Press Briefing by Mike McCurry
7:00 P.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: -- I'm here if there are any questions that you needed answers to that haven't been answered already before many of us, and we hope you included, have a night out on the town.
All right, we are going to -- what kind of lid situation are we in? We'll be ready to put on some type of operational lid for here very shortly with the exception of readouts that will go to the pool after dinner.
MR. FETIG: I'll also hang around after Mike's briefing for anybody that has a question that's specific.
MR. MCCURRY: All right, let me ask again, does anyone have any questions that need answered on the record before we shut down for the night?
Q: -- on the budget?
MR. MCCURRY: On the budget.
Q: Bob Livingston said that Congress has not actually agreed to pay for troops, you know, the way that it has been portrayed, and that a separate request will be necessary --
MR. MCCURRY: The question was that there's not been the details of the agreement by which there would be funding for the Bosnia deployment, and how would that be drawn out of the $243 billion defense appropriations bill that the President has now approved. The answer is there will still be subsequent discussions necessary between the White House and Congress on precisely how to accomplish that funding. The issue involves the O&N funding in the defense bill, how you might transfer some procurement money perhaps -- perhaps -- stress on perhaps -- through rescissions into the O&N account. And that's a technical budget issue that will have to be discussed further with the appropriations chairs. So they're protecting their prerogatives as chairs of the committee. And that doesn't change our view that there is consensus in the discussions that Panetta had that they will fund the Bosnia operation out of this defense appropriations bill.
Q: In his comments in the press conference with the Irish Prime Minister today, the President said it was possible that the U.S. contribution to the Bosnian force could be a lot less than one-third of the total. I think that's the first we've heard that. Did he mean that of the 60,000 that might less than a third --
MR. MCCURRY: No, the overall -- Carl's question was that the -- the contribution to the force projected for the IFOR, would it be a third, roughly a third. The President was making the point there in response to UPI's question that associated with the deployment on the ground in Bosnia are logistics and support activities that will occur in the Adriatic. There's a MARG unit that will be there in Croatia. There is staging operations up in Hungary, and some additional deployments elsewhere, logistic deployments. And the President was thinking at that point of overall total operational cost, not just the marginal cost added because of the ground deployment. Again, we anticipate that force to be roughly 60,000. The costs are going to be roughly $2 billion, I believe. That's -- when you add in a lot of the activity associated directly with that deployment. But that now includes the way the Pentagon is calculating its sum of the costs associated with air ops and with logistic ops that support that force that will go in.
Can I make a suggestion that we -- I am not, nor is anyone here, the best person to run through all of the way they are going to handle these briefings. We are trying to work with both NATO public affairs and DOD public affairs folks to have a briefing for everyone tomorrow so you can all get up to speed on those types of issues.
Q: -- the morning, is it fair to describe the $2 million as that costs will be incurred over and above anything that would have already been there, like salaries --
MR. MCCURRY: I can't answer that affirmatively. It is roughly $2 billion for the costs associated with the deployment. But there is a lot in theater already associated with no-fly, associated with sanctions enforcement, associated with other activities that would have continued anyhow.
Remember, we have a standing commitment right now to provide close air support to UNPROFOR, which is still on the ground in Bosnia. That is an ongoing mission. There are costs associated with that. Those costs now will be rolled over to the IFOR deployment. And sorting out how they are making those transitions and how they are calculating the costs is best done by the Pentagon since they'll have better access to facts.
Q: -- figure still holds for the troops --
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is that when -- the American people are thinking, what are troops on the ground in Bosnia going to be doing as part of the enforcement of this peace. And that is the force that we are talking about. Now, they understand, I think every American understands, that there are transport ships that get them there; there are pilots who protect them over the air; there are backup supplies that are sort of actions in the rear that you have to take into account as well. But they're thinking, as the President is thinking, of those who will be, in a sense, right in the zone of separation helping to enforce the peace.
Q: Mike, how is the President going to explain congressional skepticism over the mission? How is he going to explain that to these guys as they head off --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think he's going to -- he said today he's going to tell them that they're going to accomplish a difficult mission that many people have questions about because it is a conflict that is complicated in a part of the world that is not easy for many Americans to understand.
But, again, he is confident that as they learn more, as Americans will because they will be concerned about our forces who are deployed there, they will understand more of the nature of the mission, the fact that they are there to protect the peace and to help keep people alive. And Americans, as they come to understand that, we believe, will be supportive. Q: Mike, before we leave Ireland, I want to ask you one more question on this trip . Politically
Americans don't usually vote foreign policy. Do you see any -- even if that wasn't the intent of the trip, do you see any political benefit to the President --
MR. MCCURRY: The question is, do we see any, quote, unquote, "political benefit" from the trip. Look, everyone in this room can write that piece as well as I could comment on it. I strongly suspect that in the long run, people feel better about their president, and they know the president is conducting foreign policy as effectively as Bill Clinton is conducting it now.
Q: But what about the -- specifically, Irish American vote? Do you think that this enables you to make some inroads there? The Democrats have been losing a lot of support --
MR. MCCURRY: I have absolutely no way of predicting. I think it would a good -- good now in the aftermath of this trip for many of your news organizations to go talk to the Irish American community and assess that.
Q: Well, Mike, didn't the President himself supply the analysis today when he said for every Irish person in Ireland there are 12 Americans with Irish roots --
MR. MCCURRY: No, that was demography, not politics. What else? (Laughter.)
Q: -- trip for nothing?
Q: -- man here, you or -- (laughter).
MR. MCCURRY: No. You guys can write that. I'm not going to help you. If you want to write that story, write that story.
Q: How would you sum up the President's feelings about his achievements on this island --
MR. MCCURRY: The President, in private to many of us, has been as noticeably enthusiastic as he has been when you have seen him publicly. He is struck, first and foremost, by the people that he has encountered. And for him, no matter how important the investment of time and effort connected to the peace process, there is nothing that makes it quite so tangible or meaningful as to look into the faces of those children and those people that he's seen in these crowds, and to be told thank you, and to be asked, as he was asked often yesterday, don't forget us, stay with us.
That made the biggest impression on the President, and it, I think, doubled his determination to do exactly that -- to recognize that this is, as Prime Minister Bruton said today, a process; it is not peace. And to get to the point of peace will require a lot more hard work in the process that now is aimed at peace.
Q: -- defense appropriations bill contained a provision that directs the Pentagon not to pay $31 million in bonuses to Lockheed-Martin. Is that the end of it -- you're not going to pay them that bonus now?
MR. MCCURRY: That's a specific provision that I know we are interested in and I know you are interested in, and I don't have an answer to that. I'll have to try to get an answer.
Q: -- get an answer --
MR. MCCURRY: I imagine that it has now been addressed or may have been addressed within the last hour at the Pentagon.
Q: Mike, the President was asked this morning about what he was going to say -- whether he had any casualty estimates. He didn't answer that -- (inaudible) -- question. Can you give us an answer.
MR. MCCURRY: The President -- the President -- in a multi-part question -- got a question on casualties today. The President, to my knowledge -- nor has anyone in the administration publicly discussed casualty estimates that have been reviewed by military planners. And I would save that question, or I will save that question for tomorrow and see whether that's something -- the briefing that he receives from General Joulwan addresses.
Q: Mike, can you also get a breakdown of the types of casualties from the past deployments -- Haiti, Somalia, Panama, Grenada?
MR. MCCURRY: I would ask that you direct that over to the Pentagon. They would have more accurate information on that. I just don't have it -- don't have it here, and we would get it from Pentagon. And they will be working later in the evening tonight so it would be easier to get it from them.
Anything else? Okay, one last --
Q: They announced that Mary Robinson was coming to Washington in June. Are there any plans to possibly invite Bruton also to come, or an effort to have Major and Bruton come together, perhaps?
MR. MCCURRY: She will be invited to come for a formal state visit. And I believe the tentative date for planning purposes is June 13th. The President extended that invitation to day and also reviewed her visit with the Taoiseach, and I don't know whether or not there would be any effort to bring the head of government with the head of state; but it is -- as a state visit, I suspect not. Of course, the President will have opportunities between now and June to see Prime Minister Bruton again. That was about President Mary Robinson.
Q: He comes for Saint Patrick's Day, doesn't he, anyway, right?
MR. MCCURRY: He traditionally does, yes.
All right, everyone, goodnight.
Q: Did the President call Dole --
MR. MCCURRY: The President indicated to me last night that he did want to -- he was thinking of calling President Dole and thanking both him and Senator McCain --
Q: President Dole?
MR. MCCURRY: President Dole, it's a Freudian slip.
He didn't -- I don't know whether he had the opportunity to do that or not, because he did have a chance shortly thereafter to thank Senator Dole -- Senator Dole -- publicly.
Q: Are you as tired as you sound?
MR. MCCURRY: Am I as tired as I sound? Obviously.
END 7:13 P.M. (L)
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Mike McCurry Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/270151