News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Wednesday, January 20, 1999 - 11 a.m. (EST)
Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

[Also participating in the briefing was Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff]

Secretary Cohen: Good morning.

Last night President Clinton pointed out the growing threat to our security that is posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Today I'm announcing that we are committing additional billions of dollars and taking other steps to protect our troops and the American people from the growing threat posed by weapons of mass destruction delivered by ballistic missiles.

In addition, I'm announcing today's decisions regarding how we'll decide to deploy a missile defense for America, how we'll address the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the ABM Treaty, and how we are restructuring some of our programs to enable us to deploy capable missile defenses as quickly as possible.

These decisions affect both our national missile defense program and the theater missile defense programs.

With regard to the national missile defense program to provide a limited defense for the 50 states against a long range missile threat posed by rogue nations, we are making four critical decisions.

First, we're budgeting funds that would be necessary to pay for an NMD deployment.

The Department has long worked to ensure that the NMD development program was properly funded, but until now the DoD has not budgeted any funds to support a possible deployment of a limited NMD system. Since we intend to make a critical decision in June 2000 regarding deployment, the budget we are going to submit in February will increase NMD by $6.6 billion including the costs associated with the NMD deployment over the Future Years Defense Plan.

This includes $800 million provided by Congress in the fiscal year '99 supplemental appropriations bill, and nearly triples, to $10.5 billion, the amount we're budgeting for the national missile defense.

No deployment decision has been made at this time. That will be made in June of 2000.

Second, we are affirming that there is a threat, and the threat is growing, and that we expect it will soon pose a danger not only to our troops overseas but also to Americans here at home.

Last spring the commission that was chaired by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld provided a sobering analysis of the nature of the threat and the limitations of our ability to predict how rapidly it will change.

Then on August 31st, North Korea launched a Taepo Dong 1 missile. That missile test demonstrated important aspects of intercontinental missile development including multiple stage separation, and unexpectedly included the use of a third stage. The Taepo Dong 1 test was another strong indicator that the United States in fact will face a rogue nation missile threat to our homeland against which we will have to defend the American people.

Our deployment readiness program has had two key criteria that has to be satisfied before we could make a decision to deploy a limited national missile defense system. There must be a threat to warrant the deployment; and our NMD development must have proceeded sufficiently so that we are technologically able to proceed.

What we are saying today is that we now expect the first criterion will soon be met, and technological readiness will be the primary remaining criterion.

The third step concerns the ABM Treaty which imposes strict limitations on national missile defense. And while our NMD program is being conducted consistent with the terms of the ABM Treaty to date, our deployment might require modifications to the treaty and the Administration is working to determine the nature and the scope of these modifications.

We will seek to amend the treaty if necessary, and we will work in good faith to do so. We have amended the treaty before and we see no reason why it cannot be amended again.

The ABM Treaty also provides, of course, for right of withdrawal with six months notice if a party concludes it's in it's supreme national interests.

The limited NMD capability we're developing is focused primarily on countering rogue nation threats and will not be capable of countering Russia's nuclear deterrent. We've already begun environmental site surveys for potential basing sites in both Alaska and North Dakota, and we have briefed Russian officials on these activities and on our NMD program in general, and on today's announcement.

Fourth, to maximize the probability of programmatic success and be able to deploy a technologically capable system as quickly as possible, we will phase key decisions to occur after critical integrated flight tests. As a result, instead of projecting a deployment date of 2003 with exceedingly high risk, we are now projecting a deployment date of 2005 with a much more manageable risk. But if the testing goes flawlessly, we may be able to deploy sooner.

As you know, there's been concern expressed by independent analysts that we have been "rushing to failure", and given the reality of the threat, we cannot afford to fail. So the approach that we are presenting today is the optimal one to provide a capable NMD system as soon as possible.

These four decisions reflect the steps that are required now to be able to implement our NMD program in a successful manner.

I'd like to say a few more words about theater missile defenses.

We've made some important decisions regarding TMD programs. A key element of our program review centered on our upper tier TMD systems. As you're aware, our ground-based upper tier system, the Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense system, or the THAAD program, has experienced several flight test failures which appear to be due to problems with quality control for the interceptor missile hardware and the process of the systems integration. At the same time we have a strong desire to accelerate the development of our sea-based upper tier system known as the Navy Theater Wide.

Because of the urgency in fielding an upper tier system, we are going to continue flight testing the THAAD interceptor missile and system, and the other elements of the system such as the radar -- they have performed extremely well -- and continued flight tests are going to provide data important for the upper tier systems beyond the THAAD program. So for these reasons, continued THAAD flight tests is a prudent course of action.

Regarding the Navy Theater Wide, we will for the first time fully fund the acquisition for this program which until now has been a technology development effort. We have structured the program to create an option to significantly accelerate it so it can be deployed as early as 2007.

To accomplish these ends, funding for the Navy Theater Wide program has been increased by more than a half a billion dollars over fiscal year '99 to fiscal 2001 including those funds that were added by Congress last fall.

With the additional funding, the Navy Theater Wide is now postured for potential deployment at roughly the same time as THAAD. This has been done as part of a competitive upper tier strategy that is going to reward program success.

The Navy Theater Wide and THAAD programs are going to be reviewed together late next year to assess costs, schedule, technical performance and program risk. Then a determination will be made as to which program should be the lead upper tier system so that we can focus our resources on that system which will best provide for an effective, affordable defense as soon as possible.

So our goal is to have the lead system postured to deploy in the year 2007. Depending upon the results of the review, the other system might continue to be developed but at a much slower pace.

We're preserving the pace of development for Patriot PAC III and the Navy area defense programs. These lower tier systems will provide effective defense capabilities against the shorter range missile threats. The threat to our forces is already extensive and growing making it imperative that we field these important upgrades as soon as possible.

We've also proposed to restructure the MEADS program to focus on technology development needed for a ground-based TMD system to protect maneuver forces. This is going to allow us to explore less costly program options by taking advantage of the existing missile development programs such as PAC III and thereby conserve resources for higher priority TMD systems.

We will fund the MEADS program or effort at a total of $150 million over three years. Germany and Italy have been our partners in this cooperative program. We've kept them apprised of these developments, and we hope they will join us in this new approach.

These new initiatives are going to help us ensure that we'll meet existing and rapidly emerging ballistic missile threats as quickly and as effectively as possible in a manner that is integrated with our overall defense requirements.

The Chairman has a statement that he will make before turning the floor over to Gen. Lyles, who will give you a much more detailed program brief. Then Gen. Shelton and I can take your questions.

Gen. Shelton: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Secretary Cohen has given you a good overview of where we stand on our missile defense efforts, and Gen. Lyles will provide more details in just a moment as the Secretary indicated.

I would simply like to underscore the Secretary's comments about missile threats that America faces in this very dangerous and uncertain world that we live in today. Most importantly, the ballistic missile threat to U.S. forces deployed around the globe is real today. In Korea we have some 38,000 service men and women who are within range of North Korean missiles. In the Persian Gulf, another 20,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines all fall within the range of Saddam's missiles which could be fitted with weapons of mass destruction if Iraq is allowed to continue development of these weapons. Similarly, in the European theater our forces face the prospect of adversaries armed with chemical and biological weapons and the means to deliver them with ballistic missiles.

As I said, this is not an abstract or a theoretical threat to our forces. The threat is real today and the threat will only increase in the years ahead. That is why theater and national missile defense development has been a priority for the Joint Chiefs and the unified commanders. We must solve the technological challenges that we face and provide greater protection for our military forces and our nation in the future.

Now Secretary Cohen and I will be happy to take a few of your questions after Gen. Lyles presents a briefing on the missile defense program. Les?

Voice: Why don't you take the questions first, and then let Gen. Lyles...

Q: Secretary Cohen, before we get back into missile defense, can we just get your comments about what's going on in Kosovo now and the willingness of the United States to back up any threat of possible military action?

Secretary Cohen: What Mr. Milosevic has done is to violate the agreement that he made last fall. At this moment we have our SACEUR meeting with NATO officials, and we are consulting very closely with them in terms of what action should be taken. But it's clear that Mr. Milosevic has certainly violated his agreement and that is a breach of an agreement not only with NATO itself, but OSCE, and virtually every organization that is currently trying to bring some peace and stability to that region. So we are consulting very closely with our NATO allies at this moment to see what course of action should be followed.

Q: Does NATO have the credibility it needs to threaten air strikes?

Secretary Cohen: It's quite clear NATO has the capability to not only threaten air strikes, but to carry them out. The Act Order remains in effect, and we are prepared to execute that if that is the will of the NATO membership.

Q: Mr. Secretary, on missile defense, I wonder if you'd give us your sense of your hopes and fears about it. Secretary McNamara made a very similar speech 32 years ago that you just went through, except he named China as the rogue nation, and he said that his biggest fear was that once we started a [fin] defense, it would (inaudible). What are your hopes and fears in that line?

Secondly, do you personally want to salvage as much as you can of the ABM Treaty? I mean Article 3 flatly says that each party undertakes not to develop a sea-based system. Or do you personally think the treaty has outlived its usefulness and we'd just as soon abandon it?

Secretary Cohen: With respect to Secretary McNamara having made a similar statement, I think at this time we have seen the proliferation of missile technology which does in fact pose a threat to the United States, and I mentioned the rogue nations. The former Soviet Union continues to have many missiles which currently pose a threat, but we have had a very strong deterrent against the former Soviet Union and others.

What we're dealing with here is the question of those nations -- rogue nations could be North Korea, it could be others, who acquire a limited capability that could in fact pose a threat to the American people. We intend to develop, are prepared to develop a system that would give us that limited type of protection against either the rogue nation or the accidental, unauthorized type of launch.

We do not intend to have an NMD that could defend against Russia, for example. That's not something we seek to develop, but rather a limited system to provide for that kind of limited attack.

With respect to the ABM Treaty, I believe it's in our interest to maintain that. I think we need to modify it to allow for an NMD program that I've outlined, but the ABM Treaty I think is important to maintain the limitations on offensive missiles. To the extent that there is no ABM Treaty, then certainly Russia or other countries would feel free to develop as many offensive weapons as they wanted, which would then set in motion a comparable dynamic to offset that with more missiles here.

So I think the ABM Treaty is in our overall interest, but I believe it should be modified to allow for a deployment of an NMD system.

Q: How would you modify it, if you were to modify it? Since the treaty itself really bans defending the entire national territory. It only limits it to single sites. How would you go about modifying...

Secretary Cohen: First of all, we have to determine whether or not we can in fact defend the entire 50 states from a single site. That's a determination that's not yet been made. But in the event that more is needed, multiple sites, we would have to amend it to accommodate that.

We're looking at Alaska as a potential site that could give 50 state coverage with one site. The ABM Treaty could be amended, for example, to shift from the one site in North Dakota that was originally agreed to, to put that in Alaska.

It might require multiple sites.

Those determinations have yet to be made, but what we are doing is we're exploring and will propose to explore with the Russians, modifications that would allow for a limited system.

Q: And if it couldn't be amended?

Secretary Cohen: Then we have the option of our national interest indicating we would simply pull out of the treaty.

Q: There is increasing evidence that both sides in Kosovo have been massively violating the treaty -- not just the Serbs. What is the threat of air strikes likely to accomplish? And if you were to actually carry out air strikes, what then?

Secretary Cohen: As we indicated in the fall, we were prepared at that point, NATO was prepared to carry out air strikes in order to alleviate the tremendous humanitarian disaster that loomed. That would be a phased campaign, but designed to reduce the ability of Milosevic's forces to threaten those in the region itself. I wouldn't want to speculate at this point in terms of what targets might be involved should any action be taken, but it would obviously have to be a NATO decision to reduce his ability to pose that kind of a threat to the region.

Q: Both sides are violating.

Secretary Cohen: Indeed, and this is something we also have to make clear to the UCK as well, that we don't intend to be an air force for the UCK. We believe there should be an agreement dealing with providing greater autonomy for the Kosovars, but have not supported their drive for independence. So it's going to require compliance on both sides, not just one.

Q: You said back in the fall that NATO's credibility was on the line. Is it on the line again today?

Secretary Cohen: I believe NATO's credibility remains on the line, yes.

Q: Mr. Cohen, could you tell us of your recent trip, what can you tell us of the progress made specifically with regard to anti-missile defense with Japan; the situation of increased belligerence on the part of the North Koreans and the fact that China doesn't want anyone meddling to build any kind of a defensive system in Taiwan?

Secretary Cohen: Well, with respect to the trip to Japan, I had a very productive meeting with a series of high level officials including the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, as well as the Defense Minister. The Japanese government has agreed to commit funds to research and development of a theater missile system. They are going to work with us in the research and development capacity.

I believe that the launch by the North Koreans of the Taepo Dong has concentrated their attention rather significantly, and they believe that this does in fact represent an emerging type of threat to their own security interests, and therefore have agreed to participate with us.

With respect to what is taking place in North Korea, we continue to engage them. The positive side is that we are still talking. The Four Party talks are taking place. We have also seen some progress made on the part of South Korean President Kim's so-called engagement policy or sunshine policy. Those are positive developments. The negative, the testing of the missile, the attempts to infiltrate in the South, and some of the other, more contentious activities on the part of the North.

We think the best solution is to continue to engage them and maintain a very strong deterrent. And the combination of the deterrent plus the engagement we think is a policy we should continue to pursue.

Q: How about Taiwan?

Secretary Cohen: Pardon me?

Q: He asked you about China against Taiwan.

Secretary Cohen: We didn't discuss China's concerns about Taiwan. That was not something on our agenda.

Q: There was a report in Defense Week this week that national missile defense procurement costs went up about $2 billion recently. A, are you concerned about cost escalation in that program? And B, does the $6.6 billion in the Future Year Defense Plan, does that cover that cost growth?

Secretary Cohen: I'm going to let Gen. Lyles answer the question. I believe that was not an accurate statement, but Gen. Lyles is prepared to point out what the costs are and what the program growth includes.

Press: Thank you.