News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, May 30, 2000 - 1:30 p.m. EDT
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA


Q: Well, I was going to just ask about missile defense. Over the weekend, the Washington Post reported that there was a still-classified or unreleased report about the value of sea-based missile defense. I was wondering if you could put that into some context for us? Can you tell us anything about what that report is and how it fits in with the administration's plans for missile defense?

Mr. Bacon: Sure. Without commenting on any particular report, let me say that we have always realized that there is a possibility that there could be a sea-based supplement to, or element in, a national missile defense system. We haven't decided that there will be, but it's always been a possibility.

However, right now we are concentrating primarily, in fact almost exclusively, on developing a land-based system. There are three reasons for that:

The first is we want to design a system, and deploy it, as quickly as possible to meet a threat, which we believe will be facing us in about 2005.

The only way to develop a system and deploy it quickly is through a land-based system because much more work needs to be done on the elements of a possible sea-based system or supplement to a land-based -- sea-based supplement to a land-based system.

So the first is, we want to deploy to meet a threat. Second, we want to deploy a system that protects all 50 states from a variety of rogue nations, not just North Korea, but rogue nations in other parts of the world as well. And the best way to do that with certainty is with a land-based system. And the third is that Congress has mandated that we deploy a system as quickly as technologically possible. And the quickest way to meet that requirement is through a land-based system.

So there are a series of studies -- there is one major study going on within the building now on the capabilities that could be added to a national missile defense through a sea-based system. Our feeling is that a sea-based system requires more development and would take more time and possibly cost more money than a land-based system. But we are examining that. We have a requirement from Congress to produce a report. We have asked Congress for a delay in meeting that deadline because the issues are extremely complex and they require extensive analysis. I believe we are funding about $7 million in analytical studies in order to look at the pros and cons of a sea- based system and what it would require to make a sea-based system work or to give us a sea-based element to a land-based system.

Q: Ken, George W. Bush keeps saying that he advocates a wider missile defense that would provide protection not just for the 50 states, but also for allies of the United States. In the system that the Pentagon is envisioning now, would it encompass any protection for allies in any way?

Mr. Bacon: The system is being designed primarily to protect the 50 states. Obviously, it has some residual ability to protect a wider footprint than that under certain circumstances, but it's being designed to protect the United States.

We are in the process of discussing national missile defense with our allies all around the world, and some of them have expressed concern about threats they may face, and we are willing to discuss with them ways to meet those concerns.

In certain cases, for instance Japan, we are discussing a theater missile defense system with them, and they are quite keen on moving forward with a theater missile defense system that would be adequate to meet their defensive needs.

There are other countries that could be protected by theater missile defense systems. So this is something that we are discussing with our allies. We have made it very clear from the beginning that we're prepared to meet with them and to discuss their needs and ways to meet those needs, and those discussions are ongoing.


Q: Has there been any response from the Bush campaign to the SECDEF's invitation to come to the Pentagon and get a full briefing on NMD?

Mr. Bacon: The only response we've seen is in the press, and that was they said they didn't need such a briefing. So the secretary considers the issue finished in that they have rejected the invitation.


Q: Just two quick ones on missile defenses, going back to the sea-based system. I believe that the United States and Japan are jointly working on a program to improve the interceptors. I think that was the biggest problem. Is there any progress to report on that joint project?

Mr. Bacon: Not what I'm aware of. There could well be. I just haven't checked on that.

Q: The diplomatic costs of missile defenses is one of the considerations in NMD. Would a sea-based system, whatever its other merits or flaws, would a sea-based system likely cause less diplomatic heartburn for Russia and China?

Mr. Bacon: I don't think so. I can't see that it would. I think it would raise exactly the same issues about the ABM Treaty.

One point that's important to keep in mind about a sea-based system is that when people discuss a sea-based system, they discuss it entirely in terms of North Korea, but our threat is just not North Korea. We see threats from other nations, such as Iran and Iraq. A sea-based system would not work for other places. So if we're going to build one system that protects us from the spectrum of threats we see today from rogue nations, again we have to go first with a land- based system because that's the surest way to protect all 50 states.


Q: Thank you.

This transcript was prepared by the Federal News Service, Inc., Washington DC. Federal News Service is a private company. For other defense related transcripts not available through this site, contact Federal News Service at (202) 347-1400.