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News Briefings

DoD News Briefing


Monday, April 24, 2000
Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy de Leon

(Media Availability with Pentagon correspondents from major newspapers and wire services)

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Q: I'd like to ask you to bring up the national missile defense issue. I'm curious as to whether there have been any developments recently in rethinking the timetable. Where does that stand?

Deputy Secretary de Leon: General Kadish has announced June 24th, the issue there in terms of the delays and the tests have been to incorporate the lessons learned from the previous test shot and to make sure that the little pipes that cool the sensors are functioning properly before the test. He'll probably be coming in shortly with his final evaluations with respect to this test. But I think the diplomatic schedule right now also parallels the hardware schedule which I think Deputy Secretary Talbott meeting with the Russians in May and then I think there's a June summit that is scheduled between the President and President Putin.

So I think there is time to do the DRR as envisioned. At the same time work is continuing on the MilCon side which is request for proposals in terms of Shemya, and then an interior Alaska site, the late June time period in terms of requests for proposals from contractors.

So I think right now the schedules for the diplomacy and for the hardware and for the military construction are pretty straightforward and we're just executing against the calendar. Obviously it's going to be a very busy time, but I think people are working very hard on this right now.

Q: July is the review period, and then the recommendation of the President?

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I think the general view is in fact it will take a little bit more than 30 days after the next shot to evaluate all of the data that comes in from the tests, so once that analysis is completed then you could go and do your critical review. So just working against the calendar, if the test is late June, then you're going to need a month to absorb all the data.

Q: Secretary Cohen, his recommendation then, what timeframe would it be? August or September?

Deputy Secretary de Leon: Obviously we want to get the test behind us and then incorporate the lessons, and depending upon what the lessons are, then go from there. So I think the schedule's pretty straightforward and the variable is how long it will take to analyze the information that comes in.

Q: Given the election in November, when does Secretary Cohen have to give the recommendation if this President is going to make that determination?

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I think the summer time, obviously, as I just said, it's going to take 30 days to analyze the test data that comes in, so that's a critical piece. At the same time the diplomatic and the military construction aspects are on their own track. So all of these pieces are in sync with each other and being executed.

Q: Would it be possible that Secretary Cohen would go ahead and recommend deployment if the next step fails?

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I don't want to try to read his mind or speculate on that. We're working hard to get the test done against the calendar.

Q: But this requirement for the number of tests...

Deputy Secretary de Leon: Uh huh.

Q: Does that still hold?

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I think that's our plan, yes.

Q: Has [Senate] approval of the START II and the Russians' approval of the START II made the diplomatic track now much more difficult? Especially if the Kremlin continues to (inaudible) on this? I mean what they've said is all right, we agree to go ahead with START II. They've agreed to do that. Now they say, we don't want to (inaudible). Has this made it more difficult?

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I just sort of viewed the ratification of START II as really the beginning of the diplomatic piece in earnest.

Q: (Inaudible)

Deputy Secretary de Leon: Right, in terms of the engagement. I mean the Russian elections were completed. Their president had pledged that he would move START II very quickly. He did. Secretary Talbott is very much engaged with the Russians. So I just view this as part of a process and we're going to see the process unfold really throughout the next three and four months.

Q: Can't we now say that look, I've been cooperative, you aren't being very cooperative going ahead with this thing?

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I think we ought to let everybody do their work and let the two countries as well as the Europeans have a good discussion, or the good discussion has already started, to just let it continue.

Q: Mr. Secretary, has the Administration made (inaudible) what threshold of agreement that they'll look for in the diplomatic process prior to making the deployment decision? I mean, are you going to look for an agreement that's been initialed, ratified, signed, something short of that?

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I guess that's one where I would say I really don't want to get into speculation on that. Again, we're really working, from my perspective, three tracks. The diplomatic piece of which Secretary Talbott is very much engaged; the test piece for which General Kadish and his team is very much engaged, consistent with the schedule I outlined just a few seconds ago. Then obviously the Alaskan piece. And that schedule being driven in part by the unique aspects of how you move construction supplies to Shemya, things like that. But there are schedules for all three of those pieces.

As I say, the next three to four months will be very challenging times, and I really don't want to start speculating because I think there's still a lot of work to be done before we can even give you an informed opinion on that.

Q: I guess the question was whether the administration has made a decision yet as to what the threshold will be on a diplomatic track before a deployment decision can be made?

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I don't know.

Q: ...seen a little bit of growing (inaudible) that we all couldn't come up with a (inaudible). And there's (inaudible). The system that's being envisioned now is not robust enough, is not (inaudible). Is that being thought of in the equation, and (inaudible) about that?

Deputy Secretary de Leon: There is a discussion of the sea component. That may be an issue for a later period, depending upon how robust you'd want to make a statement. But I think that the field of 100 interceptors deployed in Alaska is one that is really focused on protecting all 50 states; giving us a capability against the proliferation of ballistic missile technology. It's not designed to be a substitute for deterrence. So I think that in terms of the configuration that is being tested right now, it's really a land-based system. I think the sea-based system is something for discussion in the future.

Q: On the DRR schedule, there was a July test also. Won't that be factored into the whole decision chain? So it's not just the June 24th test.

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I think that the June 24th test is the next significant test. There's going to be work on the technology that is required for a great time period to come. I've met with Phil Coyle who is the director of Operational Tests and Evaluation in terms of looking at it comprehensively.

So here we are, we've got this great focus on June 24th. That's a very important test. It's also simply a piece in the test program.

If I could just take you back from my perspective, trying to support the secretary and then track the pieces, Tony, I look at this as there's a diplomacy track, there is a hardware track of which the hardware track is going to continue for a substantial period. Then there's obviously the more limited track of military construction and the unique aspects of Shemya and the aspects that go with that.

So the test program itself is going to go on for a lengthy period of time. The short term decisions focus around site preparation, things like that in Alaska to meet the '05 date.

Q: (Inaudible)

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I think that's also General Kadish and his shop.

Q: To those of us watching, it seems like it's a foregone conclusion that there will be a deployment decision, and not because of the politics surrounding it or not particularly with anything, but simply the only thing that begins as a result of that is construction and if you don't begin the construction then you obviate the possibility of doing a deployment. So even if now the technology doesn't seem ready it, makes a great deal of sense if you're committed to this idea, hedge your bets with starting construction.

So given that logic, or do you agree with that logic that this is a small decision to make, really, and all it does is open up your alternatives rather than cutting them off five years before you even know if this is really going to work?

Deputy Secretary de Leon: There are some unique windows that open up because of the weather, getting out to Shemya, that are in the short term issues. The longer term issues are the diplomacy and the hardware. But in the short term if you work against a schedule, and you just have to factor in when can you move construction barges out to Shemya, so from that perspective that's just working against the calendar.

Q: But if you don't make that decision then you're tying your hands for a long time.

Deputy Secretary de Leon: If you don't, then you potentially lose a year, right.

Q: Can you give us the latest estimate on (inaudible)

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I don't think the number has deviated from what we've discussed in the past. Let me take another run at it. If there's a change, I'll get it quickly, but I don't think the number itself has changed.

Q: The report says (inaudible).

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I think isn't that the federation's cost estimate?

Q: I don't know. Where do they get their numbers then?

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I don't know.

Q: (Inaudible)

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I think that's our number. I think that's what I think is on the books right now.

Q: During the most recent (inaudible) for acquisition and base closing it was $20.2 billion for acquisition and $30 billion for life cycle.

Deputy Secretary de Leon: If you're asking how much something costs, you need to be more specific in your question. I know that's a cop-out, but you can slice this six ways from Sunday.

Q: Tell me where the (inaudible).

Deputy Secretary de Leon: I can get exact figures. We'll try again.

Q: Okay.

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Thank you very much.