DEFENSE DEPARTMENT REGULAR BRIEFING BRIEFER: KENNETH BACON, SPOKESMAN 1:45 P.M. EST TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2000 Q: Ken, I've got an airplane question involving the F-22 Fighter. There's a new cost estimate saying it could cost $9.1 billion over the congressional cap that was set three years ago - by Dan Coats, ironically. The Pentagon on January 3rd -- MR. BACON: Whoa, wait. Let's be clear. Dan Coats set the cost limit; he didn't come up with the new cost estimate. Isn't that correct? Q: I - correct. MR. BACON: Wouldn't he - he's a senator. Senator Coats played a role in setting the cost cap. Q: Very good. MR. BACON: Right. Q: January 3rd the Pentagon is supposed to review whether to start this thing into low-rate production. Here's my question: Given the cost estimate, how concerned is the Pentagon that this program really has not gotten - has - (inaudible) -- costs over the years and that you're giving the next administration, frankly, a tar baby of a problem? MR. BACON: Well, first of all, the F-22, of course, is being built to replace the F-15, which will be - is now about 25 years old, I think. And the F-15 has performed admirably and continues to perform admirably, but it's a fighter that really represents 1960s/1970s technology, whereas the F-22 was supposed to represent 21st century technology. And its primary difference between - the primary difference between the F-22 and the F-15 is that the F-22 will be stealthy and therefore uses a whole new technology that wasn't even available when the F-15 was built. There are debates over what the program will cost. There have been debates for some time. As you correctly point out, their cost analysis improvement group has floated this figure that it could cost $9 billion more. The Air Force disagrees with that. So one of the things that the Defense Acquisition Board will have to sort out is which figure is correct, and has? the program reached a level of maturity and certainty that makes it possible to begin the low-rate initial production. That's the issue they're faced - that they'll be facing in January. They're clearly not prepared to answer that question now, because they haven't gone through the analysis and the review that they will on January 3rd. Q: It's fair to say at this point that Secretary Cohen cannot certify to Congress that the airplane program is going to meet the congressional caps. MR. BACON: He has to wait for this review to take place. And as you pointed out in your story today, one of the issues is whether to - is whether to change the production schedule in a way that will channel some money into a cost-lowering program, a productivity- enhancement program. If certain changes can be made now to make the production line more efficient, particularly over time, then it may pay to do that in the hopes of buying future cost reductions with investments today. Q: Is that date firm that you mentioned, January 3rd? MR. BACON: It was initially supposed to be this week, and it was delayed. I think it's pretty firm right now, but dates can always change. But, I mean, January 20th is - the date of the inauguration can't change. That's enshrined in the Constitution, or in law, certainly. But I think this date is pretty firm right now. Q: Why can't the production decision be pushed to the next administration and let them review the program? Why does the Pentagon have to sign the - possibly sign the dotted line on it? Why can't you just leave it for -- MR. BACON: Well, first of all, our entire government is based on continuity. And if you delayed every decision for a new administration to take office, nothing would get done for the last year of any administration; in fact, maybe the last two years, since campaigns now go on for at least two years. So I just think that part of being in government is making decisions. And we have an obligation to the Air Force, to future military readiness, to make sure that programs move forward in a timely way. If the new administration wants to review this program, either individually or as part of a broader study of tactical aviation costs and tactical aviation capability, they have the right to do that. In fact, they'll have the vehicle for doing it because one of the first things a new administration will deal with is the Quadrennial Defense Review. But I think one of the responsibilities that any administration faces is to make sure that programs move forward smoothly, and that involves making decisions when they should be made and when we have the best available information.