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DoD News Briefing, Tuesday, May 12, 1998

Presenters: Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
May 12, 1998 1:50 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon and welcome to the Pentagon briefing, you refugees from the rain. You see, we're trying to make up for the lack of sunlight outside with these bright lights here.

I have a couple of announcements at the beginning. First, I'd like to welcome 23 students who are working here as congressional interns. They are from Phillips Academy and Phillips Exeter Academy. Welcome.

I also have one general officer announcement to make, which is that LTG Charles Robertson, who's currently the Commander of the 15th Air Force at Travis Air Force Base, California, has been nominated for a fourth star, to become the Commander in Chief of the Transportation Command and also the Commander of the Air Mobility Command. And he will replace GEN Walter Kross, who is the current Commander in Chief of the Transportation Command.

Finally, I'd like to just fill you in on the support that we're providing to Italian rescue authorities in support of their efforts to deal with the terrible mud slides. We have forty seabees and 42 Marines erecting tentage and shower facilities to provide shelter for Italian relief workers. There's a 15-vehicle convoy comprised of refrigeration trucks, large generators and other emergency vehicles to help out. The Air Force has provided an engineering unit, excavation equipment, and we are also providing a C-130 to fly Italian relief officials from Aviano to Naples. About 100 people involved altogether, American military people assisting the Italians.

With that I'll take your questions on aid to Italy or anything else.

Q: There are apparently some questions being raised on the Hill and elsewhere about the fact that official Washington and the U.S. intelligence community were caught flat footed yesterday by the Indian nuclear test. Senator Shelby said today that they're going to hold intelligence committee hearings on this.

Did the DIA have any inkling of these tests and if not, why not?

A: Well, first of all, You can appreciate I can't talk about intelligence matters in this case or any other case. I can tell you that the CIA will be announcing later today, maybe even announcing today, right now, as we talk, the appointment of a review official, Admiral David Jeremiah, to look into what the intelligence community knew about this and when it knew it. And I would refer you to CPT Bill Harlow at the CIA for further information on that.

Q: But there will be any subsequent study as well as DIA?

A: Well, he's being appointed by the Director of Central Intelligence to do an intelligence committee survey. As you know, we have a very cooperative arrangement among our various intelligence organizations that work together. Their tasking is agreed upon centrally and then the various parts of the intelligence team carry out the analysis and observation that's necessary to complete the overall tasking.

Q: Well, would you in any way challenge these suggestions, charges, whatever you want to call them, that the intelligence community simply did not know this was going to happen? A: Well, I think, Charlie, I'd like to let this independent reviewer do his work and make his report to the President and also to the intelligence committees in Congress. That's what being announced by the CIA today. And he will complete this report in a relatively short amount of time, seven to ten days, and that report will be available for review by the White House and by Congress. I doubt if it will be for public review but, as you pointed out, there are members of Congress who plan to hold hearings on this, and all of this will be eventually aired.

Q: Will there be an internal Pentagon review of this? And is the Secretary concerned about it?

A: Well, the Secretary is obviously determined to make sure that our intelligence operates as well as possible, and he will cooperate fully with the review that's set up by the Director of Central Intelligence.

Q: Could you tell us if there is any decision to invoke sanctions, what might that affect in military-to-military relations with India? What kind of military sales or anything of that kind that might come under that umbrella?

A: Well, first of all, as you can appreciate, I don't make the decision on sanctions and this building doesn't make a decision on sanctions. The President, I think, made it very clear this morning that he intends to implement the law fully. And you can draw from that what you want. I assume there will be an announcement on that later this afternoon.

In terms of the impact of sanctions if they were applied to India, they would be sweeping in an economic sense. They would limit military contact. But we do not have extensive military contact with India at this time. I think the impact would be primarily economic.

We do have a relatively small international military education and training program -- IMET -- with India. That would cease. We do have a small number of exchanges or training exercises with India. They would cease. There's relatively little military assistance provided to India and so the impact would be primarily economic, not military.

Q: What about foreign military sales? Is there FMS?

A: There is nothing to speak of in terms of FMS to India.

Q: What's the total on IMET?

A: I'm afraid I don't have the figures on that. We will get the figures.

Q: What about Pakistan?

A: Well -- what about Pakistan?

Q: Well, Pakistan is also considering, you know, whether to detonate nuclear devices -- (inaudible).

A: We urge restraint on Pakistan. We urge restraint on India and China. This is clearly a very dangerous area of the world and it's an area where there have been three wars between India and Pakistan since Indian independence. There's been a war between China and India, a border war in 1962, and their borders remain unsettled.

As you know, Indian officials have said that they consider China their primary threat. We believe that proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them is dangerous and destabilizing in this area. That's one of the reasons we're so concerned about the nuclear test that India announced yesterday.

Q: Will you be asking any of the militaries or governments of other nations -- allies like the UK, France, or even Russia -- to support us on any of these military-oriented sanctions? Do you want to see those countries terminate their military relationship with India?

A: A number of countries have expressed distress and disappointment over what India did and I would anticipate that they will be looking at their own military-to-military relationships with India and re-evaluating them. I assume that this is something we will discuss but I don't have any specifics now.

Q: You don't know whether Secretary Cohen has spoken to any of his MOD counterparts in other countries?

A: As of today he has not.

Q: What's the Pentagon's assessment of both India and Pakistan's nuclear capabilities at this point in terms of number of weapons each might have or the fuel that they have -- the number that they can possibly make?

A: I can't go much beyond what's been reported publicly on that. There were some IISS figures stated in the press today. I think that we've known for a long while that both countries have been developing the capacity to build nuclear weapons. They have both been testing missiles. And we have been asking both countries to show restraint for a number of years and we continue to ask them to show restraint.

Q: Does this -- this matter of testing yesterday was telegraphed last week by the defense minister Fernandes, the new defense minister of India, who did say that the greatest threat to India was the Chinese build-up on its borders and, specifically, the storage of nuclear weapons, missiles, and upgrading of air fields in Tibet that could directly threaten India.

Can you comment at all about the validity of that Chinese threat toward India? And could you comment about what India did -- what's clearly a demonstration to say, don't tread on us? Is that not an accurate way of looking at this?

A: I think I would rather let the Indians comment on their own perceived threat and their own reaction to it. They showed no reluctance to make those comments so I don't think I need to add my voice to what they've been saying.

Q: But isn't this -- why are we bashing India for standing up to possible threats from China?

A: We have been very clear that we want all countries in the Indian sub-continent area to show restraint. This is an area where there have been wars in the past. It's an area where if there were conflict in the future, they could well involve weapons of mass destruction. It's the most heavily populated area in the world today. It's a huge area, and it's an area where I think everybody would benefit from spending more time on economic development and less time on military development.

That's the position of the U.S. Government and we've made that position very clear and we've been working very hard to press that position. I think it's unfortunate that people are -- that in the area, the arms race is continuing despite this.

Q: Has India received any outside assistance in the development of its nuclear program?

A: I can't comment on that. Yes?

Q: Just two things. One, do you have any further details on the tests themselves that took place yesterday and, two, has there been any thought given to the impact on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty both internationally and domestically?

A: There's been a lot of thought given to the impact on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and we don't think that there's a significant impact on that.

It is very clear that we and other countries in the world have the ability to detect nuclear tests when they occur. That, in fact, happened in this case. No one disputes that we were able to detect this test when it occurred, and the international community is in the process of setting up an international monitoring organization to enforce compliance, or to detect noncompliance, I should say, with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

So there's nothing -- there's no issue here with our ability to detect nuclear tests around the world. That's not the issue that's been raised here.

Q: Then why yesterday afternoon was Sandy Berger unable to confirm that a test had taken place, saying that the U.S. had no independent confirmation?

A: That's a question you'll have to ask Sandy Berger, but we have seismic information about that test which we're in the process of evaluating.

Q: I'm sorry, you've mentioned seismic just now. Is that your sole source of data on this?

A: No, we have more than one source of data. What we have one source is the Indian government, the prime minister making a statement.

Q: Do you believe the Indian government has seismic data?

A: We have seismic and other detection techniques.

Q: The reason I ask, it's a follow-up on Tammy's question. At the Defense Writers' Group this morning, John Holum said you were able to detect that something had occurred, but as of today you have not been able to detect three discrete separate events. Is there any update on that?

A: We're in the process of evaluating the data. It takes some time.

Q: I wanted to ask you about the latest THAAD test today. Does this less than successful test indicate that THAAD is in fact as troubled a program as its critics say?

A: The challenge raised by -- the challenge THAAD has to resolve is a difficult challenge. It is, as you know, an upper atmosphere, 100-kilometer or above weapon that's supposed to intercept a missile coming toward U.S. forces and kill it. There have been five tests so far, five hit-to-kill tests. The fifth was this morning and none has succeeded yet. But they have each failed for different reasons so there's no single systemic reason apparent from these tests as to why the failures took place. They have all been different.

As you know, last year, in the Quadrennial Defense Review, Secretary Cohen delayed the deployment date, planned deployment date of the THAAD by two years, to 2006 in order to reduce the risk to the program. We will learn from this failure and continue with the program.

Certainly, when we get the results of the failure, an explanation of why it happened, Secretary Cohen will sit down with Under Secretary Gansler and Lieutenant General Lyles to discuss this result and the program itself. But right now there's no decision to slow down the program. It's an important program. Every piece of intelligence we have says that we have to do more to protect our troops from the theater ballistic missile attack or potential theater ballistic missile attack, and this is one of the reach-out programs we have for doing that.

As you know, we also have shorter range programs that are developed through Patriot 3, PAC-3, and MIADs. We have another long-range program, the Navy area-wide program, which is a program that will come on line later than this.

Q: Not to forget the airborne laser.

Right.

Q: But let me ask you about the -- in February the Pentagon's own review looked at national missile defense, and it, again, was designed to look at national missile defense, but it looked at THAAD to see what kinds of lessons it could learn. And it concluded that there were lots of problems with THAAD and it also concluded that there was a "rush to failure" in a lot of these programs and that there was too much of an emphasis on meeting artificial deadlines, and that was causing some of the failures in what would normally be low risk systems.

Is this an example of a rush to failure?

A: We want to make this program a rush to success, and to do that you have to have tests. We will continue to test the program until we get it right.

It's a complex program. Everybody realizes this. National missile defense is a complex program. This is a theater version of national missile defense in a way, and we will continue to work on it.

No one ever said that this was an easy program, and the tests have proven that to be the case. But because there have been five hit-to-kill failures so far, and each one has been caused by something different, we just have to keep chipping away at the reasons for those failures and try to make the improvements.

There are significant parts of the program that seem to be working well. The radar is a very powerful, far-reaching radar. Phased array radar seems to be working well. The launcher seems to be working well. A central part of the program, the sort of command and control battle manager part of the program, we think is working quite well.

The problem has been with various elements of the missile so far. Sometimes getting information to the missile has proven to be a problem but the program managers are working hard to solve those.

Q: I just wanted to follow up. Why won't the Army release the video of this test today? Because you know if this had been a successful hit-to-kill, we'd have this video already. So why won't they release the video?

A: I wasn't aware that they weren't releasing it. I'll ask them.

Q: You say that each failure has been for a different reason. What do you know about today's failure already that allows you to (inaudible)?

A: Well, we don't know exactly why this failure occurred. It only occurred at 7:30 this morning, and they haven't completed the analysis. But I can tell you that it failed in a very, very early part of the flight, and the other failures have been at different times in the flight pattern. So we assume that since we know why the other failures occurred, and since this one doesn't immediately fit those patterns, that it occurred for a different reason.

Q: Well, the preliminary thinking that something went wrong with the booster today?

A: It occurred during an early period of the flight when the missile burns off extra fuel and does some maneuvers to burn off extra fuel. I can't give you any more explanation of why the failure occurred because the program managers don't know yet why the failure occurred.

Q: Was it destroyed after it malfunctioned? The release didn't didn't make that clear. It was very early.

A: I believe it destroyed itself.

Q: Phased array radar boosters is '60s technology. Are you throwing money down a raffle? At what point are you going to stop this program? I mean, if you continue to run up 10 more failures, are going to keep doing this?

A: Well, most of us learn by failure. We hope to learn by success, and we hope to turn these failures into a success, as I said. So far that clearly hasn't happened.

But the most we can do with a complex program like this, we basically have two choices: We can make the program work or we can decide it's never going to work and stop the program.

Right now we have not reached that second conclusion, and I have no indication that we will. Right now the building is determined to try to make this program work. It is a program designed to address an important and growing threat, and therefore we will continue on the program to make it work.

Q: I have two key points. If phased array radar goes back to --

A: I didn't say -- I said phased array radar was part of it that's working. I didn't say that was the problem.

Q: It's old technology. The booster is old technology as well. Where is the difficulty with this program?

A: You are leaping to two conclusions that I think are not proven. I didn't say that radar was the problem and I didn't say that the booster was the problem.

If you look at what has caused the problems so far, only one was attributed to the booster, one of the flight failures, the first, was attributed to a booster malfunction. The second was attributed to a miscommunication between a range radar system, not the phased radar system that is being developed for the THAAD and the missile itself. There was a miscue which sent the missile to the wrong place so it missed its interceptor.

Another failure occurred because of a system that's supposed to change the angle of the missile. It didn't work properly. And another failure took place because of a -- there was basically an eye -- there is an eye in the missile that complements the radar in finding its target -- and the eye became blurred in some way that they don't fully understand. It became blurred either because of internal contamination in the eye or some other reason. But this caused it to go off course and miss its target.

And we don't know the reason for this latest failure. But there have been five failures and we think that there are five different reasons for those failures. We won't know for sure whether there are five different reasons for the failures until we complete the analysis of this latest one.

Q: Are you confident in the management of this program?

A: I think that the program has strong managers but one of the things that happens after every failure is that people sit down and look at the entire program, and we'll do that again this time. But the fact is that this is a program -- we need a program that does what this one is designed to do. And that's a powerful reason for continuing to work on the program.

The people who run the program think that they have made significant progress in certain areas of the program. Obviously, there is a long way to go and that's what they're going to continue working on.

Q: Is there a cut off on how many failed tests that you guys will accept before you decided to either slow down the program or --

A: Not that I'm aware of, no. I mean, I think we have to take this test by test.

Q: Is any consideration being given towards bringing a second supplier since the building itself has expressed some dissatisfaction following the first four failures about Lockheed Martin's performance in the program management?

A: There has been a lot of effort over the last 12 to 14 months to improve the reliability of the program. And that has applied both to the contractor and to the team working on the program. Obviously, efforts to improve reliability will continue.

Q: So you're not right now looking at bringing on a second supplier for possibly -- someone to come in and --

A: This latest test failure just occurred at 7:30 this morning. And the first step is to figure out why it occurred and then we'll take that information -- the Secretary will sit down with Under Secretary Gansler and General Lyles and others and take a look at the program. But right now there is no decision made or no hint of a decision made to slow or change the program.

Q: When is the next test scheduled and what is the annual expenditure on THAAD, do you know?

A: The current -- the budget for fiscal '99, which begins on October 1st, is $497 million in the demonstration and validation phase of THAAD and $324 million for the engineering and manufacturing development phase.

To date, $3.2 billion has been spent on developing the system.

Q: And the next test?

A: Don't know the date of the next test. It will depend in part on what the results of the analysis of this failure are.

A: I think we have to evaluate the results of this test before we can decide what the schedule is.

Q: Ken, do you know if this is a cost-plus contract?

A: It is.

Q: So no matter how long they work on this they're still making money?

A: That's right. It is a cost-plus contract with an incentive fee.

Q: Although this was a theater weapon, what implications does today's failure carry for the national missile program?

A: I think it's hard to know until we understand more about the failure.

Q: How long did the flight test last today and how high did THAAD get?

A: I don't know the answers to those questions.

Q: Another subject?

Are we through with THAAD?

Q: Can you take how long this initially flew flew? That shouldn't be classified --?

A: Yeah. We'll try to find the answer --

Q: It landed two miles from the THAAD, so not too far.

Q: Just one more on THAAD. There was a lot of talk within the Army about it getting (inaudible) the point of the test flight where at least it was locked on target and guiding itself. It didn't get that far today, did it?

A: No. It didn't come close.

Q: Another --

A: Are you on THAAD?

Q: No, not with THAAD.

Q: Tomorrow Christop Skandalidis a close associate, a friend of the of the Prime Minister of Greece, is going to have a meeting here with the Minister of Defense and Under Secretary Lodal. May we know the purpose of the meeting and who initiated it?

A: The meeting was initiated by the Greek side, and it will -- they will discuss his meeting with Mr. Lodal, discuss a range of bilateral issues, including the reduction of tensions in the Aegean, the Balkan situation, and U.S.-Greek relations.

Q: I was told that Mr. Lodal is not any more in charge for the Greek-Turkish affair. Is there any particular reason for that?

A: Well, Mr. Lodal, as you know, will be leaving his post sometime in the summer. I'm not aware that he is no longer in charge of that but, clearly, he won't be in charge after he leaves, and I assume that that mantle may pass to Jim Bodner, who will be nominated to take his job.

Q: Do you know when the new military defense among the United States, Israel and Turkey is going to take place in the eastern Mediterranean?

A: I don't.

Q: And do you know if the Aegean Sea finally will be part of those exercises in the near future?

A: I don't know that, either.

Q: Does Secretary Cohen share the concern of Secretary Albright concerning the lack of funding for the delivery of fuel oil to the North Koreans that could sabotage Quito?

A: Yes, he is concerned about anything that may derail Quito. We think that this has been an extremely important program for stability in Asia, and we assume that it will continue.

Q: In the case of former Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney, can you explain if there has been a ruling that will allow him to retire with his full benefits, despite the fact he was convicted of a felony?

A: Yes, there has been such a ruling, to comply with the law. My understanding is that there is a law that has been on the books for a number of decades that says that the senior enlisted person in every service, as well as the chief of staff of every service, and the chairman, will retire at their highest salary.

And, in the case of former Sergeant Major of the Army McKinney, he would -- that means he would retire at the salary he earned as the Sergeant Major of the Army.

Q: Wasn't the intention of this law to protect people who served in these high ranking jobs from losing benefits if they then took another job with a lower rank, but not to protect the benefits of somebody who is convicted of a crime?

A: That was, in fact, the reason for the law. Secretary Cohen is concerned that cases like this do not comply with the thrust of the law, with the reason for the law, and he is going to ask the general counsel to look into whether this is something that should be changed.

But remember, this was a law that was passed by Congress, and the issue here is whether the law is satisfying the purpose for which it was passed.

Q: Some Members of Congress have already said they will introduce legislation to close what they are referring to as a loophole in the law to prevent this kind of thing in the future. Would the Pentagon support such amendments?

A: I think we would need to see the language of the law before we give it a blanket show of support. But, as I said, Secretary Cohen is concerned about this, about cases like this, and he is concerned that this exceeds what the purpose of the law was designed to do.

Q: Is it fair to infer he is concerned about the appearance this will have for the outside world, about SGM McKinney and what – I mean, his whole think?

A: His concern is that the law was not passed with situations like this in mind. It was passed to deal with a very specific circumstance where a high-ranking general or admiral or the master chief petty officer of the Navy or the sergeant major of the Army completes his term and then takes another job in the Army and, therefore, would have to retire at a lesser salary as the base for his retired pay than he would have if he had retired right out of the top job. That is a different situation than the one faced here.

Q: Has the Pentagon made a recommendation to the President yet about one carrier or two carriers, as a permanent presence in the Persian Gulf?

A: This area, this question, is still under debate within the Administration and I don't think I want to talk about what the Pentagon's recommendations are or when they're made.

Q: Can you tell us about the status of the David Hale investigation and where it is?

A: It continues.

Q: I know. But it's apparently been bounced to him, and is it nearing its end or (inaudible)?

A: Well, let me explain how these work. When the IG gets to a certain point in its work, the IG's office then makes available a summary of findings to the target of the investigation. My understanding is that that in fact has happened in this case.

It doesn't necessarily mean that the investigation is over. It means that there is a chance now for the target to make a response to some of the conclusions that the IG's office has come to.

My understanding is that's where this case stands now, and I don't know when the investigation will be completed.

Q: I'm having trouble understanding the McKinney case. In fact, he did not complete his assignment as Sergeant Major of the Army. He was removed.

A: My understanding is that the General Counsel's Office concluded that, the way the law is written, it says that if you held the job and were paid at that salary, that the highest salary you received -- in this case, Sergeant Major of the Army -- would be the base salary for calculating retirement. And that's irrespective of whether you retire at the rank of Sergeant Major of the Army or a lower rank.

The law deals with salary. It doesn't deal with retirement rank.

Q: Do you have any comment about the Weekly Standard article about you?

A: I don't have any comment about it.

Q: Did they say you were a great guy, or what?

A: You'll have to read it. Yes.

Q: On the F-16 announcement today, purchase by UAE, does UAE agree to purchase, provided that Pentagon agreed to release the weapon system that they've been asking for?

A: Right.

Q: They got the package include HARM missiles and AMRAAM missiles?

A: That's correct. It involves the AMRAAM missile, the HARM missile, and the F-15 -- F-16. Sorry, the F-16.

Q: Is any problems, contentions, items to still be negotiated or that's it?

A: Well, my understanding is that although the agreement has not been finally signed yet, what was announced was an intention to go ahead with the purchase by the UAE. And my understanding is that there is agreement on all parts.

Q: How does the investigation stand into the Linda Tripp file?

Q: Excuse me, just one follow up on that. How many HARMs and AMRAAMs would it include?

A: I don't have the precise numbers on that.

Q: Could we get that?

A: We'll see if we can get it, yes.

Q: How many aircraft is it?

A: It is 80 F-16s. This was announced by the Vice President and by the Crown Prince of the UAE earlier today. It's 80 F-16, Cs and Ds.

To answer your question I don't know where that stands.

Q: Can you take the question?

A: Sure. I mean, it will be done when it's done.

Q: Is she still on the payroll? Is she still working?

A: Well, she works when she's not working with the Office of the Independent Counsel. But she is working on a project that's been assigned to her by the Pentagon.

Q: I understand she didn't complete the target date on it?

A: Well, I think it's a project that's ongoing. Thank you.