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DoD News Briefing - Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
November 30, 2000 1:50 PM EDT

(Also participating was Marine Corps Brig. Gen. James F. Amos, deputy assistant commandant for Marine Corps Aviation)

Bacon: Good afternoon. I have many announcements, and I'll start with those.

The first is that we are issuing a news release, a bluetop, this afternoon, announcing a further slowdown in the anthrax vaccination/immunization program. As you know, several months ago we announced that because of supply shortages, we were going to restrict the vaccinations to military personnel going to the Gulf area, Southwest Asia, and to Korea. We are further reducing the program and limiting it only to people going to Southwest Asia. This is in order to conserve supplies while continuing to protect the people going to the highest-threat area.

We highlighted the fact that we would do this when we made the announcement last July, and pending the production of new supplies and getting more FDA-certified doses on line, we will only vaccinate people going to the Gulf for 30 days.

We continue to believe that the anthrax vaccine is the best protection against a biological threat that is 99 percent lethal. It is safe. And we will continue our program at the current level in the Gulf and then ramp it up as soon as we can. I'll take more questions on that later, if you have them.

Second, tomorrow, here, at 2:00, assistant secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Frank Kramer will give a briefing on a new publication called "Strengthening Transatlantic Security: A U.S. Strategy for the 21st Century." This is the second European strategy report. As you know, starting five or six years ago, ISA began putting out a series of regional reports that summarize our strategy for various areas of the world.

This is the second one that has been put out on Europe. While he's here, we'll also answer questions on the latest developments in the creation of a European Force, and also answer questions on the NATO ministerial meeting, which Secretary Cohen is attending in Brussels next week.

I'd like to welcome 16 students and two instructors from the Army Public Affairs basic NCO course at Fort Meade, Maryland. We're always glad to have the Army here. Thanks for coming.

On Tuesday, December 5th, at 9:00, your old friend, Bernie Rostker, the under secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, will host the grand opening ceremony of a new recruiting station at Potomac Mills mall. This is an effort to expand our recruiting activities into high-traffic areas. It will be a supposedly new, more inviting recruiting facility. And we'll have -- you can get more information on that from DDI later.

I think we also -- is Mark Kitchens here? Mark Kitchens? Yes, Mark, welcome. Mark Kitchens is assistant press secretary to the president and director of Internet Press at the White House. This is indicative of how the government is adapting to -- leading the 21st century by setting up new facilities and authorities for dealing with the Internet. So welcome. And all of this briefing will be on the Internet, so we're Internet compliant ourselves.

Tomorrow, the deputy secretary of Defense, Rudy de Leon, will speak at a "Connecting With America" breakfast in Los Angeles, hosted by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. That is at 10:05 Pacific Time.

Finally, I'd like to say good-bye to a friend and colleague, Jim Desler, who has been here since November of 1998, a member of my staff. Has worked very effectively. And he's worked so effectively that he's been snapped up by Microsoft.

And he will be leaving to go to work for Microsoft first in Washington, D.C., but then later out in Redmond, Washington. And we will miss him. And he has done great work, and I'm sure he'll do great work for his new employer, as well.

Q: The stock is down seven points today. Is there any connection there? (Laughter.)

Bacon: I think with this formal announcement, who knows what will happen? (Laughter.) I don't think I should predict stock prices from the Pentagon podium.

So with that, I will take your questions. Charlie?

Q: Ken, regarding a somewhat critical Coyle report on the MV- 22, does the SECDEF believe that the tilt rotor plane is ready for full-scale production and use by the Marine Corps in any situation?

Bacon: Well, first of all, the Coyle report believes that the MV-22 is ready for production. And it says that. So I don't believe the secretary has been briefed on the Coyle report. I know that Mr. Coyle himself has not briefed him. I do also know that the commandant has kept the secretary fully informed about progress on the V-22 Osprey. As you recall, several years ago the secretary went down and saw the Osprey when it landed here next to the Pentagon and went aboard the Osprey with the commandant and some member of Congress. It's a program in which he's been very interested. And he shares the commandant's view that this is an exciting and important new development in Marine aviation and a very worthy successor to the CH- 46 helicopter.

Q: I've got another one on a different subject.

Bacon: Sure.

Q: Does anyone want --

Q: Yeah, just to follow up on the V-22. The Coyle report said that it found that it was -- that the MV-22 as tested was, quote, "not operationally suitable because of reliability, maintainability, availability, human factors, and interoperability issues." That doesn't sound like a good thing. Can you explain why it's considered to be operationally effective but not operationally suitable?

What are they talking about? Is this a maintenance -- is there a problem with the plane? Was there a maintenance problem or what -- what are we talking about here?

Bacon: Well, first I have Brigadier General Amos from the Marine Corps here who will answer specific questions. But let me just say, based on my cursory review of the two-inch thick report -- I know you've probably read it all, but I haven't -- and a brief conversation with Mr. Coyle and a conversation with the commandant, General Jones, about this, my assessment of this is as follows: that the development of a new airplane is an evolutionary process. You never reach a point where you've achieved perfection with the plane. You are always looking for ways to improve its performance, its maintainability, its reliability, and its safety. And that with any piece of technology, particularly a dramatically new departure from past technology and its introduction into the force, there's a learning curve. And that that learning curve continues throughout the life of the airplane.

I think that that's what's happened here. The Marines have already made a number of improvements. I think they've made over a hundred improvements -- nearly a 120 improvements in the plane since they first started producing it. Those improvements will continue. The new improvements will be made on top of the 120-odd improvements that have been made already.

As Marines who maintain the planes learn more about maintaining them, the maintenance will get better. And one of the reasons that we have Phil Coyle at the Pentagon -- one of the reasons that we have an independent Office of Test and Evaluation is in order to give the services guidance and direction for how to make their equipment better and to make it more reliable and more effective in combat. And I think that the Marines will take the Coyle report and use it as a guidebook for making improvements in the Osprey.

Now, that's a general -- a very general description. I can go into some very specific changes that the Marines have already made, but I think I will leave that to Brigadier General Amos to do that right now. And then, if you have more general policy questions, I'll come back.

Q: A general policy DoD question. The report, which I read several times -- two inches -- leaves the impression that the O&S [operation and support] costs for this thing in the out years, the years beyond after you and the other Marines leave, is going to be pretty high, more of a burden than the Marines anticipate now. This building, for the last seven or eight years, has talked about how weapons programs must be both effective and cost effective in the out years to be purchased or to be approved. This report raises reasonable doubt that this airplane has O&S costs that may be astronomical right now that the Marines won't be able to pay.

Can you address, I mean, the dichotomy here? OSD says one thing. This report applies quite another.

Bacon: Well, I know what the report says, and I know the report makes comparisons between the V-22 and the CH-46 helicopter. To a certain extent, these comparisons overlook, I think, one central fact, which is the CH-46 helicopters cannot remain flying forever and they have to be replaced by something. As the report points out, the V-22 Osprey brings considerably greater combat capability to the Marine Corps than it's currently getting from the CH-46 helicopters, which have been in the force since 1964, I believe.

So they have to replace the helicopters with something. They've chosen a new technology. The report points out that the new technology does bring additional combat capability, and in some respects, in terms of combat survivability, it even exceeds the standards that were initially set for the V-22.

In terms of the cost of making the plane operate, the cost of keeping the plane operating, it does conclude that they could be lower. And the Marines are confident that the costs will be lower, and that they will get lower as they begin to get this into the force and they begin working on the plane. And as they make more changes in the plane, as they've made already -- they've made -- one of the fundamental changes they've made is fixing difficulties they had in folding and stowing the wings.

That's a change they've made already. They've made another change in the instruction manuals for educating people in how to maintain the plane. They've made another fundamental change in fasteners -- sounds simple, but it was a problem the plane was having attaching cables and other things to the composite material. They've improved that dramatically. As I said, they've made nearly 120 improvements already. They will continue to make more improvements.

The question to be asked is whether the improvements will change this trajectory. The Marines are confident that it will. And I suppose the only way we're going to know this is to come back in a year or two or three, and look at the cost of maintaining the plane, of keeping it operational, and finding out if they have made the type of progress that they think they can make.

But let me have General Amos come up and discuss some of the specifics on that.

Amos: Maybe I can shed a little bit of light on things from a couple of different perspectives, both the operational and maybe the programmatic.

The first thing I'd like to say is, you've got to remember that there were two test and evaluation organizations that looked at this airplane as it went through both operational evaluation and came out the other end, with the appropriate report. The first was OPTEVFOR, Operational Test and Evaluation Force, based out of Norfolk, which did an independent -- they work for the chief of Naval Operations, but they did an independent analysis of this, of the airplane, and actually conducted the operational evaluation all the way till July the 15th. So they are manned by fleet experienced test pilots and maintenance personnel and people that come from the fleet and understand the development of aircraft. And they came on board and said the operational -- the airplane is operationally suitable. That was their finding.

And how did they do that? They flew the airplane, they worked with it. They're the ones that came up with the exact same numbers that Mr. Coyle's office used to develop his Beyond LRIP [low rate initial production] report. That's where he got his numbers.

But they, being operators and understanding how an airplane develops and matures from both a mechanical perspective, a supply support perspective, and an employment perspective, they understand where the airplane's going in the future. And they're very confident, and thus they said the airplane was operationally suitable.

Mr. Coyle's office, representing the civilian side of the evaluation, said that the airplane is operationally effective and there's no question about it. It flew farther than it was supposed to. It lifted more than it was supposed to.

It is a very, very capable airplane.

He took the Marine Corps to task on the issue of maintainability and reliability, and frankly, we're pleased that he did because when that airplane went through the operational evaluation, the early part, you should know that it entered OPEVAL [operational evaluation] with one airframe; the first production airplane. And then as the OPEVAL continued, we brought in three more airplanes.

So, during that period of time, let's just take a glimpse -- you know, a glimpse of the very first part of the operational evaluation -- if that airplane broke for any reason, there was no other airplane. I mean, there was nothing else to continue the operational evaluation on.

So as we went into this with a frankly, a less-than-mature supply support system, and we didn't have it, there was not a robust supply locker resident at New River and Patuxent River when we went through the operational evaluation. So we didn't try to preload this thing. So the airplane went through with a less-than-mature supply support system, and it began to show. And we had problems with some new technology.

Mr. Bacon talked about the fasteners. The airplane is predominantly carbon fiber. There are a variety of things -- cables, wires, wire bundles -- just like an airliner that you'd fly in commercially -- that have to be fastened in the airplane. This is very simplistic. But how do you take a fastener that's going to hold a wire bundle that weighs a hundred pounds and fasten it to a fiber -- a carbon fiber airframe that can withstand the vibrations and all the other things that you can imagine in a military airplane? It's done by glue. Well, there is a variety of different kinds of glue and we found out the hard way, as we began to look at fasteners on this airplane, what was wrong with the way we had the fasteners and the glue being applied.

That was a significant maintainability and reliability issue as we went through operational evaluation. We have corrected that problem right now. Mr. Bacon talked about 118 fixes that the program manager has already put in the airframe to fix issues that came up during the operational evaluation.

I don't think it's unrealistic to think that an airframe that's entering it's service -- and by the way, we have nine airplanes now; our first nine airplanes at New River and VMMT-204, which is our training squadron -- we've only got nine. And of those nine, the first four that entered the squadron were the ones who went through operation evaluation.

It's not unrealistic to think that you're going to have developmental changes to the airframe. The blade-fold wing-stow mechanism, which allows the blades to collapse into one unit and then causes the entire wing to turn 90 degrees so that we can fit this thing aboard a ship, just like the wings fold on an F-18 or an F-14, it's not unrealistic to think that they're going to have problems in something that is mechanically as tightly engineered as that is.

That's been fixed. Mr. Coyle himself flew out to the ship, at the very beginning of November, and witnessed that, and actually flew on an Osprey and then gave it a thumbs up.

So those are issues on maintainability and reliability mechanically for the airframe that needed to be fixed, and they have been fixed.

Now, have they all been fixed? I mean, are there other things that are out there? Sure there are. And again, it's not unrealistic to think that we're not going to mature the system. The program manager is dedicated to fixing all those things. Folks, it takes money, and we're working diligently on it right now to repair the airplane, or get the repair pieces of that airplane up so it's maintainable and reliable.

Let me throw a figure out to you. Those nine airplanes that I talked about out in 204 down in New River, I pulled -- as I was walking down here, I pulled the first 13 days of November, mission-capable rate on those airplanes, and the average is 73.2 percent for the first 13 days in November of those nine airplanes. So when we start talking about is the airplane, even since OPEVAL, improving and getting better, the answer is it is absolutely a resounding yes.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: A couple of questions. What was the mission-capable rate prior to this, so that we have some level of comparison. And how long -- could you explain to us the difference between operationally suitable and operationally effective?

Amos: Yes.

Q: And how long will it take until you are operationally suitable?

Amos: Okay. Let me go to your first question. If you didn't hear it, it was what was the mission-capable rate, and I assuming we'll talk about operation evaluation, since that's the criteria we're using, and that's the number of airplanes that are up. An airplane -- it was 57 percent mission capable during operation evaluation for that period of time that the airplane was examined. Now, that's lower than we want, but that's not lower than it is right now, and that's not lower than it's going to go in the future. But that gives you a frame of reference: 57 percent when it came through operation evaluation; it's 73 percent as of midway through November.

The second question was --

Q: The second question. What's the definitional difference between suitability and --

Amos: Okay, the operational suitability and operational effectiveness.

Effectiveness measures the airplane's ability to perform the specific missions and taskings that it was designed to do. For instance, it has to be able to lift greater than 10,000 pounds. It has to be able to fly unrefueled a specific distance. It has to be able to hover out of ground effect with a certain weight. Those are all the key performance parameters that we look at operationally. When the operational requirements document was signed on this airplane, those are all the thing that we looked at and said, okay, we want this airplane to do this out in the year 2020 and 2010 and 2015. And it was operationally effective and more than met all those.

Operationally suitable takes into account all the other things, maintainability, reliability. How is the airplane performing from the maintainability side of the house? Is it suitable? And it turns out to be kind of a net cost for the airplane. They don't attach a dollar amount, but it's what's the labor that's going to be required to keep this airplane flying.

Q: And is the V-22 high maintenance at this point?

Amos: Oh, I think the V-22 probably is high maintenance at this point. I think -- but make sure you understand one thing. Any new airframe at this point or any new system is going to be high maintenance. And why would that be? Because first of all, there is the real lack of experience in maintaining this. That airframe -- those Marines that worked on those MV-22s when we went through operational evaluation saw it for the very first time. We didn't have MV-22s out there. They didn't have the capability -- you know, it continues to be referred or balanced against the CH-46. The CH-46 has been flying for 32 years. Do you think we've got experience on maintaining the CH-46? We sure do. We know exactly what is required. So, yeah, it's --

Q: Will the V-22 always be high maintenance because it's --

Amos: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. And I guess that's probably where I have the rub with the implications of the Beyond LRIP report. You get the impression -- it's implied that this is high maintenance and it's going to continue to be that way. And I think that's absolutely unrealistic. It will improve, as it's already improved markedly, from 57 percent mission capable, which means high maintenance, to 73 percent, just for the first 13 days of this month. That means less than high maintenance.

Q: I'm sorry, sir. With that remarkable increase, did the Marine Corps go to any extraordinary measures? There have been times in the military's history when it's trying to prove a plane -- the B-1 springs to mind, where the Air Force has focused all of this efforts on boosting the RM&A on that. Did you do that with the V-22, or is this just a natural improvement?

Amos: No, I think this is a natural improvement being done by the program office -- absolutely. Everything we're doing right now is -- and it needs to be done. You know, let me assure you of one thing: the Marine Corps wants the airplane to be low maintenance and high reliability, and we're driving the program office to make that happen.

Q: The report also focuses on another possible -- potential problem with the V-22, and that is the susceptibility to vortex ring state, which was cited as a casual factor in the accident. Is there any indication that this aircraft is more susceptible to that aerodynamic phenomenon than any -- because of its unique technology? Is there a concern about whether this is less forgiving when it comes to that kind of a stall, because of the conditions under which it is flown?

Amos: No, there's absolutely -- there is no concern that the airplane is more unforgiving in that environment. Every helicopter has the potential to experience that. I just flew the CH- 46 last week, and in the briefing we talked about power settling, vortex ring state in the CH-46. So no, it's not any more susceptible. I will tell you that Lieutenant General McCorkle, who I think everybody in this room knows, who is a deputy commandant for Marine Aviation, has required NAVAIR [Naval Air Systems Command] to put a warning device in the cockpit that warns the pilot that he's approaching a regime that could be potentially -- where he could be potentially susceptible to a vortex ring state. But it's a phenomena for all helicopters.

Q: Have you adjusted the parameters or the limits under which the plane is supposed to be flown in order to lessen the chance of that happening again?

Amos: The Beyond LRIP report, specifically stated by the test pilots that said that flying the airplane outside the parameters that might possibly get you into a vortex ring state absolutely had nil effect on the operational capability of the airplane.

So my answer to that question is, is that we fly the airplane the way we need to fly it, and we just avoid that piece of the envelope. I'm a pilot by trade. Every -- I'm a Hornet pilot by trade. Even the F-18, as good as it is, has regions of the envelope that we're required to avoid. So it's not unlike any other airplane.

Q: Sir, in fairness, the report -- Coyle also says he didn't agree that it was nil. And he went on to explain that the plane -- even if the pilot varied from the NATOPS [Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization] rewrite, could inadvertently enter a state, the ring vortex danger zone, as he put it, causing problems. And he agreed with the Navy's and the Marine's approach to keep aggressively testing. But did he not lay out a valid caveat there, that inadvertently a pilot could get in there and not realize he or she was in that ring vortex state?

Amos: Well, I think that there's always the possibility, by virtue of the fact that it's a human being at the controls. Again, I go back to my own experience in the airplanes that I fly. I can always potentially fly them outside the envelope. And just like the F-18 has warning devices in it to remind me when I'm intensely preoccupied in the cockpit with mission, whatever, that tells me that, "Hey, you're nearing stall" or "you're nearing a high angle of attack in this airplane" -- exactly the same kind of concept with this airplane.

The interesting thing is that we have at Patuxent River, Maryland, in my mind, and certainly in the Navy and Marine Corps's mind, the finest aeronautical engineers and test pilots, I think, that are resident in America today. And resoundingly they came out in support of the fact that we've identified the airplane's parameters when it approaches a vortex ring state. We are confident that we can adjust -- not adjust; we're confident that we can identify those regions to the pilots, and just like any other airplane, we can avoid them.

So it -- you know, with -- the Beyond LRIP report speaks a lot about vortex ring state. I don't think it's a problem in this airplane, and nether does Patuxent River test pilots.

Q: Let me just ask you about one other part of -- aspect of that. That is, it was noted that in the V-22 you could have this phenomenon of power settling develop under one rotor but not the other --

Amos: Yes.

Q: -- causing the -- to pitch or yaw --

Amos: Yaw.

Q: -- which is what happened in the accident. Isn't that different from what you would experience in a helicopter, and doesn't in that some sense make this a little less forgiving, a little harder for the pilots to realize what's happening and recover from it?

Amos: It will not be harder for him to recover from it, because he'll never enter it as long as he flies the airplane within the parameters established by the testing program, which is exactly, again, like every other airplane that we have.

Q: Let me ask -- when we last saw General McCorkle on this topic a few months ago, and he was asked about warning devices -- and at that point he was -- he thought that was not a practical solution. He said, you know, you can't have a warning device going off for every damn thing the plane is doing, and you'd constantly be ignoring them. They'd be going off. And he just didn't think it was practical.

What has changed for him to now require that device? And has there been a technological fix or what?

Amos: That was several months ago, and what's taken place since then is, at General McCorkle's request, Patuxent River test pilots have continued -- and we're about 50 percent through the follow-on, what they call high rate of descent testing.

And so we've got test pilots, both in the air and in the simulators, continuing the high rate of descent testing to ensure that we absolutely capture the parameters of this phenomenon in this particular airframe.

And as a result of that testing, we've just -- he's come to the conclusion that, why not? We have a ground proximity warning system we put in the F-18. It's a software-induced -- there are lines of code in the software, and it gives you an oral warning that you are approaching the ground. We have it in that airplane, why not put it in this airplane? Why not put an oral warning in this airplane, or some type of warning device? It would be foolish to not do that. And that's the conclusion he's come to.

Q: It's based on just rate of descent?

Amos: It's based on rate of descent and forward velocity which is, by the way, exactly what was in the NATOPS manual before the mishap.

Q: Some people might read this --

Q: To use your own word, you have a "rub" with this report. I think that's the word that you used. Did the Marines get a chance to make their objections to the report known to Coyle before he put it out? It seems a bit unusual for you guys to be so publicly taking on an OSD report with so many public objections.

Amos: Actually, I don't think I used the term, "I have a rub with this report." Did I?

Q: You did, actually.

Amos: Yeah, I don't -- in fact I think I -- at the very beginning I talked about two evaluations; one primarily military operational test experience, and one civilian, which -- and we need both of them to give us the balanced perspective on it -- on entering a new airframe in there.

Q: Okay, I think you used the word "rub" in addressing the notion that the report didn't adequately talk about the fact that the maintenance costs would come down over time.

Amos: And I think -- okay, and I do think that it's unrealistic to think that the maintenance cost of this airplane is not going to come down over time.

The airplane entered our service -- entered our first squadron -- in July. I mean, this is November. I mean, it's -- and that's why I say I think it's unrealistic to think at this point, for this snapshot in time, that this airplane is not going to improve in maintainability and reliability when, in fact, it already has.

Q: But did the Marines get a chance to make their differences of opinion known before the report came out?

Amos: We talked all the way through. We have a very good communications setup between OPTEVFOR and the DOT&E [Director Operational Test and Evaluation] folks. And we've been talking all the way along -- absolutely.

Q: What of the --

Q: One more budget question: This would be an interesting intellectual discussion about a weapons system under early development if it wasn't for the fact that next Tuesday the Marines or the Navy are going to dictate possibly sending this into full-rate production, a potential $30 billion decision.

At the end of an administration and at the eve of an incoming one, why not keep this thing in low-rate production for another year while the bugs are worked out and you can give the public and the military a little bit more confidence that the plane is, in fact, improving?

Why the need for a Milestone 3 decision at this point in the program?

Amos: I'm probably not the guy to be able to answer that question, but I can give you a glimpse on what full-rate production right now means, just so you have a perspective. Full-rate production is we look over the planned budget over the FYDP [Future Years Defense Program] is 16 airplanes in fiscal year '02. That's not a lot of airplanes. You know, again, we've delivered nine airplanes this year. So that is -- full-rate production sounds like we're going to throw out 100 airplanes a year, and that's simply not the case. We're talking 16 airplanes in FY '02.

Q: You would agree, though, it's a symbolic major step in a program that normally is irreparable -- irrevocable -- excuse me -- can't be turned off. You don't go back from Milestone 3.

Amos: That's right.

Q: That's the goal of all the services, to get --

Amos: Absolutely.

Q: -- the thing to Milestone 3, basically to protect the investment in the program. And I'm just asking, what would be the problem of going a year delay in that, because you can't answer this -- you know --

Amos: Well, I tell you, I can only answer from my perspective, and that's the airplane, from my, and from Marine aviation's perspective, is operationally suitable and operationally -- it's a program that can be executed. It's a suitable airframe that will grow in maturity. And we're very comfortable with that. And because of that, I have no problems with the thing going in full-rate production. None whatsoever.

Q: The taxpayers might, or other -- you know, members of Congress who monitor OSD expenditures, and the building might -- the Marines, of course, wouldn't care. They want the thing go to Milestone 3. It's a fiscal responsibility issue, I would think.

Amos: Next question.

Q: A layman reading this report, maybe just reading the -- a cursory review of this report, and maybe remembering the accident in April might conclude that the V-22 is somehow a troubled program. What would you say to someone who had that impression?

Amos: I don't agree that the V-22 is a troubled program. I think the V-22 is a maturing program right now. And I think it's probably, realistically, where it should be in its maturity. And I'd like to be able to come back in a year from now and be able to answer that question because I think you would be very satisfied with the answer that I gave you a year from now.

Sir?

Q: If this is a high-maintenance aircraft, is there a greater risk in flying it? And at what point do you use it to move troops around and that sort of thing?

Amos: We're using it -- we move troops around on it right now. It is --

Q: Is it safe --

Amos: I'm having just a little bit of trouble with the consistent reference to it's a high maintainability airplane. It is an airplane that is under -- that is being introduced to the fleet for the very first time. It is moving troops.

I was down at New River two weeks ago -- just to give you a vignette, a snapshot of what's going on at the squadron, there were six airplanes sitting on the flight line. Five of them were up; they were flying the airplanes consistently throughout the day. Only one of the airplanes out of five were down. There were two that were in the hangar for scheduled incorporation of airframes changes, part of these 118 airframes changes and changes that we put in there as a result of maintainability and reliability. The airplanes are continuing to fly at New River.

Q: Is it safe? Is it riskier to fly because of the maintenance?

Amos: It absolutely is not.

Sir?

Q: I'm just trying to understand why over time -- I think Ken mentioned learning curve. Are you saying that the number of man hours to maintain these planes and keep them flying is now a certain level, and it will go down once you figure out the best way to do things, or once you figure out the real maintenance parameters that you need to do, once you have more experience with it? Is that why it will go down?

Amos: There are two reasons it will go down. One is the experience of the maintainers. And again, remember when they went to Operational Evaluation, the Marines that maintain those airplanes saw that airplane for the very first time. Where did they come from? They came from representative squadrons throughout the Marine Corps -- C-130s, CH-46s, H-53 squadrons. So their experience level has changed just since it entered Operation Evaluation. And a portion of those Marines have come to New River and Joined VMMT-204. So they are part of the reason why the maintainability of the airplane will increase, and the cost of maintaining the airplane will decrease.

The other piece of this thing is the quality assurance, just the changes that are being put into parts of the airplane -- the fasteners, the blade-fold wing (inaudible) -- the things that -- the (inaudible) plates on the airplane -- all those things that come from industry that only through flying an airplane and maintaining it in the fleet will you understand and learn just exactly what the nuances of that piece of -- specific piece of equipment are.

We learn that. It's not unlike -- probably not unlike my '72 Volkswagen that I bought brand new and I still have today. I can sure maintain that a lot easier today than I could when I first got it.

Q: General, just before you -- could we ask what your job is in connection with the plane?

Amos: I am Lt. Gen. McCorkle's deputy -- the assistant deputy commandant of Marine Aviation.

Q: Your first name, sir.

Bacon: James, Jim, first name?

Amos: Yes, sir, Jim.

Bacon: Jim. Jim Amos. Thank you very much, General. Appreciate it.

Yes, Charlie.

Q: Change of subject?

Bacon: Sure.

Q: Reuters reported out of Moscow this month that Russian reconnaissance planes, Sukhois, had buzzed the aircraft carrier battle group -- the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk on two occasions. It apparently had broken through air defenses and surprised them. Number one, is that true? And number two, have there been recent other such occasions, other such happenings? And has any protest been launched with the Russians -- against the Russians?

Bacon: Okay, you've asked a number of questions. There were reports out of Moscow that Russian aircraft allegedly snuck up on or took by surprise the Kitty Hawk and its battle group. The Navy says this is just not the case. There were some Russian planes that came near the Kitty Hawk battle group in the Sea of Japan on two occasions recently, one on October 17th and the second on November 9th. In both cases, the planes were acquired by the battle group's radar at a considerable distance, and in both cases, interceptors were put into the air and the plane's maintained a suitable distance away from the Kitty Hawk.

I think in the first incident, there may have been a slight delay in the dispatch of interceptors because the Kitty Hawk, which is the only conventionally fueled carrier in the fleet today, in the active-duty fleet, was in the process of refueling and therefore was not going fast enough at the moment of refueling to launch planes. There wasn't enough wind across the deck. So they had to wait in order for the carrier to accelerate before they could launch the planes.

The second time the planes were launched -- were launched at the appropriate time.

In neither case did the Navy feel that its operations had been compromised in any way.

In neither case did it feel that any protest was warranted, and therefore no protest was made to the Russians.

The Russians, for some reason -- perhaps lodged deeply in Cold War thinking -- held a press conference about this and released some photos. I think the photos, which I have not seen, but have been described to me, make it clear that the photographs were taken from a distance of several thousand feet. They're lateral photographs. They're not photographs taken from directly over the carrier or even particularly close to the carrier.

The Russians do this from time to time. They deploy planes for surveillance or training purposes. They deployed some Bear bombers over the Bering Sea earlier this year, I think in March. In other words, they moved bombers into Siberia, in eastern Russia. They deployed some Bear bombers in the Alaska area in September of 1999. I think there were stories about that. There was even a picture of one of the ponderous propeller-driven Bear bombers on the front page of the Washington Post or the New Times or several newspapers.

Just recently they have deployed several Bear bombers into the eastern region of Siberia. They've put two Bears into a base at a place called Anadyr, A-N-A-D-Y-R, which is on the Bering Sea, close to -- relatively close to Alaska. And they've deployed three Bear bombers to a based called Tiksi, T-I-K-S-I, which is on the Laptev Sea, also relatively close to Alaska, but much farther away than Anadyr.

So we would anticipate that in the next few days they might fly one or several of these planes up through the Bering Straits and close to Alaska. We monitor this very closely, obviously, and we'll continue to. But we don't see this as unusual.

Q: Did these planes, though, violate any sort of protocol or convention, or -- I mean, obviously, if they're coming close enough to the carrier, unannounced, it requires the carrier to scramble interceptors. In the very least, is this not impolite?

Bacon: Well, I think it's the type of event that allows the U.S. Navy to show how prepared it is to respond and how quick it is to respond.

These planes were acquired by the battle group's radar at some distance off. They were followed. At the appropriate time, given the fact that the ship was refueling the first time, at the appropriate time planes were dispatched. These are standard operating procedures. I don't consider this --

Q: (inaudible) -- kind of thing to the Russian ships?

Bacon: Well, we've carried out extensive surveillance in the past. We regard the Cold War as being over. And although we clearly monitor ships and airplanes, as I think my presentation proves, we have monitored the movement of these Bears, we keep an eye on what the Russians are up to. But we are well trained and we're ready to deal with these episodes.

Yes?

Q: Is the United States sending anything up to Alaska in response to this?

Bacon: Well, we have normal air defense procedures and air surveillance procedures, and we will follow them.

Q: Is it not correct that you're actually deploying up to a dozen U.S. aircraft up to near Elmendorf in response to this situation?

Bacon: We send aircraft around the world all the time, and I don't want to get into any specifics.

Q: When was the last time that the Russians deployed Bears to that part, that close to --

Bacon: March 5th and 6th of this year.

Q: That's when they deployed it, but would this have been the first time in a long time?

Bacon: Oh. They declared them -- they deployed them March 5th and 6th of 2000. And they deployed them in September of 1999. Now, I don't know whether there was a time in between, but I believe those are the last two times they've deployed them.

Q: By deployed, do you mean deployed to these bases, or flown up through the -- to challenge U.S. air defenses?

Bacon: No, they flew up to challenge or test U.S. air defenses.

Q: I think Jim was asking when was the last time Russian Bears were deployed to these bases.

Bacon: Well, I don't know that. They -- wait a sec -- these planes are not -- we do not believe they are permanently deployed to these bases. We think they're there temporarily.

And they flew out -- I believe they flew out of both of these bases last September, and they may have done the same in March, but I'll have to check on that.

Q: When did they get there?

Bacon: Last couple of days.

Q: And these are the same types of aircraft that in the old days, they used to fly up and down the East Coast to Cuba pretty regularly?

Bacon: Yes. They're huge, huge planes.

Q: Very long distance planes.

Bacon: Yeah, right, very long distance planes.

Q: Now to be clear, during the refueling incident, the interceptors -- is it the case that the interceptors were not launched until after the Russian planes overflew the Kitty Hawk?

Bacon: I do not believe that's the case, but I'll double check that.

Q: And would that be some kind of lapse in force protection?

Bacon: Well, if the Navy had felt there was an emergency underway, they could have broken off the refueling, accelerated the carrier and launched the planes. I think the fact is, there was nothing about either of these incidents that led the Navy to believe that anything out of the ordinary was happening, that they were under any particular threat or that they needed an extraordinary response, so they didn't produce an extraordinary response, and that includes no diplomatic protest.

Yes.

Q: New subject?

Q: Could you just say what you think the Russians are up to and --

Bacon: I think this is normal -- I think it's training on their part. I think it's probably testing our responses, testing the abilities of the United States to maintain surveillance. The Russian military training has dropped off considerably since the end of the Cold War, and it's in the last couple of years, they've begin to do some more Bear flights than we had seen in the past. Some of them are longer range than they have been in the past. And I don't know exactly why they're doing it, but I would suspect it just fits into training and monitoring us.

Q: What type planes were involved in the Kitty Hawk fly-over?

Bacon: You should ask the Navy about that, but I assume they were F-18s. But --

Q: No, the Russians.

Q: Oh, no, the Russians.

Bacon: Oh, the Russian planes? I think one was a Bear, but I could be wrong on that. The Navy can give you the facts on that. [Update: One was an SU-24 Fencer. The other was an SU-27 Flanker.]

More questions on this? New topic.

Q: Anthrax?

Bacon: Anthrax.

Q: How many doses are left?

Bacon: I only have a backwards way to answer that question. There were enough doses left to continue vaccinations in the Gulf at the rate of 5,000 a month.

Q: For how long?

Bacon: For a year.

Q: So 60 then?

Bacon: About 60,000 left, without tapping into reserves that we want to maintain.

Q: And that 5,000 a month compares to -- what was the rate up until now? It was about 17,000?

Bacon: Well, what we -- yeah, what we save by temporarily discontinuing Korea at 12,500 I believe.

Q: So if you add the two together, what do you get per month?

Bacon: Pardon?

Q: So if you add those 12,000 plus 5,000 you get about --

Bacon: Yes.

Q: Is the detente in Korea the reason why you believe the threat is lower?

Bacon: No, that's really a separate -- I mean, it obviously fits into the general picture, but there's no direct reaction. The reason that we're focusing on Southwest Asia is we know that the Iraqis produced anthrax. We know that they weaponized anthrax. It is a clear and present threat, we believe, in Southwest Asia. We have not had U.N. inspectors in Iraq since 1998 to monitor what, if anything, they've done with their biological weapons supplies. So it seems most prudent to continue the program in Southwest Asia.

Q: Do you not know the same thing about North Korea? Do you not -- can you not positively say that they have anthrax and have weaponized it?

Bacon: They have an active biological and chemical weapons program. And I don't think I'll go any further than that. Given the fact that Saddam Hussein has used chemical weapons in the past against Iran and against the Kurdish minority in his own country, we assess the risks to be greater in Iraq than we do right now in the Korean Peninsula.

Q: Excuse me, is that Bioport plan any closer to --

Bacon: Yes, yes, it is closer. Every day it's closer. We anticipate that the Bioport plant -- our current expectation and hope is that it will be certified to produce and producing FDA-compliant vaccines of the absolute highest safety level in the third or fourth quarter of next year.

Q: Didn't the FDA do a recent report, or inspection report on Bioport? Do you have any information on that?

Bacon: Yes, it said that they're drawing closer to authorized production.

Q: Had you expected them to be up and producing by now? And if so, why aren't they?

Bacon: Well, there have been a series of issues. I don't remember the exact dates, but yes, we had hoped that they would have been up and running by about this time.

I'd have to go back and review the history of this. But basically, all the anthrax vaccine, which has been used since 1970, used safely since 1970, was produced by a small facility owned by the state of Michigan. And Michigan wanted to get out of the vaccine production business, so they sold their facility and stockpile of vaccines to a new company called BioPort. BioPort faced a number of choices. It could have kept producing at the small facility, but it was very clear to everybody -- to BioPort and to the military -- that the small facility didn't have the capacity to meet the demands imposed by the military, which is to vaccinate all active-duty and Reserve people in the force.

So BioPort tore down the old facility and started to build a new one, and it's taken them a long while to build a facility that meets the very high FDA sterility, potency, purity and other standards. So they've been working on that. They have hired additional experts to help them do that. And we think they are making progress. And the last FDA report was more encouraging than some of the earlier ones.

Yes, Barbara?

Q: Different topic when --

Q: Can we follow up on that? Third or fourth quarter fiscal or calendar?

Bacon: Calendar, I believe.

Q: Calendar.

Bacon: Yes.

Q: So it could be a year delay?

Bacon: Well, about -- it could be anywhere from, you know, nine to 12 months from now.

Q: Don't you have to do one-year boosters for the people that have already received the inoculation?

Bacon: Right.

Q: And if so, do you have the booster shots for them or are they going to --

Bacon: We have ceased doing that. All we're doing now is vaccinating people who are going to be on the ground for -- boots on the ground for 30 days in the Gulf.

Q: Does that mean that the half million-or-so people that have inoculated will have to receive the complement of six shots again?

Bacon: That will have to be reviewed, and I don't know the answer to that. That's the type of thing that obviously the doctors will look at.

I mean, there are a constellation of issues here. One that's been raised is whether there is a vaccination regime that could require less than six shots. But right now we're sticking with the tried and true, which is six shots over 18 months and then annual boosters.

Q: And you're not talking about shots for, say, the Fifth Fleet carrier groups that go in and out of there, right? You're talking about people whose boots are on the ground, as you say?

Bacon: We're talking about --

Q: Is that the 5,000 people -- (inaudible)?

Bacon: That's right. We're talking about boots on the ground and personnel afloat in contiguous waters, who have the potential to be committed ashore. So that would involve Marines, for instance.

Q: What about the secretary and other officials? Are they still taking the vaccine, or have they stopped?

Bacon: The secretary and the chairman have finished their regimes, and other officials who had started have been halted.

Q: Can you say who they are?

Bacon: Well, me, for instance. There have been others who have not finished the routine. So --

Q: New subject?

Bacon: Yes.

Q: No, I had -- (inaudible).

Q: Okay, then. No, you haven't -- (inaudible). Go ahead. You --

Q: I'll just ask one about the GOCOs and looking into the five companies that responded to the Commerce Business Daily.

Bacon: Right.

Q: I asked about that a while ago.

Bacon: Right.

Q: What's the status with the alternate sources?

Bacon: Well, we're making some progress with an alternate source. I should check and find out how public I can be about this, but we were working with one supplier and, I believe, one alternate supplier.

The question deals with our program to set up a second production source for anthrax vaccine, so there will be one source beyond BioPort.

We are now working with an organization to do that. I believe that they will work as a partner with BioPort. So this should reduce the time considerably that it will take for them to get up and running. But it'll still be more than a year before they're up and running.

Jamie?

Q: Did you want to go --

Bacon: Or Barbara.

Q: Yours -- Barbara's needs --

Q: I think Barbara's is a new subject -- (off mike).

Bacon: Okay. Do I get a choice? I can assist one or the other.

Q: No.

Q: It might be the same one.

Q: No choices! I'd like to revisit several quick issues regarding the dinner in Beverly Hills this evening, because I don't quite understand a few things. Could you explain with some specificity what it is that made the department decide to establish this first-ever Citizen Patriot Award, and what it was about Jack Valenti that made you give this award to him?

Aside from his own military service of many years ago, what is it in terms of his job at the MPAA that he has done that led you to believe this award was something you wanted to do?

Bacon: Okay.

Q: What has he done for the military at the MPAA?

Bacon: Let me put this in context. We're talking about a dinner tonight with performers -- a performance arranged by the USO involving military musicians, approximately 90 military musicians, in California. And the immediate purpose of the dinner is to present an award to Jack Valenti, the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, of which your company that owns ABC is a member.

That is to, one, honor Jack Valenti, but more broadly, to advance the secretary's program to look for imaginative and effective ways to increase the public appreciation of the military, the public knowledge of the military, and public interest in the military. He believes that the entertainment industry is a force multiplier to our recruiters and to military publicists, like me, in helping interest the public in the military.

He has worked diligently on this project since he became secretary of Defense. He has tried to get, and has gotten, sports stars, for instance, people -- influencers, the type of people that young men and women notice and pay attention to when they appear on television -- he's worked very hard to get them to help shed light on the military and attract attention to the military.

He has also worked hard with the film industry -- in fact, my office has a continuing program of working with the film industry, through Phil Strub, who works just down the hall -- to help the film industry or encourage the film industry to give positive portrayals of the military. And I think that there have been a number of notable successes in that regard in the last couple of years. So does the secretary. And so this event is designed in part to thank Jack Valenti for his role in making that possible, or encouraging that.

Now, Jack Valenti, as you know, was a pilot in World War II. But he has been extremely helpful. He has been the liaison at times between our department and the film industry on certain issues. And the secretary felt that this was a way to honor one person, but to use him as a symbol for what he thinks is a more positive portrayal of the military in film over the last couple of years.

Now let me give you a couple of examples and explain why the secretary believes this is so important. He hosted a showing of a film called "Men of Honor," about a Navy diver, a true-life story of a Navy diver. It's a Fox picture. It came out on Veterans Day. Before it came out, there were extensive promotional -- an extensive promotion, particularly on television, but also on radio and in newspapers for the film. In a sense, all of those promotions helped call attention to the Navy and to the military in general. The film has, so far, grossed $33 million, $35 million, I think I read in the New York Times the other day. It's a film that has received a fair amount of critical acclaim. Cuba Gooding is the star of that film, and he will be one of the people attending this dinner.

Next year, Disney is putting out a film called "Pearl Harbor," with which the Pentagon has worked with the staff of "Pearl Harbor" to help produce this film. It will be -- there will be a lot of publicity about this film. It's a big -- they hope -- a blockbuster film. And so that, again, adds to a climate of understanding or publicity about the military that wouldn't otherwise exist.

The secretary believes -- and I think that critics will attest to the truth of this -- that there has been, over the last 10 or 15 years, a fairly dramatic change in the way the military is being portrayed in the movies.

We're well away from the post-Vietnam era. With the "Saving Private Ryan" and other films, we've gone into an era that looks back at World War II. Tom Brokaw has participated in several events, including one very similar to the one that is being held tonight in California, last year to honor "the greatest generation," the name of his book, his first book, before he wrote "Greatest Generation II," or whatever the second one is.

So this has been a continuing program, and it's --

Q: Can you just also clarify a couple other points? Besides the 90 musical performers, how many additional military support staff for this event?

Bacon: I don't know the answer to that. I mean, there will be sufficient support staff out there. It will be akin to the types of dinners that you attend many times here given by the secretary in Washington, except it's going to be in California and have a different crowd.

Q: And to clarify your comment the other day, I wanted to make sure, is the DoD picking up the entire tab, or is anybody else contributing any money?

Bacon: No. This is entirely a DoD event. And the funding is coming out of so-called "representational funds," which pay for the secretary's entertaining, the dinners he gives here for defense ministers and colleagues, and also out of Washington Headquarters Services administrative funds.

Q: You have no further clarity on the final costs?

Bacon: I do not, because the costs aren't final.

Q: And just to clarify the transcript, since you made the point, I will clarify for the transcript that I work for ABC News.

Bacon: ABC News, owned by Disney. I mean, all news companies are owned by somebody else these days, and most of the news companies are owned by - happen to be owned by companies in the entertainment business. I think Viacom's in the entertainment business. I guess General Electric is not in the entertainment business -- but it makes TVs, maybe.

Q: Does the DoD keep track of how much money they actually contribute, or indirectly, by subsidizing the film industry and cooperating with the film industry in terms of using military assets at a reduced cost? Is that computed somewhere?

Bacon: No, I'm not aware that it is. The costs, in fact, are not that high. Phil Strub is on my staff. Each service has a liaison officer in Hollywood working directly with the movie companies. What do these people do? Well, let me give you an example. Steven Spielberg set out to do a program on Marine basic training, and the program is -- he's produced a two-hour program that he expects will show sometime early next year.

The Marine Corps, obviously, cooperated with him in considerable detail in helping him, you know, opening up Parris Island, helping him use facilities there. And in fact, Marines appear in the film, as I understand it. It's recently received some publicity in one of the -- you know, these entertainment shows -- "Access Hollywood" or "Entertainment Tonight" -- there was something last week, I think, or this week on it.

So that's the type of thing that the secretary believes is what I call a force multiplier in helping to tell the military story, perhaps through the eyes of Hollywood, but telling it to a public that doesn't always have a lot of contact with the military these days.

Q: Is there a figure somewhere in the budget where --

Bacon: No.

Q: -- if they use an aircraft carrier it's X dollars per hour --

Bacon: Oh, that.

Q: -- and we let them use it for Y dollars per hour; how much does that cost the military to subsidize the film industry, for example?

Bacon: I don't think there is much subsidy of the film industry going on. I think they pay costs. My understanding is that they -- I mean, if they go and look around Parris Island, I don't think that imposes a big cost on the Marine Corps. If they wanted to film a Harrier taking off and landing, if the Marines mounted a special Harrier display for the filmers, they would charge them whatever the cost of the fuel and -- to the extent they could allocate it.

But, you know, these are judgment calls. But on December 7th, ABC is going to run a program called "The Shooting War", which is a terrific film made entirely from combat camera footage shot during World War II. And all the narration on the film is done either by Tom Hanks or by the combat cameramen themselves explaining how they got these shots on Normandy Beach or on Iwo Jima. It's a very griping, arresting film.

I think that many people watching this film will come away with an appreciation of the military and of military photography that they didn't have before seeing it on December 7th.

Q: No taxpayer money is involved in that project.

Bacon: Except that all the film was shot initially with taxpayer money.

In other words, the film was made from archives of combat camera film from World War II. And all of the film was shot by --

Q: It is not -- well, again, I'm not going to --

Bacon: -- uniformed servicemembers.

Q: You're talking about public domain products.

Q: There's no marginal cost.

Q: I'm sorry. Is the secretary staying at the Beverly Hilton again? I remember in January there was like a $10,000 four-night bill.

Bacon: First of all, that story was totally erroneous. The bill was not $10,000, it was less than a quarter of that. He did not stay in the Beverly Hilton and he's not staying in the Beverly Hilton this time. The event is being held in the Beverly Hilton.

Yes.

Q: New subject?

Bacon: Okay.

Q: Can you just quickly run down what happened today at the Missile Alert facility in Minot, North Dakota, where, I guess, they had a fire, and address whether or not any -- at any time there was a threat to the nuclear missiles and a loss of control of them?

Bacon: In a television age, this picture will not -- hey, can we show this on the screen?

Staff: Sure.

Bacon: Let's go for it. We've got this multi-thousand dollar setup here, let's see if we can make it pay.

Q: How many thousands is that camera?

Q: Where's the propeller --

Q: -- like an overhead projector.

Q: While they're putting the picture up --

Bacon: There was a -- in North Dakota, Minot Air Force Base, there was a fire at approximately 5:00 a.m., I assume, local time today. And there was a fire -- it was at a Minuteman Missile Control Facility. Now the facility itself is underground, in a capsule. But that's not what burned. What burned is a support building on top of the ground. That's what burned. And when that began -- and if we get this whiz-bang system lined up so we can show it, I think it will be clear -- you can see that the building on top burned. They immediately shut off access and air supplies from the -- remember, this is a facility designed to survive a nuclear blast. So surviving a fire of a building on top is not a big challenge. And it, in fact, was not.

They were able to isolate its air supply and water supply, etc. There were two people in the command facility underground. My understanding is they're in good shape.

They, I hope, have the fire out by now. I don't have a picture of the fire. I just have a picture of the facility here.

Q: Are the two people still underground?

Bacon: They were when I came in here at quarter of 2:00.

Q: Were the responsibilities for that launch facility then handed off to a redundant system somewhere else, or did it remain operational, do you know?

Bacon: I don't know the answer to that question. We'll try to find out.

Q: Is that longer than they should have been underground, or did their 12-hour shifts just start?

Bacon: I don't know when this happened in their shift, but let me point out again that they're working in a facility designed to survive a nuclear blast, and it's designed to keep them there. Now, this is -- I don't have a pointer -- but the building that burned is in the back there, this long, flat building going back. And the facility itself, where the Air Force officers were operating, is underground. It's that tube underground with all those pipes on top. And what they did was shut off the air supply et cetera between the underground capsule and the burning house on top as they put out the fire in the house, and they were able to maintain pure air and water and other life-sustaining elements for the crew in the underground bunker.

Q: Is there a silo associated with that facility?

Bacon: No, actually there are not silos nearby near this facility. It's not one of these little things where there are a couple of silos around the launch -- this isn't a launch facility.

Q: They weren't launch officers or --

Bacon: No. These aren't the guys with the dual keys and --

Q: Right. Okay.

Bacon: Right.

Q: Do you know what caused the fire?

Bacon: I don't. I don't yet. We'll try to get more information on that, but --

Q: Was the building a total loss?

Bacon: I think the building burned -- it was quite a severe fire. Whether it was a total loss, I don't know. But it would be, I'm sure, a bad fire.

Q: Any idea what the cause -- caused the fire?

Bacon: No.

Q: Nobody was --

Bacon: But it is being investigated by local authorities.

Q: The two people inside, they're trapped inside, is that right? They can't get out?

Bacon: The two people inside are being kept safely underground until the smoke clears and the fire apparatus gets the fire out, and then they'll come up.

I want to stress, again, this is a facility built to protect people from nuclear blasts and radiation, so it has food and water and air and other things they need in there to survive for a considerable length of time. And these people are completely safe. They are not injured. No one was injured by this blaze, but certainly not the people underground in the nuclear safe facility.

Q: But they have --

Bacon: General, I can see why you're leaving.

Q: He's trying to get a better look.

Q: Ken, you said these people were not launch officers. Is this part of the whole launch complex? And what part does it play?

Bacon: It's called a missile alert facility.

Q: They have a launch control center.

Q: Yeah, they're the launchers -- (inaudible) --

Q: Don't these -- they control and monitor, Ken, Minuteman-3?

Bacon: I'll get all the details on this. I just deal with pictures.

Q: Ken, I notice the schematic has on one side of it -- it says "emergency escape tunnel." Now if you had needed -- these people had needed to get out, could they have gotten out, and you just -- they're not to use that, I guess.

Bacon: I don't think it was dangerous enough for them to escape.

Q: They were trying to --

Bacon: Emergency conditions, right.

Q: So they're a hundred feet underground?

Bacon: I don't know the answer.

Q: Let me just get one more quick one, if I may.

Bacon: This is a -- I mean, you guys don't have a shot at getting stuff on the air tonight --

Q: Can I ask you something -- just briefly.

Bacon: -- because, you know, everybody's going to be watching those Ryder trucks going up the highway in Florida.

Q: That's what we're hoping.

Bacon: Are those trucks safe?

Q: I don't know. Florida drivers --

Q: Is there any progress or any indication that Osama bin Laden is tied to the Cole blast? And have you made any progress at all toward tying him toe the blast?

Bacon: That's a very good question for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Q: All right.

Q: This is the longest Pentagon briefing that --

Q: Are we anywhere close to setting a --

Bacon: No, no, no. I think that some of the Gulf War illness briefings exceeded this. And my guess is that some of the Operation Allied Force briefings may have exceeded it. But this goes long, and I was thinking up here, in the very few slow moments that -- with great envy about my friend Admiral Quigley, who had about a two- or three-minute briefing when we were in the Middle East, risking our lives. He was up here --

Q: Dodging --

Bacon: -- in the shortest briefing of all time, I think. So thank you very much. If we average the length of these two briefings, it will be okay.

Q: Just a couple more points --

Q: I have a follow-up!

"This transcript was prepared by the Federal News Service, Inc., Washington DC. Federal News Service is a private company. For other defense related transcripts not available through this site, contact Federal News Service at (202) 347-1400."

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