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De Leon Media availability at the AIAA Space 2000 Conference and Exposition

Presenters: Rudy de Leon, Deputy Secretary of Defense
September 19, 2000

(Media availability at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Space 2000 Conference and Exposition, Long Beach, Calif.)

De Leon: One of the things I did in my statement was I asked the young military men and women that are here in the audience today to stand, because I really think that everything the Department of Defense does begins and ends with people.

The next generation of leadership -- training them, having them develop the leadership and professional skills is really critical to our national security in the 21st century, whether it's in space, on the land, the sea, in the air. So having them stand I think is at the core of what the secretary of Defense and the department is really trying to do in the last several months of this administration in terms of what we call the four R's -- recruiting, retention, reconnecting and remembering our military men and women.

Recruiting because, there are a number of reasons. The competition with the opportunity to go to college. The smaller number of 18-22 years olds that are in the current cohort group as we switch from Generation X to Generation Y, that have made the decade of the '90s a very challenging time for recruiting. But with a very vigorous effort coming from each of the services, I think that if we look at these last two weeks of the fiscal year the Army will show that it had a very, very vigorous recruiting year, the Navy a very vigorous and successful recruiting year, the Marine Corps the same. The Air Force had a very good year compared to what their original forecasts were.

Second, in terms of retention, that is to be able to retain the key people that are serving today when they have record opportunities to move into the private sector with their skills in information technology, that the retention numbers are very good.

The third critical piece is reconnecting. We have an all volunteer force. The greatest generation that served in World War II, their numbers are dwindling. And so it's very critical that we use our time with that generation and with people, national heroes like Senator Glenn, that we share the great treasure of this generation that grew up during the Depression, served during World War II and Korea, and then not only took our country to the moon in the '60s, but invested in schools and the transportation system. That we remember them and the role that the U.S. military played.

The finally, the reconnecting and the remembering -- to make sure that this legacy of service is something that is held up as an opportunity to inspire young men and women today. Never before have young men and women had more opportunities to get education and to enter a number of professional fields. Yet when you have the opportunity that I do to meet with the men and women that are serving in Bosnia or Kosovo or South Korea or Cape Canaveral or Vandenberg or at Los Angeles, they truly are the most professional armed forces in the world and something for our country to be proud of.

With that, I'm happy to take your questions.

Q: (inaudible)

De Leon: I think the focus in the short term was to put the emphasis on the intermediate class of boosters. I think to make sure that the intermediate-level Lockheed system was capable of meeting its mission prerogatives there was a team that was established in December that did an analysis. The Department of Defense, the Air Force -- and we will essentially modify some of the original contract requirements such as the facilitization of Vandenberg for this new class of vehicles. Then second, a variant on the heavy side.

We're doing a number of analyses to look at the heavy requirement. Titan has really been our launch vehicle for our heaviest payloads. I think our philosophy right now is to look at architectures to see how we can keep the capability in but the weight down. So it may be that the intermediate level, the Delta and the Atlas, may be able to meet our future mission requirements.

The key in terms of the restructuring, though, is that this will keep both Boeing and Lockheed in this competition. As I said earlier, I think it's very critical for the U.S. to field these two systems as they compete with the French, the Russians and others.

Q: Can you talk about the future of space?

De Leon: You had a good discussion from NASA in terms of manned space flight and the exploration of space.

From a military point of view, though, it's going to be centering on our communications, on our intelligence, and our information data systems.

In 1995 when Scott O'Grady was shot down over Banja Luca in the Balkans, we had, and it I think illustrates the system -- We have Rivet Joint airborne platforms that are giving us situational analysis of threats, sending that data uplink to a satellite that is sending the data to Fort Meade, Maryland, processing it, and then returning it to the operator in a matter of seconds. So that when the pilot takes off, whether his mission is air patrol or whether he has to hit a target defended by the radars of an adversary, situational awareness is the key element that is going to enhance pilot survivability. So it's a combination of, again, intelligence, communications, information flow -- to identify the threat, process it, and turn it around to the pilot or conversely, to the soldier to the sailor at sea so that they know where the threat is and so that they can protect themselves and be aware.

One of the great stories of the 1990s has been the dramatic revolution in information technologies, and space is really the platform for taking these technologies and making them available to the military environment back to the situational center. So our communications, our need for real-time intelligence, then the necessity of taking that information and providing it to the man or woman in the field, I think that is at the heart of what we're doing in terms of space.

There's an additional piece, and that is information protection. When we make a phone call, we have all the confidence in the world that we're going to call Long Beach and we're going to connect with someone in Colorado. We need to make sure that we have the same redundancies in terms of our information systems, that they're protected, and that they're guaranteed so that as we develop not only national security policies that are rooted in information dominance, but as our economy becomes more and more dominated with information technologies that we have the confidence that our information systems are going to be available, that we'll be able to protect them, and that we'll be able to use them in any environment. So I think the space component is numerous.

Q: Governor Bush (inaudible) military readiness in the campaign. Can you discuss that a little bit? Is the military ready to go? (inaudible)

De Leon: I think that the armed forces that deployed to Kosovo, that are in South Korea today, that are in the Persian Gulf, the carrier George Washington, these are front line U.S. forces that are ready for combat.

Additionally each of the services as we come through this transformation of the '90s is working, training, recruiting, retention. The biggest readiness challenge of the '90s has been recruiting and retention. There you've seen the secretary and the president over the last two years making investments in additional pay, in bonus pays, in retirement benefits, in medical benefits, housing to enhance the quality of life. So I think the biggest readiness challenge of the '90s has been to recruit and to retain a very capable force.

At the same time, in addition to that dynamic, we are replacing one generation of systems with the next. The F-15 is going to be replaced by the F-22. The F-16s and F-18s to be replaced by the Joint Strike Fighter.

So from the perspective that an aircraft that is 10 or 15 years old needs more spare parts, needs more maintenance than a new aircraft fresh off the assembly line, then indeed there is a full-time effort to maintain the readiness of U.S. forces. But as encouraging as the news yesterday that the Boeing Joint Strike Fighter variant flew at Edwards Air Force Base, I think we're changing one generation of technology with the next.

But we've been through a very challenging decade. I think there have been really four revolutions that have shaped the decade of the '90s. One was the fall of the Soviet Union. The second was the rise of information technologies and the need to invest and field these systems. The third was the balanced budget, because in the '80s and early '90s we were running a deficit of $200 to $250 billion per year. The fourth piece has been the challenges of the demographics as we have shifted from Generation X which was a small cohort group, to Generation Y which is much larger.

Those four points don't make for great sound bytes on the campaign trail, but the bottom line is that the forces are ready today and that the actions that are being taken will ensure that we have forces ready to deploy and to prevail in the future as well.

Q: (inaudible)

De Leon: Forces that we have today are high capable and ready. As Secretary Cohen has said, we're working budgets and investment vigorously, but we have a number of initiatives -- on quality of life, on modernization, on making sure that critical operations and maintenance accounts are fully funded. So we have challenges, but they're reflected in the challenges of the '90s. I think we have a very capable military force today.

Q: What is the challenge, how do you meet the challenges that third world countries will have access to satellite sensors? They'll have situational awareness virtually -- how do we respond to that environment where they know where you are at every moment? (inaudible) that kind of technology is virtually off the shelf these days, can be purchased by any third world country that (inaudible).

De Leon: I think it's going to change our tactics. It's also going to put even an additional focus on us in terms of how we use our own information technologies. Then for us to look at the appropriate kinds of countermeasures that are necessary to protect U.S. forces in time of combat.

It will be interesting to watch and see what the marketplace is for the imagery. Indeed, the commercial satellite ventures of our allies, particularly the Europeans, are improving and getting better, so this will I think put a different requirement on U.S. war planners. In fact that is I think the central challenge of the 21st century. Many of the processes that the U.S. military developed in these last 20 to 30 years, the commercial sector has followed on with. Satellite imagery, for example.

So I think what we're really looking at is how to deal with the relevant flow of data. Not simply from the satellite that collects it, but from the processor to the warfighter.

Q: (inaudible) JSTARS is not going to be a major player in the future?

De Leon: I think JSTARS [Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System] is already a major player.

Q: In terms of numbers.

De Leon: The original program was 15, and the program had some difficulties, largely centered on the refurbishment of airframes to put the JSTAR centers in. But as recently as last week I was meeting with senior Air Force officials and senior industry officials as we look at the next modification to the JSTARS which is something called RTIP [Radar Technology Insertion Program] which really has a focus on tracking and giving capabilities against cruise missiles.

So the platform is very important and I think the importance of the platform has been validated in Bosnia. General Nash, our commander, was able to take a map to his Serbia counterparts every morning. He told them, I expect you not to move at night. We would not send out young soldiers on patrol to monitor the Serbs. The Serbs thought, the Americans aren't out here, we're going to re-array our forces every night. With JSTARS orbiting miles away, General Nash was able to say you know, I watch every move you make. The next time you move at night we're going to hinder your ability to continue to do that.

So I think JSTARS is a very critical integration. Again, the situational awareness, the processing of information. So I think that the requirement is sound, the number of aircraft to be determined, and the biggest aspect of debating the number of aircraft have been resolving the issue of the refurbishment of the 707 platforms that are in the airframe.

Q: With regard to the JSF, do you (inaudible) or some kind of (inaudible)? When will you know the timetable for that decision?

De Leon: The first JSF prototype flew yesterday. I know the second is right behind it. I think the next three to four months are going to be very critical in terms of the accumulation of data from the demonstration and validation of the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.

Now that data will come in. The most critical piece will be in the spring when both variants try to fly in the Marine Corps configuration or the vertical takeoff, because I think that's the most complicated engineering. They'll be testing at Edwards, they'll be testing at Pax River.

Then we'll look at that data and we'll pick a winner.

The size of the program is such that it is likely that we are going to see industry collaborate even more broadly than they already are collaborating on the Joint Strike Fighter. It is conceivable that the engineering pool and requirement will be such that you're going to see additional combinations on the contractor side. But I think our feeling right now is, having discussed this extensively with Secretary Cohen as well as the Congress, is that we really want the marketplace, after we have developed the data from the Dem/Val, after we have gone through the source selection process, we really want to see what combinations the marketplace can come up with. But there's going to be a lot of work and it's going to be accomplished in almost every corner of this country.

Q: (inaudible) three questions about that.

De Leon: Potentially on the Global Hawk. The platform hasn't been decided yet.

Q: I understood the Air Force has (inaudible) briefed you and (inaudible) on possibly accelerating Global Hawk. Is this acceleration the latest RTIP? And if so, will the (inaudible)? And also (inaudible)?

De Leon: First I think RTIP is on its own trajectory right now. I think the industry proposal is still to use the JSTARS type platform for RTIP. There's a second proposal that would look at a business jet type of platform for putting RTIP.

I think the focus on Global Hawk is that Global Hawk is going to be very critical in the combat environment in the future. It will certainly complement the U-2. I don't know that it's a one-for-one replacement. But one of the highest optempos, we call them high demand/low density units, are the U-2 pilots. That's a very challenging mission to fly. It is physically very burdensome. The number of hours you have to have in training to be able to fly the U-2 are phenomenal.

So I think the hope is the Global Hawk will be the supplement. It's a very capable system. We've had successes with other UAVs in Bosnia and Kosovo, and I think this is again part of situational awareness on the battlefield. So I think we're looking at the Global Hawk schedule. We're certainly working and talking with the agency, but I think Global Hawk is also a very high priority of Secretary Cohen and particularly the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Q: (inaudible)

De Leon: We're still working on the budget and we're still in, the DCI and I have had two budget meetings. We're scheduled for another one next week. But I know that interest in the Global Hawk is increasing. But I think it's on a solid track right now.

Q: (inaudible) pay for it? (inaudible)

De Leon: No, I said they are complementary to one another.

Q: The Osprey? Are you pleased with (inaudible) found out about the crash, and there was no structural problem of the Osprey?

De Leon: I think we understand what happened in the accident in Arizona. I think we're also acquiring additional experience in terms of how to train crews to do the operational testing. I think the challenge of instructing the aviators that will fly the V-22 and then the Air Force special ops configuration is going to be challenging because you're going to have to think like a helicopter pilot and also like a fighter pilot in terms of how to maximize the capabilities of the aircraft and what to do in particular conditions.

But I think right now, and it was a real tragedy to lose the experienced crew members there. I think there's a good diagnosis of what the issues are and I think they are focusing on the additional operational tests and also to make sure that everyone has an appropriate amount of time, training in the aircraft, and understands the feel of the aircraft. I think it's going to provide tremendous capability, speed, plus vertical flight. But I think it's important to allow the operational side of the house to fully digest all of its capabilities, and I think that's where the Commandant of the Marine Corps is right now.

Thank you very much.

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