Adm. Winnefeld's remarks at Atlantic Council's U.S. Missile Defense Plans and Priorities Conference
May 28, 2014 —
ADMIRAL JAMES WINNEFELD: All right. Good morning everyone. And thank you, Ellen, for that very kind introduction. As Ellen mentioned, we have done time together. I had the privilege of testifying in front of her when she was in Congress and then I got to work very closely with Ellen on the START negotiations and have developed a very high esteem for your work and your passion for your work. And it’s a pleasure to see you here today and to be with you again, so thanks for that kind introduction.
And it’s a real privilege for me to be able to kick off the Annual Global Missile Defense Conference. It looks like you have a terrific – present company excluded – a terrific range of speakers and topics and a wonderfully diverse audience, partners from academia and industry as well as experts from think tanks, some congressional staffers and a few friends in the diplomatic corps. And I know, looking at the list, that there are a few old friends of mine, very knowledgeable friends mixed in among the crowd to boot.
I appreciate the opportunity to talk a little bit today about how I think about missile defense, and where I think we’re headed and what we’re up to. But before talking or actually launching – if you’ll pardon the pun – specifically into missile defense, I’d like to begin by setting a little bit of a strategic baseline. As you’ll see, it will impact what I say about missile defense.
Since everything that we do should be in one way or another derived strategically, Chairman Dempsey and I tend to look at strategy as linking and balancing ends, ways, and means and then taking a look at the resultant risk. Ultimately, we believe that at the end of the day, the ends of our strategy – and this is reflected in the QDR – are fundamentally about protecting our national security interests and that we ought to clearly understand what those interests are and that some are more important than others.
Not only does this enable us to offer advice on when and how to use force; it means we can link those interests to our advice on how to allocate the ever-decreasing means that we’re being provided by Congress. And in between the ends and the means lies the fertile ground of ways and how we go about getting it all done. The more creative and resourceful we can be in crafting those ways and the tougher we are on ourselves and how we manage our own resources, the better we can preserve our ends with fewer means.
One of our most important ways is deterrence, which really comes in two forms. One is showing an adversary we can deny his objectives -- in other words, his attack will fail. And, alternatively, that we can and will impose unacceptable costs on that adversary if he’s foolish enough to actually attack.
Every bit of what I just said applies to missile defense. If we consider that at the top of our list of national security interests is probably the survival of our nation, then at the top of the list of threats to that interest is obviously a massive nuclear attack from Russia.
Because we prefer to use the deny objectives tool of missile defense in situations where it has the highest probability of being successful and being most productive, as you know, we’ve told Russia and the world that we will not rely on missile defense for strategic deterrence of Russia because it would simply be too hard and too expensive and too strategically destabilizing to even try. Even though Russians have a hard time believing us on this, it has the very great virtue of actually being true. Rather we rely for deterrence of Russia on our ability to respond massively to an attack. And that, as we know, has worked for a very long time.
But we do have other interests around the globe where what we call limited missile defense quickly comes sharply into focus as being very relevant, beginning with our determination to prevent catastrophic attacks on our nation. This is about ensuring we can deny the objectives of any insecure, authoritarian state that believes acquisition of deliverable weapons of mass destruction is key to the preservation of its regime. The number of states trying to achieve that capability is growing, not shrinking, with our principal current concern, of course, being North Korea because they’re closest in terms of capability, followed by Iran.
Because we’re not betting on Dennis Rodman as our current deterrent against future North Korean ICBM threat, we believe a robust and capable missile defense is our best bet to defend the United States from such an attack. And it is in my view our number one missile defense priority, which is why the systems that provide this defense, such as our Ground-Based Interceptor program, or GBI, are accorded much higher priority than other items in our shrinking missile defense budget.
But we do have other global national security interests, including strong support for our allies and partners around the world, as well as protecting American citizens around the world, including our own troops, wherever they may be present out there in the world. Thus, we also place a good bit of emphasis on regional missile defense, closely cooperating with a number of key partners in this area. But in a world of declining budgets, it’s likely we’ll come to rely more on those partners to resource the means for their defense as we work more closely together on the ways. And we’re doing just that.
So let me spend a little bit more time talking a bit about each of these two interest-based missile defense priorities, defense of the homeland and regional ballistic missile defense.
Regarding the homeland, the fact of the matter is that Iranian and North Korean space launch and other activities include multi-stage systems that can feed development of ballistic missile technology for longer-range systems including ICBMs. We have to take that threat seriously even though neither nation yet has a mature capability and both nations know they would face an overwhelming U.S. response to any attack. While we would still obviously prefer to take a threat missile out while it’s still on the ground left of launch, we won’t always have the luxury of doing so. And because it’s our policy to stay ahead of the threat, we don’t want there to be any doubt about our commitment to having a solid right-of-launch capability.
So the latter, right-of-launch capability piece, boils down to how many missiles we can knock down versus how many the threat can launch. It’s that simple. And that is much more than just a function of how many interceptors we have in silos in the ground. It’s also a function of how good those interceptors are in terms of capability and reliability.
Now, we in the military often say quantity has a quality all its own. Well, in the missile defense world, quality has a quantity all its own. If, for example, because of system improvements, we only have to shoot half the number of interceptors per incoming warhead than we used to, then we can handle twice the number of inbound warheads. That’s why we’re taking so much time and effort to improve the capability and reliability of our GBI system.
In the wake of the last Capability Enhancement Two shot, or CE2 shot, we took against the target several years ago, which flew perfectly until I watched it personally fail in the last two seconds, the Missile Defense Agency has done a terrific job diagnosing what happened. As Ellen mentioned, I’m a former F-14 pilot. And as one of those people flying those very old airplanes, I know that when something is not working you wring out the entire system. You don’t stop at the first thing you find wrong and you don’t stop at the first possible fix to anything you find wrong. And MDA has done exactly that. They’ve taken their time and they’ve done it right.
Last year, they launched an improved CE2 interceptor, not against an actual target, because that wasn’t the point of the test, but simply to put it through its paces, to ensure that they had actually solved the problem that they had found and it performed magnificently. Our next shot, this time against a target, is coming very soon and we’re doing everything we can to ensure it’s a success.
If it is a success, candidly, it will be a very good shot in the arm for this program and we will resume production on 14 more in-progress missiles in keeping with our fly-before-buy philosophy. We fully intend to put those interceptors into the ground by the end of 2017 in order to increase our capacity to stay ahead of the threat.
As we announced last year, with the extra 14 GBIs, we will have 44 interceptors in Alaska at Vandenberg Air Force Base. We also, as you may know, have an ongoing program in work to improve the actual kill vehicle that rides on top of that interceptor.
But, again, the quality-has-a-quantity-all-its-own dimension is not just about interceptors. I would put my next nickel in sensors because having enough and good enough sensors that can detect and discriminate a threat coming over the horizon can save a lot of waste in terms of how many interceptors we send up to knock one down. We have a lot going on in this area.
Thanks to our Japanese partners, we’re deploying an additional TPY-2 radar to that nation by the end of this year to both improve our homeland and regional defense capabilities at the same time. We’re also continuing to operate the SBX radar afloat, as needed in the Pacific to provide discrimination capabilities, to protect CONUS and Hawaii. And pending congressional support of the FY-15 president’s budget request, we’re planning to deploy a new long-range discriminating radar in the Pacific region by the 2020 timeframe.
Additionally, we’re continuing to pursue greater use of space, UAS-based technologies and increased integration of existing sensor capabilities across the command and control battle management system to significantly enhance our missile defense discrimination capabilities in the future. Now, while your sessions today are primarily about ballistic missile defense, I don’t want to overlook cruise missile defense, particularly as it regards the homeland.
You might ask, “If we choose to not invest the enormous resources that will be required to defend against a massive Russian ICBM attack coming over the North Pole, then why on Earth would we care about missile defense, cruise missile defense in the homeland?” Well, the element of surprise is nearly impossible with an ICBM attack. And thus, we will have time to react. We can’t always say the same for a cruise missile attack. So we’re also devoting a good bit of attention to ensuring we’re properly configured against such an attack on the homeland and we need to continue to do so.
Now, turning to regional missile defense, there’s been a massive proliferation, as you know, in recent years of regional ballistic missile threats including an increase of more than 1,200 missiles over the last five years. There are now almost 6,000 known ballistic missiles in the world, and that’s not counting Russia and China.
Within this proliferation, we see a number of technical advancements, including advanced liquid and solid propellant propulsion technologies and missiles that are becoming more reliable, mobile, accurate, and capable of striking targets over longer distances. Some can target ships at sea. Many have shorter launch preparation times and smaller footprints that are making them more survivable.
Technical and operational measures to defeat missile defenses are also increasing. For example, several nations exercise near-simultaneous salvo firings of short and medium-range ballistic missiles from multiple locations to saturate regional missile defenses.
Against all this, not only have we brought our own missile defense capability to bear, in which we’ve deployed some kind of missile defense system in 10 different countries, and we have 30 Aegis ships capable of doing the missile defense mission, a number of which are on station at any given moment, we’re also encouraging our allies and partners to acquire their own missile defenses and to strengthen missile defense cooperation that will result in better performance than individual countries acting alone.
For example, in the Middle East the United States is working with a number of our Gulf Cooperation Council partners on missile defense, including supporting purchases through foreign military sales. The UAE is procuring THAAD with the first delivery expected next year – this in addition to its earlier purchase of Patriot systems. And Saudi Arabia is in process of upgrading its existing Patriot PAC-2 batteries to the PAC-3 configuration. And Kuwait is also purchasing PAC-3 batteries.
The United States also maintains a strong missile defense relationship with Israel and our cooperation on missile defense has resulted in a comprehensive missile defense architecture with that nation. Israeli programs, which the U.S. has supported, such as Iron Dome, the David’s Sling weapon system, and the Arrow weapon system, in conjunction with operational cooperation create a multi-layered architecture designed to protect the Israeli people from varying types of missile defense, or missile threats.
In the Asia-Pacific, we have a strong missile defense posture in the region for both homeland and regional missile defense. The cornerstone of our security and diplomacy has been our strong bilateral alliances with South Korea, Japan, and Australia.
Going forward, we will continue to emphasize the importance of developing regional ballistic missile defense systems. We know this is a very politically sensitive topic for several of our regional allies, but progress in this area would only increase our confidence in the face of persistent North Korean provocations.
During last year’s provocation cycle, it appeared that North Korea might conduct a test of a regional capable ballistic missile that could potentially reach U.S. soil in Guam. In response, as many of you are aware, the U.S. Army did a magnificent job of rapidly deploying a THAAD battery to that island. There it remains, readily deployable if necessary to somewhere else in the world, but in the meantime defending U.S. soil from potential threats. And with the unpredictability of the North Korean regime, we may find ourselves doing more of this sort of thing in the future elsewhere in the region.
And in Europe, our commitment to NATO missile defense remains ironclad, as Secretary Hagel has said, as demonstrated by our strong support for missile defense capabilities either already deployed or being developed for the European Phased Adaptive Approach, our contribution to NATO missile defense.
Here I’d like to lay to rest a persistent misconception that in shifting away from the original program to place 10 two-stage GBIs in Europe, that somehow the United States walked away from European ballistic missile defense. That’s just not true and it’s not – does not do justice to the great efforts of my predecessor, General Cartwright. He realized that the ICBM threat from Iran was progressing more slowly and the medium and intermediate range threat more rapidly than we had anticipated. It made great sense at the time, and still does, to shift to the European Phased Adaptive Approach that’s based on the SM-3 missile – exhibit A, to my left – and away from the GBI.
And that’s what we’re doing. Rather than only 10 missiles that will have limited IRBM or MRBM capability, we will eventually have 48 missiles on the ground in Europe that can very capably counter the real regional threat.
This approach brought SM-3 interceptors into the European theater in 2011 aboard deployed ships. We’ve broken ground on the first EPAA site in Romania and it will be operational in December of 2015. Just one week ago, we had a very successful test shot in Hawaii that demonstrated the functionality of the shore-based Aegis weapon system by verifying its ability to launch, control, establish uplink and downlink communications, provide guidance command and provide target information to a standard missile-3 Block 1B guided missile.
As of this year, the first of four BMD capable ships to be stationed at Rota, in Spain, USS Donald Cook, has already deployed to Europe and the USS Ross will arrive this summer. The final two ships, USS Carney and USS Porter, will arrive in 2015. We are committed and this program is on track. And our NATO allies are also making significant contributions to the European missile defense mission through their purchase and deployment of BMD capable systems and deployment in support of NATO missions.
And let me be clear once again: it’s not the policy of the United States to build a ballistic missile defense system to counter Russian ballistic missiles. The Aegis Ashore sites in Poland and Romania are designed to counter long-range ballistic missiles that may be launched from other nations, outside of the Euro-Atlantic area, against our European NATO partners. This system is designed to defeat a launch out of the Middle East from the south and not a lunch from Russia, in the east.
EPAA sites are not designed for and can’t counter Russian ICBMs or regional ballistic missiles because Russia deploys too many missiles, which are too sophisticated for this system to handle. Our sensors are not pointed in the right direction and the interceptors we intend to deploy at these Aegis Ashore sites will simply not have the velocity required to intercept Russian ICBMs. So let’s lay that to rest. The most helpful thing that Russia, and China for that matter, can do is to persuade North Korea and Iran to drop their ballistic missile programs. And we don’t see that happening anytime soon, unfortunately.
While we’re on the topic of regional missile defense, though, I’d like to make the point that we need to keep our eyes closely on the cost curves. The simple fact is that a THAAD, which costs us around $11 million, could find itself being launched against a Scud missile that’s proliferating rapidly, that only costs $3 million. This curve is working against us but there are three things we can do about it.
First, we can keep the pressure on how much our own interceptors cost. It would be helpful in this regard to be able to buy them in economic quantities, but this is proving very hard to do under increased budget pressures. Second, we can continue our emphasis on developing the technologies required to hit ballistic missiles and their launchers left of launch. And, finally, there’s no shame in passive defense such as denial, deception, mobility, and hardening. Our potential adversaries are doing these things and there’s no reason why we can’t as well.
Finally, I’d like to address several other misconceptions that are out there regarding ballistic missile defense.
First, and most obvious, is the claim that our missile defense systems don’t work, that we can’t hit to kill. Well, we have an excellent track record with regional systems comprised of operationally configured THAAD interceptors and SM-3s. And, as I mentioned, we’re working very hard through our GBI issues and we expect to raise the probability of intercept of those missiles soon. But basically, our test record using hit to kill has put this misconception to rest. To date, for our operationally configured interceptors, not development prototypes, mind you, THAAD is 11 for 11; Aegis BMD is 18 for 21; GMD is three for six; and Patriot PAC-3 is 21 for 25. That’s not bad, but we’re determined to make it even better.
The second misconception is that it’s easy for an adversary to employ ballistic missile defense countermeasures. To be sure, we will continue to do everything we can in order to improve our own discrimination capability, but as hard as that job is, so is the challenge of employing and deploying countermeasures. If the enemy is confronting a layered defense system, whatever countermeasures work in midcourse might not work in terminal and their terminal countermeasures may be destroyed in midcourse.
Test is critical to the success of any complex weapon system. And when it comes to missile defense countermeasures, our adversaries just don’t do much of it, which means they can’t know very well how their countermeasures perform. We’ve had our own countermeasures program, an extensive one, and we’ve learned just how difficult it is to get that right. Countermeasures take up payload space and have weight considerations, which are also a tradeoff. Bottom line is countermeasures are not as easy as they look on paper.
And last is the narrative that missile defense needs to be 100 percent effective to be successful, especially when nuclear weapons are involved. That’s a simplistic argument. No system can achieve perfection. It would be hubris for us to believe otherwise. So if deterrence does fail, we don’t necessarily expect to stop every single missile, though to be sure, we will try. Rather, the effective systems we have and are further developing are intended to deter an adversary by injecting considerable doubt into his mind regarding the effectiveness of his attack versus our likely response. The enemy knows there will be a significant price to pay with a missile launch against the United States and the worst of all worlds for that enemy is that his attack is not only not effective but it evokes a nasty response from us – again, the two pillars of deterrence.
So I believe our missile defense enterprise, if you’ll pardon the quip, is on an upward trajectory. It’s very healthy at the regional level though it’s on a tough cost curve. And it’s coming back into health for defense of the homeland.
I give great credit for all of this to Vice Admiral Jim Syring and his able staff and his predecessors. Shooting a bullet with a bullet is not an easy technical problem to solve. It’s probably easier to kill Godzilla or maybe even – well, never mind.
Shooting a bullet with a bullet, as I said, is pretty hard. It’s even harder to do that when you’re under time pressure. It’s still harder when the assets are expensive and difficult to test. And it’s even harder in a turbulent political environment and budget uncertainty. Yet we continue to make progress. We’re making progress in our work with international partners. We’re making progress in working with the war-fighter to develop, test and field a networked global ballistic missile defense system that’s flexible, survivable, and affordable. And we’re making progress and investing promising technology programs to ensure the missile defense program will be fully capable of defeating the complex threats we expect to see in the future.
Now, recall what I said earlier about the ways of strategy and how they can help preserve our ends when the means decline. Well, the good news is that many of the ways we do business in the missile defense area are very ripe for new innovation.
Liddell Hart said – one of my favorite quotes – the only thing that’s harder than getting a new idea into the military mind is getting an old one out. But we’re going to have to do a lot of work and work very hard to empower our people to do both of those things.
And that’s General Dempsey’s and my greatest concern across the board – that we will not innovate quickly enough or deeply enough to be prepared for the world we will face over the next decade. Innovation is the leadership opportunity for this generation of missile defense practitioners and architects, which is why your session this afternoon on what’s next promises to be so interesting.
As we all know, the advantage in warfare shifts between offense and defense all the time. So where will rail guns and directed energy and big data lead us within the missile defense realm? And what about the interesting strategic questions that will arise if and when technology actually does advance to the point where it’s more possible and more economical to defend against ballistic missile attacks?
In any case, one of our greatest advantages is our innovative spirit and the atmosphere we have in this country that permits it. This advantage will enable us to better protect the American people and to continue to stand by our close allies and friends around the world.
So thank you all for your interest in missile defense, evidenced by the fact that you’re here today. I hope this has been useful to you. I am interested in your questions and I’m probably even more interested in your views and your ideas. So I look forward to the next part of the session.
Fred, shall we get at it? (Applause.)
MR. KEMPE: That was great. Well, that was strategically fascinating and technically and technologically thought provoking, and graphically colorful – a bullet on a bullet, tougher than getting at Godzilla, and, of course, how do we counter Dennis Rodman, all in one speech.
Let me ask two or three very quick questions and I’ll go straight to the audience. And I’ll try to hit on one question on North Korea, one on the situation in Europe, and then we’ll see whether we go to the audience at that point.
You called North Korea the number one missile defense priority. Is your assessment of that threat moving quickly; in other words, has it gotten much higher? And then, how big of a problem is it that it’s been difficult to get South Korea and Japan to work well together? In the Wall Street Journal, you said there’s enormous utility in having an originally knitted together approach to missile defense, that it would be really useful if those nations could set aside their long-standing differences. How possible is that that we could get to that point?
ADM. WINNEFELD: So you’ve asked about 30 questions in one question.
MR. KEMPE: Threat assessment and how do we bring the trilateral together?
ADM. WINNEFELD: Okay. First of all, we keep a very close eye on North Korean capability. It’s a very opaque nation so, you know, that’s a bit of a challenge sometimes, but we have to take whatever we see seriously. And they are probably the closest sort of – you know, people use the term rogue nation. But they’re the closest one to actually potentially achieving the ability to actually hit the United States homeland. We don’t – we haven’t seen them test a missile that can do that, but we’ve seen them test all the little bits and pieces that could potentially do that.
So we have to take the conservative approach that, you know, that maybe there there sooner than we – than people might think and that could happen suddenly. So we aren’t sitting by waiting for it to happen. That’s why we always have the capability to launch a GBI at any missile coming inbound from North Korea. We don’t just ramp – we ramp it up and down in terms of readiness, but is always ready to shoot if something comes out of North Korea. So we take that very, very seriously. The other question you asked was more of a regionally focused question.
MR. KEMPE: Right.
ADM. WINNEFELD: And our long experience with this, with many of our other partners around the world has taught us that a knitted integrated approach just raises your capability significantly and your ability to detect, you know, find, fix and finish a missile threat that’s coming at you. And so that has to be thrown against the mosaic of politics and international relations among nations. And we just are hopeful that we can get across some of the barriers that are out there to having true cooperation in the Pacific and in all regions on ballistic missile defense. It just makes a heck of a difference to have countries working together on this problem.
MR. KEMPE: And that a chance that the Shangri-La dialogue, when the trilateral group comes together, that one could push this forward or is this a more distant hope and goal?
ADM. WINNEFELD: I think that we would love to push it forward at the Shangri-La dialogue which is, you know, happening this week. It’s just a question of how far can you push it. We have to be patient with allies who have their own concerns but, you know, if we can take a step forward every so often, we might actually get to the gold standard to have a regional approach someday.
MR. KEMPE: And then, on North Korea, clearly what you do, what you have to respond to is not divorced from what we’re watching on the ground. Is your assessment or is the administration’s assessment of leadership in North Korea and potential instability, unpredictability there growing? Has the threat escalated because of that, the threat assessment changed?
ADM. WINNEFELD: We certainly had hope that when the new North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un came into power that we might find a more cooperative or rational actor as it were in North Korea that we could actually work to get rid of their nuclear program, get rid of their ballistic missile program, and open up their economy with all of the potential rewards that would accrue from a more responsible North Korea policy. That has not happened.
And with the executions and continued executions of – and purges in North Korea, it doesn’t appear as though we’re going to see peace break out or a Jeffersonian democracy anytime soon in North Korea. So we have to play it as it is and work very closely with our regional partners to contain that threat and also make sure we’re prepared for our own defense.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Admiral. The Ukraine obviously in the headlines, you made a very clear statement on the U.S. phased adaptive approach to missile defense in Europe and how it’s not aimed at Russia. On the other hand, neighbors of Russia are rethinking their security situation. So what influence does this have on how one looks at missile defense. And in terms of threat assessment, there are a lot of ICBMs out there. How does this change the way you’re looking at Russia at the moment and the demands you’re getting or the questions you’re getting about missile defense from our allies?
ADM. WINNEFELD: Yeah. To my knowledge, we haven’t gotten a lot of questions from our allies regarding the EPAA and its relationship to Russia. We’ve been very clear with our allies and with Russia that EPAA is not about Russia. In fact, the missile that we’re putting in the ground there is certainly not capable of hitting an ICBM coming from Russia and it really is oriented towards Iran and – you know, to the south.
The regional threat potentially from a Russia, if that were to happen and we don’t see that happening at the moment in terms of a threat to NATO, although we’re prepared for that, it would be a much larger, more massive piece that the EPAA is not designed to cope with. And we’re hopeful that Russia someday will wake up and realize that we are not designing this system to counter their ballistic missile threat.
MR. KEMPE: And beyond the EPAA issues of missile defense, Poland, they’re looking at new systems themselves for their own selves. What’s your assessment there?
ADM. WINNEFELD: I think it’s a smart move. I mean, any nation needs to look after its own interests. And, in this case, certainly look after its own defense against potential cruise missiles or ballistic missiles. And the Polish are taking a close look at what their security needs are and how they’re going to fill those. Now, we believe that coming in our direction to fill those is probably a pretty smart idea, but that’s the sovereign decision that Poland will make on its own.
MR. KEMPE: One last question there and then I’ll go to the audience. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently intimated that installations of U.S. missile interceptors in the region, EPAA, would spark a new arms race. This isn’t really new in terms of what he’s saying. But there have been recent Russian tests of new ICBMs and advanced warheads. Some people are worried about – and certainly we don’t want – the Atlantic Council – I don’t think anybody wants a new Cold War situation. But I’m just wondering as you look and have to plan for the future, are you seeing some sort of – if not new Cold War situation, a new situation that one has to respond to?
One last part of this question: could we see U.S. missile defense systems in Europe, Aegis Ashore set to be operational in Romania by the end of 2015, trigger a buildup of more Russian ballistic missiles in the east?
ADM. WINNEFELD: Well, first I would say that Cold Wars are not necessarily started by weapons. They’re started by people and people’s attitudes and their security feelings. And we don’t necessarily believe that Russian modernization of their nuclear deterrent has anything necessarily to do with a new Cold War. A lot of their systems are really old. They’re aging out and they have to replace them. And so it makes sense. If I were a nation who had aging systems, I would replace them with better systems, more advanced systems. And that’s exactly what they’re doing and it’s exactly what we’re doing, by the way.
When we look to the future as our systems start to age out, we will replace them with systems that are more capable. Our Ohio-class replacement system is going to be a much more capable submarine than the Ohio class, for example. The long-range strike bomber is going to be more capable than the B-2. So there are – you know, we’re sort of out of phase with them because our systems are – you know, at the moment, we don’t have any pressing need, but we are investing in that and we have to look ahead. So, you know, in 15, 20 years when we’re modernizing our systems, is Russia going to look at us and say, oh, you’re trying to start a new Cold War, I don’t think that’s the case.
The more important thing is to manage the relationship with Russia so that we don’t end up in something that turns into a violation of the new START treaty or something like that. And we don’t see that on the horizon right now.
They have a lot of rhetoric about the EPAA and how this might, you know, cause them to take more security steps in Kaliningrad or whatever. And I don’t know how much of that is negotiating tactic or public rhetoric because you have to believe that somewhere in their heart or hearts they have to understand that this really is not about them.
MR. KEMPE: We’ve made a huge effort to reach out to them, include them, find ways to work with them on this. Has that dried up in this current situation or are we still doing that?
ADM. WINNEFELD: In the current, I don’t know of any interplay we’ve had with them since the Crimea crisis occurred, specifically about missile defense. But we have engaged them extensively. When I was the commander of NORTHCOM, we had very senior Russians in our headquarters, and walked them through the entire process and why this was not about them, and how much they could help us by leaning on North Korea and Iran because we don’t want to spend any more money on this than we have to. And either they choose not to get it or it’s just not in their DNA to get it. But this is not about them.
MR. KEMPE: A shame. Questions please. Yes. In the back, the young woman. Please. Thank you. And you can identify yourself and your question please.
Q: Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire. This is on the planned redesign of the ground-based interceptor. The Missile Defense Agency and you yourself have said this is one of the most – highest priority projects. So I was a little surprised when the Pentagon recently, in announcing how it would respond to the potential return of full sequester, said that it would cut, you know, the plan to redesign the kill vehicle. Can you talk about Pentagon thinking on that?
ADM. WINNEFELD: Sure. I don’t have all the budget details in front of me to be quite honest with you, but I don’t recall that we’d cut the new kinetic kill vehicle. I believe we’re still investing in that program. I would want to defer to Jim Syring and the budget folks on that.
The fact of the matter is that the current kill vehicle was designed and built very quickly, in a very accelerated program to produce a missile defense capability. I think it’s amazing that we did as well as we did in that kind of time pressure. And there have been improvements – upgrades, as we know, the CE-2, for example, since then that are designed to keep that missile, you know, capable and reliable.
But it is time for us to look at new technology and new capability and a more deliberate acquisition program to getting a new kill vehicle onto those interceptors that will be a little bit more reliable and capable in the future. So we should still invest in that.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you very much. Please, the gentleman next to her.
Q: Thank you very much, Admiral. My name is Thun Quo Yui (ph) with China Radio News Agency of Hong Kong. In the speech, you mention a lot about Russia and North Korea and Iran but little about China. What is the missile defense policy regarding China? And do you think the [inaudible] missile system in East Asia will not only be aimed at North Korea but also at China, particularly when Taiwan is concerning the missile? Thank you.
ADM. WINNEFELD: Okay. First question on the – on our policy towards China. It’s our policy that we will not try to undermine the Chinese strategic nuclear deterrent and that we value strategic stability with China, even though we don’t necessarily believe we need parity. So that pretty much says it in a nutshell.
Regarding regional ballistic missile defense systems, it’s principally oriented, as I mentioned before, to the fairly unstable regime in North Korea. And if there are any ancillary affects that China has to consider regarding how that influences their own security, that’s for them to judge, but the principal purpose of our cooperation with South Korea and Japan has to do with Korea.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. Please. In the back, in the corner, in the right.
Q: Thank you. Leandra Bernstein with RIA Novosti. General Winnefeld, there have been some threats from the Russian Defense Ministry that if the European ballistic missile defense system continues that it will be struck potentially. It’s viewed as such a threat that it will be potentially struck with Iskander missiles. That’s been discussed. And not so much a concern about taking out Russian ICMBs but rather installments in Russia is the concern. So if you could address that.
And, secondly, I have a little bit of a provocative question given the audience, but your view on the potential for directed-energy weapons.
ADM. WINNEFELD: Okay. First of all, I take it as a compliment that you called me General Winnefeld not Admiral Winnefeld. [Inaudible] likes that a great deal that –
MR. KEMPE: Because others would not have taken it as a compliment.
ADM. WINNEFELD: There you go. I have to think about that. But regarding the threat to – any threat to strike ballistic missile defense facilities in Europe with Iskander missiles, I think that will – I think Russia realizes, and any rational actor would realize that that would be a very, very provocative and foolish act to preemptively strike a ballistic missile defense site. I mean, that would be – that would be an Article Five instant activation. It would be a hugely provocative act, and I just – it’s hard for me to believe that any serious Russian would consider preemptively striking a ballistic missile defense system that’s oriented to the south towards Iran with an Iskander missile. It just boggles the mind to imagine that.
So this is – this is probably somebody in Moscowrattling a saber, somebody who’s not necessarily speaking for President Putin who’s saying these sorts of things. But the bottom line is that we are committed fully to the defense of our NATO partners and we’re going to continue deploying this system in order to protect them from threats to the south, namely Iran.
Regarding directed energy, certainly, directed energy has a potential and a lot of applications. It’s something that we’re – we’re looking at and other applications. We’re, of course, very careful in the ways that we would employ those kinds of weapons. But there’s nothing to rule out use of directed energy as a ballistic missile defense capability. We have experimented with it in the past. It was a very worthwhile experiment, but it hasn’t really born fruit. You’re well aware of the laser capability that we put on a – on a 747, but I think we learned a lot from that but we’re not exactly deploying that today so it’s not mature technology right now but there’s nothing that would prevent us from investing in that, just like there’s nothing preventing us from investing in a rail gun that has a lot of potential for ballistic missile defense capability.
MR. KEMPE: One region we haven’t talked too much about is Middle East and the area around Iran. In the event of a deal with Iran over its nuclear weapons program, how does that affect progress toward deeper GCC missile defense cooperation? I know our allies in the region might have one view toward it, but it could have another impact politically here in support for expenditures.
ADM. WINNEFELD: Sure. You know, if we’re able to strike some sort of a deal with the Iranian regime regarding our nuclear program, that doesn’t suddenly eliminate Iran as a potential regional threat. And it certainly doesn’t lessen our commitment to our partners in any way, shape, or form. So we’ve got outstanding relationships with the GCC partners on a ballistic missile defense. It’s getting better all the time, more closely knitted together. And I don’t see that changing one bit if there’s a – if there’s some sort of a nuclear deal with Iran. That’s about a nuclear weapon piece. They still have a lot of conventional ballistic missiles that we have to take seriously. And I don’t see them being instantly removed as a regional threat just because of a nuclear deal.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Admiral.
Ian? Hold on one second please.
ADM. WINNEFELD: You have to ask a question whether you want to or not.
Q: Sorry. Ian Brzezinski. I’m a senior fellow here at the Atlantic Council. President Obama is going to Poland next week, I think on June 4th. And, as was mentioned, Poland is undertaking its own air and missile defense program, buying something akin to a Patriot system with that capability. How do you see air missile defense becoming an element of the U.S.-Poland security relationship? Do you see it as having potential equivalent to the F-16 role as a pillar in the U.S.-Poland security relationship? Do you see a future for air missile defense being a pillar in the U.S.-Poland security relationship?
ADM. WINNEFELD: Maybe pillar is too strong of a word. We have a great relationship with Poland, bilaterally and through NATO. They’re a joy to work with, to be quite honest with you. I recall in the deepest darkest days when the Europeans didn’t care too much for Americans in the last 10 years, I could go to Poland and I would be received warmly by not only Polish military and government officials, but by Poles on the street. You look in store windows and the like. So we – you know, they’re a great and wonderful people. We have a good relationship with them.
So I would – on the ballistic missile defense side, I think a lot of it has to do, candidly, with where they go forward in their own investment strategy for ballistic missile defense. It would be a lot easier for us to knit with them if they are, frankly, buying U.S. systems – there’s a natural act there, whereas if they were to buy systems from outside the NATO alliance, what have you, then it would be much of a challenge to integrate that sort of capability into a NATO context or a bilateral context.
But, certainly, we’ll be cooperating with them at every step of the way. And, you know, we’ve – we have sent – deployed Patriot intermittently to Poland as a gesture of support and also to show them what the system is capable of doing, that sort of thing. So I see an upward trajectory for cooperation with Poland. I don’t know if I’d call it a pillar or not. I haven’t really thought of it that way.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. Please. Yes. Right here. Yeah.
Q: Thank you. Thank you, Admiral. My name is Jennie Wing (ph), with[inaudible] Vietnamese-American. Geopolitically, how do you view the situation in the South China Sea and East China Sea and how would that affect our global missile defense strategy overall? Thank you.
ADM. WINNEFELD: The South China Sea is sort of a separate issue in a way, maybe slightly linked to ballistic missile defense. Is there more – something more specific?
Q: Yes. May I add, how do you see the alliance if there has been the connection between China, North Korea, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and now Russia comes into the picture, so from the Arctic to the Pacific and to the Indian Oceans. If they all have that alliance at the global defense there, how are we – are we capable of, are we ready to protect ourselves against that group of nuclear missiles, nuclear powers?
ADM. WINNEFELD: Well, I think the very simple answer that I can give you is that we have regional allies in the Pacific to whom we are very committed, completely committed to their defense. And so however that threat presents itself, then we will work with our partners to defend them. I don’t know that I see a vast conspiracy between Pakistan and China and Russia and so on to do offensive action in the Pacific, but if it were to occur, then we have allies and partners out there we are committed to.
MR. KEMPE: I see one more question. I’m sorry I couldn’t get to everybody but we have time for one more question if we can get a microphone over.
ADM. WINNEFELD: Tony?
MR. KEMPE: Yeah. Yeah.
Q: Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg News. Quick question: what is the implication if the next CE2 test fails? The House Armed Services Committee says it’s going to happen next month. But what’s the implication to their plans to expand the GBI network if in fact it fails? What kind of pressure is Boeing, MDA and your host here, Raytheon, under to make it a success?
ADM. WINNEFELD: Well, you know, we want it to be a success because it needs – we want it to be a success. We’ve worked very, very hard on this, on the challenge that we experienced in the last test and I don’t think I can go into the exact reasons why it failed, but we understand those very well and our test last year was an amazing success in my view in fixing that particular problem. So I’m not going to sit here and predict that it’s going to be, you know, 100 percent chance that it’s going to be a success, but I think we’ve dramatically raised the odds that it’s going to succeed next month.
So I don’t know how hypothetical I want to get on that. Obviously, if it does fail, we would look at the reasons why it failed to see if there’s something that it was – it was something sort of outside the system or something fundamental to the system that calls into question the viability of the program, that sort of thing. But I personally don’t think it’s going to fail and I personally think that any failure that does occur, we will get through just as we have in the past.
I know that there will be additional pressure. There will be the critics of the program who will raise their hand and say, “See? We told you it’s not going to work.” But we’ve had success with this program and has done – it succeeded in hitting and killing inbound representative missile threats. And we are committed to this program. It’s important.
Remember what I talked about in terms of national security interests of the country. Preventing catastrophic attacks on this nation to me ranks only below survival of the nation. So I think it’s in our interest to continue to work a good program and move it forward and to continue it. So, again, very hypothetical situation you’re presenting, but we’re still committed to this program.
Q: With all due respect, but it hasn’t had a successful test since 2008. Using your analogy, it might be a shot to the head versus a very good shot in the arm if it fails.
ADM. WINNEFELD: I don’t think it will be a shot to the head but it depends on the failure motive if it were to fail, how that goes – you know, happens. We haven’t had a successful test but we haven’t had a lot of tests. And I would say the last CE2 that we fired – admittedly, not against a target, but putting it through its paces, I mean, we maneuver that vehicle all over the place – was very successful. And I believe I would have hit a target if it was going against one that day. So we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in June. But I don’t think it will be a shot to the head, not at all.
MR. KEMPE: Admiral Winnefeld, you’ve been very generous with your time. As you can see by the hands in the audience, people would probably be happy to go on for another hour with you here. But I want to thank you for your opening comments, which I think were really rich and gave us the context and then, in this Q&A where you were very frank about a number of issues. And so we really appreciate you got this conference off to a great start and left us with a lot of food for thought and for discussion throughout the rest of the day. So thank you very much.
ADM. WINNEFELD: Maybe I can get some feedback on what’s next later on.
MR. KEMPE: Yeah. We’d be happy to give you all of that feedback.
ADM. WINNEFELD: Okay. Fair enough. Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: A pleasure. (Applause.)