THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY GINNY TERZANO AND DAVID JOHNSON
The Briefing Room
1:10 P.M. EST
MS. TERZANO: Hi. David and I are going to try to help you here today with any questions you may have. David is going to -- we'll just do a tag team, sort of. David will help you on the foreign policy issues and I will help you on everything else. And we're ready to begin. Any questions?
Q Can you give us a readout on the meeting that Panetta had this morning on the budget?
MS. TERZANO: Sure. Mr. Panetta went up to Capitol Hill today to meet with the Chairman, both the minority and majority's --Senator Hatfield and Senator Byrd, Congressman Livingston and Congressman Obey, the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee -- to talk about the FY '96 appropriation bills. He had a very good meeting with them where they reached an agreement where we would work toward one appropriations bill to resolve all of the differences on the appropriation bills, on all of the outstanding appropriation bills and to work towards those differences, and to also work toward meeting the President's priorities as far as investments and modifying some of the language concerns that the President had in various appropriation bills.
In doing so, they have agreed to designate staff, both here at the White House and OMB and at Capitol Hill to begin the necessary discussions to resolve the differences, and those discussions will start today.
Q Those are the five still unresolved appropriations bills?
MS. TERZANO: The unresolved ones are -- I will go through them -- Labor, HHS, education, which is one; V.A.-HUD, which also contains EPA; Commerce, Justice, State; the Interior appropriations; and D.C.
Q And does this mean that the President's giving up on the seven-year balanced budget negotiations?
MS. TERZANO: Oh, of course not. As Mike indicated yesterday, there are three moving targets as far as getting a budget and working toward a straightforward debt limit extension bill and resolving the FY '96 appropriation concerns. And we are all moving together on that front. As Mr. Panetta indicated himself this morning after the meeting, it was a good meeting, it was a productive meeting, and we are working toward resolving these three issues.
Q Ginny, is there a feeling that with working toward an agreement on the appropriations bill to put them into a single mega-bill, that that could be done in time to avert the need of another CR, or will it take longer than March 15?
MS. TERZANO: Well, that's certainly the President's hope. We don't want to move up against the mid-March deadline of having to go through the government shutting down again and imposing on federal workers. The meeting today -- we were encouraged by the meeting today and the progress that was made in the meeting in agreeing to work towards one appropriations bill. And as I've said, the staff is going to begin to have the serious discussions to resolve the differences, and we hope that this can happen as quickly as possible.
Q So the emphasis is more on getting the appropriations resolved than on negotiating a CR at this point?
MS. TERZANO: At this point, yes.
Q One of the things they mentioned this morning was $5 billion in add-backs. Could you explain what that is?
MS. TERZANO: It is my understanding, and I would also like to refer you to OMB and to -- we may have Barry Toiv just do some follow-up through phone calls later -- but it's my understanding that with the appropriation bills, in discussions that the President requested, for instance, in Oval Office meetings when the budget discussions were going on, these bills are already $25 billion below the President's initial request. What happened today is that they have -- they are looking at $8 billion add-back which would help restore some of those initial funds that are lost, which is not any different than what was discussed in budget meetings last fall and at the end of the year.
Q Was there any progress beyond the procedural notion of just lumping them all into one piece of legislation? Was there any substantive progress in resolving some of the unresolved issues behind the continued delay in passing these fiscal '96 bills?
MS. TERZANO: On the appropriations bills?
MS. TERZANO: Yes. I mean, Mr. Panetta came out of that meeting very encouraged and is encouraged that both Republicans and Democrats involved in this meeting want to work together and resolve this, and going back to your question, Leo, hoping to resolve it before the mid-March deadline.
Q Following up on that, are there any issues that were not resolved going into this meeting that are now resolved other than the procedural question of let's put them in all the into --
MS. TERZANO: Well, there were many issues that were not resolved, but what Mr. Panetta did going into this meeting was hope to keep the investments that the President has in his priorities on the various appropriations bill. And we have certain concerns over legislative language, and there are many issues on the table on both of those fronts that are not yet resolved. But we feel optimistic that the members in this room want to work with us. We certainly want to work with them to get the appropriation bill passed.
Q Ginny, have there been any occasions in the last two or three weeks while Congress was in recess that the Republican leadership, both on the Appropriations Committee and elsewhere, was more and more tending to get rid of the '96 stuff, in other words to bury the hatchet with regard to '96 appropriations because they want to focus on '97 and they want to focus on the seven-year balanced budget -- in other words, the other targets? Did Leon in his discussion today with Livingston and Hatfield get the feeling that the Republicans are ready to sort of call it quits on '96 differences?
MS. TERZANO: I can't help you directly with your question, but it is my impression that the primary focus of this meeting was to talk about the FY '96 appropriation bills, which they did address very specifically and within urgent mind-set to work on this prior to March 15th or mid-March. And the results of this meeting are good coming out of the meeting, which is why we are now working at the staff level to proceed on this at a fast pace.
Q Was a date set for another meeting?
MS. TERZANO: With the appropriation chairs and Mr. Panetta? No, not that I'm aware of.
Q I'm a little curious as to why you all wanted to lump everything together into one bill. It would seem that that would make it more difficult to deal with the things that you would object to. The Interior bill alone has enough stuff in it that you all don't like.
MS. TERZANO: I think in part, it is to move as quickly as possible on this. If you put all of the issues on the table with the six appropriation bills that are out there with the differences, discuss those, work those out and negotiate them and do it in one bill, I think the thinking is, in part, that we can do it more efficiently than we have in the past, and at a quicker pace.
Q You also run the risk of things that the President thoroughly dislikes.
MS. TERZANO: Well, that's part of the discussion that's on the table. Mr. Panetta indicated with the appropriators today that the President's investment should be restored and legislative language on certain bills needs to be changed. And those are the discussions that are now going to go forward with the various staff people involved in it.
Q Anything new on Chelsea's birthday?
MS. TERZANO: No. She's -- no, she's at school.
Q Do you know what their plans are for dinner?
MS. TERZANO: No, I think -- I believe that they've planned some type of birthday celebration and I don't have the specifics on that, and I'll refer you to the First Lady's Office.
Q How about Cuba? Do you have anything on Cuba?
MS. TERZANO: David, do you have an appropriations -- do you want to do this?
Q Did Leon find as much zeal on the part of the Republicans for a balanced budget as there was earlier? Are they fading in their zeal for the balanced budget --
MS. TERZANO: I did not ask him about that, but the President's commitment to reaching a balanced budget in seven years is still there, and we are working with Congress to move ahead on the issues that are not resolved and to get a balanced budget done.
Q Ginny, on another subject, there was a report released today that purported to uncover a continuing pattern of abuse of the don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue policy. Is the administration --
MS. TERZANO: Who was the report done by?
Q Service Members Legal Defense Network.
MS. TERZANO: Okay, that's going to be David. Let's do this budget question.
Q I have one other budget debt limit question. Did the debt limit come up this morning? Where are we on that?
MS. TERZANO: I am not aware that the debt limit came up specifically in the meeting, but as Mr. Panetta's letter indicated yesterday that went up to Senator Dole and Speaker Gingrich, is that the President does want to see a straightforward, long-term extension of the debt limit, and hopes to -- and we are prepared to work with Congress to ensure that we can get this done, as Republicans indicated in their February letter to the White House that they wanted to do so also -- one that would be acceptable both to Congress and to the President.
Q Ginny, on this point, Republicans today, I think Domenici and Gingrich, were also talking about either a straightforward debt limit extension or minimal qualification. Would the President object to merging his desire for a seven-year balanced budget compromise with Congress and the debt limit so that the Republicans would get some political cover for their troops being able to say we are moving at the same time toward the balanced budget, or is it absolutely a clean debt limit extension as far as the White House is concerned?
MS. TERZANO: It is the White House's preference that we have a straightforward, long-term extension, which has been our position from the beginning. You are going to see between now and when we have the various issues resolved, a lot of ideas put out on the table, such as Senator Domenici's this morning, and those are ideas that we will consider, we will look at. But the President's preference is to do a straightforward bill and to get that passed as quickly as possible.
MR. JOHNSON: Mr. Fournier, you had a question?
Q To what extent was the President restrained yesterday in his decision in the sanctions by his concern that any effort, any action would hurt the Cuban people?
MR. JOHNSON: I think that in evaluating all of the possible options for taking actions yesterday, there was a balance of decisions to be made. As some people have said, the decisions were easy. The steps that were taken were ones that we tried to focus in every way that we could to get the impact on the Cuban government and not on the Cuban people or on the American people. And while I wouldn't adopt your word "constrained," I would say that there was an effort to ensure that all of the actions that we took had the greatest impact on the government of Cuba and on its assets.
Q You may have heard that up on the Hill, of course, some of the South Florida legislators were saying nothing short of a naval blockade is needed at this point, and it's easy to, I guess, dismiss them as playing to their constituents, but was that ever seriously considered, and if you would say why you would not seriously consider it?
MR. JOHNSON: I think that others standing here have said that we considered -- the President considered and his advisors considered a full range of options. The President believed that the ones that he announced yesterday were the appropriate package in response to what was a heinous act, and we believe that it's the best package for moving our interests forward.
If I could just take this opportunity to tell you that something is going to happen later this afternoon in New York, we're going to release some additional material that we believe will indicate further that this was a deliberate act that will show that there's no question as to the command authorities being knowledgeable of what was going on, and that this cruelty was carried out with the full knowledge of the Cuban government.
Q David, how will the information have anything further to do with the question of whether any of the airplanes, or all of them, have violated Cuban air space?
MR. JOHNSON: I think a senior administration official outlined our position on that on Sunday afternoon, I believe. This information, I do not believe, will go to that question. But something I would like to underline that seems to be missing from some newscasts which outline this problem, and that is, no matter where this took place, it was a clear violation of international law, and it was a case of a wanton killing -- no matter whether it took place inside of Cuban waters or outside of Cuban waters.
Q Excuse me a second, Wolf. When you put this out, are you going to have somebody brief on it, or are you just going to do it in the Security Council?
MR. JOHNSON: That remains somewhat undecided, but I have a feeling that we'll have Ms. Albright provide some commentary on it as well.
Q Out of New York?
MR. JOHNSON: Yes.
Q Are these taped intercepts of communications between the MiGs and ground control --
MR. JOHNSON: We'll see what happens in New York. Stay tuned.
Q When you say "deliberate act," do you mean that the Cubans knew that these planes would be coming in, that it was even something that premeditated in advance?
MR. JOHNSON: I would say that it's clear that the fighters, the pilots, the fighters requested and gained permission for their act before they carried it out.
Q How high did it go in the chain in Cuba?
MR. JOHNSON: That I can't --
Q Wait a minute, David. Has there ever been any doubt that they requested and gained permission? I mean, we knew that, didn't we, or did we?
MR. JOHNSON: I think we've outlined that before, but I think we're going to be providing you with some more concrete evidence this afternoon.
Q The fact that the shootdown of aircraft was approved up the chain of command, that's not exactly the kind of thing that would cause you to fall over in a swoon. That's not surprising, is it? How does that advance the cause that this was a premeditated act if that's what you're trying to advance?
MR. JOHNSON: What we will do this afternoon is that in addition to providing our assessment of what's going on, we will provide some actual evidence that we believe will make that more concrete and compelling.
Q David, what is the relationship of U.S. intelligence to Brothers to the Rescue? Is there one?
MR. JOHNSON: I made some inquiries on that based on your interest this morning, and I'm told that there is no relationship between U.S. intelligence and Brothers to the Rescue.
Q How do you define that -- no relationship?
MR. JOHNSON: It's not a front organization, it's not funded by.
Q And are any CIA or FBI officers, officials, operatives working with or for or in support of Brothers to the Rescue?
MR. JOHNSON: I'm told that the folks who run those agencies don't give anybody any sort of green or red or yellow flags on that sort of thing whether you're talking about an organization in south Florida or one in suburban Virginia.
Q There's a report that Mr. Basulto who's the head of Brothers to the Rescue is going to do another flight. He says he's going to do another flight this weekend and take a priest with him aboard his plane.
MR. JOHNSON: And?
Q Is the U.S. government planning on doing anything to prevent another flight on behalf of Brothers to the Rescue getting close to Cuban air space?
MR. JOHNSON: I told you this morning that the FAA was considering what type of steps might be appropriate with respect to the individual pilots that are involved in this organization, and their considerations are ongoing, but I feel sure that they will have reached some conclusions before the end of the week.
Q And what do you expect will happen?
MR. JOHNSON: I expect them to announce those decisions.
Q The FAA?
MR. JOHNSON: Yes.
Q Is one option to revoke their license?
MR. JOHNSON: I expect them to announce those decisions.
Q To follow up on Chris's question earlier, when you said it was a deliberate act, this guy who left Brothers, the former Cuban pilot, is there some suggestion that this was a set-up, that the MiGs were out there and knew that these flights were coming in and were prepared to do what they did in advance?
MR. JOHNSON: You may draw that inference, but I don't have anything I can give you that would necessarily imply that.
Q David, you said that no matter where the shootdown took place it's a violation of international law. Just for the record, could you state why?
MR. JOHNSON: Because it is contrary to international law, specifically Chicago Convention 1944, for civil aircraft to be attacked by military aircraft.
Q What's going on with the administration's attempt to find a compromise on the Helms-Burton, what's taking place today?
MR. JOHNSON: This afternoon officials from the administration will be meeting on the Hill with committee staff in order to review the bill. We believe that one of the real strengths of our foreign policy with Cuba has been its bipartisan nature that's represented in the Cuban Democracy Act now. We'd like to move forward with the Congress now to craft a bill, to get it passed rapidly and get it into law that would further cement that policy and would show Castro that both parties, the entire administration and the Congress -- are behind our efforts to tighten up the sanctions on Cuba.
Q What will you do if Helms says, look, forget it, there's nothing to compromise, here's our bill, you sign it?
MR. JOHNSON: We believe we're going to be able to make a compelling case. We plan to try to work with the Congress and try to bring that forward. I'm not going to speculate on what's a hypothetical situation.
Q Dave, beyond the action you say the FAA is contemplating here, what, if anything, is the administration doing in the meantime to discourage these flights to the area around Cuba?
MR. JOHNSON: We've made clear to this organization in the past -- I believe that Glyn Davies at the State Department outlined some of those meetings that we had had -- that we believe that their attempts to enter Cuban air space in the past and leaflet was not in their best interests and was a dangerous thing to do. At the same time, we've made clear to the Cuban government that we expected them to act with restraint and act in accordance with law.
Q That's the past. What are you doing now, though, to discourage, if anything?
MR. JOHNSON: As I believe Wolf made clear, the announcement from Mr. Basulto came about five minutes before we came out here, so I think it's, for me to outline the steps that we are taking right now to talk to him about this act that had been just announced would be --
Q Well, not specifically that. I mean, this morning it was clear that they were talking about doing this again this weekend. What, if anything, does the administration intend to do to discourage these flights?
MR. JOHNSON: I am sure that we will be making our feelings known to the Brothers to the Rescue, letting them know again how dangerous we believe this practice is.
Q What does the President expect Cuba to do? Do we have any deadline we're imposing on Cuba before he contemplates any possible further actions?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, we believe that we want to move forward with this package that he announced yesterday. We believe that part of that is going to be the compensation aspect of it. We would expect them to move forward promptly on compensation and to move forward on retracting their statements, and making a commitment not to engage in this behavior again. I'm not going to speculate on what sort of timetable we have for that.
Q David, is it the administration's view today what it was at the Sunday briefing that one of the downed planes was five miles north of Cuban space and the other 16 miles north?
MR. JOHNSON: I don't have in front of me the exact data that we used on Sunday, but it has not changed.
Q Members of Congress have said that Helms-Burton could be passed by next week. Do you think the administration could come up with a compromise by next week?
MR. JOHNSON: I think that depends a good deal on the outcome of the consultations that begin this afternoon. I can't foreshadow that for you.
Q Who's representing the administration on the deliberations this afternoon?
MR. JOHNSON: They're individuals from the State Department, the Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations; Rick Nuncio will be up there from the White House, and others as well.
Q David, to follow up on Leo's question, did the two planes downed ever enter Cuban air space at all?
MR. JOHNSON: I believe, as we told you on Sunday afternoon, we could not prove conclusively that they did not. But we had no evidence that they had.
Q That hasn't changed?
MR. JOHNSON: That has not changed.
Q Does the administration remain opposed to the provision on Helms-Burton on confiscated property and the right to sue?
MR. JOHNSON: We're going to work with the Congress on ways that we believe we can sharpen the scope of some of those measures so that they're narrowed in such a way that their impact is directed at the Cuban government, and that's the attempt that we're going to be making over the next several days.
Q And would the President veto Helms-Burton in its present state?
MR. JOHNSON: We haven't retracted our statement of administration policy, but I think it's erroneous to talk about its present state because it is "its present states." There's more than one version of the bill that's outstanding.
Q Is there any version of the bill outstanding that the President would now accept?
MR. JOHNSON: I think what we want to do over the next several hours anyway is to consult with the Congress on ways that we believe we can improve the measure.
Q Are you still waiting for a stronger declaration from the U.N., besides "deploring"?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, we got last night something that we were pleased that we obtained, and that is a clear statement from the Security Council that clearly deplored the action. We expect there to be further meetings today and tomorrow. As some of you know, the Cuban Foreign Minister asked to come to New York and present the Cuban government's version of events. We believe that that's an occasion that we can take full advantage of to underline our case to the international community that further steps need to be taken.
Q Which government agencies will make its feelings known to Brothers to the Rescue about not flying over or near Cuban air space?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, the most likely one will be the one that controls flight operations out of the United States, the FAA.
Q Is that the only one?
MR. JOHNSON: It may not be.
Q Do you think the FBI is one of those?
MR. JOHNSON: I'm not going to try to give you a list without knowing, Wolf.
Q But, David, in real terms, short of grounding them, you've warned them many times, they're prepared to go back again. Couldn't this just happen again this weekend?
MR. JOHNSON: I think that -- let's, before we jump to those conclusions, let's let the FAA make their conclusions known and the steps that they think are appropriate to take.
Q Well, David, without minimizing what the Cuban MIGs did, does the administration consider that there's any sort of fault or blame that attaches to Brothers for continuing --
MR. JOHNSON: I'm not going to stand here and blame a victim for his death in clear violation of international law. I can't do that, and I'm not going to.
Q I'm sorry -- you figure that having warned these pilots repeatedly as you said you've done about the dangers of going there and then continuing to do it anyway, you still say that it's only the Cubans fault that this entire episode took place?
MR. JOHNSON: I cannot blame them for having -- for the Cuban government violating international law and killing people. Is that -- I'm having a hard time finding any other motivation, any other implication for your question.
Q Shouldn't they have known there was perhaps some risk involved?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, they certainly knew that there was some risk involved. We had explained to them that there was some risk involved, and they were operating, doing things which were potentially very dangerous. But I'm not going to blame them for their death.
Q Therefore, knowing the risk that was involved and taking the risk and then suffering a penalty, how much does the U.S. government owe in that situation? In other words, how much do you have to put on the line --
MR. JOHNSON: Well, I think the --
Q -- if they had agreed to take the risk?
MR. JOHNSON: The President made clear yesterday what steps the United States government was prepared to take and was going to take. And I think I would draw you back to two points that are, I think, very important here. There is no reason -- there is no excuse under international law for shooting down a civil aircraft anywhere, any time, anyplace. The second point I'd make is that as we made clear on Sunday afternoon, there is ample evidence that both of these aircraft, when they were shot down, were not in Cuban air space. They were well into international air space.
Q Do you think that, since you claim this was a violation of the Chicago Convention, aviation conventions, other countries should sever their air links with Cuba?
MR. JOHNSON: We have asked that for the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal to undertake an investigation of the incident, and that's certainly one of the outcomes that could occur based on their investigation.
Q But, in the meantime, do you think Canada or Mexico or other countries that service Cuba should stop flying there?
MR. JOHNSON: I think we're going to work through the processes we're in now. I certainly would not exclude us pushing for something like that.
Q David, is anyone in the administration looking into why it took the FAA so long to move to do something rather than just warn Brothers to the Rescue? You say the FAA, before the weekend, will take some steps. At that point, it will be a fair question to ask why those steps were not taken before the incident.
MR. JOHNSON: Well, you have to, I think, to get an appreciation for this, you have to look back at what the original purpose of an intent of Brothers to the Rescue was and is, and that is to rescue people who are in rafts at sea and to draw the attention of the United States Coast Guard and other rescue vessels to people who might be in distress. There's also the area that they were flying in is not just one that individuals who are engaged in trying to rescue rafters fly in. It's also one that numerous U.S. general aviation aircraft fly in under visual flight rules where they don't even have to file a flight plan if they do not wish to, although that's highly recommended for search and rescue purposes.
So I think that what has been done under the FAA's rules is to follow their procedures, to investigate incidents as they occur and to operate in accordance with due process of law to review pilot licenses when violations occur. I think they have not acted improperly.
Q Are you satisfied that somehow the coincidence of timing that went -- the final action that finally blossoms three or four days after a couple of planes are shot down, when it's been months and months since Brothers to the Rescue veered toward a more political anti-Castro stand as against saving people -- and the FAA itself had begun proceedings at least a couple of the pilots. The question still arises, why did it take the FAA as long as it did?
MR. JOHNSON: The FAA had not only begun procedures, they had completed those procedures and they were in an appellate stage. Under our law people have a right to due process of law, and that's exactly what these individuals had availed themselves of. We're clearly faced with a different situation now. We had a government kill four people flying on U.S. registered aircraft, two individual aircraft, over this past weekend. It's prudent now to take a look at the situation and see if there are changes that need to be made in order to address what is clearly a different situation.
Q David, can I change subjects?
MR. JOHNSON: Let's finish Cuba and I'll get to your --yes.
Q One more question. On the President's directive to expand the reach of Radio Marti, why is that so important and how much money is going to be involved to stop jamming of Radio Marti?
MR. JOHNSON: It is not an extremely large amount of money. I don't know if we've identified an exact sum, but it's in the very few millions, instead of the tens of millions. The reason that that's important is that Radio Marti has become one of the very few sources of news that is unbiased and unvarnished that the Cuban people have access to. As more than one person has said, most of the Cuban people first heard of these killings on Sunday afternoon from Radio Marti. We believe that it is appropriate at this time to step up and increase its penetration into the island.
Q Why have you waited so long to -- if it's such a cheap cost -- to prevent the jamming of Radio Marti?
MR. JOHNSON: We just believe it's an appropriate thing to do at this point.
Q Why wasn't it appropriate three months ago or three years ago?
MR. JOHNSON: I think we're faced with a little different situation now than we were three months ago. Decisions have to be made, budgets have to be allocated. There are other competing interests for those funds, as well.
Q David, you said earlier there is no relationship between U.S. intelligence and this organization. Has there been any relationship at all?
MR. JOHNSON: None.
Q David, if there is -- if these flights go off this weekend, as they're threatening, are we considering a warning to Castro not to bother them?
MR. JOHNSON: I think we would -- given the timing of this recent announcement, I'd like to look into what the announcement is and what steps we're planning to take before I give you an off-the-cuff answer to something that may occur in 96 hours.
Q Is there any signs of a correlation between the Cuban attack and the recent announcement of U.S. government to compensate for the victims of the families aboard the Iranian airline shot down by the U.S. Navy?
MR. JOHNSON: I'm unaware of any connection between those two things.
Q Can we do "don't ask, don't tell" real quick?
MR. JOHNSON: We are, but let's --
Q What portion of the Helms bill would you be ready to accept now that you didn't accept before?
MR. JOHNSON: I think I said earlier that we're going to be consulting with staff on the Hill this afternoon. We're going to be developing an approach in consultation with them. I'm not going to try to foreshadow that for you.
And your question?
Q David, was this out of the blue from the point of view of the White House? Castro had been receiving some wider international acceptance recently, and these flights, apparently being gone on for some period of time. Is there any assessment as to why this happened over the weekend?
MR. JOHNSON: I don't think I can account for this type of killing, no -- its timing.
Q This report that was released today by the Service Members Legal Defense Network said that DOD discharged 722 people under its gay policy in '95, which was a four-year high, and they documented 363 violations of don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue in the past year. Is the administration concerned about what groups like this one are saying that there's really no change in the military's treatment of gay troops?
MR. JOHNSON: I'd like to make, I think, three points on that. The first is that, in the past, the Defense Department has met with this group, and when it's brought to the Department's attention's facts, it may have indicated a violation of the Pentagon's policy with respect to don't ask, don't tell. In each case, the Department has looked into those facts that they've presented and where they've been able to substantiate them, they've taken corrective action.
The second point I would make is that the discrepancy in numbers identified in the report is largely, if not exclusively, due to a change in the accounting rules that the Pentagon has adopted in the last year to account for discharges. Based on assessment of fiscal years '91 through '95, the discharges using consistent counting rules would indicate that they've fallen from a high of about 950 in 1991 to, using consistent accounting rules, down to about 610 in '95. There was a rather rapid drop-off at the beginning of the administration and then it's been level in the meantime.
The third point I would make is I think Dennis -- excuse me -- I think Ken Bacon at the Pentagon will be taking a number of questions on this during the course of the day, and he'll probably have a rather -- a much fuller explanation of the Defense Department's reaction to the report.
Q As far as the administration is concerned, is the administration confident that the policies that it enacted two years ago, in terms of don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue, is being implemented the way that you wanted it to?
MR. JOHNSON: The administration and the Department of Defense believes that whenever anything that's inconsistent with this policy has been brought to its attention, it's investigated and, where substantiated, it's implemented changes to the policy and actions which compensate for any wrong-doing that was done. And that's been a very, very few incidents when investigations have in fact taken place.
Q Just a clarification on the numbers -- you're saying 950 were dismissed in '91; for what reason, what was given?
MR. JOHNSON: So-called discharges due to homosexuality.
Q And then 610 in '95?
MR. JOHNSON: Right, using consistent counting rules.
Q Is there anything else that has to come from the administration, or does the administration intend to issue any directives, any clarifications in the near future on don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, the administration will clearly take a very close look at this report, and if it indicates charges that can be substantiated where policy changes need to be made in order to ensure that the policy that's already been adopted is effective, those changes will be made.
Q You don't see a problem, the way that they --
MR. JOHNSON: I think we have to look into what they've laid out. But the numbers, which is the primary feature of their report, we find is largely, if not totally, a counting rule change.
Q Last question on Ireland? Lake said last week after the President's calls to Bruton and Major that both of them said they'd be back in touch with the President this week. Have they, and what's the status of Adams's visa?
MR. JOHNSON: I'm unaware of any contact at the presidential level this week. It's rather early in the week, and these calls just took place on Saturday. Our contacts with all the parties continue, but we have not yet made any decisions with respect to visas.
MS. TERZANO: I have one -- which is good news. With the exception of the travel pool, we have a lid. I think Kathy and April worked on getting all the paper out, and Marlene, also. We have a photo lid and a paper lid.
THE PRESS: Bravo.
END 1:48 P.M. EST