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14 July 1998

DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, July 14, 1998 - 2:10 p.m.
Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA


Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

I want to announce that a new advisory committee will hold its first meeting tomorrow. This committee has been set up by Secretary Cohen to look at the plans that have been announced under the Defense Reform Initiative to create a Defense Threat Reduction Agency. This is to combine four existing agencies in the building -- the On-Site Inspection Agency, the Defense Special Weapons Agency, the Defense Technology Security Agency, and the activities that Dr. Harold Smith ran in the nuclear, biological and chemical area -- into one new agency that focuses on ways to address the threats of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

This has received some comment recently on the Hill, and Secretary Cohen wanted to make sure this was being done in the most efficient way that led to a synergistic change, that produced a much stronger threat reduction capacity than we currently have. So he set up something called the Threat Reduction Advisory Committee which will hold its first meeting tomorrow. This is headed by Larry Welch and it includes people like William Perry, the former secretary of defense; Norm Augustine, the former chairman of Lockheed Martin; Ashton Carter who used to be here as the assistant secretary of defense handling proliferation issues. Jim Clapper is on there, whom many of you know from his days at NSA; John Deutch; Ted Gold; Jamie Gorelick; Josh Lederberg, the Nobel Laureate; Ron Lehman; Larry Lynn; Paul Robinson; Jim Schlesinger; Harold Smith; Rich Wagner; George Whitesides of Harvard; Frank Young; and Paul Wolfowitz. They'll hold their first meeting tomorrow to start looking at these plans.

With that I'll take your questions on this or anything else.

Q: Could you respond to Senator Lott's accusation that the administration hasn't been forthcoming in releasing documents and information on the China missile issue?

A: From my personal perspective, I don't believe that's the case. We, I think, have made available everything we could without getting ourselves into a position of compromising the Justice Department's current criminal investigation. I believe we've even released at least one analysis from this building that the Justice Department wanted to be kept private but that has been sent to the Hill. I've read some newspaper reports about it. So I think we've been very forthcoming both in presenting documents -- trunks and trunks of documents -- and also in sending people up to Capitol Hill to testify at hearings.

There have been a number of hearings. You've probably covered some of them. There seems to be a hearing or two a week on this, and we have tried to be extremely forthcoming in explaining what our policy is, explaining the decisions that we've made, and trying to get the Congress to understand the policy of technology transfer and also to understand the safeguards that this Administration inherited from previous Administrations to prevent the inappropriate transfer of technology to China or elsewhere.

Q: Can you respond to the more general charge that he made that in fact contrary to that policy that sensitive technology relating to satellites was in fact transferred to China, and the Senate report's conclusion that there was a significant military benefit to China from that transfer?

A: I think I'd like to go back to some of the comments that have been made by John Hollum of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and others. He does not believe that there has been a significant transfer of military technology because of the commercial satellite program. This is something our intelligence agencies have looked at very closely and are continuing to look at.

Q: A comment on the Air Intelligence Center report that the Chinese may be in a better position to develop MIRV technology based upon their commercial satellite delivery system?

A: I can't comment on a specific leaked secret document. We don't comment on intelligence documents. But I can tell you a little bit about the history of the Chinese satellite program as it relates to the ability to release or launch more than one satellite at a time.

The Chinese have developed a satellite dispenser system as the article pointed out. Motorola used that satellite dispenser system to launch more than one satellite simultaneously.

What Motorola did was simply provide information that was necessary to attach its satellites to the dispenser system that the Chinese already had developed. Launching more than one satellite at a time is not particularly complex technology. It does not require the same degree of accuracy to launch satellites into an orbit as it does to launch multiple warheads into orbits. Whether they are MIRVs which are independently targetable warheads, or whether they're multiple reentry vehicles. The recent talk has been about MIRVs which require a much greater degree of accuracy in terms of being placed precisely into an orbit, than it would require to put a satellite into an orbit.

So what Motorola did was provide, after government review, technology that allowed -- it didn't provide technology, it provided information that allowed them to attach satellites to a dispenser they'd already designed. They didn't design this with Motorola's help.

Q: So the dispenser was, as far as you know, was indigenous Chinese technology...

A: That is my understanding, that they already had the dispenser.

Q: The Washington Times article quotes a former Pentagon weapons proliferation official as saying that in fact the satellite dispensing technology is interchangeable with MIRV technology.

A: I just told you that releasing, or parking a satellite in orbit does not require nearly as much precision as releasing multiple warheads does. I think it's not the same technology.

Q: Your understanding of the dispensing system that is only accurate enough to deal with a satellite?

A: It does not have the extreme accuracy that's required for independent targeted warheads to be released as a group, yes.

Q: Last week at one of these hearings you were just referring to, a Defense Department official received for the first time a report from the Commerce Department on, I think it was a '95 satellite launch failure which the Defense Department has never seen. Have you now had a chance to take a look at that and give an assessment of...

A: I personally have not looked at it, and I cannot comment on that. We're having another hearing tomorrow and I assume that issue will come up but I can't go beyond what was said last week.

Q: Given that you seem to have a completely different interpretation of the facts in this issue of satellite technology transfer, would you say that the charges from the Republicans here are politically motivated?

A: We've tried to be as forthcoming as possible in providing information about this. I think that's a decision you'll have to make. We've tried to explain that we have in place a series of safeguards designed to prevent the inappropriate transfer of technology. It has long been the policy of this government over several administrations -- Republican and Democrat -- to make commercial sales to foreign countries. We have tried to do that. We -- meaning the United States in both Republican and Democratic administrations -- in a way that does not give away our technological seed corn.

I think that what David Tarbell, the head of the Defense Technology Security Agency, and others from the State Department and the NSC have testified to is the type of safeguards we have designed to prevent that.

Much of the question has been whether these safeguards have been adequately enforced. We believe that in the main these safeguards have worked. The most publicized case involves allegations made by this administration that two companies may not have properly followed the rules, and therefore might have transferred some technological know-how to the Chinese. That's the issue that's under investigation now by the Justice Department. That was a case that was brought, that was initiated by this administration.

We've tried to work very hard in addressing the concerns that Congress has raised and explaining what our safeguard system is, the evolution of it under several administrations, and what the purpose is of making commercial sales to foreign countries. We're not the only country in the world that has commercial communication satellite technology. A lot of the issue here is whether or not we can prevent the sale of communications technology that allows a greater increase in phone calls, that allows cell phone networks to be established around the world, and carries television and other signals around the world, whether we unilaterally can prevent that. I think it's pretty clear that we cannot.

So the question is how do we engage in commercial opportunities in a way that continues to safeguard our most important technology. That's what we've been talking to Congress about in the hearings.


Q: My understanding is that NTSB has asked DOD for some help in investigating the possibility that there might have been some electromagnetic involvement in the TWA 800 crash. Is that true? If so, how in the world would you go about that?

A: I'm not aware that it's true. I hadn't heard that before. We'll check and get back to you on that. But it seems to me that the best source might be the National Transportation Safety Board if they're the ones that made the request.

Q: The Defense (inaudible) is supposed to be the Joint Spectrum Center in Annapolis that NTSB has contracted with to do the work...

A: I just heard about this, and I can't answer any questions. We'll try to get the answers to you.