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

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
June 27, 2000 2:00 PM EDT

Tuesday, June 27, 2000 - 2:03 p.m. EDT

Bacon: Okay, well let me just start out with a couple of announcements, if I could, so we can get under way. First, Secretary Cohen will participate in a discussion of transatlantic security policies at the Transatlantic Forum of the Western European Union tomorrow at the Willard Hotel. It begins at 10:30. It'll be open to the press. If you want to go, he'll be making some remarks about European security and, as I say, participating in this forum. We intend to pipe the remarks back to the Pentagon.

Second, also tomorrow, at 11:00, Deputy Secretary Rudy de Leon will conduct a ceremony on the third floor, room 3E912 to recognize the 12 top military recruiters of fiscal year 1999. So, it's a ceremony to recognize people who are doing an extremely difficult job related to the presentation you just heard about Army advertising and recruiting generally.

I'd like to welcome a group of interns from "Nightline," the ABC public affairs program. They are here, they are college students spending the entire summer, I guess, or part of the summer, with Ted Koppel and others.

Finally -- maybe even with John McWethy -- finally, I'd like to announce that tomorrow -- or, Thursday -- this is somewhat odd, but it's going to happen anyway. The Navy is going to have a reporting-for-duty ceremony on Thursday, June 29th at 10:00 a.m. to welcome the Standoff Land Attack Missile, Expanded Response, into its inventory. You may remember that during Operation Allied Force 13 or 14 months ago, we had a briefing here in this room about the SLAM missile being launched from P-3s over the Adriatic at targets within Kosovo. That's a version of the Standoff Land Attack Missile. This is the longer- range, expanded response missile, which, I believe, is GPS-guided. (To staff.) Is that correct? Yeah.

With that, I'll take your questions. Robert?

Q: Ken, do you have -- there was a report today that the DoD IG has drafted a report which cites 23, I think, major deficiencies, supposedly, in the Osprey aircraft program.

First of all, can you confirm that that's the findings of the IG? And secondly, does this -- is the secretary concerned about the program moving too quickly into full-scale production?

Bacon: First of all, I have not read the IG report, but I have talked to Lt. Gen. Fred McCorkle, the assistant Marine commandant for Aviation, about this. He was sorry he couldn't be here to address these issues. He's at an off-site in Quantico today. And I talked to him about the IG report.

Let me tell you what I understand to be the issue here. The Marines are in the process of the operational evaluation of the V-22 Osprey plane right now, and that is supposed to be completed this summer, as I understand. And after the operational evaluation, a decision will be made to go into full -- whether or not to go into full-scale production.

Going into the operational evaluation, the Marines realized that there were some issues or problems that they were facing, 23 of them, and they asked the Navy for a waiver to go into the operational evaluation, despite these. And they considered these relatively minor. And they got a waiver from the Navy to go into the operational evaluation. And the reason they got the waiver is, one, they had identified the problems; two, they had identified fixes; and three, they had begun to take steps to make the fixes to the problems.

My understanding is that the IG report -- which, I again repeat, I have not read -- focuses on these 23 issues. The Marines feel that they have identified these issues, and they're well on the way to fixing them, so they don't disagree with the report's conclusions that there are 23 things that needs fixing, because they're already fixing them.

Two, the Marines say that these are not safety-related, and they had absolutely nothing to do with the accident that occurred several months ago.

They are well on the way to making these fixes. Not all will be made instantly. Some can be made more quickly than others.

So that's my understanding of the situation.

Q: And the secretary's view on the rate at which they're moving towards that?

Bacon: Well, the secretary obviously talks to the commandant about this program, as he talks to other service chiefs about their programs. The reason we have operational evaluations, the reason we have testing programs, is to find out what the problems are and to fix them. And the process is under way.

I think he wants to see how the op eval, as it's called, the operational evaluation, comes out. But the commandant has kept him well informed about the progress on the program.

Q: What are some of the deficiencies?

Bacon: Now I'm just going from a -- one deficiency according to Lt. Gen. McCorkle is that the plane does not have a defensive weapon. And the reason it doesn't have a defensive weapon is because it wasn't funded by Congress until two years ago. Now they are in the process of installing defensive -- or, they're making plans to install defensive weapons. When those defensive weapons are installed, that problem will go away. That is one of the problems that were highlighted.

Another had to do with the time it takes to fold the wings of the plane once it's onboard the ship and has to be stored either on deck or below deck. According to Lt. Gen. McCorkle, the wings don't fold quite as quickly as they were supposed to, so they're working on that. That obviously affects the maneuverability of the plane, your ability to move it out of the flight path so other planes can land and take off as you're repositioning a plane on deck or getting it below deck.

Without having read the report, I can't go into great detail on these things. But those are the types of things that Gen. McCorkle spoke of with me.

Yes, Toby.

Q: There was a news report today that China is using U.S. supercomputers to do tests or simulations of warhead detonations. Can you comment on that?

Bacon: Well, as you know because you cover the intelligence community, we have a rigid policy of not commenting publicly on alleged intelligence reports. This was allegedly an intelligence report, and I can't comment on it for that reason. I can tell you that we have strict rules for processing computer exports to foreign countries, including China. And there are -- these rules are administered by the Commerce Department. We have a vote, obviously, in whether exports take place.

Right now the rules limit -- the rules divide computers according to speed, to categories according to speed, and speed is measured in MTOPS, which stands for Millions of Technical (sic) [Theoretical] Operations Per Second.

Countries are divided into categories. Tier 1 countries don't have any limits. These would be NATO allies, for instance; there's no limit on the speed of computers they can buy from the United States. China is a Tier 3 country and, therefore, there are limits of 6,500 MTOPS that can be shipped to China, without a license, to a military buyer -- 6,500 MTOPS. For civilian buyers, the limit is 12,300 MTOPS. Those limits are about to increase; they're about to increase to 12,500 MTOPS for military buyers, that is computers below that level cannot -- (interrupted by staff.) "Theoretical," I'm supposed to say -- Millions of Theoretical Operations Per Second, rather than "technical" operations. They could be technical operations -- (laughter) -- but they're in theory, computers can operate this fast.

Thank you, Adm. Quigley.

So we're going back to MTOPS levels. Right now you have to have a license to export a computer faster than 6,500 MTOPS to a military buyer in China, or a license to export a computer faster than 12,300 MTOPS to a civilian buyer in China. Those limits are about to increase to 12,500 MTOPS for military buyers, and 20,000 MTOPS for civilian buyers in China. That will happen in August; August 15th those limits will increase.

The Commerce Department handles the licensing of computers, computer sales to China, if they exceed these MTOPS limits. And the Commerce Department also is in charge of monitoring end use.

The fastest computer we have ever licensed for export for China is approximately 31,000 MTOPS, and this was a computer that was sold to their version of NOAA, the National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration; in other words, their weather bureau, their meteorological agency.

Just to put this in context, most of the nuclear weapons in America's arsenal today could be designed with the types of computers, high-level computers, you could buy at CompUSA.

There's been such a dramatic improvement in computational speed and power that you can design nuclear weapons today with the type of desktop you might buy over the Internet from Dell Computers or an IBM or any other type of commercially available in-your-home-type computer that we all use on a daily basis.

And finally, just to add some context, the Chinese have worked hard to develop an indigenous computer industry to build high- performance computers. And in this day and age, that's not hard to do because you can buy a lot of smaller computers and string them together in parallel processing arrangements, and develop a large computational capacity by putting together or linking together a lot of smaller units.

Q: So does this report exist? (Laughter.)

Bacon: I think you know the answer to that question; we don't comment on intelligence.

Yes?

Q: Well, I thought the question or the problem of concern about alleged misuse or whatever of supercomputers was not so much in designing nuclear weapons as in analyzing the complex phenomenon, "What happens when these things goes off?" And that, presumably, is why you need something more than a Dell computer to do that.

Bacon: That is true. You need faster more capable computers to do that.

Q: So then the concern is that's the point of the --

Bacon: Well our primary concern, as a country, of course is nuclear-weapon design and proliferation. Obviously, people who design nuclear weapons have to be able to simulate in some way their effects. And you're right, that you do need -- you need two things -- you need at least two things: The first is you need vast computational capacity; and secondly, you need very sophisticated, complex software.

Yes?

Q: Are you saying then that you're not concerned about exports of computers, at least within that new range of -- what is it? -- 12,500 MTOPS to China? Is that --

Bacon: I am saying we have a national policy, administered by the Commerce Department, that governs computer exports.

It divides the world into four tiers, and it sets different standards for each tier. For instance, tier four includes North Korea and Iraq, Iran and other countries to which we don't export computers. Cuba. Tier three, which includes China and Russia and a number of other countries, sets limits, as does tier two, but they are different limits.

We are concerned about allowing computer exports above certain speeds. that's why we have a licensing procedure, and we have a process within the government to examine applications to sell high- speed computers to countries like China, and the Defense Department participates in that process. If somebody applies to sell a high- speed computer to China higher than the levels I gave earlier, 6500 MTOPS for a military buyer, a license is required. As a matter of policy, I don't believe we have approved any licenses for computers above the limits set in the policy for the military. In other words, we have not given exception, or a license, to ship U.S.-made computers faster than 6500 MTOPS, the current level, to military buyers.

As I said, the fastest computer we've shipped is the 3100 (sic) [31,000] MTOPS that went to its meteorological bureau that was licensed by the Commerce Department, and it's up to the Commerce Department to check on the end use of that computer to make sure it's used the way the Chinese say it's supposed to be used.

Yeah, Bill.

Q: On the same basic topic but down a little different path, I would ask, is the Defense Department policy, or strategy, at this time to continue to develop a hybrid or a more effective nuclear weapon through Los Alamos and the other facilities? And is it something that would be in our best interest, with the secrets that have gone from Los Alamos, to develop nuclear devices that were more advanced than those whose secrets are out?

Bacon: That's a complex question. I'm not an expert on nuclear weapons design. I can tell you that our primary energy right now is on something called the Stockpile Stewardship Program that involves setting up, using computers to monitor the reliability of the nuclear weapons that we already have in existence.

And the reason that we need to do that is, of course, we've signed up to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans the test of nuclear weapons to monitor their reliability over time. And therefore we are developing a very complex computer-demanding system for monitoring through simulations and other measurements the reliability of our stockpile.

Q: Doesn't the nuclear deterrence of the United States depend upon having superior weapons as well as superior delivery vehicles and everything else?

Bacon: Well, we believe we do have superior weapons and superior delivery vehicles, and we believe that they're highly reliable and ready to use if called upon. We hope they aren't, but we believe that they are sophisticated and reliable.

Yes.

Q: If you're concerned about selling fast computers to China, why are you doubling the speed thresholds?

Bacon: Well, I think anybody who reads computer magazines or listens to ads knows that computers are expanding in capability rapidly every year. I mean, if you go compare the current Pentium chips to the earlier models, you can see how much faster they are. I think that Intel is coming out with a new chip later this year called the Itanium, I believe, that's going to be much faster than current chips. So there's a degree beyond which you can't control this stuff, because anybody -- these chips are widely available. Japan makes supercomputers and sells them. We make supercomputers.

It turns out that, you know, a supercomputer today, top of the line supercomputer probably operates in the range of hundreds of thousands of MTOPS. So we have very, very capable supercomputers that are much, much faster than anything we allowed to be sold under a licensing procedure or without a license. So a lot of this is just accepting the technological imperative, which is computers become faster, more capable with more memory every month.

Q: A related question. You talk about the Commerce Department being responsible for the end use of -- the enforcement of (inaudible). I didn't ever hear you say what they -- whether they feel that any of these have been diverted.

Bacon: Well, I'm not going to comment on anything that might deal with intelligence reports.

Q: Oh, no, I'm talking about the story -- I'm just wondering, in monitoring the end use of these computers, do they feel that they know where they all are, they're where they're supposed to be, or do you not know?

Bacon: Well, I think you -- that would be a more appropriate question to the Commerce Department.

Yes?

Q: Can I get back to the V-22 for a second?

Bacon: Sure.

Q: Is it unusual for a program to enter op eval with deficiencies?

Bacon: No.

Q: And --

Bacon: No, it is not.

Q: And in --

Bacon: I mean, the F/A-18 entered op eval with deficiencies, which were largely identified beforehand.

There's a certain amount of concurrency built into all our programs, in that if you -- that means that you're always working to solve problems that have been identified earlier, as you move to the next phase of the program. And in fact none of the programs are static. You never reach a point in a program where you're not making improvements to the weapons system as it goes on. That's why we have all these successive blocks of planes, like the Block 50 F-16s. Compared to earlier blocks, each one is more capable and has new adjustments to it that the other ones didn't have.

Q: And are the waivers granted on just a kind of a perfunctory basis, or do you have to show special need and begin op eval early?

Bacon: I'm afraid I'm not an expert on the waiver process, but my guess is that they are not granted on a perfunctory basis, because no one wants to spend a lot of money building planes that don't work. So what we want to do is build planes that are safe, effective, and reliable. And therefore the fact that you've identified a problem and figured out a way to fix it, if it's not a major safety-related or performance-related problem, I think that in those situations, services allow programs to go forward while the fixes are being made.

Yes, Jim?

Q: Can you say whether that defense consultative meeting with the Russians came off and whether they discussed missile threats and Russian ideas for a boost phase?

Bacon: The meeting is supposed to end today. It has taken place over the last two days. (sic) [The meeting began today and is scheduled to end tomorrow.] And I don't know what was discussed.

Q: Did the Russians ever agree to put that on the agenda?

Bacon: I don't believe so, but I'll have a better idea after the meeting's over and the participants come back or report back.

Yes?

Q: Can you update us on Vieques? I understand there were well over 100 people arrested today and that there may have been some DoD personnel injured in the course of that.

Bacon: Yeah. First of all, the exercise is continuing, the training. As of this morning, two of the four ships in the George Washington Carrier Battlegroup had qualified. That's two of the four, excluding the George Washington, which is the fifth ship. And the George Washington's air wings are in the process of qualifying on the ranges. They're dropping dumb bombs, or inert ordnance.

There were a number of demonstrators -- I have the number as 164, but it could be slightly higher or slightly lower -- who were detained last night and early this morning trying to get onto the range. Many of them were detained long before they got there, trying to break through gates and things like that. And in addition, some of the boats that have been out patrolling the seas -- there's about a 25-mile coastline around the range, and at any given time, we have maybe up to a dozen boats. I think this morning there were nine boats there from the Navy, the Coast Guard and the Puerto Rican authorities on patrol off the range. And one of those boats encircled a Navy patrol boat and -- I mean, my report is that five boats, five small boats encircled the Navy patrol boat, and people on these attacking boats pelted Navy security personnel with 12-inch iron bars, which I assume are portions of rebars. Two sailors were injured. I don't know how seriously. And then the boats were driven away by other Navy boats.

The Navy is not a law enforcement agency. It did not arrest or detain these people. But it has turned over evidence, including videotapes, to the FBI, who will get on the case and try to apprehend these violent actors.

Q: When did that happen, Ken?

Bacon: This happened this morning, I understand. So, while most of the protestors have been peaceful, and have been proudly peaceful, not all of them have been peaceful.

So that is the -- that was the violent action that took place this morning.

Q: You said that the attackers, if you will, were driven off. Were there shots fired or what --

Bacon: No, I don't believe that shots were fired. They were driven off by other boats and helicopters, they were forced away. Now, we're talking -- the Navy patrol boats are quite small. They're Boston Whaler-type boats, Zodiac-type boats, what we call "rigid inflatable boats," and they might hold three to five sailors in them.

Yes?

Q: Yes, when you mentioned the boats, I wasn't clear, that there are usually around nine to 12 boats. You mean the attack boats or the Coast Guard and Navy --

Bacon: No, Navy patrol boats. They're patrol boats owned by the Navy, the Coast Guard and the Puerto Rican authorities -- I assume they're Puerto Rican police. And this morning there were nine boats patrolling a 25-mile coastline, and they're approximately three miles away from the coast, and their job is to prevent people from penetrating a security perimeter and getting into the range. They succeeded in doing that, but at some cost in terms of hurt sailors.

Q: Do you have an estimate or a record of the number of attacking boats or boats that have actually tried to penetrate the area?

Bacon: Yeah, I have, I think, a rundown of -- 89 boats have been turned away, and that's from the beginning of the range policing exercise, which started on May 4th. So since then, 89 boats have been turned away. It's unclear, I would have to say, whether these boats were actually trying to penetrate the maritime security perimeter or were just out to try to attack sailors. And that's, of course, one of the things the FBI will try to find out when it reviews the case.

Yes?

Q: Is this the first time -- this is the first time I'm aware that there's been violence in these demonstrations; is that correct?

Bacon: While most of the demonstrators have been peaceful, there have been pockets of violent demonstrators, and we've been prepared to deal with them. I think there has been some violence in the past, but --

Q: Have there been injuries caused by --

Bacon: I'm not aware that there have been injuries before this time.

Yes?

Q: What has been the Navy's response to the claim that the shelling is causing increased cancer rates among the citizens in the surrounding area?

Bacon: The Navy's response has been to deny that. In fact, depending on what studies you look at, there is no evidence that the cancer rates are higher on Vieques than they are elsewhere in the United States. And in fact, there's some evidence that the cancer rates are lower.

Yes?

Q: In this group, 160, 165, did anybody actually get to the range, or were they all stopped -- on Navy property, but did anybody actually get on the range?

Bacon: I don't believe so.

Q: You have different churches in Puerto Rico and Vieques calling for new acts of civil disobedience. Do you feel that the island of Vieques is in civil unrest or in a state of emergency?

Bacon: Well, the vast majority of the demonstrators, I would say 90 percent, are not from the island of Vieques. They have imported themselves or been imported from the island of Puerto Rico. So, no, I don't think it would be accurate to say that the island of Vieques is in a state of civil unrest.

Yes?

Q: Would it be appropriate, or would this DoD headquarters here recommend that law enforcement boats be present so that those who might want to attack sailors could be immediately apprehended or prevented from doing so? Is there a change warranted?

Bacon: Well, some of the boats are manned by the Puerto Rican police. I assume that in this case there weren't boats close enough to apprehend the attackers. But I don't know enough about the details -- the speed of the boats, how they attacked -- to know whether they could have been apprehended at the time. It may be that it makes more sense to follow them back to their ports of embarkation and capturing them or detaining them when they get back.

Yes?

Q: One point of clarification. These 164, 165, are those currently detained, or is that a cumulative number since May the 4th?

Bacon: No. No. It's a -- the 164 are the people detained in the last two days. A total of 646 people have been detained since May 4th. And of those, 362 have been detained since May 14th, when the Defense Department began -- the Navy began enforcing the perimeter of the firing range.

Q: Ken, the most publicized of these cases, I think, is that of Mr. Berrios, who I believe got four or five hours --

Q: Six hours.

Q: -- six hours, excuse me, six hours of jail. Does the department consider that that is an effective deterrent to stop these folks from continuing their activities?

Would you like to see the authorities be a little tougher?

Bacon: Well, Senator Berrios has been a peaceful protestor. I suspect that the violent protestors will be treated differently. I also suspect that repeat offenders who are detained and sentenced more than once will be treated with increasing severity, but that's up for the Puerto Rican authorities, or the judicial authorities, to determine.

We are satisfied with the support we've gotten from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in this effort. We are working closely with the Puerto Rican authorities to try to allow both sides, the Navy and the Commonwealth, to live up to the terms of the agreement that President Clinton and the governor of Puerto Rico reached.

Yes?

Q: In terms of the training, you mentioned that already two of the ships have been certified and the -- (inaudible word) -- is in the process of doing that.

Bacon: Right.

Q: When will the other two of the five be certified, and how long do you expect the training to continue?

Bacon: Well, I think that depends on how much they are able to accomplish today, but I would expect the training to end shortly.

Q: Did these activities today slow them down at all?

Bacon: I don't believe so, no.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Another subject?

Bacon: Sure.

Q: Can you update us -- I understand that the secretary signed out the 30-year shipbuilding report, that is now several months overdue, yesterday?

Bacon: Your sources are better than I. I'm not aware of that. I'll find out.

Q: Thank you.

Bacon: (Inaudible.)

Q: Any movement on that Chinese agency Xinhua story? Is the department assessing that -- purchase of that building for security reasons?

Bacon: We will make a recommendation to the State Department. That's the agency charged with deciding whether or not they can buy that building. And in making that recommendation, we will consider a number of things, including the state of our own passive defenses today, and what sort of threat we see from the Chinese occupancy of that building.

I should point out that we review our passive defenses on a regular basis. We review our security proceedings on a regular basis.

We have done so with particular zeal in the last couple of months, after some of the other events in the government, and we will continue to do that. Security is not a static issue. It's not something you can -- it's like force protection. You can't say: "I have done everything possible, and I have reached the limit. I am going to stop." It requires constant review, constant improvement. And we are in the process of doing that now.

Q: When are you going to make that recommendation?

Bacon: Well, within the required time. I think the State Department has 60 days, as I understand it, to make a recommendation. But unfortunately, I don't know when the 60 days begins. But who's ever making the recommendation presumably knows that and will get it done in time. But their review is ongoing now.

Thanks.

Bacon: Sure.

Thank you.

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