Press Briefing on DOD's Response to Turkey Accepting Delivery of the Russian S-400 Air and Missile Defense System
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued July 18, 2019)
A Pentagon spokesman introduces Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord and Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy David J. Trachtenberg at a July 17 briefing on unwinding Turkey from the F-35 program. (DoD photo)
Briefing by Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy David J. Trachtenberg
The Pentagon, Wednesday July 2019

STAFF: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us today. This afternoon, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord and Deputy Under Secretary for Policy David Trachtenberg will provide a Department of Defense update on

Turkey's accepting of the Russian S-400 system and what that means for the F-35 program moving forward.

The purpose of this briefing is to focus on the F-35 and Turkey, so please limit your questions to that. Both leaders have an opening statement and then we'll take your questions. We do have a hard stop at 3:30, so please be respectful with your questions so everyone will have a chance.

Before we start, the department would like to offer our condolences for the individuals Turkey lost during an attack today. Our hearts go out to their friends and families during this difficult time and the U.S. reaffirms its commitments to support the government and the people of Turkey.

Ma'am, over to you.

Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord: Thank you, Mike. Thank you all for being here this afternoon. Last Friday, the United States learned that Turkey accepted delivery of a Russian S-400 air and missile defense system. I'm here today to highlight three things.

One, the U.S. has full confidence in the F-35 program and supply chain. Two, the U.S. and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate the process to formally remove Turkey from the program. Three, as President Trump said in his statement today, the U.S. still values our strategic partnership with Turkey.

The Department of Defense, and the U.S. government more broadly, have worked very hard to chart an alternative path that would enable Turkey to acquire air defense systems within NATO alliance standards for interoperability and still allow Turkey to remain within the F-35 partnership.

The United States has been actively working with Turkey over the sale of the Patriot air and missile defense systems to satisfy its legitimate air defense needs. Since early 2017, when Turkey began publicly discussing its interests in the Russian-made S-400 system, all levels of the U.S. government have consistently communicated that the F-35 and the S-400 are incompatible.

As other U.S. officials and I have clearly said, Turkey cannot field a Russian intelligence collection platform in proximity to where the F-35 program makes, repairs and houses the F-35. Much of the F-35's strength lies in its stealth capabilities, so the ability to detect those capabilities would jeopardize the long-term security of the F-35 program.

We seek only to protect the long-term security of the F-35 program. In early June, the acting secretary of defense communicated to Minister Akar that unless Turkey canceled acceptance of this system, Turkey would be removed from the F-35 program in an orderly, respectful and deliberate manner.

All actions to wind down were reversible and this was done to allow sufficient time for Turkish personnel associated with the F-35 program to be reassigned and depart the United States by July 31, 2019. Please understand we cannot answer any questions on the matters of intelligence.

Turkey's purchase of the S-400 is inconsistent with its commitments to NATO and will have detrimental impact on Turkish interoperability with the alliance. Regardless of Turkey's decision to proceed with the procurement of the Russian system, the F-35 international partnership is strong and resilient.

I have regularly engaged with our partners as we sought a better outcome and began charting a path forward without Turkey's participation in the program. Our partnership regrets that we have arrived at this moment, but I and the F-35 Joint Program Office will continue to engage fully with our F-35 partners as we work to expeditiously complete the unwinding of Turkey's participation in the partnership.

We have been working in earnest to develop and implement changes to our supply base and supply chain to accommodate the potential for Turkish removal from the program. To bridge the gap initially to mitigate Turkey's removal, the program will use primarily U.S. sources for Turkey's work share, but this will gradually open up to program partners for first, second and third sources.

Because of this planning, Turkey's removal from the F-35 program will have minimal impact on the larger F-35 partnership. We have also worked closely with our industry partners throughout this process and I have notified F-35 industry leaders of Turkey's suspension to ensure the supply chain continues to stay closely informed and involved.

Turkey will certainly, and regrettably, lose jobs and future economic opportunities from this decision. It will no longer receive more than $9 billion in projected work share related to the F-35 over the life of the program. (Emphasis added—Ed.)

Turkey made more than 900 parts for the F-35 and had been assigned more than $1 billion in industrial participation across 10 Turkish suppliers. All Turkish F-35 students and instructor pilots currently in the United States have firm plans to leave the country.

Roughly 20 Turkish personnel at the Joint Program Office will no longer retain access to JPO spaces. These actions to remove Turkey from the F-35 program are intended to mitigate risks to the F-35 and are separate from any congressionally-mandated, Russia-related sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA. I will defer all CAATSA questions to my colleagues at the State Department.

In closing, and before Deputy Under Secretary Trachtenberg speaks, let me reiterate that Turkey remains a close NATO ally and our military-to-military relationship remains strong. We continue to honor our commitment to ensure the safety of our NATO ally, and support missions benefiting regional security and stability. Thank you.


Deputy Under Secretary of Defense David Trachtenberg: Good afternoon, everyone. And thank you all for being here today. I will be brief in my comments.

As Under Secretary Lord said, this is a rather unfortunate development and one the U.S. government has worked tirelessly to avoid. But let me be clear, the United States greatly values our strategic relationship with Turkey. That remains unchanged. As long-standing NATO allies, our relationship is multilayered and extends well beyond the F-35 partnership.

We will continue our extensive cooperation with Turkey across the entire spectrum of our security relationship. We have been clear and consistent that Turkey can choose to acquire the S-400 or the F-35. It cannot have both. Our decision to unwind Turkey's participation in the F-35 program is no surprise as our concerns have repeatedly been communicated to the Turkish government.

Our reaction today is a specific response to a specific event. It is separate and distinct from the broader range of security interests where the United States and Turkey work together against common threats. Our military-to-military relationship remains strong. And we will continue to participate with Turkey in multilateral exercises to improve readiness and interoperability, including upcoming exercises in Georgia, Germany and Ukraine, as well as engage with Turkey on a broad range of NATO issues.

While Turkey's decision is unfortunate, ensuring the security and integrity of the F-35 program and the capabilities it will provide to our partners remains our top priority. Thank you.

Staff : We're going to start with Bob.


Q: Last July, Secretary Mattis warned the congressional committees that suspending Turkey from the program would have draconian consequences – you might have helped draft the letter, actually – but, 18 to 24 months to re-source parts, fifty or so planes being delayed.

What’s happened in the last year to mitigate those impacts?

Under Sec. Lord: We have worked on alternate sources for the over 900 parts. We have been working since 2018 on this. We are proceeding with a very orderly wind-down through March 2020 at this point. So, we expect minimal impact to the program.

Q: Can you quantify the financial burden -- the financial loss to Turkey, you said -- I think you said $9 billion going forward?

Under Sec. Lord: Nine billion we said over the life of the program they had, roughly $1 billion in commitments as we sit here today.


Q: Maybe you answered this question for Tony and I didn't quite understand it. How much more expensive will this make the program overall for the United States by shifting the supply chain?

Under Sec. Lord: The United States is spending between $500 million and $600 million in non-recurring engineering in order to shift the supply chain. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full transcript, on the DoD website.


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