United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


DoD News Briefing, July 22, 1999 - 2:00 p.m.

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
July 22, 1999 2:00 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

First, I'd like to introduce my new senior military assistant Vince Ogilvie, known to many of you. I had the pleasure several years ago of helping to promote him to colonel, then he promptly left and went down to become the Chief PAO for SOUTHCOM in Miami. Even though he was born in Panama and hoped to go back to Panama with SOUTHCOM, SOUTHCOM promptly moved to Miami when he was appointed to SOUTHCOM, but I'm very glad to have him on staff.

I'd like to start with a couple of other announcements. Today we're releasing something called the Reserve Component Employment 2005 Study which maps out new ways to use our reserve forces as part of the total force between now and the year 2000. This was called for in the Defense Planning Guidance for the fiscal years 2000 to 2005. It calls for a series of sub-studies that will have to be done over the next couple of years, but I think this is an important document because it does open up new possibilities for the Reserves. Let me just list one in particular.

The Reserve force, as you know, is forward deployed in America all the time in that the Reserves are here. Therefore it's a natural force to use as part of homeland defense, particularly in dealing with weapons of mass destruction should they be used against the United States in the United States. Already Secretary Cohen has announced a plan to set up 12 Rapid Assessment and Identification Detachments, or RAID teams, that would help domestic law enforcement agencies and disaster response agencies deal with weapons of mass destruction if they were used domestically.

One of the recommendations here is that the active and Reserve forces work together in looking at other ways to employ Reserve forces in homeland defense in support of domestic law enforcement or disaster assistance agencies. So if you get a copy of this lengthy report you'll be able to look at those recommendations as well as several others that would get the Reserves more involved in peacekeeping and also make them more rapidly deployable in major theater wars should they arise.

That's the Reserve Component Employment 2005 Study.

Second. Today we are announcing the establishment of the African Center for Strategic Studies. This is the fourth center that we have set up since the end of the Cold War to train countries around the world in the mechanics of democracy, and particularly the mechanics of running armed forces under civilian control.

The first, of course--the grandfather of all these centers--is the Marshal Center in Germany. We also have the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu; the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, which is based in Washington, but teaches--brings people up to Washington--but also sends teachers out to Latin America to educate defense officials in Latin America. Now this will be the fourth, the African Center for Strategic Studies.

The initial courses will be taught in Senegal and there will be a briefing later today on this center. It will be at 3:45 in the Pentagon Executive Dining Room. If you need more details on that or more information, contact Lieutenant Colonel Warzinski in DDI.

Finally, I'd like to welcome four visitors from Slovenia. Maybe we could call it--it's a beautiful country--the Switzerland of the Balkans. Highly mountainous. They are visiting here to study military public affairs operations. Slovenia actually is one of the countries that has sent people to the Marshal Center and participated aggressively and actively in the programs there. So we welcome our Slovene visitors.

With that, I'll take your questions.


Q: Ken, to what extent was the services extended to the Kennedy family in the burial at sea beyond what would be provided to an ordinary citizen? And what's the justification or rationale for that?

Mr. Bacon: I think the President answered that yesterday and I really have nothing to add. Obviously, the Kennedy family is not a normal American family. It's a family that has distinguished itself through public service and sacrificed itself through public service for more than 30 years. Almost 40 years now. In fact, if you go back to World War II, for more than 60 years. So this is a family that has made extraordinary sacrifices. It clearly is a family that summons up public interest, compassion, as shown by the fact that your network has done nothing but carry news of this event for the last five days.

But the President answered this, and I really have nothing more to add.

Q: Just to be clear, the President's comments yesterday were about the recovery effort. They weren't addressed to the question of a burial at sea.

Mr. Bacon: I think they should be taken broadly. This is a day for respect for the dead--it's a day for compassion; it's a day for understanding--and I think that the actions that the President and the Secretary of Defense have taken in support of the Kennedy family are completely understandable and supportable. Indeed, supported by Navy regulations.

Q: Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that they aren't or are not appropriate. I'm just asking, 'to what extent the services were beyond?'

For instance, how many burials at sea does the Pentagon usually do? Are family members usually allowed on the ships when they're conducted? I'm just trying to get an idea of, understandably, to what extent the Navy went above and beyond to meet the needs of the Kennedy family.

Mr. Bacon: The Navy was meeting the needs of the nation in responding to the request of the Kennedy family. I think needs for closure, needs for respect, needs for help, and it was a completely appropriate response decided and supported by President Clinton and Secretary Cohen. As I said, this is a day for respect and compassion and understanding, and I think all Americans can understand the type of support that not only the Navy, but the Coast Guard, and the Air Force, the National Transportation Safety Board, and others have given during this time of need.

A: Do you have any estimate at this point of the cost either in the recovery effort that the government incurred or in this...

Mr. Bacon: I do not.

Q: Can I change the subject?

Mr. Bacon: Sure.

Q: The F-22. They're taking a vote today. Could you kind of walk us through one more time why the Pentagon, the Air Force, and Secretary Cohen believe that this aircraft is so critical and so vital, and why would a delay of one year necessarily lead to killing off the program?

Mr. Bacon: First of all, air dominance is fundamental to the way the U.S. fights its battles today. It is one of the fundamental pillars of battlefield success. It would range right up there with good intelligence, good command and control. But if you go back and look at DESERT STORM, for instance, we shot down 45 Iraqi planes in air-to-air engagements. We established complete air dominance which allowed us to prevail both in the air war, of course, but then also in the ground war that followed.

If you look at what happened in Operation ALLIED FORCE, we quickly established air dominance, both through air-to-air intercepts, taking down large numbers of MiGs very quickly when they came up to challenge allied planes; but also air dominance against the missile system. It took some time, but it was also fundamental to the success of the air operation, the most successful in history, and that is what brought us victory and allowed the peacekeepers to go in today.

I think you can go back through history. We discovered the importance of air dominance, of air superiority during World War II when we initially deployed bombers without fighter support and had very heavy losses. Then we devised the P-51 fighter which were able to protect our bomber fleets and slowly reversed the course of the air war and began to inflict massive damage on our enemies.

We did not have air dominance the beginning of Vietnam and we paid a very heavy price for it. It wasn't until the end of that war that we began to achieve air dominance.

We learned a lesson from Vietnam and we invested very heavily in the 1970s in the F-15 fighter which has been the premier air-to-air interceptor and air superiority plane in the world really for the last 20-25 years. But 20 and 25 years is a long time in the era of rapidly changing technology where new computers come out in several generations a year. There is substantial progress being made in materials and fasteners and avionics and all sorts of elements that come together into making a good fighter plane.

So the Air Force has been working for several years to leap head to the next generation of air superiority and that would be the F-22 fighter, designed to give us air dominance well into the next century.

We do this against two emerging threats. The first is continuing improvements in surface-to-air missiles. In Kosovo we had to worry about the SA-2, the SA-3, the SA-6, but there are now the SA-10, the SA-12, more capable missiles.

Secondly, fighter development has not stalled. The Russians are working on a new fighter, the SU-35, an air-to-air fighter. And we believe that we have to maintain the air dominance that's so fundamental to our success in air, at land and at sea, that we have to move to the next generation of fighter.

Now why is the F-22 the right fighter? First of all, it is able to cruise at 1.5 times the speed of sound without using its afterburner which means it can fly unusually fast for unusually long periods of time compared to current day fighters. This includes...it expands its maneuverability and its range dramatically in air-to-air engagements.

Second, it will be more stealthy. Obviously, stealth is something that we have invested heavily in since the F-117 including the B-2 bomber, and it's proven to be an extremely important component of our air dominance suite, a very important fabric in that suite.

The F-22 would be far stealthier than the F-15.

Third, it would have advanced avionics. It would be the next generation forward in avionics which would allow it to target and acquire planes much farther out; basically first detection, first shot, and first kill capability. That's what we want to maintain.

Those are the reasons why the F-22 is an important airplane and why it's fundamental to the strength of our Air Force. It's ironic, it seems to me, that coming out of what's been called the most successful air engagement in history that Congress would even contemplate denying us the hardware that would allow us to maintain this dominance well into the next century.

Q: How is it then that the Pentagon, by its own admission, got so stunned and surprised by the congressional action? How is it that this happened? It seems it wasn't in the cards that you saw.

Mr. Bacon: I think that the committee worked...you'll have to ask the committee how they did this. But the fact of the matter is this wasn't something they had discussed with us, their feelings about this. It was something they worked on on their own, quietly, and relatively secretly -- stealthfully, I might say.

But the problem here is that the F-22 is set up today with some fixed price contracts for the initial phases of production. Should we not be able to go ahead with the first production models--and that's what the $1.8 billion is for--we would have to abrogate those contracts.

It would have two impacts. First, it would of course lift any cost discipline or cost restraints that have been placed on the contractor by the fixed price contracts. Two, it would delay further work on the plane for a year or even more. We estimate that as a result of those two functions, that the cost of the program would increase somewhere between $5 and $6 billion just because of the delay in the program and the lapsing of the contractual discipline that currently exists.

Q: Then would you cancel it?

Mr. Bacon: I think that remains to be seen. Clearly, this is a very important weapon, and it's not just important to the Air Force, it's important to all forces that depend on air dominance as one of the keys to success. I think that's what people need to realize here. We're not just talking about an Air Force plane. Our services work together. The Army cannot succeed today unless we have air dominance. It can succeed, but the losses would be much greater... the time would be much greater. So for the Army to succeed, they depend on the Air Force quickly establishing air dominance. The Navy depends on air dominance as well. As I think all of you realize, air dominance was a very important factor in what happened in ALLIED FORCE and certainly an important factor in what happened in DESERT STORM.

Q: The main criticism is one: that it's too expensive--the cost has escalated; and two, that there is no comparable aircraft either out there now or on the horizon that anybody would have in significant numbers. So they argue that we can delay a generation, deal with upgraded F-15s, and come back and build another airplane when the threat emerges.

The question is, "How long does it take to develop a new airplane?" And, "What's the possibility that an airplane developed ten years from now if the threat emerges would be any cheaper than the F-22?"

Mr. Bacon: I don't think we build planes to be cheap. We build planes to be effective. Obviously, there have been some cost problems with the F-22. The Air Force and its contractors are working very hard to address those problems. There have been some innovative measures in the way the F-22's been designed and built that were designed to hold down the cost. They may not have succeeded as much as people hoped, but it has been a testing ground for innovative design and procurement techniques.

I don't think that complacency should be part of the military vocabulary, at least not part of the vocabulary of militaries that want to be successful. By successful, I mean winning battles while holding casualties to the lowest possible level, which of course is everybody's goal -- not just our goal--but everybody in the world's goal. We've been able to do that because we have the best people, because we have the best technology, and because we have the best commanders, the best training, all across the board.

I think if you begin to chip away at any part of that equation, you run the risk of not being able to prevail as well in the future as we have in the past and that would be a very costly price to pay. That's why the Air Force is determined to go ahead with this.

I can't tell you right now how long it would take if we started from scratch in ten years to develop a new plane. The Air Force has I think a well-sequenced program here, and the first part of the program is to work on the F-22--the air superiority plane--and then to move to the Joint Strike Fighter, which would be the strike aircraft of the future. It would be to the F-16 what the F-22 is to the F-15. That plane would come in somewhat later than the F-22, so we would take care of air dominance and then retain our attack dominance that we would get from the Joint Strike Fighter.

Q: Ken, the same committee that was gunning for the F-22, or is gunning for the F-22, has also issued a committee report sharply critical of the Pentagon for ignoring congressional direction--or in some cases--law in how money is spent. Either money intended for one purpose is in fact spent by the Pentagon on other things, and they say it amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars. What's going on with that?

Mr. Bacon: First of all, our defense budget is around $260 billion so, as much money as several hundreds of millions of dollars is, it's a very small percentage of $260 billion, and I think that's important for keeping this in perspective.

Second, I think you also need to recognize, as Secretary Cohen said earlier today, we have 5,000 programs in our budget--separate programs, separate line items in our program. These divide to maybe two or three times as many sub-programs, but there are 5,000 major programs in our budget.

We send up millions of pages of documentation every year to support these programs, both in testimony, in prepared briefs, in responses to questions, etc., to Congress. We try very hard to comply with every single requirement that Congress imposes on us. This committee has out of 5,000 programs focused on a handful-- around six programs--that they claim there are some.. that they see some problems with. Many of these problems, when you parse them out, deal with questions like notification. Was the committee notified in time about a change in contracting methods? Was it notified in time about a new tranche in spending? Was it notified in time about some change in the program? That's one category of disagreement.

Obviously, we try to live up to our notification responsibilities, but like everybody else sometimes checks arrive late in the mail. We try to live up to these deadlines, we don't always make it, and we apologize for that.

In one case--the case involving a so-called black program or secret program--it was started without proper notification. As soon as we learned about that, Deputy Secretary Hamre went to the committee, apologized, and notified them about what was going on. It was an oversight.

Another category focused on by the committee in its report had to do with whether funds were spent out of procurement accounts or out of research and development accounts. In some weapon systems, particularly satellites, this is an ongoing debate both within the Department and within Congress as to if you're dealing with a type of weapon that might be one of a kind of one of a very small number of weapons you would build, whether there's much of a distinction between R&D funding on the one hand and procurement funding on the other. That's, as I said, certainly true with satellites.

These are problems, many of which have been cured already because when we found out about them we went to the committee and apologized and gave the appropriate notification. Or, if they haven't been cured already, they are certainly problems that we will address forthrightly. But it won't take us long because they only mentioned about half a dozen programs out of 5,000.

Second, just let me point out one other thing. There was conflicting guidance--or certainly different interpretations--between the House and the Senate in one case I believe involving the MEADS, and there may have been some confusion on that. We have talked about this with the committee and will continue to talk about it with the committee.

Q: Is there a larger problem here? Secretary Cohen mentioned this morning that normally these things are worked out with a phone call. You mentioned that the Pentagon was blind-sided by the vote on the F-22. Has there been a breakdown in the relations between the Pentagon, the Administration and Congress on these defense issues? And wasn't that something that Secretary Cohen, because of his congressional experience, was supposed to kind of help mend relations or keep relations with Congress going?

Mr. Bacon: I think by any measure relations between the Pentagon and Congress have been basically very sound. Certainly the most fundamental measure is that Congress year in and year out funds the bulk of our requests and in recent years has actually been increasing the amount of money that we have received, increasing it above what we've requested. But if you go back and look at the alacrity with which Congress voted the supplemental money to fund Operation ALLIED FORCE--if you look at the way they voted to approve supplementals to cover other contingency operations that we've had over the last couple of years--I'd say that shows that there is a very good, solid working relationship between Congress and the Administration.

Q: That was then and this is now. Suddenly, just suddenly, it looks like things are more contentious.

Mr. Bacon: We deal with four major committees -- two in the House and two in the Senate -- every year on a variety of issues. This is one committee. It's an important committee, of course. We share a common purpose which is to make and keep America's defenses the best in the world. We're completely unified in that requirement, and we will continue to work together to make sure that our armed forces do remain the best, the most agile, the most powerful armed forces in the world.

Q: Back to the F-22 for a second.

Mr. Bacon: Sure.

Q: Let's say Congress decides to ax the program. Wouldn't the Super Hornet and later the Joint Strike Fighter provide America with air dominance well into the next century?

Mr. Bacon: If you go back and you look at the length of time it takes to devise a program, and if you look at the amount of time that planes remain in operation, could we skate by for a year or two? Sure, we could do that. But we're talking about what's going to happen in a decade, two or three decades from now. You don't know what the threat's going to be. All we know if...

Q:...skate by for a year or two?

Mr. Bacon: I think that it is the job of the leaders of this Department, whether they be civilian or military, to look out 20 or 30 years into the future and say what actions could I take today to make sure that our military will be dominant, will be able to satisfy and protect the national interests 20 or 30 years from now? That's what the F-22 is. That's what it represents.

You can go back and look at airplane development over the last decades. Look at the C-17, now regarded by everybody as a huge success. The last story I wrote when I covered the Pentagon in 1980 for the Wall Street Journal was about whether the C-17 would be approved, whether it would ever be built because there was so much criticism both of its lack of ability and its high cost. Now we consider it indispensable to our operations.

The B-2, obviously the focus of enormous debate for a number of reasons -- cost, capability, need over the last couple of decades--have proved to be a decisive weapon in Operation ALLIED FORCE because it could deliver ordnance that no other aircraft could in conditions that no other aircraft could deliver that ordnance. It could deliver the highly precise JDAM in all weather. No other plane could do that.

So we make investments in the best technology we see at the time, and then we nurse that along, we improve it, we train our pilots. It takes a long while to train a generation of pilots to fly planes at the very peak of their ability.

One of the reasons our Air Force is so good is because we have a good marriage between pilots and planes--because they know these planes, they've worked in them, they spend a lot of time in them. They've worked in them over generations. That's what you give up if you don't start now developing the technology of the future.

Q: One last thing on the threat. You mentioned the Russians working on the SU-35. What's the status on that?

Mr. Bacon: I'm afraid I'll have to get you more details on it.

Q: They can't pay their own troops and they can't build APCs to send to Kosovo. Does anyone think that they're going to build the next generation fighter?

Mr. Bacon: As I said, complacency is the enemy of military dominance. You can't assume that just because conditions look entirely favorable today that they're going to be that way in 15 or 30 years. And technology is such that if you suddenly decide somebody's catching up on you very fast in say 15 years from now, we can't create immediately a very complex program and get it into production and get people trained and up and flying on it. It takes time.


Q: Can I ask a question about the MEADS program?

Mr. Bacon: Sure.

Q: I don't have the report, but I think Jamie may have it there. There's a quote from what's described as an internal Pentagon document, and I'm paraphrasing, but it essentially says we understand that Congress has killed this program, and then the Pentagon went on to spend a couple of million dollars to keep the program alive.

What was the contradictory instruction there and how can you explain, if at all, that line? Or was it taken out of context?

Mr. Bacon: My understanding with the MEADS program was that... There was an issue as to whether the program was a clear, coherent program that had a chance of success. The Congress basically said to the Defense Department, look, either pump this program up, make it a better program, make some changes in the program, or kill it. And we came back with a revised program that protected what we thought were the most important parts of the program and substituted...

The MEADS is an air defense system, it stands for Medium Extended Air Defense program that we're building with our allies that provides extended range air defense, and it was to use a new rocket, a new missile. We recast the program to build it around a Patriot 3 missile, saving a lot of money by not proposing to go ahead with an entirely new "built from scratch" missile, but building it around a missile that we're in the process of fielding now. We did this in part to save time and to save money and to build the program around a known quantity. There are other parts of the program, radars, etc., that have been or we believe will be quite successful.

This is a complex program where I think there was conflicting guidance between the Senate and the House. What we tried to do was restructure the program. Rather than kill it off, to restructure it in a way that we felt would be more successful. The House obviously thinks we made the wrong choice. But that's, in a sense, what happened.

Q: What was the other guidance? You said there was conflicting guidance.

Mr. Bacon: The 1999 Defense Authorization Bill said that in the absence of new out-year funding identified by the Secretary for design and development of MEADS, it stipulated that "funds appropriated for fiscal year 1999 for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization that are allocated for the MEADS program shall be available to support alternative programmatic and technical approaches to meeting the requirement for mobile theater missile defense." That's what the authorization bill said. Now remember, the authorization bill is passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Armed Services Committee as compared to the Appropriations Committee. We're dealing here with a House Appropriations Committee report.

The report language in the Senate appropriations markup says that the committee, quote--this is the Senate Appropriations Committee for 1999--"made reductions to slow the pace of a number of programs that could be affected by the results "-- and they name various experiments. "Specifically, the committee provided lower appropriations for MEADS." The 1999 report from the conference report reduced '99 funding in MEADS by $33 million to $10 million.

Obviously, the House Appropriations Committee believes that the language terminated the MEADS program. We read the language of the authorization bill as giving us the authority to support--to use their language--"alternative, programmatic and technical approaches to meeting the requirement for mobile theater missile defense."

So rather than spending $2 million to terminate the program, we used the $2 million to "support alternate programmatic and technical approaches to meeting the requirement for mobile theater missile defense." The principle way we did that was to restructure the program to build it around the PAC-3 missile rather than its own missile. We regard this as a dispute over the authority or instructions we got from Congress.

Q: On North Korea. Does it appear that North Korea is going to go through with a test firing of its long range missile? And is there any evidence that it has been obtaining technology from other countries like China for its missile program?

Mr. Bacon: I don't think in terms of the imminence of a test I can go beyond what the background briefer said yesterday. Obviously, if they were to test a missile, it would be destabilizing and it would have serious implications in their relationships with us, their relationships with Japan, and their relationships with South Korea.

Yes, Tammy?

Q: Could we return to the burial at sea today?

Mr. Bacon: Sure.

Q: Could you describe for us the ceremony today and what the Navy's role in that was?

Mr. Bacon: I cannot describe the ceremony because when I came in here the ship was still at sea and we do not have a report of exactly what happened during the ceremony. I can tell you that at 11:00 this morning the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY, an aircraft carrier, paused briefly during exercises off Virginia. The chaplain read a prayer over the public address system and asked for a moment of silence.

In terms of what happened on the USS BRISCOE--and I have a copy of the prayer here if any of you would like to have it--you can get it later from Brian Whitman. All I can tell you about the service on the BRISCOE is that it was not a military burial at sea. It was a service conducted by--I understand--by a Catholic priest and maybe by a military chaplain, but it was not a formal military burial at sea. Beyond that, I don't have any details.

Q: That moment of silence aboard the JFK, I thought it was supposed to be tomorrow.

Mr. Bacon: For operational reasons the Navy did it today rather than tomorrow. I think they also felt that since the burial was taking place this morning it was an appropriate time to do it. But my understanding is they did this mainly for operational reasons.

Q: Do you know where it was?

Mr. Bacon: Precisely, no, but if you want us to get the coordinates I'm sure we can get them.

Q: It was in the Atlantic?

Mr. Bacon: It was in the Atlantic off the Virginia Capes.

Q: Just to clarify, when you say this was not a military burial at sea, are you saying then that there were no military honors that would normally be part of one of these ceremonies such as a...

Mr. Bacon: The first thing I said was I wasn't there and we've gotten no report of what happened because the ship had not docked. It will be up to the Kennedy and Bessette families to decide whether or if they want to describe what happened on the ship. But my understanding is there, for instance, was not... There was not a rifle salute, for instance. That would be part of a military ceremony. It was not part of this ceremony.

Q: So this would not have been the same ceremony that for instance would have been given to a Navy veteran who had requested for a military burial at sea.

Mr. Bacon: No. None of these were Navy veterans.

Q: But it was the same ceremony...

Mr. Bacon: It was not the same ceremony. It was not a military burial ceremony.

Q: You mentioned earlier that this was done in accordance with Navy regulations. What regulation was it that allowed for this?

Mr. Bacon: There is a guidance that specifies who is eligible for burial at sea, and it runs through a series of categories -- members of the uniformed services, obviously is a category. Another category is dependents of members and former members of the uniformed services. Then the final category is other U.S. citizens who are determined eligible by the Chief of Naval Operations due to notable service or outstanding contributions to the United States. It's under that category that these people were buried at sea.

Q: So it was the CNO's decision or the Secretary's or...

Mr. Bacon: I think the President took total responsibility for this, but obviously he was supported by the CNO and by the Secretary of Defense.

Q: Ken, from what you've said it sounds like what was provided by the Pentagon was not the military honor that's described in that regulation, that statute, but instead something a little bit different which seems to amount to lending some military assets, namely a ship, to provide for this private memorial service. Am I understanding this correctly?

Mr. Bacon: As I told you, I have given you all the information I have on what happened on the BRISCOE today because I don't have an account of what happened there. He's the son of a President. And I think this was completely appropriate and so did the CNO and so did the Secretary of Defense and so did the President.

Any more questions? Thanks.

Q: One more.

I was reading in the London Daily Telegraph today a story that was headlined, "NATO admits air campaign failed." It quotes... it claims that according to private NATO assessments that the air campaign "had no military effect on the regime of President Milosevic."

Have you come to any similar conclusions?

Mr. Bacon: I have not. I recommend you ask President Milosevic whether it had any effect on him.

Press: Thank you.

Additional Links

Stay Connected