procedure and practice we need to make to improve and guard against any incident like this in the future. So that is in terms of changing how we do business. Obviously, in terms of assigning criminal responsibility to the perpetrators, that is the Navy Inspector General (NIG). They will gather the evidence and make a report and a recommendation to the Attorney General as they do in any other criminal case.
Mr. SNYDER. So it will be a report from the Attorney General to the United States that will come to this Committee.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. It will be either, as I certainly hope it is, a report that A, B, C, D, E, F and G, who are in custody, are the people who we believe are responsible and they should be tried. It may, of course, also be this is our law enforcement investigative conclusion as to who is responsible and then decisions will have to be made, assuming that a criminal trial is not an option, decisions will have to be made about what action the United States should take so as to prevent a recurrence by those people. That decision could involve a variety of kinds of action other than very generically, I don't want to go into what we might do but if it involved military action, obviously that would ultimately be a decision that would be made by the President on the advice of the military of the relevant CINC and of the chairman and the Secretary of Defense in terms of any military response.
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Mr. SNYDER. I don't think I have any further questions, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
Mr. Saxton the gentleman from New Jersey.
Mr. SAXTON. General Franks, can youwould you help me out with understanding, I have a chart here and I am not sure where the chart came from. I assume it is accurate, which is U.S.S. Cole evolution from Norfolk to Yemen leaving Norfolk on the 8th of August and arriving at Yemen on the 12th of October. In examining this chart, it appears to me, and maybe you can help me out, that it appears to me that leg one of the journey beginning at Norfolk and going to Barcelona, Spain wastook 13 days; is that about right?
General FRANKS. Sir, Norfolk departure on the 8th of August and then that is for workup off the east coast of the United States. That is what that gap is. And then you see the transit into Barcelona, 21 to 24 August, yes, sir.
Mr. SAXTON. That was a nonstop?
General FRANKS. Yes, sir, she did not stop. She was in workup preparing plans, exercising in the Atlantic, and then once she was certified combat ready or ready to deploy by COM second fleet, then she moved from our east coast into the European command area in the Mediterranean, and that is what that second chart is. I think the chart may be a little confusing.
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Mr. SAXTON. So presumably she refueled in Barcelona?
General FRANKS. Sir, I am not sure up there. I know that she did refuel before she entered the Suez Canal. The bottom right graphic, if you will. She refueled and then made the transit to Aden where you see her stop on the 12th.
Mr. SAXTON. So she refueledlet me ask you this: How many days on average can a Guided Missile Destroyer (DDG) sail and still retain 50 percent fuel capacity that you mentioned earlier?
General FRANKS. Sir, I won't be cute with you wearing this Army color uniform. I will tell you that the transit from the Suez around into northern Arabian Gulf is about 3300, 3400 miles. By the time she got halfway on that journey, which I would say around 1500 miles, she was at about 50 percent full. So I will say for the purpose in this open hearing in the range of probably 3500 miles till she was completely out of fuel. And then Admiral Vern Clark, when we go closed, I think can help, sir.
Mr. SAXTON. So and you said earlier that the decision to refuel in Yemen was strictly operational.
General FRANKS. Yes, sir.
Mr. SAXTON. Can you tell us is there communication between the Department of Defense or the folks that are making decisions in the Navy about these things and the State Department relative to diplomatic issues involving ports or countries such as Yemen?
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General FRANKS. Yes, sir there is. And both in terms of an operational capability as well as in an intelligence capability. For example, the fact that we are seeing issues in the Middle East which we are continuing to see on the TV today, the Cole certainly was in possession of all of that information as well as the intelligence information.
Mr. SAXTON. When you decide whether to use a port for refueling purposes, is there consultation with the State Department?
General FRANKS. Sir, there certainly is. As a matter of fact, the State Department at the local level has to get the diplomatic clearance from the country where the port visit will be conducted.
Mr. SAXTON. I wanted to pursue that. Because when you answered earlier that the decision was made, I got solely for operational purposes. There is communication and consultation between the folks that make those decisions and DOD and the State Department?
General FRANKS. Yes, sir, at this level. But once, sir, as it gets down to the operating level, where those naval commanders are, and as you know, our naval commander is in Bahrain.
Mr. SAXTON. Would it be fair to say that there are diplomatic reasons why ports are used from time to time?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. Can I clarify what the nature of the communication with the state is. The decision that Cole or any other ship should go into a particular port on a particular day is strictly a military decision. Once that decision is made, then there is a communication sent out to the embassy saying arrange for the diplomatic clearance, in some sense, the visa for the ship. But there is no consultation withit is not a situation where the embassy says, gee, it has been a long time since you sent a ship here, why don't you send Cole in.
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Mr. SAXTON. I understand that.
Mr. Chairman if I may ask one final question, then I guess Secretarylet me just ask you then, then a decisionthe path to a decision, now on which ports to use, does involve consideration of diplomatic matters, not on an individual day, not on a specific refueling, but overall there are diplomatic considerations in deciding on whether to use the port in this example port of Aden.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. Certainly there are diplomatic considerations, but the essential requirement when the decision was made in 1998 to begin using Aden on a regular basis to refuel ships, thatthe initiative for that came from the naval component in CENTCOM, and the decision to do it was made by themade, as General Zinni said, made ultimately by the CINC. And of course, it is a fact that fitted in with a broader policy which had good many other elements of engagements with Yemen. But if the Navy in the region had not thought it was a good idea and had not, in fact, thought of the idea, it would not have happened.
Mr. SAXTON. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Reyes.
Mr. REYES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think all of us understand that because of the situation, in particular in this region of the world, that our men and women are at risk, there is a couple of questions that I have that deal more with force protection than anything else, given the threat levels that are announced, I guess, on a day-to-day basis, on a week-to-week basis or whatever.
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The first one deals with, it is my understanding, that there is a change in protection policy now that ships like the Cole now will deploy a small boat or a launch that will have the responsibility for the perimeter security. Is thatfirst of all, is that true?
General FRANKS. Congressman Reyes, the range of measures available to the skipper of a ship includes measures that have to do with either asking the host government to provide for picket boats or different measures which tell the skipper that he should put picket boats in the water. So it is not a matter of a policy determination, it is a matter of the operational decision that tells the skipper which of the measures he should put in effect, if that helps.
Mr. REYES. So, given that what occurred, I am interested from a viewpoint of lessons learned.
General FRANKS. Yes, sir.
Mr. REYES. Whathave we done anything to raise the level of alertness, I guess the best way that I can describe it is in terms of what is going on, not just with Yemen, because the next attack may be at any of the other areas that we are fueling at now.
General FRANKS. Sir, when we go closed I will give you a completeI will give you a complete explanation. But for the purpose of this, because it is in the public view, the various levels of preparedness, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and so forth, contain measures that were implemented in this particular, or were in force in this particular instance. And I will try to describe in closed session exactly what those are and which things were to be undertaken then.
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Mr. REYES. Fair enough. The other question that Iexcuse me, go ahead, Secretary.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. It is a matter of public record that within a few hours, indeed not very many minutes of news of the attack, all the ships in the command were sortied out of port. In addition, the threat levelnot the threat level, the threat condition that is the state of alert, if you will, of the measures taken, was raised to a higher level to the Charlie level, and then subsequently on the basis of specific information in three countries, which have also been identified in public because it has to be, they were raised to the very highest level, which is one where there is a virtually an attack certainly expected as opposed to just imminent and predicted.
Mr. REYES. The other question that I have, is actually two questions the first one, was there, in fact, a different threat level at the U.S. embassy there than what was at issue in terms of the Cole docking?
Secretary WALKER. Congressman, I think I can clarify this issue. It was, in fact, that a special circumstance that existed on that Friday on the 12th that encouraged us and convinced us that we should close all of our embassies in this region. This was related to the violence that had been going on in Israel and to a mob violence attack on our embassy in Damascus, where the wall was actually penetrated. We were also in a very delicate stage in the consideration of a U.N. Security Council resolution, which had we done certain things, could have led to very severe mob violence in the whole region. That is why we closed the embassies. It was not related to specific threat information, it was related to the potential for mob action.
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Mr. REYES. Okay. The other part of that question, which I am going to assume we will have to discuss in closed session, deals with intelligence and what we might be doing to keep these kinds of incidents there recurring as much as possible.
General FRANKS. Yes, sir. And we will be prepared to do that in closed session.
Mr. REYES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Weldon.
Mr. WELDON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General Franks, why doesn't the Navy have the same kind of professional security force to be placed in advance or to predeploy similar to what the Air Force has when they deploy and put into place a professional security force that basically has no other purpose, except for to deal with these kind of situations? Why doesn't the Navy have a similar capability?
General FRANKS. Sir, I think the CNO will be better to answer that than I. But I do know that part of this review that the Secretary mentioned by Admiral Gehman and General Bill Crouch will lay all of the possibilities out so that we can see what those comparisons are.
Mr. WELDON. Let me ask you the question, does the Navy have the same kind of predeployed security force that the Air Force has?
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General FRANKS. Not to my knowledge, no, sir.
Mr. WELDON. Thank you. I want to talk a moment about the intelligence.
Secretary Walker, you alluded to the fact that this high state of alert in our embassies was primarily caused by the unrest in the Middle East. Isn't it true, and we will hear this in the intelligence part of this, isn't it true that we saw a pattern of intercepts over a period of time and indicate there was a stronger and stronger likelihood of terrorist action in the Middle East? Isn't there a pattern of intelligence intercepts to show that?
Secretary WALKER. Congressman, I would prefer to deal with that kind of information.
Mr. WELDON. I am not asking you for specifics, I am asking you for whether or not there was a pattern. That is very relative here. Because you made the characterization that it was based on what was happening in Israel.
Secretary WALKER. What I was talking about was the actual facts on the ground, the facts of large mobs forming in various cities.
Mr. WELDON. I understand that. But I am asking if there was a pattern of intelligence that we had available.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary WALKER. There certainly was threat information on not specific but certainly there has been a number of reports of threats to Americans and, in general, of terrorist activity.
Mr. WELDON. And also unspecific. Let me talk about the intercept.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. That is the critical distinction.
Secretary WALKER. That is the critical point.
Mr. WELDON. Well, and Secretary Slocombe, I will ask you this question, also. There was a report that you saw on the media today, which some of us were made aware of over the weekend, before it broke in the Washington Times, that in fact there were specific intercepts, not even intercepts, specific reports, one of which was issued supposedly right after the attack on the Cole.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. We will discuss that in the closed session because it involves going into what they said.
Mr. WELDON. I don't need the details, Secretary Slocombe, but what I want to know is, on the public record, if as the report issued today, and we will find this out in the classified session, hours after the attack on the Cole the Intelligence Community comes out with an assessment saying that there was potentiallyI am not characterizing anything yet, I am reporting what was in the news today, Secretary Slocombe, right or wrong, and we can verify that ourselves in classified sessionthat there was a report that came out that talked about one individual and one group, which we know the name of that, was deliberately going to take action against the U.S. and/or Israel in Yemen.
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Now my point is this. If in fact that is true, and I am not asking you to characterize whether or not that is the case today, that meant, the basis of that report, the collateral information and the assessment that was initially done had to have occurred perhaps before the attack on the Cole. Maybe the report was issued afterwards, and I don't think there is any debate about the report. Members can ask that question themselves when we go to a classified session. In fact, I will give the members a citation for the actual report if they want it. I am talking about the information that led up to that report.
That information in the report came out hours after the attack on the Cole. That meant somebody in the Intelligence Community, either at National Shipping Authority (NSA) or other people involved in collecting intelligence, had to know that things were occurring hours before the Cole was attacked.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. I will try. It is very difficult to answer that question without talking about what the reportand in fact there are two pieces ofthere are two reports which are relevant. I am saying what they say. One, neither report said that there was an imminent attack on an American ship in Yemen or any place else.
Mr. WELDON. And nobody is saying that. I didn't say that. You are very careful with your words. I did not say an imminent attack on a naval ship. I did not say that you did.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. I understand that, but that has a good deal to do with the significance of when the reports were circulated.
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Mr. WELDON. I said attack on a U.S. or Israeli installation in Yemen.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. That report, as I understand it, was in fact disseminated some 12 hours before the explosion.
Mr. WELDON. Before the explosion?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. There was another report, which is not the one that you are describing, which seems to be the one that the Washington Times story says is the one which was circulated after the explosion. The one that includes the language that you are referring to, as I understand it, was in fact disseminated some 11 or 12 hours before the explosion.
Mr. WELDON. No. The one I am referring to, and I will give you the exact Zulu time that it was released on the intelligence system, was actually 4 to 5 hours after the attack on the Cole.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. There were two reports. The one which doesn't say anything about Yemen is the one which was disseminated after the explosion. It refers to the other report, the one you have described, and as I understand it, that report was circulated some 11 or 12 hours before the explosion.
Mr. WELDON. Just one additional piece of information. We have to get to the bottom of when the intelligence was first gathered in raw form that led to that report because that could have been hours or days in advance of the Cole, and the question we have to ask is, are our current systems operable to give us adequate warning that something may be about to occur. I am convinced we don't have those tools. Maybe I will be convinced otherwise in the classified hearing, but I am convinced right now we don't have that kind of capability, and that is the kind of question I want to ask. How far in advance did we get the initial information that led us to believe that we had a name of a person, a name of a group, that in fact was looking to harm Israeli and American interests, and the one report thatI won't say seenI have heard aboutmentions Yemen.
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Secretary SLOCOMBE. That is a perfectly fair question and one that Admiral Wilson is prepared to address in a closed session.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Bartlett.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you. Mr. Slocombe, you mentioned that the reduction of tankers was less in percentage than the reduction of ships and that, therefore, the conclusion ought to be that we have got at least as many tankers available for refueling a specific ship as we did before the reduction, but isn't it true that the number of tankers needed is not related to the number of ships, with the size of the oceans that a tankerif we had only two ships we would still need two tankers, and I think that this really gets down to a readiness issue. When we had more tankers and more ships, we had enough tankers to go around pretty much, and we refueled 90 percent at sea. We don't do that now and isn't that in fact because we don't have enough tankers to be where they need to be?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. My understanding is that it has never been the Navy's practice to have on a general basis individual ships in transit to refuel from tankers.
Mr. BARTLETT. There is an American official statement: If Yemen is really going to begin moving economically, it is going to need a full recovery in Aden port. And that is interpreted as meaning a Navy contract will bring international business back to the port. Isn't it true that the decision to refuel at that port was not a military decision but in fact a political decision?
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary SLOCOMBE. No, it is not true, and General Zinni was very clear on that point, and the statement is not true.
General FRANKS. Sir, let me take a cut at it from an operational perspective, also, because I was not parroting General Zinni in my remarks when I said that it was an operational decision. I absolutely believe that, and while I can't give all of it, I can give some of the rationale that went into that, some of which General Zinni gave and other not.
At the time that that decision was made, the fuel storage capability for the military had been looking for years to try to find an alternative to Djibouti just across the Red Sea. That was based on operational reasons that had to do with the fact that it took 24 hours to fill up a ship, that a ship might wait 24 hours over there to move into the pier to be fueled, that it had to move pier side to be fueled, that in 1998 we had a problem between Eritrea and Ethiopia, that the infrastructure of that port was in great difficulty, that that contract that existed in Djibouti had not met fuel cleanliness standards; that the sampling techniques that were in use and so forthand so I am sure that it is more than coincidence that at the same time we had begun engagement activities beginning at about 1996 with Yemen that had to do with international training activity which we call International Military Education and Training (IMET), and that is the first $50,000 work that we did with Yemen at that time, but what happened when the request for bids went out in search of a new capability, as it turned out, at least as I am told, that the best offering came from Aden, Yemen. And that is not a really long story, but I truly believe that that is why that contract came into being, sir.
Mr. BARTLETT. I am not suggesting that the decision to refuel the Cole there was a political decision. I am simply suggesting.
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Secretary SLOCOMBE. I mean the decision to use the port for Navy fueling.
Mr. BARTLETT. That was my suggestion. I think that is a reasonable interpretation from this quote. If Yemen is really going to begin moving economically, it is going to need a full recovery in Aden port. And there is a report in one of the papers we have here that this contract was pure gold, was the way it was defined by the people who were supplying the service, pure gold. My suggestion is that, is there a possibility that the decision to refuel there, not just this ship but all of our ships, was in fact more motivated by the political desire to make sure that this country is able to move back into economic prosperity and that the military simply was a second level actor in this.
Secretary WALKER. Congressman, there are a couple of factors here. It is quite true that we would like to see more development in Yemen. It is one of the poorest countries in the region. Poverty, need tends to breed terrorism. One of our interests in Yemen is bringing terrorism under control, and that has been one of our objectives in having a relationship with Yemen. It is not true, however, that the State Department or anybody representing the State Department or the political side of the house ever suggested that the port of Aden should be used for refueling. That was strictly a military request initiative that was brought to our ambassador as a proposal from the military for strictly operational purposes.
I don't know exactly what the economic impact is of these two contracts for the port. In reality, what the port authority people are looking at and what the economic development people are looking at is civilian access and use of the port, more or less like Singapore has become a way station for civilian activities. So these are sort of apples and oranges in my view.
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Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, just 2 years before this, this port was considered unsafe for us to go to. My concern is that we are now going to that port at the lowest level of alert, just Bravo alert, to a port that just 2 years ago was unsafe to go to and we didn't go there at all. Thank you.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. The first time a U.S. ship was in Aden since 1969 was in April of 1997. So we actually began having Navy ships in the port somewhat before that time, and before we began a practice of regular use of the port for refueling there was a survey done by the appropriate CENTCOM security group that does these assessments and there were personal visits by the Navy commander, at that time Admiral Fargo, the NAVCINC commander, and by General Zinni, the CINC.
Mr. BARTLETT. And that was in 1998?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. Those visits were in 1998.
Mr. BARTLETT. Which is what I was referring to.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. But the judgment on the contrary was that the port was safe to go to.
Mr. BARTLETT. But we were not refueling there before that time.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. We weren't refueling there before that time.
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Mr. BARTLETT. Because we did not deem it as safe is my understanding.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. I am not sure that that is true. One of the reasons was it sharply limited our association with Yemen and then we had an initial port visit in 1997.
General FRANKS. Sir, one point that I would like to make is not precisely on that point, and we can discuss it fully in the closed session, but in fact that port is certainly not at the lowest level of preparedness in terms of measures. Condition Bravo is a substantial degree of force protection.
Mr. BARTLETT. But it is not Charlie and it is not Delta.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. It is not the highest but it is not the lowest by a long shot.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. Mr. Kuykendall.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I must tell you I still find myself very uncomfortable having discussions like this with the leadership of the military because I have a difficult time drawing a line on when I want to impinge upon the on-site commander's decision and discretion and what he is doing or she is doing at the time. So I have a great deal of empathy for you. I have been at that point some times.
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The things I would like, and maybe this will have to be in closed session discussion as well, but one of the things that was very obvious as soon as the strike on the Cole was made was we immediately found ourself with a substantial war fighting capability knocked out of action and literally no, I mean no, none, zero, American support capability to take care of casualties, communications, reinforcements, security or anything within I guess maybe 12 or 18 hours. I would like to hear you talk about what are you doing to change that scenario, and that is one issue and I don't know whether that is a classified subject or not. To me it might be classified but I think that is a big issue, when you have a Navy commander with 300 people on a vessel that is worth a billion dollars to us and the capabilities it has, pulls into a port and he suffers 20 percent casualties and has to use the local city hospital to take care of them, not that you wouldn't use it anyway in those circumstances, but no communication capability to back him up once his COM's knocked out and the guy is trying to save a vessel at the same time. Navy ships transit all the time by themselves and maybe we need to reassess strategy when we are transiting by ourselves in hazardous waters, as these have become for us, and this is an asymmetric threat as opposed to having somebody sail their fleet out and sortie against us.
So I would like you to discuss that, and you can either do it here or in closed session, but I think that is an area I would like to hear more about because I think that is a big one.
The other is on this refueling issue. It is my understanding that the Navy would sign contracts in ports all over the world as a matter of course because almost as an operational security measure you wouldn't want to be reliant upon either your own tankers or your own limited number of ports. So we have got 12 or 13 places we refuel in CENTCOM, and we choose them based upon a particular vessel's transits needs as opposed to, and we sign them in a lot of places and how many ships they get determines operationally; is that accurate to use that kind of a characterization?
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General FRANKS. Sir, let me start with the second question if I could. Since January 1999 we have donethis is called a Brief Stop for Fueling (BSF), not a port visit where we permit our sailors to go ashore, but a brief stop for fueling. In this case 4 to 6 hours was the expected duration of this visit. We have done in my area 186 of those visits in nine different ports since the beginning of January 1999. You are correct, it is 13 ports that we use there and a combination of two approaches. One is where we have a contractor who works solely for us and we have a storage contract there, and that is the case in Aden. The other is what we call a bunkering contract, and that is an arrangement made with an existing fueling capability where our ships can go in, if you will, like an Exxon station and use their credit card which they have on the ship. So both varieties but, yes, sir, there are 13 of them.
With respect to your first question, having to do with making those stops in places where we have no Americans, sir, I can't make a judgment right now about that, but I will tell you that the Secretary's guidance to the inquiry, to the after action review that is ongoing will embrace this sort of issue.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. I think that is clearly probably as big an issue as anything that we can follow up. If we have now got 5,000 troops and sailors and marines in that place trying to secure this vessel in this condition, we have obviouslyyou know, normally you send out somebody and start a war with that many people. We are just trying to get our boat back, and that is clearly something I would guess from an operationalI am interested in knowing it because that is a readiness issue now because if we have got that many people deployed in your part of the world and we don't have the ability to support them and the first people on scene were a French medical team and then a Royal Navy vessel of some kind, and then we start getting people on by air shortly after that, that skipper had his hands full for a long time before anybody could help him.
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General FRANKS. Sir, that skipper had his hands full. Skipper Lippold, and if I could say before this body, did an absolutely miraculous job both on behalf of his crew and his ship.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. Without having had any other briefing, I would have concurred because his ship is still afloat. Thank you, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Hill.
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to know what procedures you go through in order to determine what the threat levels are at these ports.
General FRANKS. Sir, if I could, I will give you generically for open session and then give you specifics when we go closed.
Threat level purely has to do with the terrorist threat, and there are five ingredients to that: The existence of the threat capability in a given country; the capability that may exist to conduct operations in a country; the history, whether there is a history of terrorist activity in a country, and certainly that was the case in Yemen; whether there appear to be intentions to commit a terrorist activity in a country; and the final and most salient piece of that discussion on level, on threat level, is whether there is a target, whether there has been identification.
Now, sir, placing that to the side, the threat con, or threat condition, which is somewhat confusing I think to many Americans, and rightly so, is a set of measures that is used to set safety or to set force protection levels against the threat level that I described a minute ago, and that is where the discussion of level A, level B, level C and level D comes in, sir, and I am willing to go into that with you in detail but I would request that we do it in closed session.
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Mr. HILL. Okay. Are you able to tell me what Bravo means at this session?
General FRANKS. Sir, I can. A threat condition of Alpha means that there is a general threat in the area, general terrorist threat. It has been identified but it is unpredictable and its patterns are indefinite. That condition, that set of measures is to be used over the long term by a friendly force and is not expected to have any sort of grave consequence to that force.
Threat condition Bravo exists when the threat is in fact increased and is more predictable, and this has to do with the amount and the type of intelligence information received, and threat condition Bravo is a maintainable standard over a mid length of time. You can go to conditions under Bravo and continue to operate.
When you get to threat condition Charlie, that occurs when an incident has occurred or appears to be imminent, which goes back to the Secretary's comment earlier that had to do with whether the reporting indicated that an attack was imminent.
So, sir, that is Alpha, Bravo and Charlie.
Mr. HILL. So what procedures would they put themselves through to implement a Bravo threat?
General FRANKS. Sir, that is what I would request to talk to you about in closed session.
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Mr. HILL. Let me ask you this then. What other areas other than the Middle East are under security threat Bravo?
General FRANKS. Sir, maybe the Secretary can do better than I at this one. I spent my previous 3 years as the Army component commander for General Zinni in Central Command but before that 3 years in Korea, an area known well to you, and off and on there the conditions and the measures taken would spike to higher and then back to normal operating conditions. There probably are places around the world in other geographical regions where the threat conditions are this high, but I will tell you in the case of Central Command, in our area of responsibility, down the Red Sea on both sides, up in the Gulf all the way from Pakistan to Kazakhstan, that area, that is a high threat level area, sir.
Mr. HILL. And what threat level are we at presently?
General FRANKS. Sir, the threat level in all save six countries is high.
Mr. HILL. Okay.
General FRANKS. We have 25 countries, and 19 of them operate at a high threat level.
Mr. HILL. Secretary Slocombe, you mentioned that now all ships are being refueled through tankers.
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Secretary SLOCOMBE. All ships in the CENTCOM AOR, yes.
Mr. HILL. Which leads me to believe that we can do this on a permanent basis.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. It means we can do it on a short-term basis, in an emergency situation such as we have now. What we will do in the long run will have to be determined.
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. Just for the record, there are other countries outside the AOR that are higher than normal threat condition or higher than normal threat level as well.
The CHAIRMAN. One comment, the threat levels and so forth. Mr. Skelton was referring to the discrepancy between the threat level at the embassy in Aden and on board the Cole. Could you explain the difference in the way you judge a threat level at an embassy and on board a military ship?
General FRANKS. Sir, I will follow the lead of the ambassador.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary WALKER. Mr. Chairman, there was not a formal threat level in Sanaa, where the capital was. What we had done was take an extraordinary measure because of what we thought were extraordinary circumstances at that time, and for 4 days we closed the embassy, and we notified the American community that we were doing so because we were deeply concerned about the possibility of mob violence, this resulting from the very angry crowds that had developed coming out of the situation in Israel at the time. So it was not official threat level. It had no militaryit was not a military threat evaluation. It was an evaluation based on the facts on the ground at that time.
The CHAIRMAN. And we closed some other embassies recently.
Secretary WALKER. Mr. Chairman, we closed all the embassies in my region.
General FRANKS. Mr. Chairman, if I could add from the operational side of that, there was even at that point not a disconnect in our appreciation of the threat level because at the same time the embassy held threat level high, our forces held threat level high.
The CHAIRMAN. And just recently, too, I think the threat level had been indicated highest in QatarI guess they call it ''gutter'' over thereBahrain and Turkey.
General FRANKS. Sir, that is correct as well as in Egypt, as well as in Jordan, as well as in Israel, all the way, sir, around to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, yes, sir.
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The CHAIRMAN. We were just a few of us within that area a couple of months ago, and I know especially in Qatar, and of course we had State Department security and host nation security for our trip, but they still had a threat level that is pretty high.
General FRANKS. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Abercrombie.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I don't know who to ask this question to. The military attache, attached to the embassy, correct?
General FRANKS. Yes, sir, that is correct.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. The military attache is responsible to who? Let me start again. How does the military attache divide his or her responsibilities with respect to operating within the embassy and operating on behalf of his or her military superiors?
Secretary WALKER. Congressman, the military attache reports to the ambassador, but if he is the Department of Defense representative in the region, he would also have a collateral reporting responsibility to theI guess it is to the commander of CENTCOM. It depends on the situation in each country.
General FRANKS. What you find, sir, is that in the case of some of our countries we will have an attache that will have not only his normal functions, as the Secretary described them, but he will also have the security assistance functions.
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Is that the case here?
General FRANKS. Sir, that is the case.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. That is the case here. That being said, does the military attache have the authority, let alone the responsibility, for all military activities with respect to the hiring of personnel, civilian personnel in any port or other circumstance that the attache works out of the embassy on?
General FRANKS. No, sir, he does not.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. The contracts in question were signed, the oil contracts, the bunkering and storage contracts were signed by the CENTCOM element of an agency called the Defense Energy Support Center, and the husbanding contract, that is the kind of general contract.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Just a second. Defense Energy Support.
Secretary SLOCOMBE. A part of the Defense Logistics Agency.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Defense Energy Support what?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. Center, which is part of Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Did DLA have the responsibility?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. They have the responsibility for the contract with the bunkering company and with the oil storage company.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. How do they delegate that responsibility? DLA is located in Washington, isn't it?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. Yes, but the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC) has a representative for CENTCOM in Bahrain.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. How does the representative in Bahrain delegate authority and responsibility?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. I think, my understanding is that it was an employee of that office who went to Aden and talked to the people.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. An employee of the United States of America, an American national, or a national either of Bahrain or some other country?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. Best of my knowledge an American citizen, would be a government employee.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. And that person is responsible for the hiring of the company that will handle this and other activities associated with Defense Energy Support Center?
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Secretary SLOCOMBE. As the name implies, for fuel, yes.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Indulge me, Mr. Chairman, a bit. Once that takes place on the side, what does that person do? Does that person liaison with the military attache?
General FRANKS. No, sir. He liaisons with that contract which belongs to the DESC and he will visit each of his contractors in each of the areas from time to time.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. From time to time. So once the contract is signed that person returns to Bahrain?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. But returns periodically to Aden and the other, however many points there are, like any other government contract.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Okay. I am not trying to trick you in anything. I am trying to get, like any other contractor, and once they sign up then they expect the people to handle this. So for all intents and purposes the military attache then has no oversight responsibility, once that contract is signed, once the representative in Bahrain determines that the person is a responsible person, going to do all the expected contracting work, returns to Bahrain, what kind of oversight then takes place at that point?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. The oversight is at several levels. First, there are periodic visits, reviews by the contracting office in Bahrain. Second, each time a ship went into the harbor, it filed a report in which it commented on a whole variety of issues, both logistical and security, in terms of how well it was being served by the contractors in the port.
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Right. Let me interject, and perhaps you can give me something in writing later as to how it all works. My time is limited and that is the only reason I am doing it. That said, you get the periodic reports and all the rest of it. So essentially you are dependent upon the professionalism, the goodwill, the good intentions, logistically dependent on the contractor carrying out the contract?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. Yes. You also asked about the defense attache. The defense attache is the military person on the ground on a continuing basis and will be familiar with how things are working in the port, how the contracts come in, often would be present, would talk to the ship's commander, and so on, about how they were being serviced and what the security situation was.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. But the attache in all likelihood is not going to be monitoring physically, eyeballing these operations, may find it in fact impossible to do that because they probably come from more than one particular place, right?
Secretary SLOCOMBE. Sometimes. My understanding is that sometimes an attache would be present and sometimes not for the actual fueling operation.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. That said, in as much as that is probably about as much as can be expected institutionally speaking on the civilian side, if you will, on the contracting and it is likely that alland let us assume that every aspect of that was followed to the letter, all the way throughdoesn't it make sense then at that point on the military side of it for any commander to assume that if anything can go wrong in that process in terms of infiltration on the civilian side of terrorists, or whatever else it is, it is likely to happen or could happen, is possible to happen, and therefore such security measures as can be implemented on the military side of it would be absolutely rigidly, without exception, enforced?
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General FRANKS. Congressman, what I would say is it is possible that it could happen. I am not sure that it is likely. I believe that it is possible that it could happen, and one of the parts of the Secretary's charter that he gave to Howell Layman and Bill Crouch is to look specifically at what is involved in these contract operations to go to that point.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. This is the key to what I am trying to get, and again I am not trying to trap anybody, I am not trying to catch anyone. What I am saying here is, doesn't it make sense from the military perspective to assume that in as much as there cannot be observations, surveillance, supervision at all aspects on the contracting side, that discretion requires that you assume that if it is possible to infiltrate bad people into that process, somebody's going to try to do it at some point, therefore, every security standard that is mandated on the military side should without exception be carried through on no matter how benign the atmosphere might seem on the outside, et cetera.
General FRANKS. Sir, I will say that I believe that that is a factor in the determination of the measures that will be implemented.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Fair enough.
General FRANKS. There is recognition that these are contracted operations and a warship or in fact an infantry battalion when it enters into an environment understands that, and the force measures that are in effect are designed to protect with that in mind.
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. The reason I am asking the series of questions is I want to establish for the record what the process was exactly because you have newspaper reportsand I realize you have leaks and all that, but I will tell you, I don't know of anybody from this Committee that has ever violated, I know I certainly never have, any admonition that we have with respect to classified and all the rest of it. But it is troublesome to someone on the Committee, and I am not speaking for the Chairman obviously, but I have an idea that he feels the same way, to read in the newspaper then from sources of one kind of another that the Navy in this instance did not follow through on all of the safety standards and security measures that were required and this is being printed in the newspaper.
Now, I am not going to ask you here in this open session necessarily whether that is true or not, but how could that be printed if there wasn't at least speculation on that kind of thing, and can you say for the record in open session whether or not all security standards were met with respect to the operation of the ship and the securing of the ship while it was in port?
General FRANKS. Sir, the Secretary may want to comment on this. Within 24 hours of the time the Cole was attacked, I was in a position within very short flight time of U.S.S. Cole on the ground, and within 72 hours I walked on her decks with the captain and with the members of the crew. I will just be very honest with you, given the efforts that were ongoing by that skipper and that crew to save that ship, I didn't ask.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Fair enough.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General FRANKS. And I believe, sir, that in due course, based on the charters that have been given to investigate and inquire into the issue, sir, we will know the facts, and right now I do not know the facts to respond to your question.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. My last point then is, I assume, do you agree that my question is a fair one and does need addressing?
General FRANKS. Sir, I do agree.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Abercrombie.
Mrs. FOWLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I know we are getting ready to have a vote in a few minutes. I just want to thank the gentlemen for being with us today, and General Franks, I am not sure whether this is something you can answer in this session or not. We might have to wait. My question goes to the status at which the U.S.S. Cole was operatingI understand it was a contempo Bravoand what those requirements are. Is that something you can answer in this session or do I need to hold that?
General FRANKS. Ma'am, only generically to say that she was, as described, operating at measure Bravo. What I would prefer to take to closed session is what the specific measures were under that condition.
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Mrs. FOWLER. I have some concerns about that because my understanding is some of the specific measures that are required under that were not met, and my question will be in the closed session more specific then as to why they were not met.
General FRANKS. Yes, ma'am, thank you.
Mrs. FOWLER. Before the incident occurred.
Mr. Chairman, my other question really is going to go more to Admiral Clark, but just since General Franks is over all of this now, just when we go to the closed sessions I will be talking to Admiral Clark about this, but I am concerned thatmy understanding is because of the cuts that have been occurring in our military end strengths, and I know General Zinni testified last week, that among the implications of downsizing that we have reduced the number of oilers in the fleet, that as a consequence the number of port visits, including foreign port visits, has increased because we don't have enough tankers out there to put the fuel in.
Meanwhile it is my understanding also that the number of Navy personnel who are tasked with the mission of doing advanced threat assessments and port security visits has declined by roughly one-third since 1992. If that is correct, can you tell me what impact these cuts in military and civilian personnel have had on security and on the Navy's ability to protect against threats both at home and in foreign ports and have the same across-the-board cuts been applied to security personnel, and what impact would this be having on overall security and specifically towards our security in our foreign ports?
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General FRANKS. Ma'am, only part of it can I talk to it, not because it is open session but because I don't know, but I do know the CNO will be able to address it when he comes. I know that I am not sure about the manpower part for the naval vulnerability assessments on the Central Command side and on the side of the Chairman. We had this assessment capability. In Central Command we do about 35 of these vulnerability assessments every year, and I think coupled with the Chairman's capability, we have done 84 of these assessments, vulnerability assessments, of a variety of ports and of military installations over in my area of responsibility since the summer of 1998. I know that just because I checked.
I will say that the fact that we do this came out of as a lesson from Khobar Towers and from that era, and it is one of the most responsible and responsive capabilities that we have, so that we in fact can assess within this high threat area where the highest threats are, and it is an important capability to us.
Mrs. FOWLER. Well, if the number had been cut by a third since 1992 that are doing those advanced threat assessments, then we do have a problem and I will certainly pursue that with the CNO because you can't do the ones you need to be doing if you are cutting the personnel in that area. The same reason Khobar Towers, because the mylar wasn't put on the windows, when you had people tell you to put them on there, we had 12 people die, one of them being one of my constituents, that they didn't need to die. So if we are cutting stillif we didn't learn our lesson from Khobar and we are still cutting advanced threat personnel, then I am very concerned.
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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The CHAIRMAN. We have a vote on. We are going to try to get to Mr. Taylor first and then we will stand in recess and reconvene in Room 2212 in 10 minutes to continue the executive session hearing.
Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, gentlemen, for being here, Mr. Chairman, General, Mr. Slocombe. I have got to admit that I guess my first eyeball look at force protection was in a place called Basra in Iraq when I went to visit the Third Armored Brigade going down a rather serpentine path, through barricades, down the barrel of an M1A2 to see the troops. I have seen the extraordinary efforts taken in Bosnia, where even to this day the troops aren't allowed to go into the communities except in full battle gear. Even in Vieques I have had the Navy tell me of their reluctance to send teams in there to do civil action, goodwill measures because of fear of some local hot heads trying to hurt them. I say this and I commend all those things. You do try to look out for your troops.
What troubles me though about this particular incidence is having said all those, and I meant those as congratulatory terms, the apparent ease with which this took place.
General FRANKS. I am sorry, I didn't hear you.
Mr. TAYLOR. The apparent ease with which this took place. So I would think a fair question would be that I know that a number of ships have called on this port. In every instance was there no picket of smaller vessels around the warship that was being refueled?
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General FRANKS. Sir, the records that I have indicate that there were vessels who, in fact, went into this port without picket boats, yes, sir.
Mr. TAYLOR. In every instance?
General FRANKS. In previously, among the 26 previous visits to this port. I don't have all the records yet so I haven't seen them all, but I do know that that will be part of the open laydown on the issue.
Mr. TAYLOR. Who would make that decision whether or not to deploy the smaller vessels? Is that the commanding officer of the ship's decision? Is that the admiral in charge of that fleet's decision? Who makes that call?
General FRANKS. Sir, concentric circles. I have the ability to direct measures to be in place all the way down to a ship. The naval commander over in the region also has the ability to tell a ship this is what condition I want you to be in, and in every case the skipper of a ship has the ability to raise his level of force protection, and so it begins with a basic level, but each lower level can raise his level protection.
Mr. TAYLOR. In this instance, did anyone in that chain order that precaution to be taken?
General FRANKS. Yes.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. TAYLOR. Why wasn't it taken?
General FRANKS. Sir, I am not going to say it wasn't taken. I don't know that it wasn't taken and the specifics.
Mr. TAYLOR. General, if I may, what was the speed of the launch that detonated against the ship? I am told it was a very slow moving launch.
General FRANKS. Sir, with respect, I think I will leave that to the investigators. I have seen the same information in open forum that you have seen. I have seen that, that it was slow. As I said, when I visited the Cole I talked to many members of the crew, and the general description was that it was a slow moving vessel, yes, sir. The reason that I said what I did a minute ago is because the measures that were a part of threat condition Bravo I would like, and I will give them all to you in spades, sir, but I would like to do that in closed session to further answer and provide greater clarity to exactly what the expectation was at that measure.
Mr. TAYLOR. Since we are going to have some time for you to collect your thoughts, I would also like to know what was the approximate speed of the launch, whether or not there were additional small vessels in the area other than those assigned to the ship that might have been a decoy or a distraction or any other extenuating circumstances that you think this committee should know about because, again, what I have got to believe troubles every mother and father of a person in uniform is the apparent ease that this took place, when I know that you in other places around the world take extraordinary steps to protect the forces.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General FRANKS. Yes, sir.
Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. And one brief thing before we break on that question of pickets around the ships and so forth that you are very much involved in, we had information from some sources, I won't reveal, that the State Department vetoed that approach, saying it makes us look too militaristic.
General FRANKS. Mr. Chairman, what I will say is that, with respectI won't talk in this forum specifically to picket boats. I will talk about the area around a ship. There are measures that involve keeping the smaller boats away from a ship, and one of the ways to do that is with picket boats. What I was mentioning to the Congressman is, what I don't want to describe here, is exactly what those measures were, but I am willing to do that in the closed session, sir.
Secretary WALKER. And Mr. Chairman, the State Department has no say on force protection for an individual's ship or for that matter for anything to do with CENTCOM. That is the decision of the commander of CENTCOM. We don't recommendwell, we may in some cases recommend a visit not go forward because we have information about the security situation in the area, but it is still not our decision. It is the decision of the military authorities.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. We will break and come back for closed session.
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[Whereupon, at 4:45 p.m., the Committee proceeded in Closed Session.]
A P P E N D I X
June 28, 2000
[This information is pending.]