News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Thursday, August 03, 2000 - 2:08 EDT
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon

Q: During Secretary Cohen's briefing to the Senate Armed Service Committee, the hearing, he said that there was a necessity to have allied support. And recently the British have hinted a little opposition to that. Does that have any effect on his recommendation at all? Has he said anything about that?

Bacon: Well, I've read the same stories you've read in the paper. I don't think the British government has taken a view on support for NMD at this stage. Remember, the president has not made a decision on NMD, so there's really nothing for them to take a view on at this stage.

At some point, if President Clinton decides to go ahead with deployment of an NMD system, we would have to make upgrades to radar we have in England, and we would also have to make upgrades to a radar -- an early-warning radar we have in Greenland. So we would be consulting with our allies at that time. We've talked to them in general terms about the threat and about the architecture of the system we're thinking of. We've talked to them about our dealings with Russia and our efforts to amend the ABM Treaty, and those efforts continue. So we'll continue to be in close contact with our allies.

Q: I think we're tied up in semantics here again. The secretary's repeatedly said recently that the president is NOT going to make a decision on deployment but simply make a decision on whether or not to go ahead with contracts. And you've just said "if Clinton decides to go ahead and make a decision on deployment."

Bacon: Well, the president has -- he could decide, if he wanted to, I suppose, to stop the program, in which case we wouldn't have to talk with our allies. I'm not trying to suggest what the president's going to do or not going to do. But he has a range of options available to him.

And you're right -- what Secretary Cohen has talked about is a decision that would deal immediately -- most immediately with the Shemya radar in Alaska. But theoretically, the president has -- he can decide in the simplest terms to go ahead or not to go ahead. That's the simplest way to describe the decision he has to make. The technicality is that he -- a decision to go ahead would involve a decision to go ahead with the Shemya radar. He could decide to go ahead, to not go ahead, to go ahead but delay certain steps. I mean, those are among the options he'll be considering. And I don't mean to suggest in any way what decision he'll make.


Q: On the Patriot radar tests in Ocean City and Wallops Island, you're ready to go ahead with that tomorrow, and feel that you have satisfied the few residents' concerns about the environmental impact?

Bacon: Well, this is a radar test. It's designed -- this -- what we're talking about here is a test of radars that would be possibly deployed in connection with the Patriot 3 missile. And it's part of a program designed to expand the radar capability and range -- primarily range, I believe -- of the PAC-3 radar. And as far as I know, we still plan to go ahead with that test.

Q: And again, of course, you're saying that your environmental studies show that it is not harmful to the people or animals in the area?

Bacon: Well, I believe that's to be the case. I mean, there's a lot of radar around, and this is just a -- to the best of my knowledge, there should be no impact available on the public. There have been -- there was a finding of no significant impact. And they're available -- you can get a copy [.pdf, 3 MB] right here of that finding, if you'd like to read through it. They're also available at the Ocean City Public Library, so anybody who wants to go in and read the basis on which we decided that there's no significant impact caused by the test is free to do that. We encourage people to do it.

Q: Just to be clear, this is a test of just the radar; there won't be a missile test involved?

Bacon: No, no, it's not a missile test. It's a test of radar capabilities. And it's using radars at Wallops Island, Virginia, and Ocean City, Maryland, airport, and on board an Aegis cruiser at sea. And as I said, it's designed to help us come up with radars that are better able to detect and track threatening aircraft or missiles at longer ranges than we currently acquire them. So the PAC-3 missile can be vectored toward those enemy attackers.

Q: Is there a simple way to describe how the test takes -- what's involved in the test, or is it something that -- I mean, how do you test the radar to see -- I mean, is there --

Q: Is the -- (inaudible) --

Bacon: Yeah, there would be -- I believe that there will be objects that they will attempt to track. I don't know whether they're -- they --

Staff: Lear jets.

Bacon: Lear jets. They're going to see if they can track down Lear jets from, I think, progressively farther away is how I understand it --

Q: (Off mike.)

Bacon: -- looking for ways to increase the range of the radar.

Q: It's a cooperative engagement capability test, right? One of their CEC tests, the network radars?

Bacon: Well, it's certainly an engagement capability test.

Q: And how do these radars differ from civilian radars that you might find at the airport -- (inaudible)? They're more powerful? They --

Bacon: Well, the Aegis radar is a phased array radar, as you know. And one of them is an airport radar. The one at the Ocean City airport is a standard radar (sic) [An Army Patriot radar will be temporarily set up at the Ocean City airport.] And I don't know what type of radar is at Wallops Island. [The radar to be used at Wallops Island is a permanent, shore-based Navy radar.]

Q: Okay.

Bacon: Two Lear jets flown by the Navy will fly in military range area over the Atlantic and will act as target objects for the radar network to detect and track. And there will also be a Navy P-3 Orion flying in the area to relay information back.


Q: I just want to go back to the Patriot for one second.

Bacon: Sure.

Q: Apparently there have been one or maybe two interceptor tests at White Sands without prior notification to the press, as is normal. And I was wondering if that's a new policy or what other reason there might be that people weren't told ahead of time it was taking place?

Bacon: Well, I don't know whether they were announced ahead of time or not. That's, I think, an Army or a BMDO [Ballistic Missile Defense Organization] issue. But there have been two successful interceptor tests. They both involved cruise missile surrogates -- in other words, drones -- that were simulating cruise missiles. They were designed basically to test the Patriot's ability to hit low --

Q: Air-breathing --

Bacon: No, low -- small-profile targets flying at high subsonic speeds, as cruise missiles do.

Q: Well, our people in New Mexico who normally cover them were surprised to hear of the recent success, because they didn't know if it was just planned.

Q: Yeah. There was one on the 23rd that was ballyhooed ahead of time. We covered it. But there was an unsuccessful one on the 28th, and there was no advance notice given of that.

Bacon: But we did -- the Army did put out a notice afterwards that it had happened.

Q: (Off mike.)

Bacon: That's right.

Q: But the problem here is that one suspects that if these tests are not announced in advance and then there's a test failure, there could be a "delay," quote, unquote, in an announcement of a failure. We'd like to know about these ahead of time.

Bacon: I understand this. This is an Army-BMDO issue. I have not looked into it. There may have been circumstances in this test that prevented an early announcement, and I will look into it.