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DoD News Briefing: Capt. Mike Doubleday, USN, DASD (PA)

Presenters: Capt. Mike Doubleday, USN, DASD (PA)
October 02, 1997 1:30 PM EDT

Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.

I want to welcome two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public affairs officers -- Dick Dowling from the Corps' Pittsburgh District, and Lynn Duerod of the Detroit District. They're here for an orientation visit with Colonel Bill Mulvey. He is the Chief of Public Affairs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Washington.

With that welcome, I'll try and answer some of your questions.

Q: A question for you on Daryl Jones, the expected nominee for Air Force Secretary.

A: Right.

Q: Did the Pentagon make known to the White House the fact of his in 1991 being asked to stop flying F-16s?

A: First of all, I don't think it's appropriate for me from the podium to get into exactly how the vetting process is going on. I think that anybody who's read the newspaper this morning is well aware that he certainly makes no secret of the fact, nor have Air Force officials who have been asked the question.

Q: The story says that White House officials were not aware of it. My question is whether the Air Force or the Pentagon made this known to anybody in the White House.

A: I can't answer your question. I would think that during the course of looking into an individual's background anything that is relevant to the job that the individual is being considered for would come to light, but I really don't see how this has any relevance to the position that he is being considered for.

Q: Still, if you look at his resume that he's made, it seems to be not... He's saying that he's a pilot presently on his resume. He never says that he wasn't.

A: He says he's a pilot, and I think if you find anybody who's a military pilot indicates...

Q: ...the present.

A: ...that they continue as military pilots. I just do not see this as a major factor in the consideration of somebody who's not being looked at for any kind of a flying job.

Q: Does the fact that he is no longer on flight status mean that he's no longer a pilot, or is he still entitled to wear pilot's wings and say that he's a pilot?

A: He certainly is, to my knowledge, still entitled to wear pilot wings. There are many, many people walking around this building wearing pilot wings who are not flying aircraft.

There's another aspect to this that I think people need to be aware of. Being a reservist requires a significant amount of an individual's time. Being a reserve pilot requires an even greater amount of an individual's time. I think every reservist during the course of a career is confronted with the question of whether they are going to be able to continue to devote the amount of time required for whatever their reserve responsibilities are. There are competing demands for anybody's time. Certainly reservists have to decide at some point whether they are going to make certain sacrifices of their civilian career, of their family, of their reserve career. Some elect to give up a portion of their reserve career.

In this particular instance, Mr. Jones decided that he was going to stay active with the reserves. He has done so. My understanding is he's serving in a command position right now, but not in a flying status. It's a difficult decision for anybody who went through the Air Force Academy, who is a pilot, to decide not to continue flying, but certainly in this particular situation where the individual had a full time active law practice, he was an elected official. He had demands not only from family but also from church activities and other interests. He made the decision that he was not going to remain in the cockpit.

Q: Is there any indication that he in any way misrepresented his service record?

A: None.

Q: Is there any reason that this removal from flight status in 1991 should in any way jeopardize his possible confirmation?

A: Not that I can see.

Q: On a related issue on that, what is the rule on a reservist continuing to serve in a reserve capacity while a DoD official? Does he have any obligation to terminate his service?

A: I'd have to get a read on that for you. My recollection is that there have been past DoD officials in similar circumstances who maintained a reserve commission and actually fulfilled their requirement to do AT for two weeks every summer, plus some additional drills.

Q: John Lehman did it.

A: That's who I'm referring to.

Q: Isn't there a conflict of interest; he's his own reporting superior?

A: We've crossed that bridge before and it didn't seem to be a problem, but...

First of all, I want to stress the President has not nominated anybody for this position yet, so all of this at this point is speculation.

Q: The Pentagon made the announcement today that Secretary of Defense Cohen has decided to go ahead with the test of a laser against a U.S. Air Force satellite. Can you just tell us a little bit about what that test is, what it's designed to show, and whether or not it violates any treaties against using weapons in space?

A: As you said, the Secretary of Defense today approved an experiment that will be used to reduce the vulnerability of U.S. satellite systems. The purpose of the experiment is to collect data that will help us improve computer models used in planning protection measures for U.S. satellite systems.

Basically what is involved in this test is, the Army has what is called a Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser which is located at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. There is an Air Force satellite called the Air Force Miniature Sensor Technology Integration Program's third satellite. It's a small satellite which has been aloft for some period of time. It's nearing the end of its active life.

There will be an experiment which will take place in two phases. There will be a very brief illumination of less than one second, and another illumination of less than ten seconds. This test is certainly not against any U.S. policy nor in violation of any international law. It doesn't destroy the satellite, doesn't create any debris, and it does not pose any risk to other satellites.

Q: How is the data going to be collected from this? If the satellite remains in order, how are we going to know what effect the lasing has?

A: The satellite has onboard sensors that will be able to provide that information.

Q: Is there a possibility that the laser, particularly the prolonged laser exposure will disable...

A: What you are hypothesizing there we do not anticipate will occur. But in addition to that, I want to make sure everybody realizes that the entire length of this experiment is less than the amount of time we have thus far spent talking about it.

Q: That's a little deceptive. It doesn't take long to detonate a nuclear weapon, either.

Q: ...offensive use of a laser weapon in space?

A: To my knowledge, this is the first test of this sort, but there have been a large number of tests using lower powered lasers.

Q: Against satellites?

A: Not against a satellite of this sort that I'm aware of.

Q: So this is the first test of a ground-based laser or any laser in outer space, is that correct?

A: I believe that... Let me check on that one. I am not absolutely certain that this is the first test of this sort.

Q: When exactly will it be?

A: I'm not going to specify the time, but it's in the next few days.

Q: What about today?

A: I'm not going to specify the day.

Q: We will not be there as observers, is that...

A: You will not be there as observers.

Q: Why is that?

A: Well, we're looking at the vulnerability of U.S. satellite systems hoping to develop for our computer modeling some possible protective measures, and we want to do that...

Q: How powerful is the laser, are the laser shots going to be? Do you have any way to...

A: I don't think that I can adequately here describe to you how powerful they will be. But we can certainly get that answer for you.

Q: It will not disable...

A: It will not disable the satellite.

Q: It will disable the satellite, I thought. It doesn't blow it up, but it disables it, doesn't it?

A: No, it does not.

Q: Does it damage the satellite?

A: It does not. We have sensors onboard that will enable us to detect the laser, but it does not destroy the craft and we don't anticipate that there's going to be any debris created as a result.

Q: ...disables some of the sensors on board for which MISTI was put in space.

A: That's a good question, and I'm not sure I can answer that one from here, but let us find out.

Q: ...see what effect this laser beam has on these systems, on this satellite?

A: Excuse me?

Q: Isn't the idea to determine what effect this laser beam has on...

A: Right. That's why it has sensors on board which can do that.

Q: This whole issue came up however many weeks ago it was with a newspaper story. Can you tell us, is the Pentagon's plan to publicly announce this test if Secretary Cohen approves it?

A: We just announced it.

Q: If there hadn't been media coverage of it.

A: We just announced it. I can't tell you...

Q: Was the original plan to come out and say we decided we're going to test this, or would it have gone on without doing that? Or you didn't get there yet?

A: Well...

Q: There's been a lot of interest in this in the last few weeks from the media. What I want to know is was it planned to... Had there not been media coverage, to...

A: All I know is what the plan has been all along, and that is once the Secretary made the decision we announced it.

Q: Was it ever a classified thing? Was it ever considered, that it wouldn't have been...

A: Certainly there are elements of the test that are classified. It's not...

Q: The military does a lot of testing that it doesn't announce. I'm saying was this at some point in that category?

A: I don't know that it was, but I can see if we can find out.

Q: Are you going to have to deconflict the airspace to coordinate...

A: It is deconflicted. That is an important element of this, yes.

Q: And it's all the way up through space. Because White Sands doesn't deconflict all of that, the...

A: Space Command does.

Q: Can I get some details about the satellite itself? How far up is it? What it cost?

A: My understanding is that it's about 400 kilometers up. It's a small satellite. The description I have of it is it's about the size of one of those small refrigerators. Not a kitchen refrigerator, but one under the counter, that sort of thing.

Q: A communication satellite?

A: It was a satellite which was being used for infrared survey of the earth.

Q: Is there any danger of the laser hitting something else if it misses the satellite?

A: No, that's what I say. The experiment has a component which involves deconfliction of the airspace which is done by people in the Space Command.

Q: Do you know how wide the beam will be at the time it hits...

A: I don't have a good...

Q: A hundred feet, two feet?

A: No. It's a thinner beam than that, but let's see if we can get you the answer on that one.

Q: Is it visible to the naked eye?

A: No, it's not.

Q: Four hundred kilometer... Low orbit.

A: Right.

Q: Does the United States have any other anti-satellite technology or weaponry? Does the United States right now possess any weapons capable of disabling satellites in space?

A: Let me take that question.

Q: Have any of the Department of Defense's satellites ever been interfered with in any way by another nation's ground-based laser?

A: Not that I'm aware of.

Q: Could you take that question?

A: Yeah.

Q: Various members of Congress have written to the President protesting this experiment, saying that it will encourage other nations to do the same kind of experimentation, precisely what the United States is trying to prevent. Do you have a response to that kind of criticism from Congress?

A: We feel that there is an important component to our satellite program of trying to protect, to the extent that we can. The whole purpose of this experiment is to provide information which can go into the computer models which seek to increase that protection. We feel that's very important. Increasingly, the Department looks to technologies that are satellite-based for its various weapon systems, for its doctrine, and certainly it is prudent for the Department to seek measures which will make our satellite systems as safe as possible, and protect them from any outside interference.

Q: Do you know if any existing satellites have countermeasures on them now to protect them from this kind of a weapon?

A: I don't know. Let's see if we can take that one, too.

Q: Where is the threat from? Wy we're doing this? What's the threat against our satellites?

A: I think as anybody who has been associated with weapon systems over the years knows, once a weapon system is developed there are other individuals who are going to try and counter the system. If it be an airborne system or a ground-based system or an underwater system, there is always the potential at least that somebody is going to develop a system to try and counter it.

Q: If you don't actually destroy the satellite or disable the satellite, how do you actually determine the objective that you're trying to determine, which is how much is too much? You'll find out that okay, MISTI can withstand these ten seconds of a laser, but you won't know if it can withstand 12 or 16 or 20 seconds.

A: This is just part of an overall experiment program. I'm not sure that I have enough knowledge of the overall experiment to describe what may happen in the future, but this obviously has some value to it because we can, based on the sensors that are onboard the satellite, we can make an assessment, which hopefully will improve our computer models in the future, which seek to reduce the vulnerability of satellites.

Q: Any reaction to criticism that this is the first step in the militarization of space?

A: I believe that we have been very clear. This is an experiment which is being used to reduce the vulnerability of U.S. satellite systems. It is a logical step to take. We are interested here in gathering data which can improve our planning for the protection of our satellites.

Q: Is this a one-time event or is this the first in a series...

A: This satellite has a life expectancy which is not very great. So once this satellite's life is over this satellite cannot be used for any further tests.

Q: My question is whether there are further tests planned or is this a one-time...

A: No further tests planned that I'm aware of on any satellites that are available in this constellation. I don't want to rule out in the future that there would be some tests, but this is a test on this satellite which is being done because it is nearing the end of its useful life.

Q: Would the U.S. object to other nations zapping their satellites in a similar kind of experiment? Would that be considered an escalation by any other country that would say okay, now we want to shoot at their own satellites.

A: Let me be very clear. This is our satellite. This is a U.S. government satellite. This is our laser. This is our experiment. We're doing an experiment with our satellite. We make no assessment of anybody else's experiments, this is our experiment.

Q: It's the United States' experiment. My question would be if Russia or China, for example, or Iran, decided to illuminate a piece of material in space that was theirs, we would have no objection to it?

A: I don't want to get into hypothesizing or speculating on what might happen in the future. All I can tell you is what we are doing here and now.

Q: Has the MIRACL laser itself ever before been fired into space? Is this also the first test of this sort of the laser?

A: This laser has been fired before. I think there are some brochures that show pictures of it, as a matter of fact.

Q: Has it been fired into space before?

A: I think it's been fired in space, too. I'm not sure what the experiment was, but I think Bob Potter can probably give you some background on what has happened before.

Q: Was there any consultation about this test with either NATO and/or Russian officials in Maastricht or elsewhere?

A: I know the Russians have been advised that the test is going to take place, yes.

Q: A technical question. Does this laser have the capability of tracking and focusing the laser energy on a satellite for seconds? Is that what it's doing?

A: Yes, that's what it does.

Q: So there is basically a heat impact from that focused...

A: Yes. And there are several components to this that go beyond the laser. There is a director. If you see Colonel Bob Potter back in DDI afterwards he can show you a picture of it.

Q: After the test do you think we can get a preliminary assessment, a person to come down and talk to us on background?

A: Let me see what we can do for you on that.

Q: A Russian scientist told Congress today that Russia's been lying when they denied the existence of suitcase-sized nuclear weapons. Do you have any comment about that?

A: I think you're referring to the testimony that's been going on up on the Hill. What I can tell you about this is that we, of course, are very concerned about the proliferation of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction. We have been told by both Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and also by the Minister of Defense Sergeyev that the Russians have good security regarding their nuclear weapons, and that the allegations that have been made by some about these weapons being lost is incorrect.

We continue to work with the Russians on various actions to get nuclear weapons under control. We have provided a lot of assistance to the Russians over the years in the safety of nuclear weapons and the safe shipping of nuclear warheads. The aspect of your question regarding Maastricht, my understanding is that there were discussions with Secretary Cohen and with Minister of Defense Sergeyev regarding an upcoming visit by General Habiger of the Strategic Command who is acquainted with General Sergeyev from his days as the head of the Russian Strategic Forces. Sergeyev has been to Omaha to the Strategic Command headquarters to take a look at the security measures that the United States has in place for its nuclear weapons.

His assessment is that the Russian security measures are every bit as good as the U.S. security measures, and he has invited General Habiger to come and review those.

Q: The testimony this morning, however, said that the suitcase-sized nuclear weapons were never under the military's control. They were designed and built for the KGB. Therefore, the military would have no knowledge and they wouldn't be in their stockpiles, necessarily.

A: I think we believe that certainly the government of Russia, represented by Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, would have knowledge of these weapons. He has indicated to U.S. officials as recently as late last month that those weapons are under control.

Q: So he's acknowledging that there are suitcase-sized weapons in their inventory? Testimony indicated that has been denied by the Russians.

A: I think we are aware that the Russian nuclear arsenal contained atomic demolition munitions which some people define or characterize as suitcase bombs. They are not really suitcase bombs since it requires two people to carry them, and they are not flat, so that they don't fit in suitcases. But we are aware that they had such munitions in the past.

Q: The U.S. can confirm that those munitions existed in the Russian...

A: It was a known fact. We had munitions that were small like that, also. They were tactical nuclear weapons.

Q: But you're confirming that the Russians did as well?

A: It has been long a part of their weapons over the years.

Q: To clarify, you're saying the description, that being commonly used now, suitcase sized, is a misnomer? You're not aware of any...

A: I'm not aware of any that would fit in a suitcase. I mean people have the impression that a piece of luggage that you would carry onto an aircraft or something like that could contain a nuclear weapon. That is not the way that these weapons were configured.

Q: How about steamer trunks? That size? [Laughter]

A: More like it.

Q: You said the United States had developed... Does the United States currently have in its inventory any small nuclear weapons that could be carried by one or two people?

A: You may recall that we removed our tactical nuclear weapons.

Q: So the United States no longer has in its inventory any man-portable nuclear weapons?

A: No. We don't have tactical nuclear weapons.

Q: But at one time... What was the smallest nuclear weapon the United States ever had in its arsenal?

A: My understanding is it was small enough for a very large man to carry on his back. If he was either a person who was very physically fit or had recently played for a professional football team. [Laughter]

Q: Again, just to clarify, the Soviet Union at the time also had small tactical nuclear weapons.

A: That's right.

Q: But it's the belief of the Pentagon that they never had in their arsenal anything substantially smaller than that so that...

A: We don't have any...

Q: ...easily concealed and carried in public.

A: We certainly don't have anything that would corroborate these statements by some Russian officials, including Lebed, that there are weapons small enough to put into a suitcase as normally defined.

Q: So you basically maintain that there is no direct threat to the United States from this stuff? Senator Lugar contends today that that assessment is dead wrong. Is Senator Lugar wrong?

A: All I can tell you is that we have no corroboration of any kind of suitcase-sized nuclear weapons. But I don't want to give the impression that we are unconcerned about this. I think that you will find that the programs that we have in place, the actions that we've taken over the years indicate that we are going to do everything that we can to ensure the safety and security of Russian nuclear warheads. We continue to talk to the Russians about this subject and will do so in the future.

Q: With regard to the Russian tactical nuclear weapons, which may or may not be suitcase-sized, but could be carried by two people, are those, have the Russians told us that those weapons have been destroyed as we have... I think we dismantled all of our tactical nukes, is that correct? Have they been required to do the same?

A: We did ours on a unilateral basis. Your question is have they been destroyed? I don't think they ever existed. We just don't have any corroboration that such a weapon exists. But we do take the allegation seriously; we continue to work with the Russians on this; and will continue to look into it. We just don't have any corroboration that they exist.

Q: But you did have corroboration that there was like a 200-250 pound ABM that existed.

A: Right.

Q: What's happened to those now? Have you got any word on that?

A: I don't have any word. We can take the question and see if we can...

Q: Their tactical nuclear weapons, artillery shell and other types of smaller tactical nukes, were they to have been stockpiled and safeguarded or destroyed? Or do you know?

A: I don't know.

Press: Thank you.

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