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DoD News Briefing - Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
October 26, 1999 1:40 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome. Let me start with a couple of announcements.

This week the joint program office for national missile defense is sending a team to North Dakota to start public hearings that will lead to an environmental impact statement on the possible construction of a national missile defense site in North Dakota. Next week a similar team will go to Alaska to start hearings there. As you know, both these sites have to be reviewed in the course of assembling the information that the president needs to make a decision about whether or not to proceed with the construction of a national missile defense program. And no final decision will be made until these environmental impact statements are completed as well as a whole series of other tests and studies that are ongoing.

Second, the Army will announce later today that it's dispatching a group to the Republic of Korea to meet with their counterparts in the Nokuen-Ri investigation. The Army team will be led by the Army Inspector General, Lieutenant General Michael Ackerman. And they'll leave tomorrow, go to Korea for a one-day meeting on Friday, and then come back. And this will be the beginning of the information sharing that Secretary Cohen has promised in a letter to President Kim Dae Jung in South Korea.

Finally, I assume some of you watched the hearings today, the chairman and the chiefs before the Senate Armed Services Committee. During the hearings Chairman Shelton was asked about the impact of a 1.4 percent across the board cut on the Defense budget. This is being discussed by some members of Congress. He said the impact would be devastating, that it would roll back some of the good work that has been done by the $112 billion six-year defense increase that President Clinton sent to Congress earlier this year.

Let me just give you a couple of details about the impact this would have. These are preliminary calculations on our part. But starting from the definition of an across-the-board cut, that it would be a haircut, basically, of all accounts: personnel, R&D, procurement, operations and maintenance. Because the cut really couldn't be implemented on the personnel side until about six months, you essentially would have to effect a 2.8 percent increase. That is, instead of 1.4 percent for 12 months, it would be 2.8 percent for six months. Since we can't and don't want to cut pay -- after all, we've just gotten a pay increase, and there's no indication that pay will be cut -- we would have to cut numbers. And a 2.8 percent cut for the final six months of the year would amount to a cut of between 39,000 and 70,000 people from the total force; that is, from the active duty force, which is now between 1.3 and 1.4 million.

Now, the disparity between 39,000 and 70,000 is explained by whether they were high-ranking or lower-ranking people. If they're higher-ranking people, obviously you save more money by getting rid of higher-ranking people who have been in the service longer, but it's probably unlikely that the services would take people out who had been in 18 - 22 years. It's much more likely that they would either take out lower-ranking people or slow recruiting by not acquiring new people into the force, which, of course, would run counter to exactly what all the services but the Marine Corps now are trying to do, and that is to fill recruiting shortfalls.

Second, in terms of operations and maintenance, it would take out approximately $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion from the O&M accounts, and that would hurt the very increases in readiness that we're trying to achieve with the defense budget increases. As you know, they're designed mainly to go to personnel accounts -- that is, pay and the benefits, the pension plans, et cetera -- to operations and maintenance, to support higher readiness, and to procurement, to get the procurement numbers up into the -- to $60 billion a year, eventually.

And then, finally, in procurement, as General Shelton said, of course, it would be a haircut of 1.4 percent. There are certain contracts, you know, that we've signed on a multi-year basis or other contracts that are designed to lock in both us and the contractor, frequently at some savings. And we wouldn't want to disrupt those contracts, though probably it would have a disproportionate impact on other contracts that weren't so-called special or long-term contracts. So it would slow down modernization in -- probably in disproportionate ways, hitting some programs more than it would hit other programs.

That's a quick thumbnail explanation of what General Shelton meant by "devastating" when he described the impact.

Yes?

Q: Ken, you said that they're conducting an environmental impact study on a North Dakota -- possible North Dakota site for national missile defense. For months people have been saying that Alaska is the optimum site in terms of coverage for protection of the United States and given possible threats. Does the fact that we're doing a study on North Dakota indicate that North Dakota indeed might be chosen if the Russians will not back down on revising the ABM?

Mr. Bacon: No, and I think that it's an open question at this stage. There are advantages and disadvantages to each site. The biggest advantage to Alaska is that it does provide 50-state coverage. That is a huge advantage, obviously. When you're building a national missile defense system, you need to protect the entire nation.

However, moving -- building a site in Alaska would require -- is one of the things that would require an adjustment to the ABM Treaty. If we were to build in North Dakota, where we had a site some years ago, in that respect, it would not require an adjustment to the treaty.

So these will have to be weighed by the president and by Secretary Cohen in reaching the decision. I would say that Alaska has a powerful advantage, but until we complete the process of doing the environmental impact statements, studying the geometry of the system, of continuing our discussions with the Russians over changes to the ABM Treaty, I think it's impossible to say exactly which site it will be.

Q: What's the Pentagon reaction to comments by -- I believe it's the deputy defense minister for Russia, threatening to increase deployment of missiles to counter any system that we might put up?

Mr. Bacon: Well, I think it completely misses the point of what our system is. Our system is not designed and could not in fact counter any attack by the Russians. We assume the Russians will not attack us. They should assume we won't attack them.

This is a system that's designed against a totally different threat. It could easily be saturated by an arsenal the size of the Soviet arsenal -- the former Soviet arsenal, the Russian arsenal. It is designed against a very limited attack from a so-called rogue nation such as an Iraq or a North Korea that has a small number of missiles -- maybe one, or five -- with a small number of warheads. So that's what we're building it against. We've been very clear in describing that to the Russians.

We believe the Russians face a similar threat. After all, they are closer to North Korea than we are. They are closer to Iraq than we are. They are closer to Iran than we are. So they face, in theory, exactly the same type of threat we do. And we have proposed a number of ways to cooperate with them in helping them meet that threat, so we can do it jointly. But I think that anybody in Russia who thinks about this system would realize that it's not designed to counter the Russians in any way.

Yes.

Q: Ken, about the Lear jet incident of yesterday, when will you be releasing a videotape or any material from the F-16 that was tracking the plane?

Mr. Bacon: The answer is we will not. We have turned over audio tapes and videotapes. There's -- only one F-16 took a videotape. We have turned that all over to the National Transportation Safety Board. We called them today -- I believe Captain Taylor called them -- asked them if we could get permission to release them, and they said please don't because they haven't had a chance to review it yet, and they would like to study this as part of their overall investigation. If it's to be released, they'll make the decision to release it. But we have given it to them at this stage.

Q: What do the tapes show?

Mr. Bacon: I haven't seen the tapes.

Q: You haven't been told in general terms what they --

Mr. Bacon: I have not. I have not.

Q: -- they show the plane flying. Can you see that the cockpit is frosted or anything like that?

Mr. Bacon: I haven't been told what the tapes say -- show. But I believe that the observation of frosted windows came later. The videotape that was taken came from an F-16 launched from Eglin Air Force Base. That was relatively early in the day. And it was a plane, I believe from Tulsa or Fargo that an hour or so later noticed the frosted windows in the plane.

Q: Can I just revisit the question again about whether or not there was ever at any point any consideration of shooting the plane down in order to prevent it from hitting a populated area before -- perhaps you'd calculated where it was going to?

Mr. Bacon: Right. You may revisit that, and I'll give you the same answer I gave yesterday. The answer is no.

But I think, in a situation like this, you have to consider all the possibilities. And at one point, Admiral Fry -- and this was late; this was probably about 12:30 our time, and the plane crashed shortly after 1:00 -- Admiral Fry or someone working with him, said, "You know, if this thing suddenly veers off course and heads to Chicago, we'll have some really tough decisions to make." It was that type of thinking. It was not saying, "Okay, let's get ready." It never got to that point.

The plane had been flying on the course of 320 degrees, or in the very narrow range between 318 and 322, for several hours. I had a long talk this morning with the officer who actually ran the show at NORAD, and that was Vice Admiral Browne, who is the deputy commander in chief for the Space Command. General Myers was here in an Air Force budget meeting, so he turned this over to his so-called DCINC.

And as Admiral Browne described it, obviously in the initial -- first of all, it's not unusual -- and I can't tell you how often it happens, but it does happen from time to time -- that the FAA may call the military and say: "We have lost radio contact with a plane. Can you go up and take a look?" And sometimes the radio contact just comes back. Maybe it's a gap, or there is a problem with the radio that's fixed.

So initially, when they lose radio contact, they try to ping the plane and see if they can raise somebody on the radio. If they can't, they might send some planes up to take a look, and that's what they did in this case.

Then they see how it's flying; if there seems to be some problem, if it's flying erratically, if they can raise anybody in the plane. They weren't able to. You know, you fly up and wave to the guy and see if you can catch his attention. Obviously, they couldn't catch anybody's attention in this plane.

So for the first couple of hours, it was a period of checking, finding out exactly what was going on; checking the manifest. It was during this time, for instance, that they learned that the plane actually had taken off, I think in Sanford, Florida; flown to Orlando, landed, picked up another passenger, not taken on any more fuel, and set off again. So they had to calculate how much fuel, if it left its initial airport with a full load, how much did it expend going to Orlando and taking off a second time, and how long would it be able to fly at a pre-set course at various altitudes. Since its altitude was oscillating, that had to be factored in as well.

So they were in the course of making all these calculations. Meanwhile, the plane was flying steadily along a course and they were monitoring it. As they reached the point where they figured the plane was running out of fuel in the next half an hour to an hour, obviously the question of what do we do if it veers off course became more urgent than it was early on in the operation. One of the things Admiral Browne did was check the Joint Staff regulations that deal with destruction of derelict airborne objects to find out what was required. But the conversations about action to take never really went beyond the sort of "what if" that I gave you. You know, what if it suddenly veers of course; then we'll have really tough decisions to make.

Q: Well, one --

Mr. Bacon: Those decisions were not made.

Q: One of the questions my editors keep asking me is, What if it had veered off course? What factors would come into play in terms of how will the decision be made whether or not to take some sort of action? Can only the president make that decision? And then how would they decide? Would it be a --

Mr. Bacon: I don't think it's -- I think that every situation is different. Fortunately, we didn't have to face those decisions this time around. The regulations make it very clear the secretary of Defense has to be involved and that this has to be reported to the National Military Command Authority. The top person in the National Military Command Authority is the commander in chief. So you can figure it out.

But I think that every situation is different. It depends a lot on how much time is involved. Obviously, it would depend -- you have to -- I don't think there's any right answer to this because you're always weighing a series of factors. How big is the place it's headed towards? You can't tell with complete specificity where a plane's going to land. If it's headed toward a major metropolitan area, you can say it's probably going to land somewhere in that major metropolitan area. If it's headed toward a much smaller area, you might not be able to say with any specificity whether it's going to land near a population center in that small town or not. So all of these things would have to come into play and the decisions would have to be made quite quickly.

Q: Are there any ways, feasible ways to divert a plane, say, away from a populated area, short of shooting down a plane? Are there any ways to alter the course of a plane?

Mr. Bacon: I think you could alter the course by nudging its wings, by creating drafts on its wings or pressure in some way, even perhaps with physical or kinetic contact. I'm not a pilot, though. And maybe somebody here is. But it would be risky to our pilots to do something like that.

Once again, you have to weigh the risks and you have to weigh your options. And we would take almost any reasonable action before reaching the point of having to make a decision about destroying an American plane over American airspace with civilians on board.

Q: People who watch, I don't know, popular movie culture have perhaps an overly optimistic idea of what it is the military can accomplish in terms of some sort of air to air rescue or something like that?

Mr. Bacon: Well, I don't think many people would believe that to be possible. I think what people should take away from this is that the FAA as the supervising agency, working with military support, performed competently, calmly, quickly and brilliantly in the face of a very potentially risky and unknown, scary situation. And I think from the very beginning when they discovered that they couldn't make radio contact with this plane, what you saw was a very rational and competent approach to dealing with the problem. And part of a rational, competent approach is not overreacting. And I don't think there was overreaction here. I think that they were able to calculate where the plane was going. They made reasonable judgments, and those judgments turned out to be correct.

Q: And just one point of clarification. The commander, the military commander, the four-star whose jurisdiction this fell under was General Myers.

Mr. Bacon: Yeah.

Q: And that's at the U.S. --

Mr. Bacon: He's the commander in chief of the Space Command.

Q: U.S. Space -- so this --

Mr. Bacon: Right.

Q: Because that would -- because NORAD falls --

Mr. Bacon: But remember, this is not primarily a military operation. This was the FAA. It's civilian airspace, and it was a civil plane. And the --

Q: Can you just clarify who -- where the chain went?

Mr. Bacon: -- the military operates in support of the FAA in this situation as it does in dealing with other domestic disasters such as floods, for instance. And so the North American Air Defense Command followed this plane very closely. They were able out there at Cheyenne Mountain to watch the progress of the plane through their radar screens and to watch all the fighters following the plane. As you know, they followed it in waves. We were actually watching it here as well in the Military Command Center, the National Military Command Center. So it was being closely followed in Colorado at NORAD and here in the Joint Staff.

Q: Through the radar -- by radar, you mean?

Mr. Bacon: By radar, yeah.

Q: Yeah. I have a question on the -- you have referred to the guidance on destruction of derelict airborne objects, I think it's called. It doesn't actually mention aircraft, manned aircraft. Is there --

Mr. Bacon: Well, actually, it's interesting that the regulation, this one, applies -- all the examples they give are unmanned. It says, "This instruction provides guidance for the destruction of derelict objects. For example, unmanned free balloons, moored balloons, kites, or unmanned nuclear rockets or missiles over U.S. or international airspace." And then it gives the procedures that have to be followed. But in this enclosure D, "instructions for destruction of derelict airborne objects," they refer only to unmanned objects.

Q: My question is, is there written guidance beyond that that does get more specific about manned aircraft?

Mr. Bacon: No.

Q: No?

Mr. Bacon: I mean, then NORAD took this and changed it into basically a punch list for their watch officer -- If this happens, here are the steps you have to go through. But this is the joint staff regulation, and it only gives examples, but all the examples happen to be unmanned.

Q: Admiral Browne told you that he'd referred to that at some point during the episode?

Mr. Bacon: He did. He did refer to it, and he said that this is the first time he's had a situation like this to deal with, and like most people, he probably doesn't sit down and memorize thousands of pages of regulations just for the sheer joy of it, and instead he looks them up when he needs to, and that's what he did.

Q: Is his first name "Joe"?

Mr. Bacon: His name is Herb. So I assume it's Herbert, Herbert Browne, vice admiral for --

Q: This was, you know, this was a highly obvious -- obviously, it was a highly unusual event. How likely do you think it is that you would ever face this prospect of having to make the tough decision of whether to take action against a civilian plane? Is this a very remote possibility?

Mr. Bacon: Well, I think you defined it yourself. It's "highly unusual." And by definition, that makes it "a very remote possibility."

There have been several other cases, I think at least two were cited in the New York Times this morning, of aircraft where the pilots or the crew had died or became incapacitated and flew into the -- one flew into a remote area in northern New Hampshire; another flew into the Atlantic Ocean. Those were two that were cited this morning.

I think the FAA would be able to give you an accounting of that because it, of course, was the lead agency working with NORAD and the Air Force in dealing with this.

Q: A new subject?

Mr. Bacon: Sure.

Chris, you were -- I think you had --

Q: Yeah, just one question about the authority that CINCNORAD or CINCSPACE would have in dealing with an airborne threat to the United States, because there would be a difference in that if it were a military threat, an unidentified something doing something. This was an identified thing, and it was not a military operation. But is there different authority? In other words, are there cases in which CINCNORAD or CINCSPACE would have the authority to act?

Mr. Bacon: It would be a different set of authorities entirely if our territorial sovereignty or integrity were threatened. But it does raise an interesting point that has come up in some of the questions about the Learjet incident, and that is, "Were the planes armed or unarmed?"

There are planes kept on several coastal bases, that are kept on strip alert and are armed with missiles and with guns, that are designated to protect our territorial integrity should it be threatened. They are the planes that would be vectored up to look at unknown threats. Now, you know, frequently when they go up, what they learn is that they identify the plane, and it's a plane that for some reason is on the wrong course or whatever, or they convince the plane to turn around. But planes that are training in the United States, unless they're on ranges, fly without weapons, without armaments. We do have, both the U.S. and the Canadians obviously have planes along our northern border, their southern border. Those planes, some of them are on strip alert, and they generally are armed with guns only, not with missiles.

Now, typically when a plane takes off on a training mission, even if it's armed, all the arms have safety locks on them so there can't be any mistakes. If they were launched in a mission against a so-called "intruder," they would remove the safeties before they took off. But if they were just to take off on a training mission or a normal patrol, they would do so with the safety locks on their weapons.

Q: Were any safety locks removed on any of the --

Mr. Bacon: Not that I'm aware of, no.

Q: -- Fargo planes?

Mr. Bacon: No.

Q: Those were the only ones that were armed, is that right?

Mr. Bacon: The two Fargo planes took off briefly. They were armed. But they came back before they got close to the Learjet because it had crashed by then, as I understand it.

Q: But just to be clear, their safety locks were on?

Mr. Bacon: I don't believe -- well, wait a minute. I do not believe they were on, but I'll check that.

Q: So they could have, hypothetically --

Mr. Bacon: I don't believe the safeties were removed. Sorry. I don't believe they were removed, but I'll double-check.

Yes?

Q: New subject? Last night, Secretary Hamre hosted a major dinner of NATO -- international defense executives from the U.S. and NATO countries, France, Germany. Can you give us a readout on what was discussed by way of Hamre's view of globalization over the next year?

Mr. Bacon: Sure. First let me give you the background of the dinner. Undersecretary Jack Gansler meets from time to time -- I think it may be quarterly -- with the arms directors of other countries, his counterparts. They call themselves the Four Powers. They are Britain, France, Germany and the United States. He had asked Deputy Secretary Hamre if he would be interested in throwing a dinner for the armaments directors when they were passing through Washington. I think their meeting is actually in Williamsburg, Virginia. And Secretary Hamre said he would, and it might actually be a good opportunity to invite some American officials from defense companies to come and meet with the armaments directors and discuss globalization and some of the opportunities as well as the challenges. When that happened, the Europeans, our European partners and friends, decided that they would also invite some industrialists from Europe. So we had, I would guess, around 50 people or so. I think I can make a list available to you of the people who were invited and who came here last night. They held a meeting, a discussion, for about an hour and a half, maybe an hour and 40 minutes, took a break, came back and spent about an hour and 15 minutes eating delectable Native American food, such as coleslaw and catfish for dinner.

And Secretary Hamre was very clear in saying that this is a dialogue. It was not a meeting of instructions or decisions; it was a dialogue. It was an effort to get everybody together and to talk -- not even an effort that we had planned, really, because it had become more of a meeting after the Europeans decided to invite their own industrialists. He pointed out that globalization was here and it was going to be a force that all of us had to learn to live with and respond to. He said that there is plenty of room for more transatlantic cooperation now through partnerships and joint ventures and financing agreements.

He also said that he felt it was probably premature right now to assume that it was the time for mega-transatlantic mergers, and he gave two reasons. One, he felt that the European defense industry is beginning to go through the same digestive process that the American defense industry has been going through for the last several years. And as we know from studying companies in all businesses over here, the process of merging two giant companies with different cultures and somewhat different product lines and different executive styles can take time and is challenging. So for that reason, he felt it was premature. He felt that Europe had to gain more practice, become more comfortable with the merger process in Europe, just as we've spent time learning about it here.

And the second reason is he doesn't think that, frankly, there is a proper regulatory or security infrastructure to allow such mega mergers right now. In other words, we in the United States in particular, but in all countries, all NATO countries, have to do a better job of working on the security issues that arise when you have companies making sensitive defense items. Even though they're allied countries, we need to work on this. And he was very clear in saying that the U.S. has to -- has a ways to go here. There was a State Department representative there who talked about some of the efforts we're taking to accelerate export licensing decisions and technology transfer decisions that are necessary for this. But Secretary Hamre believes that we need some time. Now, he's not saying we're talking about years, but -- and in fact, no one knows what we're talking about. But for both the reasons he listed, he thinks we need a little more time before we get to the mega-merger category.

Now, having said that, I want to stress again that there was strong support from our government, from the foreign arms directors, the allied arms directors, and from industrialists in the United States and in Britain, France and Germany for increased cooperation between companies -- among companies. So that, I think, is where the energy will be put: increased cooperation, and also, at our end, dealing with some of the security roadblocks that allied companies have complained about, and allied governments, in the past.

Q: Did he express some frustration that a fortress Europe was de facto forming over there with the merger of DASA and Aerospatiale combined with British Aerospace buying one of its own electronics giants?

Mr. Bacon: He did not. There was strong feeling on the part of everybody there that we can't afford a fortress Europe and a fortress America. As he said, we have to keep the drawbridges down; we have to keep people moving back and forth between the two defense establishments, and we have to look for ways to increase cooperation while we work on developments that will facilitate or allow some mega mergers in the future.

Q: One final question. Did he give examples of the types of programs he saw going forward instead of mega mergers?

Mr. Bacon: Not with any great specificity that I recall.

Q: On the same subject --

Q: Ken?

Mr. Bacon: Yeah?

Q: Just to follow up, was the issue addressed at all of -- especially in Europe, you have a lot of government ownership of some of the -- well, you've got more government ownership of defense contractors, something you don't have over here, and how that plays into this whole issue?

Mr. Bacon: That issue was not specifically addressed, although some Americans did express concerns about the difficulties of dealing with the European regulatory structure. But then some Europeans expressed frustration about the difficulties of dealing with the U.S. security infrastructure.

So I'd have to say that this was an extremely level-headed, low-key discussion. It was really a -- more than anything else, a series of presentations. Secretary Hamre moderated it, and he called on a number of people in seriatim. I mean, he would call on a couple of industrialists to come up and talk, and then a couple of arms directors. And there were other people there, as I said, a State Department guy and a few other people he called up to make comments. So people came, and they made comments.

One guy said he had nothing to say because everything had already been said. He had nothing to add. And so there was a cumulative effect to the remarks.

But it wasn't a debate. It wasn't, you know, "You should do this, we're going to do this" type thing. It was really a series of statements. And I think the general feeling from the conversations I had with people at the meeting was that it had been a useful first step, but it was only a first step, and it accomplished exactly what Secretary Hamre wanted, which was the beginning of a dialogue.

Q: Did anyone make plans -- were any plans discussed about having this as a fairly regular kind of event?

Mr. Bacon: No, there were not discussions -- that could well happen today in Williamsburg or whenever the next phase is. But I think that it was very clear, from what Dr. Hamre said, that he would like to continue discussions in some form. Whether this is the right form, I don't know. But -- and I'm not sure he knows either. But I think that there's a feeling that it's helpful to get everybody together in a room and talk about general challenges and opportunities.

Yes.

Q: Ken, the Air Force is reportedly ruminating about pulling out of the Joint Strike Fighter program to protect their future funding for development of the F-22. I was just wondering, can they actually do that? Secondly, have they approached DOD either formally or informally about their intention to do so? And what would the ramifications be for the entire program and the other services if they did pull out? Is that a program buster?

Mr. Bacon: Well, first, I am aware that some officials in the Air Force -- generally anonymous officials, I gather -- have apparently raised this idea. Let me just make two comments.

One, the Joint Fighter, Joint Strike Fighter is exactly what its name implies: it's joint. It's a fighter that is being built. It's really an attack plane that's being built to -- for use by the Marines, Navy and Air Force. I think there's an analogy here going back to the '70s between the F-15 and the F-16. The F-15 was a higher performance air to air superiority plane bought in smaller numbers than the F-16, which was a cheaper, very capable but less high performance ground attack plane, primarily. And we bought many more F-16s than we did F-15s over -- I don't know the exact numbers, but we can get them. The analogy is the same between the F-22. Now I think the number they're contemplating buying is less than 350. I think it's 339 or something like that. And the idea is that we would buy several thousand Joint Strike Fighters not only because they'd be used by three services, but they would be the bomb-droppers and the missile-shooters -- the attackers, basically. So it's also supposed to be a considerably cheaper plane. And most of all, it's supposed to be stealthy. Much stealthier than the F-22. Much stealthier than the F-18E/F. So not to go ahead with the Joint Strike Fighter at this stage would deprive all of the services of the next generation of stealth technology in an era when everybody agrees that stealth technology is the way to go.

This clearly is an important issue. We don't have a Joint Strike Fighter yet. Prototypes are being built by two competing companies. And we'll have to see how the program evolves. But it's meant to be a highly stealthy, cheaper plane than the F-22 that will supplement the F-22.

Q: If I could ask you about that analogy briefly, you have a lot more than 339 F-15s right now. And so I am wondering what the plan is to deal with the fact that you are going to have, if you get the F-22, a lot fewer F-22s than F-15s. And you are going to have 50-year F-15s filling out the fleet, or are you just going to accept a smaller Air Force? Or are you going to, at some point, be asking for 300 more F-22s? I mean, what's the answer there?

Mr. Bacon: Well, it's hard to predict the future. Typically, we frequently end up buying more of a plane than we think we are going to initially.

But one of the benefits of technology is we could do more with less. And in air power generally, and we saw this most acutely during Kosovo, we moved from World War II and the Korean War and even Vietnam, where we had to drop hundreds of bombs to hit one target or many bombs to hit one target, and now we can hit one target with one bomb or one missile, with precision-guided munitions.

The same is true in air-to-air combat, where our idea is to be harder to find and to be able to acquire our enemy at much greater ranges than he can acquire us so that we are more sure of winning with the first shot than we were in the past.

I can't predict how many of these we'll buy. Obviously, for a while, maybe for a long while, we'll have a force that includes F-15s and F-22s. For one thing, we are still buying F-15s. The later models are more capable than the earlier models.

It is clear, from everything that General Ryan has been saying and other Air Force officials, that the F-16 in particular is beginning to wear out. And the older planes require more maintenance. They are having more problems in flight. And, therefore, he has voiced the desire to move to new generations of planes so that we don't have to continue to maintain the older planes at increasingly expensive rates.

Bill?

Q: Thank you.

Mr. Bacon: Wait a minute. I have got Pat and Bill back there.

Q: Thank you. Thank you, Ken.

Just wanted to know if you could update us on Chechnya? Specifically, are the Russians continuing to move toward Grozny? And have the Russians actually been encountering the terrorist rebels? Have they gone into Chechnya to boot out --

Mr. Bacon: I think I'll let the Russians speak about their problems in Chechnya. I think they are better able to describe what they're doing there than I am at this stage.

Q: Well, let me ask you this. Are the rebels in Chechnya enemies of the United States? Are they the terrorists that have been terrorizing the Russians and the U.S.?

Mr. Bacon: Well, certainly from Russian reports, some of the terrorism in the -- in Russia was rooted in Chechnya. I don't know how much of it, but the Russians believe that some of it was rooted in Chechnya. Certainly there are signs that terrorists always seem to find each other in various countries and make common cause, and I have no reason to believe that terrorists from places like Afghanistan or elsewhere have not been working hand in hand with terrorists in Chechnya. Now, to what degree, it's hard to tell, but I do think they consider themselves a band of brothers, sometimes a nasty band of brothers.

Pat?

Q: (Off mike.)

Mr. Bacon: Okay. Thanks.

Q: Thank you.