News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, November 16, 1999 - 2:01 p.m. EST
Presenter: Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, DASD PA


Q: A quick question about the Welch report on the National Missile Defense.

Admiral Quigley: Mm-hmm. (In agreement.)

Q: It's been portrayed in media accounts as a -- sort of a cataloguing of a program in serious disarray; inadequate testing, shortages in hardware and management problems. This is one year after it was accused of being "rushing to failure." Is that an accurate reading of the report, from the Pentagon's standpoint? And what lessons have you taken away from this document?

Admiral Quigley: No, I don't think it's an accurate reading at all. We have said that this has been a very high-risk, technologically challenging program from the very beginning. We say that today. I think the Welch panel's work, we'll say that as well. And by the way, for those of you who have not had a chance to see it, it is on the Ballistic Missile Defense Office's web page, if you wish to take a read. I think it's about 40 pages long.

But this is something that we fully recognize the technological challenges involved here, but we're also very heartened by our recent successes in this regard -- the early October intercept. We believe that we are on track with the next flight test scheduled for January so that our goal is to provide a series of data and definitive test results so that a decision can be made, not earlier than next summer, on a deployment readiness review. We think we'll be ready for that.

We have always said that that is event-driven, not calendar-driven, and I think that there's much in the Welch panel work that verifies and validates a lot of that. But the program is a high-risk one. We've said that from the beginning. But we're pretty happy with where it's going right now.

Q: Were there any management shortfalls laid out in the report that were new to the Pentagon, in terms of things that they discovered, you just hadn't seen for one reason or another?

Admiral Quigley: Not -- not that I recall, but again, keep in mind this was something we asked for, okay? The program manager, due to the extensive expertise in General Welch's panel -- this was asked for specifically, and we welcome their thoughts and comments on the program.

Q: Craig, are you confident that the decision will not have to be made later than next summer because of problems with the program?

Admiral Quigley: I can't guarantee that, Charlie. That's nothing that anybody can stand here and guarantee. It is going to be test results-driven and if the program continues to develop well, then we're confident that that decision can be made not earlier, however, than the summer of 2000. But I -- boy, I just can't predict how the test program's going to go in the months ahead. It really is results-driven, not calendar-driven.

Q: So you can't rule out a delay of weeks, months, years?

Admiral Quigley: I can't rule anything in or out. It's really going to depend on what we learn and see from our testing program in the months ahead. We've got a test program that has a schedule attached to it, that will support that schedule. We'll see -- and we're confident that it's a logical, analytical approach to a very challenging engineering feat. And if that happens on that schedule, everything builds -- that that will work.


Q: Admiral, do you have any formal process for reviewing the report's recommendations and either adopting them, rejecting them, or -- because BMDO is not compelled to accept any of the recommendations, nor is the Pentagon --

Admiral Quigley: Well, I think BMDO put out their reaction to some of the panel's recommendations and findings late last week, Friday, I believe. And so I -- and I don't have a copy of that with me, but I have read it in the last couple of days. And I think that would answer some of your question right there. You would see recommendation and their reaction to that.

Q: But they're not really compelled to adopt of any of those?

Admiral Quigley: No, it's recommendations. The panel is -- expertise -- their expertise is sought, and they make recommendations. And then an independent evaluation and assessment of their recommendations is done, and we move on from there.


Q: Thank you.