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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


[EXCERPTS] DoD News Briefing

Thursday, May 21, 1998 - 1:30 p.m. (EDT)
Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA) 


Q: Different subject -- on missile and satellite exports. You know, now that this whole issue has come up about the role of various government agencies in approving the exports of commercial satellite equipment and missile technology, I was just wondering if Secretary Cohen had expressed to his policymakers in the building any wanting to have a review of DoD's role in the approval process, whether he wanted to have -- whether he was satisfied on the level of participation by DoD? Does he want to review it and have their role expanded, have them a greater voice in it? Has he said anything about wanting to improve DoD's role in the export control process?

A: I'm not aware that he has expressed concerns about that. The fact of the matter is that we do have an opportunity to comment on license applications, and we have in the past insisted successfully on changes or conditions to licenses that we believe protect our interests.

Q: It seems in this case, the national security apparatus, in this building at least, was overruled. So does that maybe lend itself to some review of the process here?

A: Well, I think that this is a very complex issue and I think you've conglomerated a number of parts of it into one question. The current issue before Congress and before the public begins in 1996 with a failed launch and comes up to the present day. We have been -- this government -- the United States government has been approving satellite launches by China since at least the Bush Administration. This isn't something new to the Clinton Administration. There is an excess of demand to launch satellites. There are more satellites to be launched than can be launched from this country, and therefore they are launched in other countries, China being among them.

I think that, though, if you go back to starting in 1996, there are a series of very separate issues. Some of those issues are now under review by the Justice Department. I don't think it's fair to say that we were overruled in all respects. I just listed one license application in which we achieved the conditions that we thought were necessary to protect the national defense interests. The question of what happened in 1996 is what's under review by the Justice Department now.

Q: Can you say what technology the Pentagon did not want to see go to China?

A: No, of course not. That's exactly the type of thing the Justice Department is looking into.

Q: When a U.S. company is allowed to send one of its satellites to China for launch, does the Pentagon play a role in, I don't know, escorting that satellite or providing any sort of security to make sure that...

A: We have observers at the launch site who watch the entire process. Exactly what sort of surveillance or monitoring they do, I'm not prepared to say, but we do have monitors on the site.

Q: Do they prevent, for instance, any sort of dismantling of the satellite or reverse engineering? Are there safeguards to prevent that...

A: My assumption is yes, but I don't know that for a fact. I don't know exactly the chain of custody of the satellite, but I assume that there is a chain of custody.

Q: When there is a failed launch, as there was in '96, what role does the Department play in recovering the components that may have survived the...

A: I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that question.

Q: Is it possible that some of those components might be in Chinese hands now?

A: My sense is that that's not the issue. The issue is what happened during a post failure review. But as I say, this is exactly the set of facts that the Justice Department is looking into and it's really up to them to comment.

Q: Do you have observers during all of the contacts between these contractors and the Chinese military?

A: That again is one of the issues the Justice Department is looking at but yes, I believe there are supposed to be observers in certain cases. Now whether it's all the cases, I don't know. But certainly in some enumerated cases there are supposed to be observers.

Q: Can you clarify the legal implications of this a little bit for me? If a contractor were found to have given China information it was not supposed to have, are there penalties for that contractor in terms of winning future contracts possible, or is it considered an individual kind of issue and individuals would be prosecuted?

A: I can't answer that question. That's more a question for the Justice Department.

Q: In a more broad sense, does the Pentagon ever try to hold contractors accountable if they hand technology over to our possibly hostile...

A: I think that's the issue before the Justice Department right now. That's what the legal process does, decide if people should be held accountable. If so, for what? And how?

Q: But there are mechanisms for doing that, if necessary.

A: Yes. But you asked me a specific question about corporate liability versus personal liability, and I can't answer that question.


Q: Could I ask about the House votes banning technology exports? Any Department reaction to that -- just the House yesterday -- overwhelming votes banning technology exports?

A: You're talking about China?

Q: Right.

A: Well, I think, this would be a setback to our worldwide dominance in communications. As I pointed out, there's a greater demand to launch commercial satellites than there is a supply of rockets in the United States to launch them. And we do -- we have had a program dating back to the early '90s at least, maybe before that, to launch satellites in China and elsewhere. We think there are ways to secure the technology if proper procedures are followed.

Press: Thank you.

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