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DOD News Briefing on Missile Defense from the Pentagon

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel; James Miller, Undersecretary for Policy, Department Of Defense; Admiral James Winnefeld, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs Of Staff
March 15, 2013

            SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL:   Good afternoon.  I have a statement, and then I'll take a couple questions.  And then ask the undersecretary and the vice chief to address the specific questions you have about the topic -- that we're gonna talk about - missile defense. 

            Today I'm announcing a series of steps the United States will take to stay ahead of the challenge posed by Iran and North Korea's development of longer-range ballistic missile capabilities.  The United States has missile defense systems in place to protect us from limited ICBM attacks.  But North Korea in particular has recently made advances in its capabilities and is engaged in a series of irresponsible and reckless provocations. 

            Specifically, North Korea announced last month that it conducted its third nuclear test.  And last April, displayed what appears to be a road mobile ICBM.  It also used its Taepodong-2 missile to put a satellite into orbit, thus demonstrating progress in its development of long-range missile technology.  

            In order to bolster our protection of the homeland and stay ahead of this threat, we are taking four steps.  First, we will strengthen homeland missile defense by deploying 14 additional ground-based interceptors, GBIs, at Fort Greely, Alaska.  That will increase the number of deployed ground-based interceptors from 30 to 44, including the four GBIs at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  These additional GBIs will provide a nearly will 50 percent increase in our missile defense capability. 

            Second, with the support of the Japanese government, we are planning to deploy an additional radar in Japan.  The second TPY-2, or TPY-2 radar, will provide improved early warning and tracking of any missile launched in North Korea at the United States or Japan. 

            Third, as directed by Congress, we are conducting environmental impact studies for a potential additional GBI site in the United States.  While the administration has not made any decision on whether to proceed with an additional site, conducting environmental impact studies will shorten the timeline for construction should that decision be made. 

            And fourth, we are restructuring the SM-3 IIB program.  As many of you know, we had planned to deploy the SM-3 IIB as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach.  The purpose was to add to the protection of the U.S. homeland already provided by our current GBIs against missile threats from the Middle East. 

            The timeline for deploying this program had been delayed to at least 2022 due to cuts in congressional funding.  Meanwhile, the threat matures. 

            By shifting resources from this lagging program to fund the additional GBIs as well as advance-kill vehicle technology that will improve the performance of the GBI and other versions of the SM-3 interceptor we will be able to add protection against missiles from Iran sooner, while also providing additional protection against the North Korean threat. 

            Let me emphasize the strong and continued commitment of the United States to NATO missile defense.  That commitment remains ironclad. 

            The missile deployments the United States is making in phases one through three of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, including sites in Poland and Romania, will be able to provide coverage of all European NATO territory as planned by 2018. 

            The collective result of these four decisions will be to further improve our ability to counter future missile threats from Iran and North Korea while maximizing increasing, scarce taxpayer resources.  The American people expect us to take every necessary step to protect our security at home and U.S. strategic interests abroad, but they expect us to do so in the most efficient and effective manner possible. 

            By taking the steps I outlined today we will strengthen our homeland defense, maintain our commitments to our allies and partners, and make clear to the world that the United States stands firm against aggression. 

            Thank you.  

            Bob? 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, can you say with confidence that the ground-based interceptors in Alaska would actually shoot down a North Korean missile if it were fired at the U.S. given the very poor test performance of this interceptor?  

            SEC. HAGEL:  Well, as you know, there was an issue regarding our gyro guidance system.  As you probably know, we are going to further test later this year. 

            We have confidence in our system.  And we certainly will not go forward with the additional 14 interceptors until we are sure that we have the complete confidence that we will need. 

            But -- but the American people should be assured that our interceptors are effective.  

            Q:  Can I follow up on that, sir? 

            (CROSSTALK) 

            Q:  When do you think these 14 interceptors will be fielded?  And -- and also, if you could, do you really believe that a deterrent will work against a country like North Korea?  

            SEC. HAGEL:  Well, we're looking at having all 14 interceptors in place by FY 217 -- 2017.  The reason that we're doing what we're doing and the reason we're advancing our program here for homeland security is to not take any chances -- is to stay ahead of the threat and to assure any contingency.  And that's -- that's why we've made the decisions that we have.  

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, in hindsight, was it -- was it a mistake to take missile field one offline and now having to spend the money to reactivate it?  

            SEC. HAGEL:  Well, I'm gonna ask either the vice chief or the under secretary to answer that question because they've been here through the process.  I'll take one more, then I'll -- we'll get back to that question.  

            Q:  What is the estimate on when North Korea would actually have a true intercontinental ballistic missile armed with a nuclear warhead?  

            SEC. HAGEL:  Well, one of the reasons, again, we're doing at we're doing, based on the intelligence we have, is to assure that whatever their timelines are, that we're not reacting to those timelines, that we're ahead of any timelines of any potential threat.  

            Q:  (inaudible) 

            SEC. HAGEL:  Well, we -- we feel confident that – to have the 30 in place now and an additional 14 -- be 44 by the end of 2017.  That gives our -- our country the security it needs, and the people need to be reassured that that security is there. 

            Let me -- let me ask the under secretary and the vice chief to take your specific questions. 

            Thank you.  

            Q:  Mr. Miller, can you be clear on one thing?  The deploying of the additional 14 interceptors by 2017 is contingent on the United States Missile Defense Agency proving that the CE-2 warhead is verified and can hit a target.  Is that the pacing factor? 

            UNDERSECRETARY JAMES MILLER:  That's exactly right.  We will continue to stick with our fly before you buy approach.  As was noted before, the CE-2 -- the CE-2 interceptor kill vehicle had a couple of test failures.  We had a successful test flight on January 26th.  MDA is looking to go forward from that successful test flight on the 26th for an intercept test in the coming months. 

            It's not -- the schedule is not yet set.  We'll be looking to try to do it within this calendar year. 

            And then going forward from that we would -- we would be looking to make the -- make changes to those CE-2s that are currently in place, and then the new ground-based interceptors would also be CE-2s. 

            At this point -- I think if you talk to Jim Syring, the director of Missile Defense Agency, has pretty high confidence that we're gonna be able to go forward on a -- on a reasonable timeframe. 

            If I could just also take this opportunity to say whether -- whether the earlier decision to put a pause on Missile Field 1 was a mistake.  I think it was -- at the time, based on the intelligence assessment that we had, it was a good bet.  

            We saved -- we saved resources at the time that we'll now have to spend.  But at that time, the threat was uncertain.  Right?  We didn't -- we didn't know that we would see today what we are now, and so it was -- the whole concept of having a hedge, of being prepared to go from 30 to 44 ground-based interceptors was -- understanding that the threat was uncertain and understanding that we may need to come and implement the hedge from 30 to 44, that's what we're doing today. 

            Q:  Yes, thank you.  What was the reaction from China and Russia after they announced if we are working with other countries, other than Japan in the area, like India, as far as this new system is concerned?  Because in the USA, the Americans and Russian (inaudible) power are (inaudible). 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  Now, let me just say that -- that -- that, first, we've talked to the Republic of Korea, we've talked to the Japanese, and -- and have -- and they understand the rationale for us going forward and -- and the Japanese, as the secretary indicated, have agreed to move forward with the so-called TPY-2 radar to improve our coverage for both the United States and Japan. 

            We have informed the Chinese.  And -- and at this point I can't characterize their reaction. 

            Q:  They didn't object or -- did you consult with them or did you just inform them? 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  We informed them. 

            Q:  So what about -- this'll defend the United States.  I was just curious about Hawaii, like the American possessions in the Western Pacific; Marianas, Guam, those areas, will this -- will this all cover those areas too? 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  The -- the Ground-Based Mid-Course Defense System provides coverage of -- of the -- of not just the continental United States, but -- but all the United States. 

            Q:  A clarification, then a question here.  

            The second TPY-2 in Japan.  Is this the one that Secretary Panetta announced on his last day?  This isn't another second radar, is it? 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  That's correct. 

            Q:  I just wanted to make sure. 

            And a more substantive question, you're often talking about when you look at an adversary; there's capability and intent.  The secretary talked about this new capability that we see in North Koreans’ testing, but how much of it is a new assessment of the new leader's possible intentions, based on the rather incredibly caustic language in recent weeks? 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  Tom, the -- the policy that we have for missile defense is we are -- as we articulated in the 2010 ballistic defense review is to stay ahead of the threat.  Now, with respect to both North Korea and Iran, that means staying ahead of where we believe that capability would be and -- and is not contingent on any assessment of intentions. 

            ADMIRAL JAMES WINNEFELD:  But, Tom, there was a question a moment ago about deterrence.  And -- and the fact of the matter is that deterrence exists in two forms.  One is denying an adversary's objectives.  The other is imposing costs if they -- if deterrence fails.  

            And I think the national security adviser made it very clear in his speech on Monday that we not only intend to put the mechanics in place to deny any potential North Korean objective to launch a missile to the United States, but also to impose costs upon them if they do. 

            And we believe that this young lad ought to be deterred by that.  And if he's not, we'll be ready. 

            Q:  On the second intercept test, how soon will you know whether or not you'll be able to conduct it by the end of this calendar year? 

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  The intent is essentially we wanted to make sure that we had a successful test this January before we proceeded, doing that fly-before-you-buy piece. 

            And, in fact, that test was extremely successful.  We put a kill vehicle up there.  Missile Defense Agency put it through its paces in a very rigorous way, and it passed with flying colors. 

            So now the real deciding factor in how long it will take us to conduct the next test against a target will be how long it takes us to build another interceptor with -- another kill vehicle with the modifications to it that -- that the Missile Defense Agency has made to fix the problem. 

            So it's really just a matter of doing that, and then we're gonna do another test. 

            Q:  Where are you in the process then? 

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  They're -- they've started assembling -- you know, acquiring the components and assembling the additional EKV.  And that's a -- that's a very technical piece of equipment.  It takes a while to put together. 

            Q:  All right, thank you. 

            Q:  Can you talk about the estimated cost to this entire project and how that fits in to the sequester? 

            And this may be obvious, but I don't know, where is the third GBI site slated to be? 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  Right, the -- the cost of the -- of this step will include, first of all, additional funding for Missile Field 2 -- excuse me, Missile Field 1, to complete Missile Field 1 at Fort Greely. 

            And then, an additional 14 ground-based interceptors, to -- to -- to emplace -- in fact, what we'll do is take test assets and bring them up to the CE-2 standard, and then replace them with procured, additional GBIs. 

            So there isn't -- there is another 14 ground-based interceptors that will be bought, because of this. 

            Very -- very round numbers, it'll be a little bit less than a billion dollars overall, is our best -- our best current estimate. 

            Q:  You say that 14 will be bought new, because Orbital Science has got a contract for 70 right now.  They delivered 53. 

            (CROSSTALK)

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  There are some -- as you know, when the last test failed, there were a number of these that were in various stages of construction.  And that work was halted. 

            Q:  OK. 

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  So when we have a successful test, let's say this fall, that work will resume, so those -- those existing missiles on a production line would continue.  And then we would procure new ones as well. 

            I don't have the exact numbers on how many of which, but we would want to defer to Missile Defense Agency to give you the specifics on that. 

            Matt? 

            Q:  Sorry, can I go back to my question?  So is anything going to be -- are you going to stop work anywhere else to, you know, fund this $1 billion project?  Where are you getting those funds? 

            And, again, the third GBI setup, where is that gonna be? 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  The -- the funds that we're -- will be requesting will start in F.Y. 14 and so it'll be -- it's part of the -- of the budget bill that we've been -- that we've been working on and will be submitting to Congress in the coming weeks. 

            Congress mandated that -- that the Department of Defense look at three locations for a potential additional site in the United States and mandated that two of them be on the East Coast.  And so, the Missile Defense Agency is currently assessing what two alternative locations on the East Coast to look at, and we’ll most likely have the third be Fort Greely, Alaska, where we already have interceptors. 

            Q:  But you can't be more specific?  I'm sorry... 

            (CROSSTALK)           

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  We're still looking at sites. 

            Q:  Sir, I'm with TVN from Poland, so obviously, it is a question of regional interest.  Will this program announced today have any influence on the plans for a site in Poland -- interceptor site in Poland? 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  It will have no impact on that.  We will still go forward, as planned, with phase one through three.  Phase three for the European Phase-Adaptive Approach will involve deploying about 24 SM3 IIA interceptors, SM-3 interceptors including the IIA in Poland.  Same timeline, same footprint of U.S. forces to support that. 

            And, as the secretary said, same coverage of NATO Europe. 

            Q:  On that same point then, didn't the secretary say that you're restructuring that program?  Are you dropping the final phase of it and saving some money on that? 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  That's correct.  

            (CROSSTALK) 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  Yes, the -- the prior plan had four phases.  The third phase involved the deployment of interceptors in Poland.  And we will continue with phases one through three.  In the fourth phase, in the previous plan, we would have added some additional -- an additional type of interceptors, the so-called SM-3 IIB would have been added to the mix in Poland. 

            We no longer intend to -- to add them to the mix, but we'll continue to have the same number of deployed interceptors in Poland that will provide coverage for all of NATO in Europe. 

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  So the upshot of that is that the Europeans will see no difference in their ballistic missile defense.  The phase four for the SM3-IIB was about continuing defense of Europe, but also being able to extend that defense to part of the United States. 

            It turns out that by doing what we're announcing today, we get -- and remember, this phase four of the SM-3 IIB wasn't gonna appear until 2022 or beyond.  And this threat's going a little faster.  So doing what we're announcing today, we're gonna get better defense of the United States, more fulsome coverage of the United States, and we're gonna get it a lot sooner. 

            So it makes complete sense to do this.  And the Europeans will not see a difference. 

            Q:  On that point, sir, you just said this threat's going a little faster.  Can you just expand on that, what -- what threat, specifically, are you talking about here? 

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  In particular, the North Korean threat... 

            (CROSSTALK) 

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  But we're also obviously keeping a very close eye on the Iranian threat as well.

            Q:  What -- what -- what, technically, is happening? 

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  The -- you know, last April we saw a parade in Pyongyang that had mixed -- mixed accounts of whether they were real or fake missiles.  Six KN-08 missiles.  And we've also seen a nuclear test, the third nuclear test, recently. 

            Obviously, without getting into intelligence aspects, we watch this evolving threat very, very closely.  

            As you know, at the very beginning of this missile defense journey, we -- we knew that we were going to have to be potentially adaptive in this.  And so, we have continually built this hedge -- a set of tools from which we can select, if the threat either goes faster or slower than -- than we thought. 

            And so, the Korean threat went just a little bit faster than we might have expected. Very simply.  Pull the tools off the -- off the shelf, and those four tools are what we're announcing today. 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  Let me just say... 

            (CROSSTALK) 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  Let me just add to what the admiral said, that we also saw the Taepodong-2 launch in December as well. 

            Q:  But do you know if that that KN-08 is a real or a fake missile?  And do you know whether it has the range to reach the United States?  

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  We would probably want to avoid the intelligent aspects of that.  But -- but we believe the KN-08 probably does have the range to reach the United States and the -- our assessment of -- of where it exists in its lifetime is something that would remain classified. 

            Q:  And one last question on what you know, the nuclear test. Has -- has the U.S. been able to confirm that, that was in fact a nuclear test, and if so, whether it was a test using a uranium device or a plutonium device?  

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  I'd defer to the intelligence community, but we have a pretty high degree of confidence that it was a nuclear test, and I wouldn't want to get into the characterization. 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  We believe it was -- yes?  

            Q:  Are you deploying more Aegis and SM-3s to Asia-Pacific? 

            And on the second radar to Japan, when do you expect it deployed, and where would that be?  

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  Good question. We continue to -- to build and deploy additional SM-3 interceptors.  As you know, we currently have the SM-318 deployed.  We are beginning the process of -- of moving from development to deployment of the SM-3 IB interceptor and we are co-developing with Japan the SM-3 IIA.  

            And so that -- that -- the number of SM-3 interceptors will continue to grow.  And that will be true globally.  And as you look at our -- at our overall force posture, including our continued efforts to rebalance the Asia-Pacific, you'll see a growing number of SM-3 interceptors in the Asia-Pacific over time.  

            With respect to the time line for the second TPY-2, we're in discussions with the -- with the Japanese government about -- about precisely when that can be accomplished, and at this point I would say it's a matter of at least some months before that -- before that will occur.  

            Q:  How many Aegis do you have other there?  Do you expect more?  

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  Yeah, the exact number of BMD-capable Aegis ships, I don't have at my fingertips, but it's around five.  That -- that sort of number. 

            The real -- Dr. Miller really hit the key point, and that is, this is more about how many interceptors we have over there, filling the tubes on those ships, than it is the number of ships.  

            Q:  The scale back of the SM-3 IIB to Europe; does that in any way impact that Japan's helping you develop the SM-3 IIA.  

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  No, not at all.  

            Q:  On the deterrence issue, can you tell the public a little bit why they should have any confidence in this system given that it hasn't had a successful interception since December 2008? 

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  Sure. 

            We have two types of GBI missiles.  There's, as you know, the CE-1 and CE-2 missile.  We have to test -- successfully tested the CE-1 missile.  We have confidence in that missile, and we're going to test it again this summer just to maintain, as Congress has asked and we believe we should continue testing those missiles to make sure that they're healthy.  

            And in the meantime, we wanted to improve that missile, and so we developed what's called the CE-2 missile.  It's got a number of key upgrades to it, and what we discovered, unfortunately, was that there was one component on that missile that was vulnerable to something we couldn't test on the ground, something we could only test in space.  

            And the Missile Defense Agency has done a really good job of thoroughly diagnosing that problem, and has retested that missile - not against a target - in January, and it performed beautifully.  And so, we have a lot of confidence right now that even the CE-2 missile we test it this fall, will be successful.  Obviously we still have to do that. 

            But we retain our confidence in the CE-1 missile, which is in silos up in Alaska right now.  So the American people should have faith in that missile, and that we can defend ourselves against a potential North Korean threat as it exists today.  

            This is also a prudent measure as that threat evolves, and also potentially evolves from Iran to continue the hedge. 

            Q:  (inaudible) flight test? 

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  We are going to flight test the CE-1 this summer, and we are gonna hopefully flight test the CE-2 after we build it this fall.  

            Q:  (inaudible) have any (inaudible) or any (inaudible) in your mind to bolster the total cooperation between U.S., Japan, and South Korea in (inaudible)? 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  We've -- we've had very strong bilateral discussions, as you -- as you know, with both Japan and with South Korea.  And we've begun to -- to initiate some tri-lateral discussions as well.  We'll see where those go.  We think there's certainly value in pursuing that path.  

            Q:  A clarification of coverage -- how much of the United States will be covered by -- by these interceptors if they are only in Alaska?  

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  The entire United States.  

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  All the United States. 

            Q:  (inaudible) Iran and North Korea from some (inaudible) are under international strict sanctions.  And who is helping in their missile systems, these two countries?  

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  That's a good question.  It's – I’m gonna do what the Admiral did earlier -- that's an intelligence question and I'm not going to answer it today.  

            Q:  What will -- what do you think will be the Chinese reaction after this announcement? 

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  I won't predict that.  I hope that they understand that we need to take the steps necessary to defend ourselves against potential emerging threats from Iran and North Korea.  It's our policy to stay ahead of that -- of -- of those threats and we're taking prudent actions to ensure that we do so.  

            Q:  Thank you.  

            UNDERSEC. MILLER:  Thank you. 

            ADM. WINNEFELD:  Thank you.

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