STAFF: Good afternoon. As you know, when our senior commanders from the field come to town, we like to bring them here and give them a chance to talk to you and provide their perspective on their areas of command. So today, we welcome the commander of the United States European Command, General James L. Jones, who's agreed to talk to you about EUCOM, NATO and other subjects of interest in his purview. Today's briefing is on the record.
And with that, General Jones, I turn it over to you.
GEN. JONES: Thank you. Good afternoon. Nice to see some familiar faces.
Barbara, how are you? Good to see you.
MR. : You look much younger since you left the Pentagon. (Laughter.)
GEN. JONES: Yeah, you know, vacations do that for you. (Laughs; laughter.) It's -- I guess I should say it's great to be back, but then I'd be stretching the truth at the outset of the briefing. (Laughter.) But it is great to see some old friends and to be here and to talk a little bit, before we take your questions, on NATO and the United States European Command.
As you know, an informal ministerial was just held in Colorado Springs, and I would characterize that as being extremely successful. Certainly, it was a very, very useful couple of days in which ministers and chiefs of defense and members of NATO were focused on the subject of transformation of NATO; not only the military transformation, but the processes themselves in NATO that might have to be required -- that might require some reexamination in light of the very far-reaching guidance that was given at the Prague summit, which essentially directed a fundamental transformation of the NATO military capability and the alliance for the -- to meet the threats of the 21st century.
And the -- I would say that in the first eight to nine months that I've been in my assignment, I've been very, very pleasantly surprised at the pace with which the alliance is moving. In the first six months, we've literally transformed the NATO command structure, made it much more leaner, much more effective and much more ready to face the challenges that are very topical and current today.
We are embarked and fully intend to stand up on the 15th of this month -- in other words, next week -- at the Allied Forces North headquarters the first iteration of the NATO Response Force, which will signal for the first time NATO's very, very impressive and rapid move into the world of combined arms, in that the NATO Response Force will be an integrated air, land and sea capability, composed of very high-readiness forces and high-readiness forces able to execute military missions on a global scale.
The first two rotations -- each rotation would be about six months, and the first two rotations will be largely experimental, which means that the NATO Response Force -- this version of it for the first year will be a little bit smaller than the first permanent iteration, which will come into effect in July of '04.
But it will nonetheless be a capability. It will be integrated. It will have standards of measure that are clearly understood. It will be certified. In other words, it's not an automatic process by which nations offer forces and we say, "Thank you very much," and slide them into the force structure. They will be trained and they will be certified. And there will be new and more modern instruments by which we measure the readiness of those forces and the readiness reporting, which is currently absent in the NATO structure.
The Prague summit gave us those very clear military guidance as a way in which to proceed. And from a commander's standpoint, that was extremely good military guidance.
Side by side with -- along with NATO transformation, of course, you're all aware that the United States European Command and other combatant commanders have been looking at different ways in which the forces that we have and the organizations that we have in our U.S. role are also, in fact, proceeding apace with regard to transformation. And as NATO itself expands to 26 nations in '04, the European Command -- the U.S. European Command is also looking at ways in which we can posture ourselves so as to be more strategically effective and to better support our bilateral roles in the European Command and also the fundamental support that we bring to this very important alliance.
Within the new structure of NATO, of course, you're all aware that just recently we established the Allied Command for Transformation, which replaced the SACLANT, and so all of the operations in NATO are now within the Allied Command of Operations, which I'm privileged to lead. And Admiral Edmund Giambastiani is the new Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation.
I'd like to underscore that the relationships between Allied Command for Operations and Transformation will be an extremely close one. It must be. There should be no time in which we talk about operations without talking about transformation. Fundamentally, the relationship will essentially be that the Allied Command for Operations will establish the military requirements, and Allied Command of Transformation will provide the instruction and the training and the wherewithal to get to where those forces can be certified. And so obviously, it has to be a very close relationship.
Having said that, the forward headquarters of Allied Command Transformation is intended to be embedded within the Supreme Allied Headquarters in Europe in Mons, where my headquarters is, and Admiral Giambastiani and I have talked on a very, very frequent basis about how to facilitate this new and exciting relationship, because it's fundamentally the engine that will drive the transformation throughout the alliance. And so we're very excited about that new relationship as well.
I'll close my opening remarks by telling you that NATO, in addition to undergoing a very fundamental transformation and establishing its character for the 21st century and the very, very important roles and missions that are coming our way, is also running simultaneously three major operations. Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean, which is a standing naval force exercise. As you know, the standing naval forces in NATO have been training together now for over a decade, and it is -- they're probably the most integrated forces that we have in the alliance, certainly the most responsive. And they have had, for the past six or seven months, the assignment of making sure that transit through the Straits of Gibraltar, and actually, through the Mediterranean itself, are done in accordance with the wishes of the international community.
And having said that, we've seen about a 50 percent decrease in illegal immigration in the Western Mediterranean. And because of the security that is afforded by this wonderfully capable maritime force, it's been reflected in about a 20 percent decrease in the rates for commercial insurance for maritime shipping. I think that the Mediterranean is probably as safe as its ever been from the standpoint of shipping that can embark illegal immigration, weapons of mass destruction, terrorists and the like, and I think that it's well- recognized among the community that practices of those kinds of art forms, so to speak -- that they're running a significant risk if they're trying to transit the Mediterranean doing illegal activities. And I think that's a very, very successful mission and one that we're extremely proud of.
The second mission that's running concurrently, obviously, is in the Balkans. We have seen some extraordinary shifts in the situation in the Balkans in this year. In Bosnia, we've seen fundamental changes towards rule of law and a transition to a common defense position among the former belligerents, a belief that if they wish to integrate into some of the structures in Europe like the European Union or the Partnership for Peace Program or any of the NATO programs, that they have to conform to the basic standards of acceptance for admission under those rules. And we're seeing in Bosnia a real potential for ending the military mission there and transitioning to a more -- a presence that will be more based on establishing police forces as a fundamental enforcer of the rule of law for an emerging nation. And that is very, very exciting.
In Kosovo, we have just had a change of command, as we had in SFOR in Bosnia, by the way. Major General Packett, the United States Army, just took command a week ago in the SFOR. And Lieutenant General Kammerhoff of the German Army took command of KFOR in Kosovo, and he -- his job is still a little bit more challenging militarily. We are seeing what I would call a spike of more violent activity. But I'd characterize that as a spike, not as a new threshold. And we believe that, militarily, we have the tools in which to execute the NATO mission.
And lastly, in the former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, at the conclusion of the EU's mission, we fully intend by the end of the year to see a withdrawal of all but a small token NATO presence serving as an advisory role to the development of the Macedonian armed forces, but essentially an end to that mission from the traditional involvement that we've had in the Balkans.
The third operation, of course, as you know, that's ongoing is ISAF in Kabul, the real -- the first ground operation outside of the regional context of the 21st century's definition of what NATO is involved in. The first out-of-area mission, as you know, was in support of -- in response to the invocation of Article 5 on September 12, 2001, when NATO AWACS was deployed to help guard the skies over the continental United States. This represents the first ground deployment in Afghanistan, again, under German command, General Gliemeroth, who is doing a terrific job, and under the overall operational command of Allied Forces North, which is also responsible for the training and the development of the NRF concept.
So, three ongoing major operations, each at their own speed and their own pace in terms of moving towards its -- the ultimate destination. But it speaks well, I think, of NATO's future and NATO's capability, which is not only -- not only is NATO embracing these types of missions, but at the same time, NATO has fully recognized the need to transform and to lighten its footprint in terms of the number of people it has in uniform; to change from being a 20th century linear bipolar force still aimed too much at territorial defense. But you can't turn it around in a day, it's going to take years. But the ministerial that we just came from clearly showed that there is a great appetite in both the civilian leadership of the alliance and in the military leadership to join this battle and do what must be done to make NATO even more relevant in the 21st century.
So this is exciting work, and I'm privileged to be here. And I'm happy to respond to any of your questions. Thank you.
Q General, you mentioned the potential for wrapping up the military mission in Bosnia. Can you amplify a little bit on that one, what kind of timetable we'll be looking at? Under what circumstances would that take place?
And also, there's been some talk of the possibility of all the 4,000 or so U.S. troops in the Balkans coming home and perhaps a European force of some kind replacing them there. Could you talk about that?
GEN. JONES: I think that I wouldn't want to be held to a particular date. But I think the time is right to have those discussions, both in a domestic sense and in an international sense. And that discussion in the international sense is ongoing. But it is not unreasonable to think that absent any sudden change to the contrary, if the situation currently continues and we see the evolution of the institutions of governance that are taking root and the positive steps that are being demonstrated in Bosnia, that certainly during '04 we could have a different footprint there than we currently have.
I would characterize Kosovo as somewhat different, because it's at a different stage in terms of its maturity. The final status of Kosovo is obviously the key issue.
But I think it's significant to note that in '04 that two out of the three areas of our concentration over the last 10 years -- former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia and Bosnia-Hercegovina -- could undergo a major change in terms of the amount of forces that are deployed there in the -- and in domestic terms, the amount of U.S. forces that would have to be deployed to the region.
Q General --
GEN. JONES: I'm sorry. You had a second -- the second part of your question?
Q Bringing home all 4,000 of the U.S. troops.
GEN. JONES: Of course, that would be a function of international policy-making and decision-making. But I think -- in the context of my answer, I think I provided the -- a sense that Kosovo still requires a military presence, at least in '04, at least from what I currently see. We've had not only a change of command, but we have a new senior official who is getting his feet on the ground, and it'll be interesting to work with him and get his sense of where he thinks Kosovo is and how far we can go towards doing that.
GEN. JONES: George?
Q I'd like to ask you a question about preemptive warfare from two standpoints. One, what are you hearing from your European counterparts about their qualms about the preemptive warfare doctrine as exhibited in Iraq? Some of it came up during the United Nations debate.
And secondly, what is your personal view on preemptive warfare driving the have-nots in the nuclear world to getting a nuclear weapon so they can say, "Well, look, we can't match the United States tank for tank or troop for troop, but if we get a nuke, they won't dare invade us under preemptive doctrine, just as they're not invading North Korea"?
So isn't preemptive doctrine a spur to proliferation of nuclear weapons? What's your view on that?
GEN. JONES: Well, to answer the first part of your question is, among my colleagues in the international community, that has not been one of the top subjects that we've discussed, to be perfectly honest.
What we have been focused on is what I -- what I discussed within the alliance, and that's transforming the alliance. The military-to- military relationships throughout the alliance are extremely strong and very healthy within all 19 nations in the alliance, without exception. We are working on building the bridges to expand to 26. And we are really consumed with trying to define once and for all, in a way that makes understandable sense, NATO's true military requirement for the 21st century. And we believe that if we can define that, then we can help nations in the alliance decide what, in addition to that, they might wish to have in their own capabilities, quite above what is dedicated to NATO.
So the specific question that you ask about to what extent have we discussed those issues, frankly, we're not together enough for long enough to have these esoteric conversations, so ours are pretty sharply defined on military readiness and military missions. Building the force, for example, force generation is a huge endeavor in NATO if you try to generate a force to go to Kabul, to go to -- to keep the Balkans going in Active Endeavor takes an awful lot of time.
And with regard to my own personal views with regard to other nations, I can't -- I wouldn't want to speculate on what they might be thinking, except to say that those merchants of terror and marketeers of weapons of mass destruction will clearly not be encumbered by those kinds of discussions. I honestly believe that if they get those kinds of weapons, they will use them. And whether an individual nation-state cause us to behave one way or the other is a matter for political -- the political discourse. But --
Q I'm thinking of like driving Syria or Iran into accelerating their nuclear pursuit as a response to preemptive warfare. Does that compute for you?
GEN. JONES: I think nothing should be ruled in or ruled out on that score. I think nations will calculate what their actions are, based on what they perceive their own self-interest to be in the future. And -- but I think it is very important work for forces of the United States and our allies to make sure that we get control over the exportation of those technologies sand those -- and that knowledge base. And we need to do -- we need to continue to spend a lot of time thinking about that.
And that's one of the reasons that an operation like Active Endeavor is extremely successful, because we do -- we have in fact created a deterrent, at least in terms of the Mediterranean, towards the marketing of those kinds of capabilities.
Q Sir, NATO's outlined its new requirements for MILSATCOM. Was there any discussion at this ministerial, formally or informally, about that? And also, could you just give us your thoughts on, you know, what will happen if there is a European products supply for EHF, SHF and UHF?
GEN. JONES: I don't think there was any grand discussion on that at the broad level, but I'm sure there were probably some focused side bars on that subject that I was not involved in.
NATO's transformation is not going to be achieved overnight, just as our own transformation domestically here was not achieved overnight as well. It took us over 10 years to get to where we are today, and we're still not finished. And so I think that, on the one hand, while the Prague summit delineated specifics with regard to capabilities that it wished to have, virtually every one of those capabilities have a high-end price tag associated with it.
And so if -- there's only a couple of things that can happen. One is that if nations decide to significantly increase their budgets for national security, then we will be able to close the gap a little bit faster. The likelihood that those nations are going to do that doesn't appear to me to be particularly convincing at this time, so what we're trying to do is encourage nations to hold their defense spending at 2 percent and, in the interim, trying to make economies of scale by internal reform. You've, I'm sure, no doubt heard the secretary-general say that there are over 2.1 million Europeans in uniform, active and reserve. What is the real military requirement for NATO in terms of that kind of manpower? And if you can reduce it -- and I believe you can significantly -- can you make economies of scale that would then go into transforming the force?
Similarly, we also have an abundance of what I would call legacy equipment in NATO, equipment that is more for the defense of the Fulda Gap than it is for projecting power globally. If the NRF is really going to be used as an NRF, how big will it be, what will be its capability, eventually, in the '05, '06 time frame, and what will the equipment base be?
You can generate economies of scale by reducing the inventory, but that's hard work among a family of 26 nations. Some are further along the trail than others, and some are more willing than others. But every country is different. Ten countries in NATO spend over 60 percent of their defense budgets on manpower costs right now. That is, without trying to be dictating to sovereign nations on how they spend their money, which is not my business, but to suggest that you might want to think that that's a little bit high and you might want to reduce that.
If we can get the family of nations and the governments to agree that if we can make economies of scale within the alliance and the military -- current military capability and manpower, then we can get into the business of transformation and looking at these high-end items that were delineated as combat shortfalls for NATO that we must correct, like AGS and other higher-end systems. But you can't get there from here without one of those two things happening. And so absent a clear indication that budgets are changing, we are about transforming the alliance in such a way as to make it more efficient and to make sure that we use our money more carefully so that we can get to that point.
Q So with regard to the actual MILSATCOM bids, do you have any druthers as to whether you prefer seeing an American product or a European product supplying SATCOM in that region?
GEN. JONES: I wouldn't want to speculate on that right now, to be honest with you. I think -- I think as a NATO commander, you're interested in capability, and I'm wearing my NATO badge, so I'm going to give you a NATO answer. (Chuckles.)
Q Yeah, earlier this year, when you were wearing your American hat, you were describing a possibility of bringing home a large number of U.S. troops from Europe. And could you describe where that stands? As well as there are some concerns among the troops themselves that that could result in a larger number of deployments, because they would to then constantly be away from their family in order to meet their presence commitment in Europe.
GEN. JONES: First of all, I don't believe I ever indicated any large number per se, and I stand behind the fact that I didn't do that. What we are about -- what we are attempting to do is to, first of all, establish the fact that strategic forward presence is very important and will be important in the 21st century. And so the cornerstone of anything that we do, any proposal that has been made, is trying to take the forces that we have and make them strategically more agile. This involves a -- this has involved a close partnership with the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Air Force, and each of the parent services have been very closely involved with what it is we have proposed to the secretary. This is still a pre-decisional time that we're in in terms of what the future European footprint might look like, what the future Pacific footprint might look like. So it would -- I don't want to speculate about numbers beyond that point, except to say just a couple of general things.
One is, the center of gravity in Europe is still in Western Europe -- that's where the structures are, that's where the majority of our own U.S. bases are -- but the center of activity is clearly shifting. The alliance is expanding. We're moving east. The geostrategic center of interest for the alliance for the foreseeable future is in the greater Middle East area writ large. And as I've said publicly, we also see a family of threats emerging from the southern region of the U.S. European Command, which is the southern rim of the Mediterranean and sub-Saharan Africa, large, ungoverned areas which are potential havens for the terrorists of the world and the future merchants of all kinds of things that we're trying to do battle with. It is a huge continent and there are many places for this type of activity to go on. And so we are calling -- we 're examining it, we're calling more attention to it, and we think it's a source of future difficulty.
But the point of any type of readjustment of our forces is to create more strategic effect. And we will maintain the nucleus of our irreplaceable installations in Europe. I think that I've used Ramstein Air Force Base as an example because it is inconceivable to me, and anyone else, that you would close Ramstein and move it 500 kilometers to the east and rebuild it. That's simply not going to happen. So there will be strategically enduring installations, and we need access to other types of lighter-access regions and installations where we can go for our own national interest, for our interest in support of the alliance, and to continue to make sure that the requirements for interoperability within the alliance are enhanced. Greater training -- greater access to training areas. In Western Europe we have the same phenomenon we have right here in the United States; urbanization has come to the gates of most military installations, and with that are the predictable amount of problems with regard to noise, training, pollution, environment, and all of those concerns that face us right here at home.
So there is a combination of things that draw us to look elsewhere, but how we get there is really the art form. The world is smaller. It's easier to get around. All of the soldiers in the Balkans right now are U.S. National Guard soldiers. Nobody particularly cares that they're not based in Germany. What they care about is they're doing a great job in Bosnia and Kosovo. And I can assure you that they're doing a great job.
So we have a smaller world, and we have an opportunity to establish a strategic presence, operational presence if required, much quicker than ever before, and therefore, the basing modalities can reasonably be expected to be examined to make sure that we're doing it right in the future. And that's what -- that's really what it's all about.
Q A follow-up on that, please. Can you then, saying that we're in a pre-decisional stage in terms of EUCOM's next footprint, can you stamp out the rumor once and for all that when the 1st Armored Division comes home from Iraq next spring or summer, that they will be returning to Germany rather than going straight to the United States?
GEN. JONES: The clear military recommendation is that, in fact, happen just that way. It is important that troops who are deployed, particularly to Iraq, be reunited with their families, and that we understand that that's the -- that quality of life and that very important human dynamic is important. I believe that as we proceed down the trail towards whatever the footprint looks like, not only in Europe but anywhere else in the world, it will be artfully and articulately drawn out and thought through. And it's certainly not going to be a unilateral decision that is made without any regard to the sensitivities of our families and the commitments we've made to the force and also to our allies, because it must be explained and characterized in a way that says we're trying to become better -- we're trying to be better allies as a result and we're trying to be able to do more, not less, in a strategic sense. So, the answer to your question, to be clear, is that it is -- the military recommendation, and I believe we have the support of everyone on this, that we return the troops who are currently deployed, whether it's a squadron or an individual or a unit, back to their point of origin before we decide to make any kind of transfer back to any other location. It has to do with changing the footprint.
Q Operational question on a different subject --
Q Could we just follow this for just a second. I'm sorry.
Sir, could you tell us what kind of timeline you're operating on, then, for this sort of changing of footprint?
GEN. JONES: I think the timeline is not important. I mean, it would be -- I know that it's important to know, but in the long -- in the context of things, it should be characterized as evolutionary, not revolutionary, and the timelines and the way in which we do anything, large or small, has to not only be thought-out internationally, but domestically. And there will be some puts and takes, and we'll just have to wait and see what exactly the decision is to implement a part, all, none of the proposals. This is -- but the military advice and the military recommendation has been made with no political considerations. I've not tried to put any political considerations on top of my military judgment. So, that will have to be done elsewhere.
And then, when the decision's made, we'll find out, you know, where we're going, and we'll implement the -- we'll implement the plan. But I don't think anyone feels particularly pressured, whether it's next week, next month or the month after. The important thing is that we care about doing this right and we will get it right in a very collegial way, in a very comprehensive way, not only here in the United States, but also abroad.
Q Can I stay on my -- I'm sorry, Barbara.
Q Oh, still on this same subject?
Q Yeah, same subject. In terms of the plan, and I know you don't want to do the specifics of it, but in the out years, do you expect the changes in Germany, wherever changes might occur, to be significant, or do you expect them to be more limited?
GEN. JONES: I expect that whatever decision is made will enable us to be better supportives -- better supporters and contributors to the alliance and to be able to achieve greater strategic effect, in the interests of the United States, in terms of how we use the forces that are at our disposal, recognizing that the principle of being engaged in a forward sense is an important aspect of what we wish to do in the future.
Q General, how and when did you learn that Israel would be or had gone into Syria recently, in that recent raid?
GEN. JONES: After the fact.
Q I mean, did you get a call from someone in Israel? Was it someone in the U.S. government who --
GEN. JONES: No. No, and I'd rather not speculate on that. No.
Q Actually, I want to follow up now on Brian's (sp) question. (Soft laughter.) I wanted to ask you the same thing about Israel and Syria.
You have said here that the Mediterranean and the Middle East is an area of major interest -- military interest in both hats that you wear. Given the fact that Israel has now in the Eastern Med launched a strike against Syria, what military concerns does this pose for the area that you have responsibility over? Why have you gone ahead and stepped up reconnaissance over the Eastern Med to keep an eye on all of this? And what are the implications, given the Syrian-Iraqi border and the number of U.S. troops involved in that situation?
GEN. JONES: We maintain a very robust level of activity in support of our allies and in support of the alliance. And I wouldn't characterize what the U.S. European Command is doing as significantly -- a significant departure in terms of our normal operating procedures.
Q But the question, sir, is, given the fact that there has been this military operation that impacts your area of responsibility, what are the implications, the military implications, for military stability that you keep an eye on?
GEN. JONES: Well, I think any time that someone in the unified command area of operations steps up to operational -- a new level of operational decisions, obviously, we take that under advisement and we report and we seek guidance from the National Command Authority on how to react to it.
Q Militarily, is that airstrike destabilizing to the Eastern Mediterranean?
GEN. JONES: I think that any change in the level of activity is something that the National Command Authority has to deal with and make that kind of a judgment, which is more of a policy issue than the pure military -- the obvious military response to that kind of an event.
Q General, since taking up your command, you're one of the few people that has spoken out about the need to shift the attention south towards sub-Saharan Africa, and you listed some of the threats you see emerging.
Have you -- your deputy recently spoke about one particular location, Sao Tome, as being perhaps the kind of Diego Garcia of the region. Have you made any firm decisions yet, or recommendations, about setting up forward-operating locations in sub-Saharan Africa? And where does that stand?
GEN. JONES: Well, as part of the proposal for how the U.S. European Command might wish to be postured in the future, we have proposed some locations as examples of areas that we might wish to consider. Now, that is subject to, obviously, the interagency process and the State Department, the National Security Council and others saying yes, we agree.
But in our plan, what we tried to do is explain the utility of forward-operating bases and locations in this very, very dynamic century that we're moving into as an example of how we can achieve a strategic effect, greater engagement with the more focused use of rotational type forces, which is a growing concept within the Army, the Navy and the Air Force of the United States -- and the Marines -- in order that we can react to those kinds of realities, either unilaterally or as a member of a coalition, or as a member of the alliance.
Q General, what is the likelihood, short term or long term, and under what conditions might NATO ever contribute troops to Iraq?
GEN. JONES: Well, I think that -- let me just give you an example of my answer to this. When I arrived in Europe in January, I was astounded to discover that the leadership, the civilian leadership of the alliance was really intent on moving the alliance towards Afghanistan. I must admit that in my own preparation going over to Europe, that that was not something that I really spent a lot of time thinking about, because I guess I was kind of captured by the 20th-century thinking that NATO would always kind of be -- NATO's definition of out-of-area was probably the Balkans. (Chuckles.) But they were very serious about Afghanistan, and between January and August the 11th, when we established the NATO footprint in Afghanistan, that's -- that was a very rapid -- for NATO, that's the speed of light to get there.
Now, we are seeing discussions in Brussels and other capitals about NATO and what else it could do in the region. But regardless of what NATO does, it will be a political decision made by -- starting, perhaps, at the United Nations. Your guess is as good as mine. But they will have to be at the political path to be found to basically task that kind of an engagement. But NATO is a great alliance, and a great alliance should always be prepared to do great things. Whether this turns out to be one of them or not, I have no way of knowing.
But I do -- I note with interest that the speed with which we went from not talking about Afghanistan to actually being there was a fairly short period of time. And as the one who would have to submit a military plan for wherever NATO goes next, my intent is fairly sensitive to these kind of discussions.
I will take some in the back row there, please.
Q What would be -- what sort of U.S. military forces and resources would be committed to the NATO Response Force?
GEN. JONES: Well, I think that that will depend on -- as we get through this -- the first two rotations, which are largely prototypes, there will be -- it will be interesting to see how that turns out. And in the first two iterations, we, frankly, are going to try to provide those things that are generally unique to our military capability. I've been very encouraged with the enthusiasm that our allies and friends have taken towards this concept of the NATO Response Force. It is the transformational path of the future. If the NATO Response Force works, NATO will be transformed. If it doesn't work, we've got major difficulties. People -- the alliance understands this, and they are committed to it.
And so, as we go down the first two iterations, and as we get into some serious force packaging for the future, you obviously come up against the traditional well-known gaps of strategic airlift and things like that. And it may be that for the interim between the time that NATO develops its own packages of the short -- of the areas in which we're critically short, that the United States will have to step up or will be asked to step up to bolster those gaps. But in the early days of this concept, I'm very, very encouraged at not only the quality and the quantity of the offerings in the force-generation process, and the fact that at least initially, people are recognizing the United States is actively involved in many, many different operations, and so they are stepping forward to make sure that they offer whatever they can to make the NRF a success, and I take that as an encouraging -- an encouraging trend.
Q Sir, the U.S. provided some intelligence support to Israel in the recent military operations in Syria?
GEN. JONES: I'm not going to s speculate on operations or intelligence sharing.
Q General, two things. First of all, you said you've made some recommendations for possible foreign operating bases and locations in Africa. Can you state what those recommendations are? And secondly, a question about -- this is only technically a CENTCOM AOR, but it involves the Russians, so I wondered if you may be able to talk about it. They expressed some concern yesterday about the bases is Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, that when the mission is over in Afghanistan, that the United States pull out of those. How important is it that the United States maintains those, given what you talked about, our security situation?
GEN. JONES: I don't want to get into the specifics of locations and future footprints. But the intent of the EUCOM product is not to be so specific that says it's got to be here or it's got to be there, because the intent is to develop a capability for a very agile footprint that can actually go from one place to the other in very rapid ways. So that's why we really do want to get into kind of a rotational type forces that can go to several places when it is required, when it's needed, where there's a crisis or a training opportunity or what have you. So the exact locations that happen to be proposed are really emblematic of the types of locations that we could choose to visit.
If you look at the landscape of Eastern Europe and the presence of former Warsaw Pact countries, you see literally a number of airfields and bases that are not being used, that are just out there. So we're not talking about major infrastructure, we're talking about using things in large part that are already there. And we're talking about develop relationships with particularly our emerging Eastern European friends and allies who want a very close association with the United States from the standpoint of developing their own militaries as they transition from the Warsaw Pact to a Western-type army.
We recently established, as an example, a program to train noncommissioned officers in the Eastern -- in the alliance, I mean, not just the East. But obviously there's an appetite for that in the East, because in the Warsaw Pact there was no experience with the role of NCOs and staff NCOs. And we're going to do that. And there's a lot of enthusiasm about that. That's part of the transformation that is ongoing.
With regard to the Russian question that you raised, I mean, that's a matter of a political decision. And I don't have any insights in particular, except that I would say to you that on the military-to-military basis, the relationship between Russia and NATO and EUCOM and Russia is really going extremely well. And it's a two- way street. Greater -- much greater interest in interoperability and in contact, and much greater transparency in the relationship, open discussions with regard to what you're reading in the newspapers about the alliance shift to the east and what that means in terms of the U.S. And we're laying that out exactly as I've done here today, so that it is not misunderstood, it is not threatening, and they understand that we're not talking about large, permanent headquarters shifting from Central Europe to Eastern Europe, because that is not what we're proposing.
Q General, may I follow up on that just a little bit?
GEN. JONES: Please.
Q Because there's been a of speculation that basically because Poland has been so helpful and Germany and France have not, that there will be a shift toward Poland, basically.
GEN. JONES: Well, quite apart from the political disagreements or discussions that are ongoing, the -- it must be said that the -- at no time during Operation Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom have -- has the United States been denied anything in Europe that materially changed our footprint for -- our goals. For instance, access to German airspace and German bases have been critical to the success of OEF and OIF.
Probably the major setback, of course, was the parliamentary vote in Turkey, which denied the trans-land plan that we had for the 4th Infantry Division. But even with that, we found work-arounds to protect a force by air, with Turkish acquiescence and permission, from Germany to northern Iraq, which contributed significant military capability to bring about the end of the conventional fighting, at least in northern Iraq.
So the military access through our traditional bases, whether it was ports or airfields, have never really been seriously denied to the point that we would have to reevaluate our footprint based on those decisions, because that's -- the evidence is not there.
Q But nonetheless, you say that your center of attention is shifting eastward, so it would be --
GEN. JONES: Well, I mean, it's just clearly evident that the alliance has gone from 16 to 19 to 26 and everything has been to the East. So, obviously, that's the growth and that's the area of interest. And that's just a fact.
Q Can I ask you a real quick question on Iraq? You were in on the planning, as commandant of the Marine Corps. Has the aftermath surprised you, namely, the looting and the shooting of our troops?
GEN. JONES: I think -- I think that there was -- in the aftermath of any major conflict like that there is always a period where, even in post-World War II, where you have to -- you have to go and establish the governmental authority that is going to bring lasting peace and internal peace to the region.
So, personally, no, I don't think that's -- I don't think that's a big surprise. But I think that -- I think that we must also recognize the fact that in the overwhelming majority of the country, things are going reasonably well -- in the north and the south. And so the violence is confined to a fairly knowable and predictable geographic location. And I think, ultimately, we will certainly be able to deal with that.
Q General, why does it still make sense to have Israel, Lebanon and Syria under EUCOM's AOR? Why does that still make sense?
GEN. JONES: Well, the nice thing about the Unified Command Plan is it's always up for review. And I think that it wouldn't surprise me at all if other people ask those kinds of questions at the next review of the Unified Command Plan. This is -- these are things that should be discussed, and I will be prepared to discuss that at the -- if it comes up as an issue. But nothing should ever be so set in stone that it doesn't change.
Q Does it distract from the rest of the AOR? I mean, it just seems to be that one part that doesn't belong, it just doesn't really fit into everything else that you're doing.
GEN. JONES: I don't know, to be honest with you. I haven't really sat down with John Abizaid and reviewed that. I think it's something that I'm sure will be reviewed in time.
But right now, between CENTCOM and EUCOM, we are working so well and so closely together that the seams between where CENTCOM ends and EUCOM starts, or vice versa, are really very flexible. EUCOM was the supporting command for CENTCOM during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Fifty percent of all of the cargo that went to prosecute the Iraqi campaign went through Europe; 80 percent of the passengers went through Europe to get there. And Turkey is one of EUCOM's responsibilities, and we are really the agent for CENTCOM in discussing the military questions and the relationships that we wish to have with Turkey with regard to Iraq.
And so there is a -- there is more and more of a blend of where one unified commander begins and the other one ends. And that's the way it really should be. I see the future with less sharp divisions in terms of the Unified Command Plan because it is -- functionally, that's the way it has to be in order to be successful. Now, how that plays over into your question I think will be looked at in time. And you could look at places like the Horn of Africa and ask the same questions. All along the seams of -- wherever there's a line drawn, eventually you're going to be talking about it because you're never going to get it just right.
Somebody who hasn't had a question, please.
Q General, were there any discussions during the recent ministerial about the development of a NATO missile defense system? And maybe you could share your ideas on that, or what discussions you've had with some of your counterparts?
GEN. JONES: Not as a part of the formal agenda. But those are questions that have been discussed for quite a while within the alliance. And I think it's probably one that is more intellectually accepted than not these days. But what the future path of it is is not completely defined at this point. But that question, the question of air/ground surveillance, the question of how you get NATO into the very high endgame in terms of future military capability, and where you find the money to do that are really the fundamental things. And what I'm spending most of my time on is the essentially grassroots transformation at the operational level and trying to define the precise military requirement for NATO in the 21st century.
Q On the area of transformation, there's always talk and a lot of agreement on the need for interoperability. Yet, when you talk about interoperability, it tends to run afoul of technology transfer issues and not allowing technology to transition to other countries. Do you have any comment on that? How is that impacting the NATO transformation?
GEN. JONES: That's always a sensitive issue. It's -- particularly -- that really gets into kind of national prerogatives in terms of how you export technology and how much of it you export. The -- my focus is on capability, and it has to be that way: What are the essential tools of the trade that we need to make NATO relevant in the 21st century, and how do we get there? And I suggested to you that there's a more fundamental level of transformation that we probably will have to go through before we get to the high-end things, but those things have to be -- those things are and have to be properly discussed at the national level. And those of us in the military can only specify what is absolutely required and hope that we can find the agreements and the -- in terms of our relations with our friends and allies, is to get those technologies that are necessary. And we'll just have to see how we do on that. It is a big issue.
Q General, can you talk a little bit more about the installations? I know you don't want to put a timeline on it or --
GEN. JONES: I'm sorry?
Q The installations -- the new -- (inaudible). But what has to happen either politically or process-wise? What's the next step? When would we begin to see some of these actually --
GEN. JONES: Well, I think that once the military recommendations are in, that then it has to be decided by the president of the United States, it has to -- in concert with the National Security Council, the State Department and all instruments of national power, and it has to be vetted both nationally and internationally, so that people understand exactly what it is and what it isn't. And I think that will take place in due course. And I don't think there's a critical need that it be today or tomorrow or next week. It'll just be done when the time is right. It's not -- that's not in my -- that's not for me to suggest.
GEN. JONES: Well, there are quite a few people that are talking about it. I mean, I think it's well-known that there are certain people, certain mayors, elected representatives in Germany that have made that a topic. They visited the Hill and said, "Please don't take the troops home," and so on and so forth. I mean, it really is something that's out there, but I don't think it's a -- there's no operational necessity that it be done now or tomorrow or next week. It can be done when the timing is right, and our national command authorities have decided that the time is right, and in concert with the nations that are affected, that we vet this thing in the right way. So we'll just have to see what happens. I can't give you a better answer.
STAFF: We have time for one more question.
GEN. JONES: Yes, ma'am?
Q The NATO rapid response, is that going to be measured in weeks, months? You mentioned Afghanistan; it took them eight months. Is that going to be the standard?
GEN. JONES: Well, the Prague Capabilities Commitment was very specific in that, and it said that the very high readiness elements should be ready to go within from five to 30 days. And so we are building a capability that will be able to, in fact, meet with the Prague Capability Commitments.
Q What more do you need to do that? What kinds of changes and assets? What types of things will you need?
GEN. JONES: Well, the vision for the NATO Response Force is an integrated air, land and sea capability that's under one commander. That's new for NATO. The good news is that the maritime forces are already integrated, they've been integrated for 10 or 12 years, when you can sail the sea-based portion of the NATO Response Force tomorrow and it will already be trained. For any of you that have ever spent time in the Med aboard NATO Standing Naval Forces Mediterranean or Atlantic, you know that's a fully multinational, operationally highly trained, instantly usable force. The only other one that is like that in the alliance is NATO AWACS -- again, another fully integrated, fully trained, highly competent, immediately usable force. And what we're trying to do is get the land forces of the alliance and to a lesser extent the air force of the alliance to have that same kind of integration.
And that's really what it takes. But all of the tools are there, they are there, to create a force of significant capability that may not be at the high end of things in the classic sense of major theater conflict, if you will, but can certainly help -- can certainly be of great help to the things the United States is interested in at the Afghanistan level of input and where other crises might call upon to have a rapidly deployable force to establish a presence.
And there are some interesting issues out there for NATO, and it will be interesting to see how it goes. But, for instance, one question would be, does NATO wish to be pre-decisional? In other words, do they wish to deploy to an area before a crisis, or is it always going to be after a crisis? Is it reactive or is it a little bit more proactive in the 21st century?
I think this is a fascinating time to be in an alliance that's changing, that is rediscovering its capability, that is rapidly going into creating something that's new and something that will be fundamentally important to the security of the democracies that all 26 nations represent.
STAFF: I'm afraid that's all we have time --
GEN. JONES: You're all wonderful to be here at Friday afternoon. I thank you very much. Thank you.
Q Thanks for coming by.
GEN. JONES: Thank you.
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