Transcript

Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy David J. Trachtenberg Press Briefing on DOD's Response to Turkey Accepting Delivery of the Russian S-400 Air And Missile Defense System

July 17, 2019
Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord; Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy David J. Trachtenberg

STAFF: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us today. This afternoon, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord and Deputy Under Secretary for Policy David Trachtenberg will provide a Department of Defense update on

Turkey's accepting of the Russian S-400 system and what that means for the F-35 program moving forward.

The purpose of this briefing is to focus on the F-35 and Turkey, so please limit your questions to that. Both leaders have an opening statement and then we'll take your questions. We do have a hard stop at 3:30, so please be respectful with your questions so everyone will have a chance.

Before we start, the department would like to offer our condolences for the individuals Turkey lost during an attack today. Our hearts go out to their friends and families during this difficult time and the U.S. reaffirms its commitments to support the government and the people of Turkey.

Ma'am, over to you.

UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ELLEN LORD: Thank you, Mike. Thank you all for being here this afternoon. Last Friday, the United States learned that Turkey accepted delivery of a Russian S-400 air and missile defense system. I'm here today to highlight three things.

One, the U.S. has full confidence in the F-35 program and supply chain. Two, the U.S. and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate the process to formally remove Turkey from the program. Three, as President Trump said in his statement today, the U.S. still values our strategic partnership with Turkey.

The Department of Defense, and the U.S. government more broadly, have worked very hard to chart an alternative path that would enable Turkey to acquire air defense systems within NATO alliance standards for interoperability and still allow Turkey to remain within the F-35 partnership.

The United States has been actively working with Turkey over the sale of the Patriot air and missile defense systems to satisfy its legitimate air defense needs. Since early 2017, when Turkey began publicly discussing its interests in the Russian-made S-400 system, all levels of the U.S. government have consistently communicated that the F-35 and the S-400 are incompatible.

As other U.S. officials and I have clearly said, Turkey cannot field a Russian intelligence collection platform in proximity to where the F-35 program makes, repairs and houses the F-35. Much of the F-35's strength lies in its stealth capabilities, so the ability to detect those capabilities would jeopardize the long-term security of the F-35 program.

We seek only to protect the long-term security of the F-35 program. In early June, the acting secretary of defense communicated to Minister Akar that unless Turkey canceled acceptance of this system, Turkey would be removed from the F-35 program in an orderly, respectful and deliberate manner.

All actions to wind down were reversible and this was done to allow sufficient time for Turkish personnel associated with the F-35 program to be reassigned and depart the United States by July 31, 2019. Please understand we cannot answer any questions on the matters of intelligence.

Turkey's purchase of the S-400 is inconsistent with its commitments to NATO and will have detrimental impact on Turkish interoperability with the alliance. Regardless of Turkey's decision to proceed with the procurement of the Russian system, the F-35 international partnership is strong and resilient.

I have regularly engaged with our partners as we sought a better outcome and began charting a path forward without Turkey's participation in the program. Our partnership regrets that we have arrived at this moment, but I and the F-35 Joint Program Office will continue to engage fully with our F-35 partners as we work to expeditiously complete the unwinding of Turkey's participation in the partnership.

We have been working in earnest to develop and implement changes to our supply base and supply chain to accommodate the potential for Turkish removal from the program. To bridge the gap initially to mitigate Turkey's removal, the program will use primarily U.S. sources for Turkey's work share, but this will gradually open up to program partners for first, second and third sources.

Because of this planning, Turkey's removal from the F-35 program will have minimal impact on the larger F-35 partnership. We have also worked closely with our industry partners throughout this process and I have notified F-35 industry leaders of Turkey's suspension to ensure the supply chain continues to stay closely informed and involved.

Turkey will certainly, and regrettably, lose jobs and future economic opportunities from this decision. It will no longer receive more than $9 billion in projected work share related to the F-35 over the life of the program.

Turkey made more than 900 parts for the F-35 and had been assigned more than $1 billion in industrial participation across 10 Turkish suppliers. All Turkish F-35 students and instructor pilots currently in the United States have firm plans to leave the country.

Roughly 20 Turkish personnel at the Joint Program Office will no longer retain access to JPO spaces. These actions to remove Turkey from the F-35 program are intended to mitigate risks to the F-35 and are separate from any congressionally-mandated, Russia-related sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA. I will defer all CAATSA questions to my colleagues at the State Department.

In closing, and before Deputy Under Secretary Trachtenberg speaks, let me reiterate that Turkey remains a close NATO ally and our military-to-military relationship remains strong. We continue to honor our commitment to ensure the safety of our NATO ally, and support missions benefiting regional security and stability. Thank you.

David?

DEPUTY UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DAVID TRACHTENBERG: Good afternoon, everyone. And thank you all for being here today. I will be brief in my comments.

As Under Secretary Lord said, this is a rather unfortunate development and one the U.S. government has worked tirelessly to avoid. But let me be clear, the United States greatly values our strategic relationship with Turkey. That remains unchanged. As long-standing NATO allies, our relationship is multilayered and extends well beyond the F-35 partnership.

We will continue our extensive cooperation with Turkey across the entire spectrum of our security relationship. We have been clear and consistent that Turkey can choose to acquire the S-400 or the F-35. It cannot have both. Our decision to unwind Turkey's participation in the F-35 program is no surprise as our concerns have repeatedly been communicated to the Turkish government.

Our reaction today is a specific response to a specific event. It is separate and distinct from the broader range of security interests where the United States and Turkey work together against common threats. Our military-to-military relationship remains strong. And we will continue to participate with Turkey in multilateral exercises to improve readiness and interoperability, including upcoming exercises in Georgia, Germany and Ukraine, as well as engage with Turkey on a broad range of NATO issues.

While Turkey's decision is unfortunate, ensuring the security and integrity of the F-35 program and the capabilities it will provide to our partners remains our top priority. Thank you.

STAFF: We're going to start with Bob.

Q: I've got a quick question for each of you. Secretary Lord, are the decisions you announced about suspension and the removal, are those reversible at this stage? And if I may ask a second question, on the policy question that you just described, the relationship with Turkey, Secretary Esper just yesterday said that he regrets that more broadly Turkey has been drifting away from the West.

I'm wondering if you can explain how Turkey can remain a partner with the United States in defense and deterrence of Russia when it's now going to be operating a Russian-made air defense?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: If I could take this second question first, I'll be happy to address that. All I would say to that is clearly, we have worked with Turkey for many years as a strategic partner, our military-to-military relationship, as I said in my opening statement, remains very strong.

We understand Turkey has legitimate security requirements. We have worked with Turkey repeatedly. We continue to train and exercise with Turkish forces. Turkey has been a member of the NATO alliance longer than I have been alive. It has been well over six decades. And Turkey has been a reliable strategic partner during that time.

From a departmental perspective and a military-to-military relationship perspective, we expect to continue that relationship, to work both bilaterally and in a NATO context for the benefit of our security and for the benefit of the NATO alliance.

Q: But you're making it sound like the fact that they have these Russian air defenses doesn't really matter.

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: Oh, it does matter, which is why we're taking the action we're taking.

Q: Your partnership continues?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: The partnership continues, our strategic partnership continues, but as I said, this is a specific response to a specific action.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: I asked for a question.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: I asked about whether it was reversible at this point.

UNDER SEC. LORD: At this point the Turks have made a decision. We have said that the F-35 and the S-400 are incompatible. We will work forward at this point to unwind the relationship.

STAFF: Tony.

Q: Last July, Secretary Mattis warned the congressional committees that suspending Turkey from the program would have draconian consequences – you might have helped draft the letter, actually – but, 18 to 24 months to re-source parts, fifty or so planes being delayed.

What’s happened in the last year to mitigate those impacts?

UNDER SEC. LORD: We have worked on alternate sources for the over 900 parts. We have been working since 2018 on this. We are proceeding with a very orderly wind-down through March 2020 at this point. So we expect minimal impact to the program.

Q: Can you quantify the financial burden -- the financial loss to Turkey, you said -- I think you said $9 billion going forward?

UNDER SEC. LORD: Nine billion we said over the life of the program they had, roughly $1 billion in commitments as we sit here today.

Q: Are those commitments going to be abrogated or are those going to be honored? That's a billion dollars of commitments.

UNDER SEC. LORD: We are winding down in March of 2020.

STAFF: Phil

Q: You said that the Turkish pilots and crews -- maintenance crews-- have a firm plan to leave the country. Could you give us a little more detail on that and tell us whether or not any of them asked for asylum in the United States? And then another question.

UNDER SEC. LORD: Just all of the pilots knew that we had a July 31 deadline. I just spoke with Acting Secretary of the Air Force Donovan a little bit earlier this afternoon, and said we were moving forward to suspend Turkey from the program. All of the pilots and maintainers are being notified as we speak. That's as much information as I have now.

Q: Okay. And then to you, sir. Could you let me know whether or not you heard anything from Turkey about what actions they may take in response to what they see as an unfair move by the United States?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: Oh, I'm not going to speculate on what actions the Turks may or may not take. I will reiterate the fact that we have made the Turkish government aware at multiple levels on multiple occasions that a decision to procure the S-400 would have consequences with respect to the F-35 program.

Q: Would you be surprised if there was a reaction from Turkey?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: Again, I'm not going to speculate one way or the other.

Q: Thank you. Ms. Lord, is the Defense Department concerned that any of the Turkish pilots or maintainers who have trained on the F-35 could end up being provided to the Russians by the Turks, including the Turkish pilot who has already returned to Turkey and been arrested?

UNDER SEC. LORD: I'm not going to speculate on that.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: Former NATO Ambassador Ivo Daalder said this is a major blow to the alliance. He also said it weakens the alliance. And you refer to inter-operability, he said they can no longer take part in the integrated air defense of NATO. Can you respond to that?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: I think it's an unfortunate development, as we have both stated. And obviously the S-400 is incompatible. We would have preferred, of course, a different decision, but this was Turkey's decision to make. And just as it is our decision to respond to it as we see fit.

Remember, our actions -- the actions that we are announcing here -- have been taken to preserve and protect the equities of -- of NATO and our partners in the F-35 program. So we will continue to act with that uppermost and foremost in our mind.

Q: If -- if you could address that, Ms. Lord?

UNDER SEC. LORD: I don't have anything to add.

Q: Well, again, if they can no longer take part in integrated air defense, doesn't that weaken the alliance?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: I'll -- I'll stand by what I just said. I think -- I think we will continue to work with all of our NATO allies on -- on ways of making sure that the alliance -- that alliance security is preserved and protected to the maximum extent possible.

STAFF: Tom

Q: I wanted to follow-up on comments both of you gave to us earlier when you first talked about the possible unwind. Secretary Lord, you said then all of the parts would be shifted by April. You just said March. Are you -- are you advancing it now to March, the replacement?

UNDER SEC. LORD: We said by end of March, I haven't changed that.

Q: Oh, OK. And in regards to the training exercises that may take place in the future, at the last briefing you said that the F-35 would not be in any training exercises where the Turks were involved -- I'm paraphrasing slightly but that's what you all said -- because they would risk the capability of the stealth in it. Do you still stand by that?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: In -- I don't know that I said that. But that the -- I said that the F-35 would not -- would not take...

Q: Yes. I think -- I think the implication was because of -- once the S-400s are established that any exercises with the Turks in Turkey would not include the F-35.

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: I know we have a number of exercises scheduled. We have been participating with the Turks in an exercise that just took place last month. But in terms of specific aircraft or -- or capabilities there, I'd have to take that and get back.

STAFF: OK, guys. You're going to have to speed this up because we only have 10 minutes.

So, Lucas.

Q: Should Turkey be allowed to remain in NATO?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: That's a decision for the NATO -- for the NATO alliance. Turkey is a member of NATO; it's a longstanding member of NATO. It has adhered to NATO requirements and I'm -- I'm not going to say one way or the other what should or shouldn't happen. That's not for us here to -- to decide.

Q: Is the Patriot air defense system superior to the Russian S-400 air defense system?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: I'm not going to talk about specific capabilities and what is superior or what is inferior. I will tell you, it is clear that we have offered the Patriot to Turkey on multiple occasions.

Q: Is it a better system though, overall?

STAFF: Go ahead.

Q: Two quick ones, did Turkey get its money back for the jets it's purchased and will the U.S. ban other stealthy planes, like the F-22 or B-2, from participating in exercises anywhere near Turkey?

UNDER SEC. LORD: We are discussing the specifics about the aircraft they have purchased so far, as we speak.

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: And I think, the -- the second question -- the answer to the second question, I would have to take for the record and let you know because we are not focused on that right now.

STAFF: Tony (inaudible).

Q: Ms. Lord, what is the role of contractor Lockheed Martin going to be during this process and will this delay the program?

UNDER SEC. LORD: We have worked extremely closely with both Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney because they both have part of the supply chain in Turkey. And they are in lockstep with us, so they are just as involved as we are. And at this point in time, we see no delays to aircraft in the program if we work through the March 2020 date that we're projecting.

STAFF: (inaudible)?

Q: Thank you. Two quick questions, what is the message you are sending to other countries who are planning to buy S-400 from Russia? And secondly, can you have major defense partnership with India, which is going ahead with its decision to buy S-400 from Russia?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: I think the message we are sending is that we want to make sure that other countries are not -- are not purchasing equipment that is designed to counter our sophisticated fifth-generation aircraft. And I think the -- the other message we're sending is that we are consistent in our approach on this.

Q: And on the major defense partnership with India?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: The major defense partnership with India?

Q: Can you have a major defense partnership with India, which is going ahead with a decision to buy S-400?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: Our -- our defense partnership with India, I think, is strong and we're looking to make it ever stronger.

STAFF: Carla.

Q: Two quick questions. So you had said that the U.S. would continue to participate with Turkey in upcoming international exercises. Do any of these exercises involve air defense training? That's question number one.

And then a follow would be has the United States made alternative plans for its operations in Syria and Iraq because a lot of these jets use Turkish airspace to carry out these operations?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: Carla, I won't talk about the Syria and Iraq piece of this. Right now, we're focused on the F-35. And in terms of the exercises, I'll be happy to get back to you with the specifics in -- in more detail in terms of the kinds of capabilities that would be involved.

Q: But if they do require air defense in that training, would -- would Turkey just not take part in that part?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: I would -- I would get back to you on that.

STAFF: In the back, please?

Q: Thank you. President Trump said a couple of times that it is unfair to cancel the delivery of the F-35 jets to Turkey. Why is the president and DOD are not looking eye to eye to -- on this issue?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: I don't understand why we wouldn't be eye to eye. The president made a statement.  I think it is consistent with what we have announced.

Q: He said that it is unfair to cancel the delivery of the F-35 -- over 100 F-35 jets to Turkey. Yesterday, he made a statement on camera. That's what I'm talking about.

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: The president also said Turkey would not get the F-35 and that is consistent with the policy that we are announcing.

STAFF: Right here?

Q: How about the unfair comments of the president? Do you have any comments on this?

STAFF: Sir, I think he's addressed that. We're going to go right here.

Q: So as you know, the European -- engine depot for the F-35 is still -- well it's supposed to be in Turkey. What are you doing to replace that capability and what other -- what other European country is going to get that?

UNDER SEC. LORD: There is capacity in the two other European countries that have engine MRO&Us. I'll get back to you with the details on those.

STAFF: Ma'am, go ahead.

Q: Yes. With the U.S. and the ROK joint military exercise conducting next month again and then joint -- and, like, Ulchi-Freedom exercise, what is your schedule for?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the full question.

Q: Ulchi-Freedom exercise, U.S. and Korea -- South Korea in joint military exercise...

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: ROK exercise?

Q: Yes.

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: I'll...

Q: Do you have any planned for next month?

STAFF: We're here to talk about Turkey and the F-35...

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: ... Yes.

STAFF: ... we can take that question and we'll get back to you.

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: Sure.

STAFF: Ryan.

Q: In your -- any conversations with the Turkish counterparts leading up to this decision, were they still optimistic that this would not go forward?

DEP. UNDER SEC.. TRACHTENBERG: I certainly don't want to characterize one way or another that conversations that have taken place, other than to reiterate that we have had conversations at multiple levels with the Turkish government and -- and we've made our position crystal clear.

STAFF: T.M.

Q: Maybe you answered this question for Tony and I didn't quite understand it. How much more expensive will this make the program overall for the United States by shifting the supply chain?

UNDER SEC. LORD: The United States is spending between $500 million and $600 million in non-recurring engineering in order to shift the supply chain.

STAFF: Yep.

Q: Is there an idea of when an announcement could be made about more details about the aircraft that are -- the over 100 aircraft that were committed to go to Turkey, about when that might come out -- the plan for that?

UNDER SEC. LORD: We are working through that right now. I think your question is who might buy those and so forth. We are working through the spread of that right now. So I don't have a specific timeframe.

STAFF:  Jeff.

Q: I just want to clarify, Ms. Lord, if Turkey gives back the S-400s today, does that mean they are eligible again to participate in the F-35 program?

UNDER SEC. LORD: I can't provide any insight into that, that would be conjecture.

Q: OK, I just wanted to rephrase my question. Has Turkey provided any personnel or technology from the F-35 to Russia?

UNDER SEC. LORD: I can't speculate.

STAFF: Marcus.

Q: I know you said you can't talk about CAATSA but you have to deal with a lot of these companies who could be impacted by it. Are you able to say any concerns that these companies have expressed and any of those concerns, have you brought them into the interagency that's reviewing this?

UNDER SEC. LORD: We work closely with our defense industrial base and keep them apprised of everything we know, so we talk about all types of contingencies, but we've been extremely transparent I think on this.

STAFF: We're going to go Ryan, then we're going to go here and we're going to end with you. Go ahead.

Q: Just a quick follow up, ma’am, you said that all of the partners were aligned with this decision. Did they have to approve this decision, the partner nations involved in the program? Did that have to get approved by all of the other partners or was it a U.S. unilateral decision?

UNDER SEC. LORD: We had a consensus on that. We've discussed it multiple times.

Q: Yeah, I just wanted to get an update on where you left the Patriot sale with Turkey, whether Turkey ever formally rejected that and whether this decision to buy the S-400 and get it delivered will have any impact on other U.S. sales or potential sales in the future?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: I can't speculate on what will happen in terms of other sales. As I've said, we've offered the Patriots to Turkey numerous times. If Turkey's interested in Patriots, they -- they -- they will let us know.

Q: Did they ever formally rejected the Patriots as an offer?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: We've been back and forth multiple times with -- with the Turks on -- on that particular issue.

STAFF:  Tom.

Q: I wanted to go back to the fact that Turkey will no longer be able to take part in integrated air defense system of NATO. In your opinion, does that strengthen NATO, weaken NATO or have no impact at all?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: I think I -- I think I've addressed that as -- as part of my previous response, I think that ...

Q: ... does it have any impact at all?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: I don't want to speculate in terms of what's going to happen with respect to NATO's weakening or strengthening. All I -- my only point was that the decisions we were taking here are intended to strengthen the partners and our capabilities in an alliance context.

Q: ... (inaudible) member of the alliance not being able to take part in an air defense system. How can that not weaken the alliance?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: I think I've addressed that.

STAFF: (Inaudible) we're going to go ahead and end. Ma’am, do you have any closing remarks?

UNDER SEC. LORD: Thank you. I'd just like to re-emphasize that the F-35 partnership remains strong and that Turkey is a strategic partner to the U.S. Thank you.

STAFF: Sir, do you have anything you want to add?

DEP. UNDER SEC. TRACHTENBERG: The only thing that I -- I would close with is just to reiterate the fact that the actions that we're -- have taken and I've announced here are specific responses to specific actions taken by the Turks. The strategic partnership where -- we have with Turkey remains and we will continue to work with the Turks wherever -- wherever we can for the benefit of our security and the NATO alliance. Thank you all for being here.

STAFF: Thank you for joining us. Have a great day.