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News Briefing with Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Lawrence Di Rita

Presenter: Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Lawrence Di Rita
November 10, 2005 2:40 PM EDT
News Briefing with Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Lawrence Di Rita

            MR. DIRITA:  It's moving day at the Pentagon, so I apologize. 


            It's -- good afternoon.  I first of all wanted to acknowledge -- I think it's today, but we are celebrating the Marine Corps's birthday.  And in deference to that, I don't have my normal partner, General Conway, who's got a busy day today.  And so I thought I'd come out and just take some questions. 


            First, I want to express -- obviously echo the president's condolences to the people of Jordan, who have suffered a very serious terrorist attack in the last day or so.  And obviously the president has spoken on behalf of the United States as to how much we express our condolences to the families involved and to the people of Jordan


            And with that, I'd be happy to just move into some questions. Charlie?  


            Q     Larry, does the United States, either the Pentagon, others, have any firm evidence that Zarqawi's group was responsible for these attacks? 


            MR. DIRITA:  It's just too early to know.  It's just too early to know, Charlie. 


            Q     And doesn't this put the U.S. military under increasing pressure, I mean, in addition to the rising U.S. military death toll in -- under increasing pressure to find this guy?  And are you all doing anything to increase those efforts to find him? 


            MR. DIRITA:  There's a -- obviously it's just too early to talk about any kind of details.  And the Jordanian government has announced its own investigation into this, and we'll have to see how that investigation unfolds.  I can't provide any detailed knowledge at the moment. 


            Zarqawi is an individual of intense interest.  Obviously in the global war on terror he is one of the leaders of the al Qaeda movement, and he is somebody in whom the coalition has great interest in apprehending at some point.  And it's my belief that we will.  But at the moment, we have not.  We have captured a number of his associates, and we'll continue to do that, but it is a matter of high importance for the coalition. 


            Q     Has there been any interest in incidents recently in which you came close to catching him or might have just missed him or -- that you know of? 


            MR. DIRITA:  We're -- the coalition, the Iraqi security forces, the U.S. forces are -- I think General Lynch may have provided some indication earlier today to the press corps out there in Baghdad -- has apprehended quite a number of the leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq as well as around the world.  Gettting close isn't good enough, and we know that.  We'll -- eventually, Zarqawi will be captured or killed. That's my belief.  I think that's the confidence that the coalition has, but at the moment, that hasn't happened. 


            Q     Since the attacks on the hotel, has there been any changes in either of limitations on the military -- U.S. military movements inside or Jordan or relationship with the Jordanian military?  And also -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  Not to my knowledge.  It's -- our military -- we have a very small number of military inside Jordan, and we can provide those specific numbers, but it's not a very large number. 


            Q     Okay.  I was wondering if you did have -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  And to my knowledge there's been no change in their status. 


            Q     Do you have any specifics?  One example is the number of American military in Jordan.  And also could you sketch out a little bit the highlighted aspects of the U.S.-Jordanian military relationship in terms of what you do, regular exercises -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, it's obviously a very important partner in the region, the country of JordanJordan has contributed to field hospital, to OIF -- or OEF, I should say, and OIF both, which has been much appreciated inside both Afghanistan and Iraq.  There's -- there   are some logistic security arrangements that we have with Jordan that I don't want to go into in any detail, but it's the normal things one would expect for a country in that region.  And it's -- as I said, we've -- I think to the best of our understanding now we've -- our U.S. military are accounted for.  And it's small number, and we'll provide the specific number; I thought I had it here, but I do not, and we'll provide that for you. 


            Q     Do you have any other aspects of like arms sales -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  I'm not prepared to go into it now.  We can -- such as we're able to provide, I'll be happy to try and provide that for you. 


            Q     Larry, just a couple quick items.  Al Qaeda in Iraq, Zarqawi's group has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Jordan. Do you believe that? 


            MR. DIRITA:  It's -- they have made the claim apparently.  The -- it is -- Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi is Jordanian, we know that.  His communication or the attempted communication between Ayman al-Zawahiri and Zarqawi suggested an interest in using Iraq to conduct these kinds of attacks.  It is consistent with the kinds of attacks that al Qaeda has conducted in Iraq and elsewhere.  It is certainly plausible that the claim of al Qaeda in Iraq is valid, but it's just not something that we're able to establish yet. 


            Q     Well, assuming that that is the case, does it show that Zarqawi's network is getting stronger, in that it's now able to launch deadly attacks outside Iraq as well inside? 


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, you know, al Qaeda and Zarqawi has had an interest in conducting these kinds of attacks throughout Europe. Zarqawi was active in Europe before the war.  So it would be difficult to know whether this reflects some relative strength or not.  The fact is that this a terrorist organization that has global reach, and we've seen it yet again in Jordan of the kind of devastation that they can do when they choose to attack innocent civilians. 




            Q     Larry, Senator McCain said today that the current ideas of a possible drawdown during 2006 are exactly wrong.  And I'm just going to read this quote:  "Instead of drawing down, we should be ramping up with more civil affairs, soldiers, translators and counterinsurgency operations teams.  Our decisions about troop levels should be tied to the success or failure of the mission in Iraq, not to the number of Iraqi troops trained and equipped."   


            Can you respond to that? 


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, I haven't seen Senator McCain's comments, and he's obviously a respected member of the Armed Services Committee, a military man himself.  He's got his own judgments, and he's certainly entitled to express those judgments.   


            The judgments that the secretary of Defense and the president have tended to rely on have been the judgments of our military commanders.  And what we've said consistently is somewhat -- a little bit different than the way you've characterized what Senator McCain said.  We've said consistently that it's based on conditions.  And the growing capability of the Iraqi security forces and the evolving handover of responsibility to the Iraqi security forces is just one of the conditions.  There are other conditions.  The political milestones are being met.  Those are important conditions as well.  And so there's a number of conditions that will have to be assessed over time.  It is not tied to a timetable.    


            I'm not sure what Senator McCain is referring to with respect to a drawdown in '06 because there's been no decision made on that point. And the number of forces that we have are the number of forces that General Casey believes that he needs. 


            Q     So -- he has hit on that numerous times about the inability, he says, of U.S. and coalition forces to go in and hold something, and then not go back and sweep again. 


            MR. DIRITA:  Yeah.  It's something that Iraqi security forces are getting better at doing.  We've seen it in Tall Afar.  We're seeing it in the current operation, where Iraqi security forces are increasingly either leading or co-leading operations.  And we've turned over a substantial number of forward operating bases to Iraqi security forces.  That will continue.  They're developing capability, and -- but that, by itself, won't determine the level of U.S. forces.  It'll be based on a number of conditions, including that one.   


            So -- but again, I haven't seen Senator McCain's comments, so I'm not speaking specifically. 




            Q     Going back to the Zarqawi -- Zarqawi and the Jordanian bombings, besides the Zawahiri letter, are you seeing any other evidence that Zarqawi's people inside Iraq are sending people, training people, sending them out to other countries, sending materials out, like the -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  I'm not aware of anything like that.  I mean, what we're seeing, to the contrary, is things coming into Iraq that we've talked about, from Iran, from elsewhere.   


            But again, it's -- there's -- we know what we know about Zarqawi and his network, and there's undoubtedly a lot that we don't know. But what we know for sure is that this is a guy who has -- that al Qaeda in general has a vision, and their vision is one of a network capability to conduct operations around the world.  And we've seen them operate elsewhere, including inside the United States.   


            So -- but with respect to specific relationships between people inside Iraq and out, of the type that may have occurred here, I'm not aware of anything. 


            Q     One follow-up on the strength of the Zarqawi network.  You said again today and it's been said repeatedly over the last several months that the U.S. military, the Iraqi forces are continuing to roll up key Zarqawi lieutenants.  The statement's been made by some commanders that he has a shrinking number of leaders around him, that he is not as strong.  Do you still believe that?  I mean, you've got -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  I've never said that.  I don't know if --    


            Q     Rumsfeld himself -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  I said specifically it's not clear whether he's stronger or not.  What is the case is that there's a lot of pressure on him and his network inside of Iraq; that's for sure.  He's spending a lot of his time trying to stay alive.   


            That being said, he's still capable of conducting a tremendous amount of damage, inside of Iraq -- we saw another attack inside of -- in Baghdad today -- and elsewhere.   


            So it's -- it would -- I would not want to describe a trend one way or the other, other than to state the facts.  And one of the facts we're sure of is that we are capturing a lot of al Qaeda people inside of Iraq.   


            What we don't know is how many people that exist inside of Iraq that we -- that have yet to be captured.  But we're putting a lot of pressure on them.  The intelligence is getting better.  The Iraqi security forces are increasingly involved in that kind of pressure. And the trend is in that direction.   


            But whether or not he's more or less capable is just something that we're not going to be able to establish with any certainty. 


            Q     Are you -- do you still believe, though, that he's in Iraq, Zarqawi? 


            MR. DIRITA:  There's no reason to believe otherwise. 




            Q     Thank you.  Rebecca.   


            MR. DIRITA:  Oh, I'm sorry.  I'm terribly sorry.  I was thinking of somebody else. 


            Q     (Laughs.)  I wanted to ask you about confirmation status. Secretary England, your successor --  


            MR. DIRITA:  Almost anybody in the department who's up for nomination -- 


            Q     Including you. 


            Q     (Off mike.) 


            MR. DIRITA:  Secretary  England remains, to the best of my knowledge, today the secretary of the Navy and the acting deputy secretary of Defense.  The -- Secretary Wynne was recently confirmed, as you know.  And that each of these is taken as they come -- we're working very closely with the committee and with the leadership of the   Senate to get these people confirmed.  They are important positions; in some cases, have been left vacant for a very long time.   


            The secretary of the Navy job is one that we've got a candidate -- he's been voted out.  He may -- I may not have this most currently, but I think he may have been confirmed by the full Senate.   So now we're in a position of having to understand how we manage the fact that Secretary England has not been confirmed as deputy secretary of Defense.  So it's caused a little bit of a collision of positions that we're working through.  It's requiring us to be creative in a way that we didn't want to have to be creative.  We made nominations.  The president nominated these people.  The committee in most cases gave them a hearing and reported them out, and there isn't any reason they shouldn't be confirmed at a time of war.  But we are dealing with them each as they come. 


            Q     Why hasn't the president either recess-appointed Secretary England or made a bigger push from the Pentagon to get him confirmed? 


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, we've had multiple conversations with the committee leadership about what's the next best thing to do.  And if the president determines that a recess appointment is appropriate, then the president will make a recess appointment.  But at the moment, we're still hopeful that Secretary Winter can be confirmed or -- Secretary Winter can become the secretary of Navy and Gordon England can become the deputy.  I mean, that is the desire.   


            We are operating right now with an undersecretary of Defense for Policy who's a recess appointee, an assistant secretary of Defense for -- in the policy shop who's a recess appointee, a vacancy in this position for over two years.  It's unfortunate.  It isn't necessary. These are people -- the people that have been nominated are eminently qualified people.  Nobody has addressed their qualifications.  It's all got to do with other unrelated issues.  And that's unfortunate. It's no way to run a department of this size.   But that's unfortunately the situation we're dealt with. 


            Q     (Off mike) -- the QDR not to have anybody -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  The QDR?  


            Q     Right. 


            MR. DIRITA:  People will be able to evaluate the QDR and determine how they feel about it when it's completed.  Secretary England has done a terrific job kind of leading the working group level.  Secretary of Defense is very -- very involved in it.  The chiefs are involved.  I think that's going to be a product that has an awful lot of important thinking in it, and I don't think that this is a related matter.  I mean, we've got the right people working on it. But there isn't any reason they shouldn't be confirmed.  


            Q     On a more mundane matter, the budget, we're coming to the end of the year, leading up to the release of the budget in February. Could you give us a feel for the timeline, how things are as far as, you know, finally pulling the budget together, tying the QDR -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, we're doing our work.  The QDR is obviously tied to it.  To the extent that we can make decisions that will affect the '07 budget, we're trying very much to do that.  So we're working on a timeline.  Some of the trade press has reported on nominative timelines that we're working against.  But obviously we're in a phase right now where that budget, if the president is going to submit the budget in February, which I think is the current date, when you back that off, the work that we need to do and then to Office of Management and Budget, we're in that window.   


            So we're working very closely through the QDR.  There have probably been -- the senior level review group, which is all the senior leaders, military and civilian, in this department have probably met each week, which is saying a lot because that's a very senior group and they've dedicated an enormous amount of time to resolve ongoing issues in the QDR that can then inform the budget. And that's the phase we're in right now.  We're in a -- very much in a phase where no decisions have been made but all the issues are up on the table.  And as a matter of fact, people will be hearing, and I'm sure some of you are, about what the puts and takes are, but just now they're that, puts and takes.  There's been no decisions in these areas. 


            Q     (Off mike) -- normal circumstances, wouldn't the QDR in large measure be driving future budgets, or certainly play a huge part in them? 


            MR. DIRITA:  It's a well -- 


            Q     And isn't --  


            MR. DIRITA:  Yeah? 


            Q     -- isn't it -- do you worry that the reverse is happening now with the budget cuts, that it might somehow hamstring or curb what you want to do with the QDR? 


            MR. DIRITA:  There's always -- I mean we always operate in an environment of resource constraint.  But nonetheless, the QDR is intended to be -- and the thinking that has been going into it -- is intended not to be constrained by resources, and that's the nature of the thinking.  But then once you develop some understanding of the direction that we want to take in various areas, it then goes into a budgetary process which, obviously, is a resource exercise as much as anything else. 


            So I think it's working the way it's intended to work.  You work through principles and you work through policies and then you translate it into budgets.  And that's how it's working.  It's been an impressive operation for the people who are involved in terms of the amount of thinking that's gone into very tough issues.  I think people, when they get the QDR, will see that a lot of very dedicated people spent a lot of time thinking through very tough things, and it's been a rewarding exercise. 


            Q     Another budget question.  General Blum was on the Hill yesterday -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  Blum? 


            Q     Blum, National Guard -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  Okay. 


            Q     -- talking about the need for $1.3 billion in emergency funding to help a bunch of things with the Guard, specifically in the context of interoperability and responding to national disasters.  Can you just talk a little bit to what's happening within the department about making sure the Guard gets what it needs? 


            MR. DIRITA:  Listen, the Guard is a component of this department, and as we balance the requirements across the department and the  capabilities that we want, the Guard will certainly have its opportunity to lay out -- as will the Army and the Air Force, who have responsibility for oversight of the Guard.  So such resources as are determined to be needed as we balance across risk and capability requirements will be provided for the Guard, I think. 


            Q     Does it seem like a priority, though, what he's talking about? 


            MR. DIRITA:  It's one of many important priorities in this department, sure.   




            Q     Larry, five more detainees were charged with war crimes. Apparently --  


            MR. DIRITA:  At Guantanamo


            Q     At Guantanamo.  I'm sorry. 


            MR. DIRITA:  Okay.   


            Q     Apparently the death penalty isn't going to be seeked out for any of these five, or I guess the original four as well.  Can you explain the rationale behind that?  Especially since I guess a couple of them are actually charged with murder. 


            MR. DIRITA:  Yeah, I think that's just part of the normal process of kind of reviewing -- as the -- the people who develop the equivalent of indictments review the charges against them and try and make determinations with the prosecutors.  They've made certain assessments going in as to the nature of how they want to argue the case.   


            But I can't go into the details of why they've determined in each of these cases -- and indeed, whether they actually have.  I mean, I've heard discussion along those lines, but I don't know that in all nine cases there's been a specific decision not to pursue the death penalty.  I think that there has been -- 


            Q     There has been. 


            Q     There has been. 


            MR. DIRITA:  I have heard -- the latest five is the one that I'm a little unsure of.  The previous four, I was aware that they had. It's part of the process.  The process allows for that kind of pre- commission assessment and determinations, and the process is working. 


            Q     But isn't this, in part, bowing to the worries, concerns, of overseas members of the coalition who are against the death penalty?  I mean, you charge an American soldier in Kuwait, may give   him the death penalty for throwing a grenade and killing people, and yet you have a young Canadian who killed an American soldier --  


            MR. DIRITA:  Let me turn it around a little bit, Charlie.  I would say that it would be wrong for people to assume that no military commission will ever seek the death penalty.  In these cases, each case is taken as an individual case and the circumstances of the case is such that they've been able to make determinations in these nine cases.  But I wouldn't say that -- certainly, we have coalition partners who have expressed concerns in those areas, but we work with our coalition partners.  There are -- we are aware that there are some concerns about the military commission process, and we've tried to be attentive to those concerns.  But each of these cases is kind of established as it comes along, and I wouldn't want to make general statements like that. 


            Q     I mean, it's pretty hard to -- if you agree with the Canadians that you're not going to, you know, give Hicks the death penalty, and you agreed with the Canadians you're not going to give that young Canadian the death penalty because they're against it. Hasn't it been pretty hard to justify that a few will get the death penalty -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, I'm not accepting the premise that it was done because of the concern of the host country.  Without question the host countries in some of those cases have raised those concerns.  But as I said, I think that the -- each case is established on its own merits and decisions are made as you go into the commission process.  And as I said, we're aware that some coalition partners have raised some of these concerns.  We try and be attentive to those concerns, but I wouldn't make the direct connection; some may, but I'm just not in the position to be able to do that. 


            Q     Is there are a worry, though -- sorry, if I could just follow up -- is there also a worry that if any of these detainees would be executed, then you'd start another problem in the Middle East of -- just sort of inflaming -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  Our -- the military commission process is a process which has precedent in U.S. -- in the United States.  It has been effective.  Previous military commissions, not in the global war on terror, but in other conflicts have resulted in the death penalty. The Supreme Court has interested itself in military commissions in our history.  They will again in this case.  And then we'll follow the procedures of the commission, and it could in some cases lead to the death penalty, in other cases it won't.  And our objective is to establish the general fairness of the process and to remind people that the people are going before military commissions, the United   States believes, are terrorists who have been involved in either planning or potentially involved in terrorist attacks on the United States or its military. 


            So I mean, these are not -- each of these cases is a difficult case, but these are people who deserve some measure of process, and the process is what we've established.  That process has been scrutinized over the decades, and it will receive additional scrutiny, as we all know, because of the current case, the Hamdan case.  And we'll proceed once those -- all the determinations are made, and then people will have to draw their own conclusions as to how they feel about it. 


            Q     I have another question related to the budget.  Both of the appropriations on the Defense Authorization Bill for fiscal `06 are both very late.  Is there any willingness to compromise or to concede on the McCain Amendment, the anti-torture amendment, in order to get these bills passed? 


            MR. DIRITA:  That's a process that the Congress has to determine. I'm not certain that you could draw the direct line correlation between the McCain Amendment and the delay of those bills.  I doubt even Senator McCain would draw that connection. 


            Q     The White House has threatened a veto over that amendment. 


            MR. DIRITA:  Yeah, it's one of the issues that's been raised in the statement of administration policy.  But we'll -- you know, the Congress has a role to play.  The president has a role to play in this process.  And this isn't the first time bills have been late, so I wouldn't be -- I'm not sure that anybody could say it's precisely because of that reason.  There have been a lot of other -- there's -- it's got to do with the congressional calendar and other bills that are of at least equal importance in the eyes of the congressional leadership.  There's a whole range of reasons why bills are sometimes late.  We're operating on a continuing resolution right now, so it's not the only appropriations bill that's late. 


            Yeah, Alan? 


            Q     After his meeting with Secretary Rumsfeld, the Israeli defense minister was quoted as saying that they're back to normal technology exchange with regard to the Joint Strike Fighters.  Can you say if that's true, and if so, what did the Israelis do to achieve that?  If it's not true, what's missing? 


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, I think we did a readout when we had an agreement back when.  I'm getting a head nod from Tony there -- 


            Q     Yeah, it was a readout with no information, though -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  Okay.  That's the kind we prefer.  (Laughs.) 


            Q     But that was the previous agreement you're talking about. 


            MR. DIRITA:  We have reached agreements with the Israeli government with respect to technology transfer.  The Israeli government made some decisions to do things differently in order to satisfy the concerns that we raised, that they accepted and agreed with.  And as a result, we do -- I do think that we have reached -- and Bryan can correct me on this after the fact -- but I mean, we did reach an agreement some months ago, and subsequent to that, there was some discussion about it at the meeting with Minister Mofaz last week. 


            Q     The agreement was that Israel had to do certain things. The question is whether they've done them, and whether the lack of   comfort level or restrictions that are on the exchange of information about technology have been removed. 


            MR. DIRITA:  I'll tell you what, let me try and get a little bit more detail for you.  To the best of my recollection, we did a little bit of a readout after the agreement was reached, and then there was some discussion about it when Minister Mofaz was here last week.  And as far as I know, we are moving forward again in an environment where some changes have been made to the way that the Israeli government handles this information, and the United States has satisfied itself that those are appropriate changes to the way that the Israeli government operates.  So -- 


            Q     I have a couple of other budget questions.  On the QDR -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  You guys are interested in the budget today. 


            Q     To what extent will the QDR's recommendations play into the '07 budget versus the '08 and beyond? 


            MR. DIRITA:  To the extent that we can make reasonable decisions that are defensible decisions that can be documented, and that's probably going to be in a lot of areas.  I mean, there's a lot of things across the range of activities that this department where we think we've made -- we've been able to learn with sufficient conviction about some things that can affect the '07 program.  And so as a result, we'll try and include that in the '07 recommendations to OMB. 


            Q     You'll try to include, but the bulk of the recommendations -- (inaudible) -- impact the '08 -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, the nature of the QDR is such that some of them are broad policy decisions that require further analysis, further work.  It might be a slight alteration in direction of a policy.  So it would be hard to say -- to parse out that some portion, some percentage of the decisions are going to be affected in '07 and others beyond.  I think it's a lot of both.  There will be a lot of direct impact on the '07 program, and that's what is obviously the priority to work through now.  Remember, we'll finish that up now, but the QDR doesn't go up till February.  So there will still be work on the QDR right up till the end. 


            Q     Follow-up.  On Gordon England's memo last week directing $32 billion of adjustments, can you -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  October 21st memo, that one? 


            Q     It was October 19th. 


            MR. DIRITA:  Whenever it was, yeah, a couple weeks ago.  I remember it. 


            Q      Can you give some context there in terms of -- where does $32 billion of shortages come from in a building that's gotten boatloads of money over the last couple -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, and that remains to be seen.  I mean, I think what the intent of the deputy's memo was is to help -- is to give people a clear understanding of how they need to prioritize as we get close to the end of developing the '07 program.  So I don't think it's a question of shortages as much as tell us where the real priorities are.  If we're going to have to find some percentage of the total, then it's time to really start laying out what are the priorities, what things can be -- must be done now, what might be deferred, how do you maybe stretch a program out.  And that's the work that's going on right now.   


            But you said it correctly.  This department has had, I think, between underlying budget and supplementals, an increase in -- some 40   percent since 2001.  I mean, the president and the Congress's commitment to national defense and the programs and priorities of this department have been quite substantial. 


            Q     The Army's gotten $160 billion in FY '05, and yet they have, like, a $2.3 billion shortage in '07.  It boggles the mind where you get a shortage when you've got that kind of money -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  The Army is a very busy service, and so they're going to have to sort that through.  As you know, the Army has grown a bit.  Their end strength now is over 600,000 when you add activated reserves to that.  And the Army is a very busy force right now.  So I think between underlying budget and supplementals, the Army will, I think, do its best to meet the target that the deputy set out. 


            Q     That was not a -- England's memo was not a directive to cut 32 billion -- (inaudible). 


            MR. DIRITA:  No, it was not.  It was not.  It was certainly not intended to be that, as I understood it.  And Bryan, if you had a different interpretation.  It was not intended to be that.  It was intended to be what I described, which is give us a priority that can tally up to that amount if this is a figure that we have to account for.  So. 


            Q     Well, where will a lot of the cuts be made, then?  I mean, you have -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  In many cases we're not talking about cuts, we're talking about reductions in planned increases.  And so let's be clear about that.  There may indeed be cuts, but I think it's important -- a cut in Washington, as you all know, is really a reduction in a planned increase.  And in many cases that's what we're talking about.  If we were going to spend $100 billion, it might end up being we're only going to spend $97 billion more than we were on -- you know, that's not exactly a cut.  The average American would not see that as a cut. So I think it's -- I know that we don't think we're talking to average Americans, but they think they're talking to us sometimes.  So. 




            Q     Is there going to be any change in the date for the military commission on Hicks? 


            MR. DIRITA:  To be determined.  There's a discussion going on about that now, what is the best way to manage through the Supreme Court's decision to review the Hamdan case. 


            Q     You mean, aside from replying to the request from Hick's attorney, you mean you may just decide not to do it? 


            MR. DIRITA:  We'll see.  Yeah, I mean we'll see.  We'll see.  I mean, there are procedural ways it could be done, there's policy   decisions that can be made to just suspend.  I mean, I don't want to -- I don't want to indicate because I don't know how it's going to come out, but there's -- the people that are responsible for overseeing this process will make a determination as to the best way to respond to the court's interest in this case. 


            Q     I guess what I mean is you-all could just decide to postpone it.   


            MR. DIRITA:  It's a decision that's going to be made after interagency discussion, because it's not a decision that solely affects the Department of Defense.  So there is interagency discussion going on (on) that now.  


            Q     Do you know --  


            MR. DIRITA:  Maybe take one or two -- 


            Q     Do you know when we're going to get a decision on that? 


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, as I recall, I think the case was supposed to begin on November 18th.  And I think, as I understand, although I don't know this for sure, his attorney has filed and the judge has imposed some time frame within which he would like to see a response. So we're trying to -- I think the policymakers that worry about this are thinking through how do we best be responsive to the court, which we know we have to be, but adopt the right policy.  And it just -- it's all going to be resolved soon enough because November 18th is next week.  So. 


            Q     Can I ask you to clarify the detainee guidelines, the document that came out the other day?   


            MR. DIRITA:  Interrogation -- 


            Q     And excuse me if this has been asked.  But there was a paragraph -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  It has. 


            Q     Okay. 


            MR. DIRITA:  No, go ahead. 


            Q     There's a paragraph in there that implies the secretary could give written exemptions to standard humane practices. 


            MR. DIRITA:  Right. 


            Q     Some news organizations claim this is a big loophole. 


            MR. DIRITA:  It's pretty standard language in most direction -- directives of the department that -- you know -- by the way, a lot of statutes are written this way too, where a statute is the law unless waived by the president or -- you know, it's not uncommon.  That was not provided in there with anything in mind.  It's fairly standard   language in Department of Defense instructions or directives that there be a waiver authority for whatever purposes a waiver may be needed.  There was no intent and there's no preconceived notion that that's desirable, it's just -- it's a fairly standard approach. 


            Q     This wasn't written -- (inaudible) -- Gitmo experience where, you know, the secretary, you remember, revised -- approved harsh measures, then he pulled it back, and then there was questions about -- 


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, I would say that that directive was written, as are some other directive -- we're going to have one soon on detainee policy generally; we'll have one soon on medical policy for detainees that reflects a lot of lessons learned.  We've learned a lot of lessons.  We've published a lot of results of investigations.  And I would think you'd expect that we would have learned things and, as a result, changed the way we operate, to the extent that it needs to be changed.  And so these directives that you're going to start seeing over the coming weeks reflect that; they reflect that we learn things.  


            And I wouldn't connect that clause to having learned anything particular.  I would say, as I said, that's a fairly standard -- you'll find that in a lot of Department of Defense directives.  It's just ultimately the Department of Defense, by statute -- the secretary of Defense is responsible for the authority, direction, control of the Department of Defense, and that's just a reflection of that authority that he is given in statute.  So. 


            Any other questions?  All righty.  Thanks a lot.  Have a good day.  Happy Veterans Day to those of you -- the veterans among us.




















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