News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Thursday, June 1, 2000 - 2:45 p.m. EDT
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon

Mr. Bacon: Let me roll right into the briefing.

Secretary Cohen is going to New Orleans on Monday for the opening of the National D-Day Museum. He'll be there Monday and Tuesday participating in a variety of events. And he'll leave from New Orleans to Brussels, and you've just been briefed on the rest of the trip.

We have here a group of Brazilian military officers who just entered. Welcome. Glad to have you here. They are here to look at how we operate our public affairs setup.

And finally, Tammy, after 8-1/2 years in the building, longer than most people spend here, we're bidding you adieu. Tammy, as you know, is moving to London to be a field producer for NBC. We'll miss you, and wish you very good luck over there.

And with that, I'll take your questions on anything but Tammy's future. (Laughter.)

Yes, Charlie?

Q: Ken, senior officials number one and two certainly didn't make it very clear on whether or not the United States might be willing, regarding the president's statements yesterday on protecting other countries, whether it's NMD or perhaps sharing technology.

Mr. Bacon: Well, the president talked --

Q: I mean, they talked about tactical missile defenses, but not NMD.

Mr. Bacon: Well, the reason to mention tactical missile defenses or theater missile defenses is because it shows, one, we are in a security dialogue with our allies; that security dialogue involves missile defense. What we have discussed with them in very specific terms is theater missile defense. We have a working arrangement with the Germans and the Dutch on the Patriot, and we are pursuing some other theater missile defense R&D projects with our allies, including with Japan.

Now, the question of national missile defense is the next step, and what the president said yesterday was that he would be prepared to share technology. We have begun extensive discussions with our European allies on national missile defense. Those of you who traveled to Munich with Secretary Cohen for the Wehrkunde Conference in February will recall that this was one of the issues. He spoke at great length about national missile defense at the Wehrkunde Conference in Europe. He also published an op ed piece in the Munich-based newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, on national missile defense. It was paired with a piece by Minister Sergeyev.

We have had an intensive dialogue with our European allies; we will continue that dialogue. What the president said was that we are prepared to help our allies meet their defensive needs, and we are open to discussion with them on how best to do that.

Remember, no decision has been made yet by the United States to deploy a national missile defense system. That's something that the president will do sometime this summer, or later. But we have had intensive discussions with our allies, and those will continue.

Q: Ken, we're talking about something a little bit different, I think, if I understand it correctly. We're talking about is the United States willing to share, for example, interceptor technology with Russia. Forget about the European allies for a moment. This is a question that's been pending for a long time, and I think Secretary Cohen himself has said that it's a matter under consideration but it hadn't been decided. Now it seems as if President Clinton has said yes, indeed, we are willing to do that. So are you saying that that's not the case?

Mr. Bacon: Bob, I'm not saying that at all, and I think it's very clear I'm not saying that.

The president is about to go into a summit with President Putin. The president has spoken about efforts that we are willing to take to protect countries that subscribe to arms control regimes and nonproliferation regimes. Those were the -- he used the term "responsible." He also used the term "civilized."

I have nothing to add to what the president said. The president, obviously, will have more to say about that prior to the summit, presumably during the summit, and after the summit, and I think we'll just let the president talk about that in due course, after he's had his discussions with the Russians.

I just want to make clear that we have had continuing discussions with our allies. They have been going on for some time. They're not something that started last week. We will continue those discussions. We have also had a series of discussions with the Russians. We have made various offers to the Russians over time. One is to perhaps pay for the development -- the building of the phased array radar. We've talked to them about the RAMOS satellite system, which stands for Russian-American [Observation] Satellite system, which is an experimental warning system that we would do jointly with the Russians. We are in the process of reaching closure on setting up a shared early warning center in Moscow. These were some of the issues that the senior defense official talked about.

So we have had a dialogue with the Russians, and that dialogue will continue. I think you want to freeze the program right here and to have people make definitive announcements on what we're going to do. It's premature to say that. We have not agreed to have a program yet. The president has not made that decision. These are all decisions that will come after the president decides whether or not to go ahead with the deployment of a national missile defense system.

If he were to make that decision, obviously we would continue and probably intensify a range of discussions with our allies and -- with the Russians, and with other countries. But that decision hasn't been made. So I think you should appreciate that there is going to be some questions that can't be answered until we get further along in this process.

Q: Ken, we're not trying to freeze anything. All we're trying to find is what the president meant. He seemed to raise expectations about what the United States might be willing to share, and we're just trying to clear that up, and I don't think you all have cleared it up. You've said --

Mr. Bacon: That's right, which is time to move on to another topic, because we're not going to go further.


Q: Another topic?

Mr. Bacon: Sure.

Q: No, well -- I was wondering if I could just ask another question about national ballistic missile defense?

Mr. Bacon: Uh-huh. (Assenting.)

Q: It would basically be this, and I asked this to one of the gentlemen that was just here: Ken, do you think that the ruckus that the Chinese is kicking up and that the Russians are kicking up, do you think that says they believe that the system's good, is viable, it could be deployed? Do you think they are ratifying our system?

Mr. Bacon: Bill, you went through this issue just several minutes ago. I have got nothing to add to what was said earlier. I think you got a fine explanation, and I have got nothing to add to it.


Mr. Bacon: Okay. Thank you.