DoD News Briefing

Thursday, July 16, 1998 - 1:40 p.m. (EDT)
Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. I see we are all here.


Q: The Department's reaction to the Rumsfeld panel report that the missile threat to the United States is broader and probably more imminent than intelligence agencies had thought?

A: There was a briefing at the CIA yesterday afternoon that responded in great detail to that report. Obviously this was a very important, knowledgeable panel that took a hard look at this. We are worried about the threat of new missiles, new weapons of mass destruction facing the United States. I think there will always be debate inside the intelligence community and outside the intelligence community about how much warning we'll have, but the Defense Department's program and the Administration's program here is clear.

We are working to develop the structure of a national missile defense system, a limited national missile defense system that can protect us against a modest attack by the year 2000. Then we'll be in a position to, under our current program, to deploy that system and have it operational by 2003.

In the mean time, and even after that, we will depend on what we have for the last 50 years which is a very substantial conventional and nuclear deterrent force to discourage anybody from taking action against us.

Q: Doesn't that pose a problem in terms of relying on our nuclear shield and our large conventional forces in that defense groups have said that the biggest challenge that's facing the United States military in the years ahead is the asymmetrical threat. How do you react to, say, one missile attack by rogue states? How forcefully do you come down and risk a spread of...

A: You're asking me to talk about sort of a hypothetical. I think the first answer is that anybody who thinks of attacking us should realize that we have the means and the will to strike back quickly and aggressively. We have both conventional and other ways of doing that.

The second is that we are working very aggressively to build a theater missile defense system and a national missile defense system. It's, as you know from the briefing held here last week, a very complex problem and it does not lend itself to easy solutions but we're trying to resolve those technological problems as quickly as possible and move ahead.

The third point is that we are improving our intelligence capability so that we do have a better look at what potential adversaries are doing around the world, and the earliest possible warning.

Q: Do you have an update on the Department's view of the status of North Korea's No Dong missile? The Rumsfeld Commission said, and I quote, that "the No Dong was operationally deployed long before the U.S. Government recognized that fact." Last week Secretary Cohen declined to confirm that the No Dong had been deployed. Is there any change in your view of this?

A: No. I have nothing to add to what Secretary Cohen said last week.


Q: Anything to the press reports that a missile test is planned or... The Indian government denies that. Can you add anything to that?

A: I find it best not to speak for the Indian government. [Laughter] We'll let them address that issue.

Q: (Inaudible) the U.S. may have (inaudible). Can you give us your understanding of the deployment of (inaudible)?

A: We know that they are working on longer range missiles. I don't have at my fingertips right now where that project stands.

Q: And the other one is, again, the same report because North Korea is the major proliferator of the ballistic missile capability to countries like Iran, Pakistan, and others. Do you have anything on this?

A: It's true and it's unfortunate.

Press: Thank you.