News Briefing

DoD News Briefing

Secretary of Defense William J. Perry

Thursday, April 11, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.

(Also participating in this new briefing is Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA)

Mr. Bacon: We have three briefers today for the presentation on the new proliferation report which I hope you've had a chance to read. Secretary Perry will start, and then General Hughes, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, followed by Ashton Carter, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy. Secretary Perry will not be able to take any questions, but General Hughes and Secretary Carter will.

Secretary Perry: During the Cold War, the Soviet Union created a massive and a deadly arsenal of nuclear weapons, including what we call the SS-18 and the SS-19 ICBMs. These created a truly dangerous threat to the United States. In the '60s we talked about the missile gap; in the '70s we talked about the window of vulnerability; in the '80s we were talking about a nuclear hair-trigger. I bring this up to remind you of the legacy of nuclear weapons which have concerned us for decades.

This threat was described during the '80s in a publication called Soviet Military Power. I have spent most of my career one way or another trying to deal with these threats. During the '70s when I was the Under Secretary of Defense, I initiated programs to enhance deterrence against this threat. There were programs to be deployed in the United States -- the MX, the ALCM, the B-2. We were deploying programs at sea -- the Trident submarine, the Trident I, the Trident II missile; programs in Europe, weapon systems in Europe -- the GLCM,ground launched cruise missile; the Pershing II with a penetrating nuclear warhead.

Recalling this may make some of you nostalgic, but those are the kind of threats we were facing in those days. Those were the kind of defenses,deterrence threats that we were designing to deal with them.

During the '80s, President Reagan tried to supplement our deterrence programs by initiating a missile defense program called a Strategic Defense Initiative.

All of these together, these deterrence programs, the defense programs, took up a significant amount of the time and resources of this Department and its leadership.

Today, with the Cold War over, the threat of nuclear holocaust is dramatically reduced, and our programs and our investments have been dramatically changed and correspondingly reduced. But another threat, in the mean time, has increased in intensity, and that threat, is the one of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons -- proliferating to countries all over the world.

That threat, and the perception of that threat, has led us to develop a counterproliferation program which we're going to be describing to you today. This is described in a report which could be considered as the counterpart to that red document, the Soviet Military Power document. Let me show you the two reports we're talking about.

For those of you who are nostalgic, this is the 1985 version of Soviet Military Power; and this is the report we've just released called Proliferation-- Threat and Response.

The achievement of this report is to pull together and make available to the public comprehensive information on proliferation threats, just as the old Soviet Military Power did about the old Soviet missile threat, and our responses to those threats.

As the previous document, this is a basic tool for government officials, for journalists, and for the interested public. This report gives clarity and definition to a subject that has defied it in the past and has been very hard for the public to understand.

We break the report into two different sections. The first talking about the threat itself; and the second talking about our response to the threat.

When we describe the threat, we talk about the countries that are acquiring nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and delivery systems; countries that are supplying that technology. We talk about what we call transnational threats such as organized crime. And it provides information about weapons,delivery systems, and what we believe to be the acquisition strategies of the proliferants. All of that is in the first section of this proliferation report.

The second part of it deals with the full range of the Department of Defense's response to those threats. This counterproliferation effort of ours is among our highest priority programs at the Department of Defense.

I want to show you in this first chart why we rate this as our highest priority.

As this chart makes clear, we are trying to preserve our U.S. military superiority. We start off observing that the U.S. conventional forces are the best in the world, and we believe that they are quite capable of deterring and defeating any other armed force with which we might be confronted. But a wildcard in this are the weapons of mass destruction -- the nuclear, chemical, and biological. So we want to make sure that no one believes or tries to demonstrate that weapons of mass destruction can be used as an equalizer against U.S. conventional forces. That is our first reason.

The second is recognizing simply a new geopolitical development -- the disintegration of the former Soviet Union has the potential of creating a buyer's market for weapons of mass destruction. We've gone from, simply with the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, we now have four instead of one nuclear state there; we have chaotic conditions which make it harder to predict weapons and material; and we have economic pressures to sell expertise, material, and technology.

Finally, we have new technological developments. One way of expressing this is that no matter how backward a country economically, today it can still have the capability to build reactors and to generate plutonium, as was demonstrated by North Korea. Also we observe that some technology and some products that were once controlled, are now available, essentially by mail order from Radio Shack. So for both of those reasons, the pace in technological change and growth has made much more difficult our problems in trying to control proliferation.

So what do we do about this problem? Our response to it is first to try to prevent it; secondly, to deter the threat that we cannot prevent; and finally, if necessary, to defend against those threats.

The tools that we have for prevention are the reduction of the weapons of the former Soviet Union through arms control. We'll talk about that today. But I would point out to you that the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program is one of the key tools we have for effecting that.

Secondly, we have ad hoc agreements that we can make, and the North Korea Framework Agreement was a good example of that.

Third, we have sanctions -- sanctions that we have imposed, for example, against Iran and Iraq.

Finally, export controls. But we have to understand that, in this world, we have to find new ways of preventing this technology from reaching the would-be proliferants. We have to focus these export controls in order to get the greatest effectiveness.

In deterring this threat, we depend both on a strong conventional military force and a smaller but still powerful nuclear force. In our nuclear posture review, we reaffirmed the importance of maintaining nuclear weapons as a deterrent. But I would like to point out that both our conventional and nuclear force, as deterrents, not only must be strong, but they must be perceived that the United States has the will power to use that strength.

Finally, defense. Defense can be thought of as both passive defense and active defense. Two years ago we started our counterproliferation initiative,and that put a major emphasis on organizing the efforts for passive defense, to get new defense equipment and training to our troops. Dr. Carter will talk more about that today.

In addition to that, we started an active defense. We refocused our active defense program through the ballistic missile defense effort. The first priority on that effort has been the theater missile defense to deal with the threat which is here and now, which are the tactical ballistic missiles, such as the SCUDs.

The second priority of that was to develop a new generation of systems represented by THAAD and the Navy Wide Area System, which can deal with the longer range tactical missiles when they emerge as threats. Then finally the national missile defense program is laid out to meet the threat to the United States as it emerges. The present program is laid out in what we call the Three Plus Three program -- three years to develop the system, and then at the end of that time if it seems appropriate to deploy it, another three years to produce it and deploy it.

I'm not going to discuss these proliferation challenges in much detail. We have listed numerous challenges here, but I want to point out, those are no tour only challenges. These are simply the ones we expect to make significant progress on this year.

For example, both the Fissile Material Protection and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will be discussed at the Nuclear Summit that's coming up in Moscow, and we expect progress to be made on those. We expect progress to be made on export controls. And we expect a ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty.

Dr. Carter will talk more about these, but these are all challenges in which we expect significant progress this year.

I want to conclude my comments with a statement about the achievements that have been made in the last few years. First on the list here is the denuclearization of Ukraine, Kazakstan and Belarus. We have gone from four nuclear nations down to three because Kazakstan is now non-nuclear. By the end of the year we expect Ukraine and Belarus to be non-nuclear as well. That simply reduces the problem of trying to control proliferation.

Parenthetically, I might say that during the same period of time we have taken 3,400 nuclear warheads out of service.

The second item on this is Project Sapphire which is the purchase of the highly enriched uranium which had been held by Kazakstan. We've talked about that before in this group so I won't repeat it. We think that's a significant development.

The Cooperative Threat Reduction Program has made very significant progress in protecting the warheads -- protecting, controlling, counting the warheads in Russia. We think that is a significant achievement, and we are hoping and expecting to extend that achievement this year to provide that same sort of protection and control to the fissile material which goes into these warheads.

The North Korea Framework Agreement -- that is an example of not only controlling nuclear weapons but rolling them back. This is a program that was well underway, has been rolled back, and for almost two years now, has been stopped dead in its tracks by that framework agreement.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty extension that occurred a few months ago. The Defense Counterproliferation Initiative which Dr. Carter will talk more about today. Also he'll talk about this NATO Defense Group on Proliferation.

Finally, the potential, the achievements in export control and the potential for getting even more achievements this coming year. These have been real successes. No reason to be complacent about these successes, but I've culled them out because these are the successes on which we want to build in this coming year.

I'm going to be followed in my discussion by General Hughes, who will talk about the threat; and then by Dr. Carter who will describe in more detail the programs that we have to deal with these threats.

Q: Dr. Perry....

Q: Dr. Perry, can you tell us more on Libya...

Q: ...American...

Q: ...directly or indirectly through an intermediary, that they face a possible attack if they produce chemical weapons in that underground facility?

A: Hold that for a minute. What was your question? (Laughter)

Q: Given the possibility of U.S. lives in jeopardy in Liberia, if you could just say how you think the operation there is going.

A: On the first question, you know the announcement, the statement that I've made on that. That has described whatever... If you would like to consider that a warning to Libya, you can so consider it. I have not made any other efforts to try to communicate this to them, either directly or indirectly.

In terms of the situation in Liberia, we have provided, I think, a quite adequate lift capability to move out any of the American citizens who want to leave that area. Quite a few have already been brought out. Most of those American citizens have gathered at the embassy and we're lifting them out from within the embassy compound. Quite a few citizens are still at other locations in the city, and those who want to be lifted out are now redeploying to the embassy, and we will be prepared to lift them out from there.

Q: Mr. Secretary, are you concerned about the Americans who are pinned down by the hostile fire from the factions that are fighting in the capital city?

A: The American citizens who do want to move out are being moved at this time to the embassy. I believe the programs for doing that are probably adequate. They've had very careful attention in the planning of them.

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