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Department of Defense Press Briefing by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook in the Pentagon Briefing Room

Press Operations

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook
September 3, 2015
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    PETER COOK: Hi everyone. Sorry to keep you waiting. And welcome to the Pentagon. I've got an announcement here right off the top before I turn to your questions. This regards Turkey. The Department of State and the Department of Defense have authorized the voluntary departure of family members of U.S. personnel stationed at Incirlik Air Base and our consulate in Adana, Turkey. The families of U.S. personnel posted to Consulate Adana or Incirlik Air Base would have the option to depart Turkey at government expense. Those family members who wish to remain in Turkey are free to do so at this time.

 

            This decision was made out of an abundance of caution following the commencement of military operations out of Incirlik Air Base, the voluntary departure authorization is limited in scope to the Adana area, it does not apply to family members of military or civilian personnel in other cities, including Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir.

 

            The safety and security of U.S. citizens living abroad is one of our top priorities, and we take very seriously the responsibility for ensuring the security of members of the entire official American community. We will continue to evaluate our security posture in Turkey and worldwide. And this notification was provided to family members in Turkey a short time ago.

 

            So with that, I'll take your questions. Tony, I'll begin with you.

 

            Q: Just to follow up there, how many families would be affected? What's the pool of potential individuals?

 

            MR. COOK: My understanding is the total number is about 900 that would comprise this universe of people. And again, it would be their choice as to whether or not they took advantage of this opportunity.

 

            Q: I have a missile question and a bomber question. The missile question, the Chinese in their victory parade today unveiled the DF-21D, popularly known as a carrier killer. This building and analysts have been worried about it for years. Apparently, it's been fielded a couple of years ago.

 

            What's the building's -- what's the building's view of this unveiling today? Troubling? Expected? Not much a big deal, or what?

 

            MR. COOK: It wouldn't be the first time that new military hardware of some sort was displayed at a military parade, so I would say -- suggest to you it's not completely surprising and not something we wouldn't -- wouldn't have expected.

 

            Q: OK, bomber question. The Air Force this week briefed about 12 Washington think tank analysts on their -- on the bomber program, the unclassified aspects of where things were, where it stood before the winner is named.

 

            The Pentagon's weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, is the man who actually will decide whether the program can go forward and an award can be made. The Air Force will actually make the award.

 

            What is -- what is the Pentagon's view right now of that program, given it's -- the amount of money involved and the public scrutiny? Is it on the path to source selection or, i.e., a contractor being named fairly soon? Or does more work need to be done that could delay the selection until much later this year?

 

            MR. COOK: Tony, as you know, this is a major program, a significant program. And right now, it's a program that remains on course. We're still awaiting a final decision here, but I would expect that, again, this is something that the secretary of the Air Force has talked about.

 

            I'm not going to give you a specific date here or a deadline, but this is something still a very high priority for the department, and certainly for the Air Force.

 

            Q: Question, question. If in fact, a continuing resolution for fiscal '16 is put in place by Congress, can this award still go through? Is it dependent basically on fiscal '15 money, that would not be affected by a continuing resolution? Or could it be wrapped up in a -- basically delayed because of the C.R., if you know that?

 

            MR. COOK: I don't it's -- we can tell exactly at this point what the impact of a continuing resolution would have on this program overall. Clearly, having an impact, as it would, for almost every program here.

 

            But I also don't see this, for the moment, Tony, I don't think it's clear exactly what a C.R. would mean for the program overall. It certainly would not stop in its tracks, but what we're talking about here is a larger question about budget certainty going forward, and how a continuing resolution and budget uncertainty is bad for this program and every program here at the Department of Defense, something we want to avoid.

 

            But I don't see the C.R. right now. It's hard for us to gauge exactly what impact it's going to have on this program, at this moment in time.

 

            Q: Can we go back to Turkey for a moment.

 

            MR. COOK: Sure.

 

            Q: The U.S. forces have been operating out of Incirlik for quite some time. What's changed in the threat picture that prompted this announcement today?

 

            MR. COOK: Well, this is being done out of an abundance of caution, and obviously things have changed somewhat at Incirlik, in terms of our operations out of Incirlik.

 

            And this is, again, an abundance of caution and taking a look at the situation, and this is an active air base that's carrying out operations, and we're just being abundantly safe, here.

 

            Q: It's also, you know, about 250 miles away from Syria, deep inside a NATO ally's territory, a place where the United States has operated for quite some time. Is this result for instance -- from a threat from ISIL?

 

            MR. COOK: No, this is not being done because of any specific new threat. We've been at an elevated force protection level in Turkey, at Incirlik for sometime, now. This is just an extra step being taken out of an abundance of caution.

 

            Again, a voluntary choice on the part of these families. We worry about the safety and security of our military personnel and their families everywhere around the world. This is just a step being taken to further that effort, and specifically to give them this choice.

 

            Q: I know that this is -- you just made this announcement, but is there any indication of how many families might actually take you up on the offer?

 

            MR. COOK: Hard for me to gauge at this point. They were just made aware of this option, and I'd refer you to EUCOM to see if they have any initial take on what the acceptance rate is of this offer.

 

            Jim?

 

            Q: Thank you. You're aware of signs that Russia is moving material into Syria?

 

            And I'm curious if you know what that material is, and is it accompanied by any Russian personnel?

 

            And secondly, if you have a sense of what their intentions are. Is it to shore up the Assad regime, is it to fight ISIS, or do we know?

 

            MR. COOK: Jim, at this point, we've seen some of those reports. And I'm going to refer you to the Russians to find out exactly what it is they're doing in Syria. I'm not going to get into intelligence here from this podium, but you know full well that the Russians have had a long relationship with the government in Syria.

 

            And again, it's up to the Russians to explain exactly what they're doing.

 

            Q: Beyond the news reports -- can you confirm, the U.S. military has observed any new movements into Syria of Russian material or personnel?

 

            MR. COOK: I'm going to get into intelligence assessments from up here. Again, we're keep a close eye on everything going on in Syria, and I'll just leave it at that.

 

            Q: (off mic).

 

            MR. COOK: Sure.

 

            Q: Are you concerned that the Russians may begin flying, as the media reports are saying, that they may begin basing and flying on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria?

 

            MR. COOK: Courtney, let me just leave it at the -- we've seen these reports. We're keeping a close eye on all the activities going on in Syria, from the Assad regime and other players.

 

            And I think it's safe to say that we're watching these things very closely.

 

            Our focus in Syria is against ISIL, and we're gonna continue our coalition in that fight, and that's gonna be our primary focus, but we're keeping a close eye on every single development in Syria.

 

            Q: Just one more Turkey...

 

            MR. COOK: Sure.

 

            Q: ...the 900 people that you mentioned, those are all dependents who are eligible for the voluntary...

 

            MR. COOK: That's right.

 

            Q: ...900 families, correct?

 

            MR. COOK: Let me double-check my numbers here. I believe it's people total, yeah.

 

            Q: OK.

 

            Q: Sorry.

 

            MR. COOK: If I misspoke "families", my apologies.

 

            Q: Going back to Syria for a second, Peter. You said "other players" in Syria. Which "other players" are you talking about?

 

            MR. COOK: I'm talking about all the -- Lucas, you know it's a complicated situation on the ground. There's several entities out there, involved in the fighting.

 

            Our focus is on ISIL, and we are keeping a close eye on everything having to do with ISIL in Syria, and we're keeping a close eye on the broader picture, and it's prudent for us to do that. And I -- I think that's to be expected.

 

            Q: Do you welcome Russia's involvement against ISIS in Syria?

 

            MR. COOK: We welcome anyone who wants to help in the coalition against ISIL. We have 60 nations in that coalition, and we would welcome the opportunity for others to -- to join that fight. Other countries have made that choice. I'm not gonna refer specifically to Russia.

 

            Q: And going next door to Iraq, what protective measures have you ordered U.S. troops to take against chemical attack?

 

MR. COOK: Well, as you know, Lucas, U.S. troops, when they deploy, are provided with a range of equipment to protect against potential threats and -- I'll just leave it that our troops in Iraq have the equipment they need to protect against potential threats.

 

            Q: Have you ordered those troops to dust off their chemical weapons suits and prepare for a potential chemical weapons attack?

 

            MR. COOK: I'm not aware of operational details like that that I can share with you right now, but just to be sure that the commanders in the field are making sure their troops are adequately prepared for the threats they may face.

 

            Q: Is there any new evidence of chemical weapons attacks in the last few days in the region?

 

            MR. COOK: I'm not aware of any here that I can share with you from the podium.

 

Tara?

 

            Q: Thanks, Peter.

 

            This week, it became apparent that anthrax has been shipped to 50 states and 9 foreign countries, a vastly greater number of states than last -- than had been previously reported, something Secretary Work had called "a massive institutional failure".

 

            My question is, who at Dugway has been held accountable, at this point, and what changes have been implemented at Dugway to make sure this doesn't happen again?

 

            MR. COOK: Tara, as I'm -- as I'm sure you know, Secretary Work and -- and Secretary Kendall both have been very active in this. They have ordered that review that's underway, and they're still -- we expect some outcome of that, my understanding is in October.

 

            So this is an active review right now. They are continuing to assess the situation at Dugway and these other facilities for safety and -- and moving forward, exactly how these substances get handled, going forward, and the question of accountability, as well.

 

            It's still an ongoing investigation.

 

            Q: Will the question of accountability be addressed in the October report, or is that a separate investigation?

 

            MR. COOK: My understanding is that we'll know more in October. I don't want to pre-judge exactly what that report says, but you can be sure that this is an area of keen interest on the part of the secretary, the deputy secretary, and Secretary Kendall, as well.

 

            Yeah?

 

            Q: Simone Del Rosario, R.T. I wanted to ask about these defense officials that are touring the Consolidated Naval Brig in Charleston, South Carolina right now. What exactly are they looking at to determine whether this prison can house Guantanamo prisoners?

 

            MR. COOK: Well, they're looking at a range of things. They're looking, first of all, if the site is feasible to house these kinds of detainees with the security measures that need to be put in place to ensure the safety of the surrounding community and the American people overall.

 

            They're assessing the cost, as well, of what it would take to retrofit that facility, if any changes needed to be made. Those are just two of several criteria that they're going through to see if Charleston is an appropriate location to house these detainees.

 

            It's the same questions that are being -- that were applied previously at Fort Leavenworth and for future sites that'll be considered. Again, it's a question of feasibility, safety, surroundings, a whole host of questions that need to be answered before any particular facility can be considered.

 

            Q: Now local officials are against putting it in Charleston. What do you have to say? Is it safe to have prisoners from Guantanamo so close to a major city?

 

            MR. COOK: I think these are the questions that the assessment teams are trying to answer right now. That's why they're going there in- person, firsthand to assess these facilities on their own, and they're going to look at a list of facilities. And that's one of the things they're going to have to come back with, recommendations as to exactly which, if any, of these facilities pass that test.

 

            Q: Now, the secretary has said that some of the prisoners in Guantanamo cannot be moved, that's it's not safe to move them. If we're trying to get them over to the U.S., where do we fall in line with that?

 

            MR. COOK: I don't believe that's what the secretary said. What the secretary has said is that there are certain detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be transferred, that they need to remain in detention. And his view is that to close Guantanamo, you need to open a facility here in the United States, a suitable facility that ensures the safety of the American people, the surrounding communities. And that's what this Defense Department is trying to do under the secretary's direction.

 

            Kristina?

 

            Q: Thanks. The Defense secretary seemed to hedge a little bit earlier this week when asked about the possibility of closing the Guantanamo Bay facility. Does he believe that the facility can be closed before the end of this administration?

 

            MR. COOK: I'm -- I didn't hear the secretary hedge, if you did. But I just know that this secretary is focused on getting this done and not leaving this to the next administration. That is his goal, that is his target, this is something he's been working, of course, with the president. This is the president's own direction. So the secretary is doing everything within his power to make sure that this is an issue that is addressed and resolved before the next administration.

 

            Q: And do you know when the next sites will be decided on to visit by the Defense Department?

 

            MR. COOK: I don't have a date for you.

 

            Q: And will those be announced when they're decided on?

 

            MR. COOK: We will announce those as soon as we have them in a -- in a fashion that we can share them with you.

 

            Q: Is it -- the Defense Department getting to make that decision? Isn't that the White House that decides on the sites (off-mic)

 

            MR. COOK: It's going to -- this is an interagency process, always has been from the start. So I -- there's nothing different about that. The Department of Defense will be involved. Obviously, this is a critical area for this secretary and for this department to get resolved, and so the DOD is certainly part of the selection process.

 

            Nancy?

 

            Q: I had an administrative question and then one on the war against ISIS. I know we've been -- we had asked yesterday about why Mrs. Carter had traveled, by my count, three trips with the secretary, if this was personal travel of some sort or official travel. And I was wondering if we could get some clarity on that if it is personal travel or has -- have those costs been reimbursed to the department. If it is official travel, in what capacity?

 

            MR. COOK: Mrs. Carter has traveled with the secretary, as a lot of you know from having traveled with him. She's traveled in her official capacity as his wife. She's been invited to several of the events she's participated in. And more importantly, she has a longstanding history of support for the troops and support for military families.

 

            And through the course of her travels with the secretary, she has done a number of activities on their behalf, meeting with military families and soldiers, as past wives, spouses of secretaries of Defense have done in the past.

 

            Q: Right. But in the past, when it has been official travel, it's been an official itinerary. Can we see that if there is an official itinerary? My guess is that there is one of some kind?

 

            MR. COOK: We --

 

            Q: The chairman -- secretary -- or wife travels, for example, it's -- she -- they have an official itinerary for the chairman's wife. So I'm asking is there an equivalent for the secretary's wife?

 

            MR. COOK: We would be happy to pass along a summary of her activities on behalf of -- and through the course of these trips.

 

            I'd be hesitant to share every detail for security reasons, primarily, her movements and things like that. But yeah, we'll be happy to share a summary of her activities.

 

            Q: Right, but I'm asking for an itinerary. Was an official itinerary put forth, as usually happens in such instances?

 

            MR. COOK: There is an official itinerary. And again, we're happy to share with you a summary of her movements and actions through the course of the trip. We hesitate to share with you every detail in terms of timing and movements for security reasons, but we have no problem sharing a summary of what she does on these trips.

 

            And I think you'll find -- I can tell you just personally, for example, at Camp Pendleton, just the other day, she was part of a roundtable on sexual assault prevention, with Marines at Camp Pendleton. She met -- Chattanooga, with the families of the victims of the shooting in Chattanooga, along with the secretary.

 

            She was at Fort Bragg meeting with military families and troops. This is an intense interest on her part. She supports the troops, she supports the secretary as well, and his efforts. And this is something that's been a longstanding commitment on her part, prior to him even becoming secretary.

 

            As deputy secretary, as under secretary, this is something that Mrs. Carter is proud to be a part of, and she's doing it in her capacity as his spouse and also as a private citizen on her own time. So.

 

            Q: I'm sorry. Private citizen on her own time?

 

MR. COOK: In other words, she has a full time job, and yet, she has taken time out to travel with the secretary to participate in these areas where she feels it's very important to show her support, and where she has a personal interest. And advancing, of course, the secretary's own interest in the welfare of military families going forward.

 

            Q: So, you're essentially saying it's an official capacity that she's doing on her private time, is that right?

 

            MR. COOK: What I'm saying, Nancy, is that she is a private citizen, but she has a role, and a public role as the wife of the secretary of defense, and as other spouses of secretaries of defense have traveled with their spouses, she has done the same thing.

 

            Q: And I want to follow up to Tara's question, please, about the anthrax report.

 

            You had said that you wouldn't get into the specifics about whether there will be any accountability in the report, and yet, from this podium a few months ago, Secretary Work, Secretary Kendall and others said that the report would specifically address accountability. That the reason they didn't address it in their own report, was that it was for the Army to address.

 

            So, could you clarify whether the report that you said would come out in October will, in fact, address accountability at Dugway, or within the chain of command within the Army?

 

            MR. COOK: You recounted what the deputy secretary said here. All I'm going to say, I'm not going to pre-judge a report I haven't seen.

 

            So, the secretary -- the deputy secretary has outlined his interest in this, and the Army's interest in getting to the bottom of exactly what happened. And so, we'll wait to see in October, Nancy exactly what is in that report.

 

            James.

 

            Q: Two quick follow up questions regarding the 900 people...

 

            MR. COOK: Yeah.

 

            Q: ... who have been offered voluntary transportation out of Incirlik and surrounding areas.

 

            When was the last time, and where was the last place that such an offer was made?

 

            MR. COOK: Let me take that question for you. I don't know the answer off hand, but I'll try and get that for you.

 

            Q: 2013?

 

            MR. COOK: OK.

 

Q: And in the second...

 

            MR. COOK: Courtney has got better history here than I do. Thank you, Courtney.

 

            Q: In the second one, on either the tour of Fort Leavenworth, the fact-finding tour for Gitmo North.

 

            MR. COOK: Yeah.

 

            Q: Or the tour of the Charleston Naval Brigade.

 

            Did any members of Congress accompany DOD folks who were touring? Did any state officials, any local officials, were there any politicians on these tours at all?

 

            Or elected officials?

 

            MR. COOK: Yeah. My understanding -- and I think it's probably because of that -- I think Senator Scott may have participated in a visit to -- to Charleston, but I'm not aware of Fort Leavenworth.

 

            Q: Anybody besides Senator Scott, that you know of?

 

            MR. COOK: That -- not that I know of, from here.

 

Jacqueline?

 

            Q: Is any of these 900 people in Turkey that said they want to leave, are there U.S. assets there on the ground that could get them out right away, or would planes need to be flown in to...

 

            MR. COOK: My understanding is that the -- the way this works is that they would fly home commercially and be reimbursed for that travel.

 

Laurent?

 

            Q: Has there been any incidents near Incirlik that could lead the U.S. officials to believe that there is any kind of risk for the security? Any incidents with Turkish populations, or what -- whatever?

 

            MR. COOK: As we've discussed, our force protection level at Incirlik was elevated, anyway, because of the fighting nearby in Syria, the -- the operations that are happening out of Incirlik right now.

 

            So there's nothing beyond what we already see as the -- as the -- the situation right now in the region, and the prudent steps we're taking to make sure the military personnel and their families are -- are protected. So this is a -- this is a voluntary move for them, but it's being done out of an abundance of caution.

 

Phil?

 

            Q: Peter, how much can you tell us about what kind of recommendations DOD will make on the Gitmo relocation? Will the reports say, for example, "we at the Pentagon believe these detainees should move to Leavenworth" and lay out the specifics, or will it say, "if the move is to Leavenworth, it will cost this much and involve these steps. If Charleston, so forth and so on"? Will it -- will it be a specific recommendation, or kind of a Chinese menu for Congress to choose from?

 

            MR. COOK: I -- I don't honestly know at this point, Phil, exactly what it's gonna look like. Part of it is because the assessment teams are still doing their work, and I think they need to reach some of their own conclusions as to exactly what they're going to recommend, but they're going to come back, of course, to the secretary, and share their findings with him.

 

            This is going to be an ongoing process, and I don't think we're at the point just yet where we can determine exactly what the finished product's gonna look like. Yes.

 

            Q: Hi, this is (inaudible) with (inaudible) I come from Okinawa. I would like to ask, too, about the plans for the relocation of U.S. marines of the air base Futenma to Henoko.

 

            Is the Okinawan governor is strongly opposed to the construct of a new U.S. military air base in Henoko. So the Okinawan governor say that too much U.S. military control in Okinawa is disturbing to the Okinawan people human rights. He -- he -- he plans to address the U.N. this -- this month. So how do you think about that?

 

            And also, do you think the DOD has abandoned to -- Henoko relocation plan for Okinawan people?

 

            MR. COOK: Well, first of all, the U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace and security in the region. I just want to reinforce that. Okinawa is critical to the U.S. military because of its strategic location that provides the forward presence needed to maintain deterrence, provide for the defense of Japan, and preserve peace, security, and economic prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

 

            And this is a situation, I know, that we're working closely with the Japanese government to try and resolve this as -- as positively as possible, and -- so I don't think anything's changed in terms of our perspective on this. Go ahead?

 

            Q: Wanted to follow up in the region. Jessica Stone with CCTV. President Xi Jinping, yesterday, also unveiled the troop cuts of about 300,000. Wanted to get a reaction from the Pentagon on that. Do you have an interpretation of what that means, or what their military performance might look like?

 

            MR. COOK: I don't think we have a particular reaction to -- to that news, other than it's basically in line with what the Chinese have said in the past about the size of their military going forward. And -- you know, for more details on that, I'd refer you to the Chinese government as to exactly what it means.

 

            But from our perspective, we continue to watch and see the Chinese military as it tries to modernize and adjust to a -- to changing world.

 

Q: What about the fact that a lot of the -- as they were unveiling a lot of the military hardware they kept emphasizing that it's for use in protecting maritime assets, which goes to the South China Sea and the East China Sea and the efforts that the -- that PACOM is making in those regions. Is there a reaction on that?

 

            MR. COOK: We know that the area is of importance to China, it's of importance to a whole host of countries in the Asia-Pacific, including the United States. And so I don't think it's a surprise to us that China would be focusing some of its attention and its efforts in that area. They have been for some time, but this is an area of great importance, of course, to the United States.

 

            Here at the Defense Department, our re-balance to the Asia- Pacific is a top priority for Secretary Carter, and it's going to continue.

 

            (CROSSTALK)

 

            Q: -- a follow on China?

 

            Q: Can I just -- a follow-up question? One last question?

 

            MR. COOK: Sure.

 

            Q: With respect to the carriers off the Aleutian Islands. Was that interpreted as a threat? The president was there at the same time.

 

            MR. COOK: You're referring to the Chinese ships?

 

            Q: (off mic)

 

            MR. COOK: Yeah. They were operating in international waters as U.S. ships operate in international waters. And so we didn't take it as a particular threat. And I'll just refer you to the Chinese government as to exactly what their ships were doing there. But they were operating in international waters, as our ships do as well.

 

            Q: This is just a quick follow-up to that. Did the parade, the Chinese military parade -- did it illustrate or display anything threatening to the Pacific region at large? Was there anything threatening on display there (off mic)?

 

            MR. COOK: Without having seen the parade myself and every single aspect of it, I'll leave -- I'll leave you to ask the Chinese government and others in the region as to exactly what reaction they have to it.

 

            We -- what we saw, obviously kept track of the parade and the -- what it was marking. And, you know, our message to countries in the Asia-Pacific is that stability for the region is important, important for economic reasons, important for a whole host of reasons. And the United States is going to continue to do its part to promote stability in the Asia-Pacific.

 

Q: Why doesn't the U.S. display its new military hardware in parades? -- (Laughter.) 

 

MR. COOK: That's a good question. I hadn't considered that. I'd like to say it's not our style. The U.S. military is the -- is the world's foremost military, and people shouldn't doubt that. And people know the strength of the United States, the strength of our military, and I think it's safe to say that we don't need to display it at parades necessarily for people to understand what the United States is capable of.

 

            Joe?

 

            Q: Could you give us an update on the current situation in Baiji at the refinery, and also in Ramadi? And how far do you think the Iraqi security forces are from re-taking Mosul?

 

            MR. COOK: I'll try and take those in order. First of all, the situation in Baiji is definitely a contested situation. There have been good days in Baiji and some not-so-good days in Baiji. But the Iraqi security forces are still there in the fight against ISIL. And I think it's fair to say it's a contested situation and we're providing support to them in the -- with respect to coalition airstrikes to try and bolster their position there. But it's a -- it's a serious fight.

 

            I think the same can be said in Ramadi. It's -- not much has changed, I think, Joe, since we last updated you all in terms of the -- where forces are on the ground. And operationally, we haven't seen a significant change in the situation in Ramadi.

 

            And Mosul, I don't want to -- I'll refer you to the Iraqi government as to exactly what their plans are with regard to Mosul.

 

            Q: Back to -- back to Baiji. How much do you think ISIL control -- the total -- both the city and the -- and the refinery?

 

            MR. COOK: I'm not going to get into intelligence assessments from up here. I'll refer you to the Iraqi government for a better understanding of exactly where their forces are in relation to ISIL. It's primarily Iraqi security forces there, so --

 

            I'm going to go to someone else here. In the back.

 

            Q: Mr. Cook --

 

            MR. COOK: Peter, please.

 

            Q: -- yeah. Nuts-and-bolts question on anthrax. It appears that the Department finds out about this exponential increase in the number of labs that received it, received live spores when the CDC comes to the Department and says hey, did you guys know that the people you originally contracted with were handing it off to, essentially, subcontractors in the form of secondary labs.

 

            When stuff was initially sent out, did the Department not say to whoever it was contracting with if you're going to pass this on to somebody else, let us know about it? Or did you find out that this was happening when the CDC came to you?

 

            MR. COOK: So first of all, this is -- the Army's taking the lead on this, so I'm going to refer some of these questions to the Army because this is something that I'm still getting up to speed on here. But I think it's safe to say that there's been an effort here to try and track down exactly where everyone of these shipments went. The CDC has been a help in this effort, and I think it's -- again, this is an ongoing investigation and I think we'll know a lot more in October when we get those final findings.

 

            But in terms of some of the details you asked, I'd refer you to the Army right now, since they're taking the lead on this.

 

            And I'm going to take one more in the back.

 

            Q: Peter, even when Secretary Carter have been very busy with some other issues, in Latin American and Mexico, they are very concerned about the possibility of the organized crime to attack quietly. Is Secretary Carter planning to go to Mexico or Latin America and maybe provide more resources to stop them?

 

            MR. COOK: I don't have any official travel plans to read out to you right here for that, but I can assure you that that part of the world is an area of interest and priority for the secretary of defense. And even though we don't have a trip to report out right now, I say stay tuned. And again, this -- it's an area of interest to him for sure, but I just don't have a trip or itinerary to read out to you at this particular moment.

 

            Q: I understand there are going to be some military exercises between U.S., Mexico and Latin American countries. Do you know if these are going to be in the fall or --

 

            MR. COOK: When we have an announcement on that, we'll let you know. We'll give you as many details as we can. I don't have any on that at this particular moment.

 

            And with that everyone --

 

            Q: (off mic) clarification?

 

            MR. COOK: Courtney, you get one clarification because you saved me with that other answer.

 

            Q: Probably was right.

 

            MR. COOK: I hope it was right too. Please doublecheck.

 

            (CROSSTALK)

 

            Q: There was 2003 as well, was one in Turkey. But anyway --

 

            Q: That's not my question.

 

            Q: On Nancy's question about Mrs. Carter, just to be clear, since she was on official travel, does that mean she was not -- she's not paying her equivalent airline flights?

 

            MR. COOK: That's right -- when they're -- when she's traveling in her official capacity, it is not reimbursed, but they travel -- for example, on personal travel, personal leave, in which case, her travel was reimbursed. So that's the distinction.

 

            Q: A follow-up on China, Peter.

 

            MR. COOK: Lucas?

 

            Q: At the parade in Beijing, one prominent guest of honor was Russian President Vladimir Putin. Do you see a growing Russian- China alliance as a threat to the United States?

 

            Lucas, from the United States' perspective, China and Russia continuing those conversations is not a total surprise to us.

 

            We see China and Russia both presenting opportunities for cooperation with the United States, and at the same time, as the secretary has mentioned, particularly with regard to Russia, the need to respond to -- in a strong and balanced way, to some of the threats, if you will, that had been presented by Vladimir Putin in Ukraine and else where.

 

            And we would encourage the Russians and the Chinese to continue to work with us on security issues in that part of the world, in the Asia Pacific and beyond.

 

            So, I would just say that, you know, from our perspective, these are countries that pose opportunities and challenges for us at the same time.

 

            Q: Does the Pentagon view this report of a Russian spy ship off the coast of the -- the East Coast of the United States, not far from Kings Bay, Georgia, as a threat to the United States?

 

            What is your reaction?

 

            MR. COOK: We've seen the reports of that ship. It's operating, as I understand it, in international waters as well.

 

            I'll just say it's not something that causes a great deal of concern. And they're operating in international waters; U.S. ships operate in international waters.

 

            And you know, we -- we are aware of the reports of that ship, and I'll just leave it at that.

 

            All right, thanks everyone.