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DoD News Briefing on Theater Missile Defense

Presenters: Dr. Edward Warner, ASD for Strategy and Threat Reduction
February 26, 1999 12:00 PM EDT

Dr. Edward Warner, ASD for Strategy and Threat Reduction

Subj: Theater Missile Defense

ASD Dr. Warner: Thank you, Ken.

We were in Moscow late last week, last Thursday and Friday, for a meeting of something we call the Defense Consultative Group. That is a periodic meeting done about every six to eight months in which we take stock of and plot the course for our future cooperation between the ministries of defense -- ministry of defense, Department of Defense and our armed forces with the Russian federation. We had begun to talk with Russia about Y2K, the Y2K challenges that both countries face, as early as last June. At the NATO meeting of the permanent joint council when we had the 16 NATO defense ministers and the Russian defense minister, there was a discussion that just pointed out that all the countries at that time, now, about seven months ago or eight months ago, that they were wrestling with this challenge of the Year 2000 computer transition. And various defense ministers shared with Minister Sergeyev the sense that this is a demanding and difficult challenge.

We heard back from the Russians in late November, early December, that they were interested in, in fact, talking with us about where we might do some concrete and specific U.S. - Russian cooperation in meeting the challenge of the Year 2000. We agreed at that time in early December that we would append to this Defense Consultative Group a separate working group on Y2K issues to see if we could find common ground for cooperation.

So when we went to Moscow in the middle of last week, we took with us a special team led by Roseanne Hynes from C3I, who has the responsibility for the external dimensions of Y2K issues in the Department of Defense. And she had with her appropriate experts from within various parts of DoD. We had a day and half's discussions with appropriate specialists from the Russian side within the ministry of defense trying to see if we did have an area for further cooperation. One of the proposals that we put in front of them -- so that there's almost two pieces to what we suggested -- one piece is working with the Russians to share ideas about management techniques and key technologies or approaches that can be used to identify, remedy and then test computer systems that have Y2K related potential difficulties. So one of our main objectives is across the full range of computer-based systems within the ministry of defense to be able to, where we found it useful, to be able to share with them these kinds of techniques for solutions. So that's the road to helping them. There had been information -- as we came to Moscow we were going to go and visit Moscow military facilities and look at their computers. That was not the case. We were there to talk to their specialists and see if we could identify these modes of cooperation.

The second piece that (inaudible) gets the biggest play already has and almost certainly will continue to do so was a specific proposal that is related to our ongoing discussions about sharing early warning data. As you know, at the summit last September, Presidents Yeltsin and Clinton agreed to at least move as soon as practicable to set up a system for sharing early warning data about long-range missile launches. And we had a follow up to that commitment in early September, a meeting of full size delegations from the Russian-American side in Moscow in early December on this matter. So we are engaged with the Russians on seeking to develop a system which itself has a couple of pieces.

Number one, it's supposed to provide, once established, a steady flow of early warning data developed by both sides' early warning sensors that would flow to the national command centers of the other side. They would drive a computer display of what these warning sensors are detecting. There was also a commitment at the summit to set up a jointly manned warning center somewhere in Russia as part of this continuous sharing of early warning data. Finally, there was discussion of a Russian-American initiative in the broader international community to set up a process for prelaunch notification of any long-range missile tests or space-launched vehicle launches. The reason there is related to this question of trying not to misidentify a normally scheduled space launch or scientific exploratory rocket launch as a hostile act against any other country. That last one, the U.S. and Russia would lead the process of getting any nations from throughout the world who want to voluntarily join in this prelaunch notification regime.

So that process is still underway and there are signs from our meetings in Russia this week that we will send working groups to Moscow to work in the middle of March to continue the process to work that out.

Now, what we proposed with regard to Y2K is related but separate. We're not confident that this process of setting up the continuous sharing is going to bear fruit, going to be activated by the end of this year, by the time of the great transition between '99 and the year 2000. So we proposed to the Russians that we would invite them to come to a specially set up facility in the Colorado Springs area out near Space Command and that that facility would be manned jointly by Russian and American early warning launch specialists for a period from about the middle of December to perhaps the middle of January, in other words, to monitor things across the transition into the new millennium. And so, we put in front of them for the first time a proposed -- and we would pump our early warning data into a set of displays at that location. In our discussions with the Russians, at least the first staff level discussions, they raised the possibility that perhaps Russia could provide its data as well. There was no commitment made. They simply noted that perhaps that would be possible. Now, the interrelationship, I think, is if we make good progress in the other ongoing negotiations and work out the parameters for sharing and even the communications means we might use, the further we are along on the continuous process, the more we'll have a chance to have mutually provided data at the time of the transition at the end of this year. But our proposal is not limited to that schedule. It would present an opportunity for this type of sharing even in the absence of our having completed the negotiations on the other more ambitious long- term supposedly continuous project.

So that was put in front of the Russians. We have no response beyond the initial, unofficial response of staff officers who saw it and asked for further clarification. We have submitted that proposal in a letter to my counterpart, the first deputy chief of the Russian general staff, and we will expect an answer. We offered to talk about it when we follow up in the broader early warning process in the middle of March. And we would most certainly at least propose that we would look at this when the Russians come here. The Russians accepted our invitation. We got that acceptance on Tuesday, which for the Russian system is lightning fast. We got the acceptance of them sending a team of specialists to the United States in the latter part of March to follow on about the set of proposals that we made. And our proposal would be that at that time in what may well be about a three-day visit and discussions among experts, that they would, coming out of that, develop specific work plans and schedules for specific -- for concrete further cooperation in whatever areas seem most productive. And in those discussions, we will again return to, if they're authorized and if they're interested, this issue of the early warning center, that is the temporary shared early warning jointly manned Colorado Springs, mid- December to mid-January.

Well, let me stop with this and maybe give more information, clarification for questions.

QWhat is your perception of how well prepared the Russians are to deal with the Y2K issue within their military industrial complex?

AOur impression is that the Russians are embarked upon such an effort, are highly motivated to do it. We did not get enough detailed information to understand the status of where they are now. We have talked with the Russians off and on over the last six to eight months on this matter. In their command and control for nuclear systems, we've heard from a variety and including some of their tops specialists that they have looked into those in considerable detail. I mean, their assertion is they have looked into those and they are actively working on them and that they were coping with whatever problems they were confronting. Our sense still is that they most certainly recognize the seriousness of the challenge and are, in fact, anxious to compare notes on how to most effectively do it.

QIs your assessment that they are coming to this very late to the table, very late in this process?

AI don't think -- I personally can't draw that conclusion. We know that they set up an interagency, a Russian-style interagency body on this matter as early as last June. They sent representatives to the United States in the middle of last summer. It's clear that their level of willingness to interact with international, with other nations, has picked up dramatically over the last month. Whether that can be read as that this is late, I got lots -- I had the opportunity to talk to lots of press people in Moscow on this matter, six or seven. And some of them have been tracking this story very intensively, and so they've been interviewing Russians on it. And they get a variety of -- they get some saying we're well underway; they get others saying we're just getting started. We did not have the basis to be able to say where they fall. We can certainly testify to the fact that at this point, they are showing considerable interest in working with us. They had a useful discussion with NATO, the NATO staff, on this matter about three weeks ago, and they are showing indications they're interested in moving further from that standpoint as well.

So it certainly indicates they -- I have no doubt they have much work to do between now and the end of the year, but that's true of almost everybody.

QDoes the Colorado Springs initiative overtake the notion -- the proposal for a manned center in Russia?

ANo, it does not. It would simply substitute for a shorter period of time. We are still seeking -- it was President Yeltsin who said he wanted to put the jointly manned permanent center in Russia. We have asked them to be prepared to talk specifically about where they might put it and how they might do it. And I was told by some of our interlocutors in Russia that they have done a lot of homework on that, and they're prepared to discuss that at our next meeting.

QIn this temporary center in Colorado Springs, if you feed warning data to each other, does that also give them a capability to transmit that information back --

AI'm sorry, the other piece, it must have a communications link back to your respective centers as well. In our case, it might be just down the street. In their case, it would be back to Russia.

QBut they would have no -- would they have any specific launch capability from the information they gather in the United States or would the information have to be transmitted to Russia before they could launch?

AAny launch decision would certainly rest back in Russia's national command authority. They have their own system for consultation and authorization and command and control.

QIs it correct it would be the first time Russia would be using U.S. information for a possible launch decision?

AIt would give them an opportunity to compare their own data with American acquired data and it would be another element to their input.

QWhat I guess I'm asking is does it give them information that they wouldn't otherwise have? Is it additional data or does the agreement only replicate data that they would already have?

AIt would -- in the most important areas, it would replicate data they already have.

QThey have holes in their early warning system, do they not?

AAs has been written about recently on this matter, the state of their early warning system has temporal gaps. They are relatively modest today, and this would provide them continuous input with regard to that. They have some geographic gaps, some of which they've had for 10 or 15 years.

QI want to just pursue this for a minute. Is the U.S., though, giving them any data, geographic or technical or from any platform capabilities whether it's satellite or land-based radars that they wouldn't have themselves?

AIn some cases, we would provide them data that they cannot acquire by themselves.

QCan you describe what that might be?

AIt would be those areas which are not covered by them, but I'm not going to get into that detail. I suggest that you look at portrayals of that that are available.

QIs that both satellite or land-based?

AOur commitment is to use both systems.

Q (Inaudible) question on this exact same issue just try to fully understand. In the Colorado Springs center, would they be seeing data both on what the U.S. perceives as the incoming threat, but also on the status of U.S. strategic forces in response to that? That's what I don't really understand.

AOur proposal would give them extensive coverage, including coverage of potential U.S. launches. We have no intention to make any launches, but it would give them coverage of those areas.

QOur NORAD system is looking at things coming in. It isn't looking at ourselves, although clearly it controls that, so I'm trying to understand --

AOur missile launch warning sensors cover a considerable area of the globe. They are not limited to simply the ones coming into the United States.

QIncluding ourselves?

AThey do.

QMy question was going to be and will be what about cooperation? What about rapport and not only a willingness to work together but achieving cooperation at work? Because there have been a number of things that have happened in the last six months that have been very negative toward the relations between the United States and Russia. Is this --

AI think both of these initiatives are good examples of growing American-Russian defense-related or national security-related cooperation. We have several areas where we cooperate, but the fact that they are interested in cooperating on the broader Y2K problem and mutual approaches to its successful solution and the fact that they signed up at the summit to this shared early warning concept meant that they were interested in cooperation on ballistic missile warning, not just for the one month to carry us across the threshold to the Year 2000, but once we get activated, to have a continuous system that would work for the next indeterminate period.

QSo I take it, just to move a little bit differently, that there is going to be sufficient data, data that will tell Russian experts the status of our ICBMs --

AThe signal it will show is whether we launch or not.

QIs that just the signal --

AIt is launch detection material. It is nothing more than that. Early warning systems, at best, detect the presence of launches.

QAnd it will give them absolutely concrete, positive knowledge; is that correct?

AIt will give them the knowledge that we acquire from our systems.

QDo you have any guarantees from them on third party transfer?

AOf the data? That will be something we have to work in in the sharing business.

QWell, is it -- do you anticipate third party transfer being prohibited?

AWe have not worked out anything about that. They have an issue because some of their sensors are now located on independent countries that used to be parts of the Soviet Union. If you go back and look at the joint statement on that, you will note that they noted that they needed to do some specific negotiation with successor states who now own portions of the old Soviet early warning system. We also have some of our relevant sensors deployed on foreign soil and we have been in contact with them. We have not worked out issues on the long-term warning sharing on the implications of that for broader sharing.

QWould you object to a third party?

AWe'd have to look and see what we were talking about. We really wanted to work with Russia. To the extent that there are successor states that are part of the Russian system, we have no problem.

QJust one other very quick one. Do you anticipate this giving them any insights into the Trident program operationally or location-wise?

ANot at all.

Again, remember -- the early warning systems detect the launch and flight path of missiles once launched. They do not give away anything about the status or presence or absence of, in the case of Trident submarines or that, or the nature of our ballistic missiles or ICBMs. It's if a launch occurs, they will detect it. Okay? We're negotiating with them on the larger one about what are the parameters. I mean, the general location of the launch, it's overall direction, the projected impact area and so forth. These are the some of the parameters we're having to talk over with them on what precisely do you provide to one another as derived from your data.

QSo the Y2K program in the United States is extensive, Russia's program -- are we going to provide money to them either through the Nunn-Lugar or some other --

AWe have given no indication of that. There have been rumors or press reports that they were going to ask us about that or had already asked us. We have received to date no official request for financial assistance of this nature. It may yet be coming. Who knows? But in our discussions, they discussed resource issues, often human resource issues. And there, by the way, you get two different versions. One version you get is given is this severe state of their economy. They have an excess of unemployed computer-related people. The other argument that was being made is the people with knowledgeability of these systems are relatively, you know, a limited cadre. And you have to make a decision to use that cadre to attack this very challenging technical problem. So I've got both takes on that.

QEvidently, you don't know at what point Russia is towards getting their millennium bug problems fixed. You don't know if they --

AWe certainly recognize that they have a great deal to do. We cannot give them an interim grade on either the amounts they've done or even which parts they've done. They're clearly well aware of the problem. They've looked into it. On the nuclear side, we had people talking to us about their examination into it by the late fall, so they'd certainly be doing it at least by then. We get a strong sense that they've got a lot more work to do.

QSo if they don't get all their bugs straightened out by the end of the year, what are the chances of an accidental launch?

AI don't think that that problem has a high probability whatsoever. But there's such -- it's such important things at stake, any insurance or buffers you can put further into the system seem worthwhile. Neither the Russians or ourselves have automated release procedures, that is, that we turn over to computers the making of decisions about the launch of our nuclear weapons. In both systems, we have extensive permission-related systems to try to prevent unauthorized and accidental launch. In each side, there is a strong requirement for top level decision making and authorization, so that the idea that either side has a system that if the computers just go bad, that a missile automatically launches, I think is completely erroneous. What people fear is that if they are unable to get initial data, they will be nervous, and therefore, could be more prone to make a wrong decision.

QIs that part of this idea, that joint venture in Colorado, are they going to be sitting there New Year's Eve when the clock turns?

AYes. And they will have communications back to be able to compare any anomalies they have. We don't know whether their system data will be pumped into that Colorado Springs center. It's not precluded, but it is not necessary for us to provide what we've said is sort of the basic model that we have proposed to them.

QPrimary focus, obviously, is an accidental launch at the moment when New Year's passes. Another vulnerability certainly at that same time is that the security system that protects their strategic arsenal could also fail in some way, allowing something to happen. Is the dialogue that you've had with them extended to that area?

AI don't know. Did we specifically talk about any --

We did not talk about stockpile safety. We certainly -- we will help them on any systems they're interested in, and we did say we thought a priority ought to be those that are associated with the command and control of nuclear weapons and early warning.

Q (Inaudible)

ABut again --

QAs an American official, is that a concern for you --

ANo. I think that they have a considerable system for the protection of stockpiles, the national stockpiles, the national storage sites and the storage sites at operational areas. You may remember Gen. Habiger was given access to at least a few of these when he visited about a year ago. It is a system that includes a personal reliability piece, which we are working with to improve giving them new techniques. It includes multiple layers of fencing, alarms, multiple-people access. Much of it is not very dependent on computerized systems. It's largely uncomputerized. I mean, it's only within this decade I think we believe that we've sort of aided them to provide computerized overall accounting for their nuclear stockpile.

QYes, sir. About possible misidentifications as in the case of the Norwegian test rocket --

AThe famous sounding rocket.

QThe famous sounding rocket? Or in the case of some kind of a terrorist weapon that might be used against either country to try to start a war as another possibility, what is the game plan for those kinds of sources?

AWell, you can see quite clearly the prelaunch notification regime that we're talking about would help provide a further insulating layer against the misidentification of the Norwegian sounding rocket. The fact was the Norwegians had an agreement to tell the Russians. They did tell the Russians, but so the story goes, it went to the ministry of foreign affairs but never got to the ministry of defense. This system would provide a more widely distributed. So it would directly address the problem of misidentification of peaceful launches for science or some other reason. The warning sharing would allow one to compare notes and by having men side-by-side manning these displays, I mean people. They could be men or women. They would give them an opportunity to immediately talk and that joint warning center of a more permanent basis will include highly reliable and instantaneous communications back to the national command centers. So these people can help compare if there are false alarms, compare anomalies and help minimize the chance that someone is driven to a particular interpretation because of an erroneous signal.

QWell, the satellite data monitoring Russia itself and it's --

AWe're still negotiating with the Russians on just which coverages will be provided. On the question of the shared center, which will be negotiated between us, one of the parameters to be developed, to be agreed upon will be the question of coverage by both sides.

QSo it's possible the U.S. monitoring Russians could warn of launches from Russia?

AIt is possible. There have been various discussions about this constant sharing of which areas ought to be covered and not covered and what extent, and we literally have not worked out those details. So I can't tell you what the answer is.

QIn these discussions, is a system set up so that decisions can be made at a low enough level to avoid a lot of delays? I mean, can the people working the -- people at the meetings make a lot of these decisions?

AWe'll have to see. They most certainly have a strongly hierarchical system. But what was encouraging was at the working level where we were working with colonels and the like, we got immediate resonance and commitment from a three-star general, first deputy chief of the general staff, to go ahead. And we had gotten a similar signal from the three-star general who was the head of foreign military cooperation. So they clearly, at this point, have very high level authorization. The speed at which they took up our offer to go further indicates to me that this is -- we weren't just plumbing the depths of mid-level staff enthusiasm for this. We were getting authorization that had to be, in fact, I think to come to the second meeting, I have no doubt that this was authorized by the minister of defense himself.

QThank you.