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DoD News Briefing with Lt. Gen. Ham and Lt. Gen. Sattler from the Pentagon

Presenters: Director for Operations, Joint Staff, Lt. Gen. Carter Ham and Director for Strategic Plans and Policy, Joint Staff Lt. Gen. John Sattler
February 15, 2008
            GEN. SATTLER: General Ham and I are excited obviously to be here today. Neither one of us really have an opening statement, but I would like to key in on the three pieces of legislation, key legislation, which were announced as being passed by the council of representatives earlier this week. One of those being the amnesty law, the second one being the provincial powers law, and then the third one is, the Iraqi budget, the calendar year '08 budget, passed.   
            One of the key points here is that they bundled all three of these critical pieces of legislation together. And, as a council of representatives, they have figured now that you don't have to take one piece of legislation at a time and negotiate it; that by bundling, you can cross and trade across pieces of legislation to get an agreement.   
            The next step now is, the president's council will take this legislation and, we hope, rapidly pass it, so it can get out to the appropriate ministers, and that we can -- the Iraqi government can move forward with business.   
            And with that as an opening comment, Bob, I'll take your first question for General Ham. (Laughter.)   
            Q     Thanks, General.   
            I have an Iraq question for you. When will the next brigade combat team come out, that reduces the surge force from 19 to 18? Is that this month or next month?   
            And also has it been determined yet how much of the support force, that went in as part of the surge, will come out so that by July, you'll have X number higher than 130 that's commonly referred to?   
            GEN. HAM: The next brigade combat team will come out in March, which will be the second of the five that will come out without replacement, and then about every six weeks or so thereafter, till the fifth one comes out in July. The determination yet as to what other forces because, as you're well aware, there were some other -- there were forces other than brigade combat teams that deployed as part of the surge, or to meet other requirements as they emerged inside Iraq.   
            General Petraeus and his staff -- General Austin, as you know, just took over yesterday with the new MNC-I headquarters -- are evaluating all of that. And we expect that to be part of the next round of recommendations that come from General Petraeus, Admiral Fallon. Of course, the Joint Chiefs will have theirs as well.   
            So no determination yet. It's likely that it will be, the number will be, a little bit larger than the 132-or-so that was the number of personnel on the ground pre-surge, so January, December '06, January '07. So it's likely to be a little bit larger than that but at this point, I can't tell you anything more precise than that.   
            Q     So is it going to be more than 140,000?   
            GEN. HAM: I wouldn't want to bound it just yet, Bob. I think let's let the commanders make that assessment. And I think the important thing to remember is that everybody, from the president on down, has always said that the force posture will be based on conditions on the ground. And those are, as you're well aware, ever changing.   
            So we'll let the commanders make those recommendations. They're in the process of making those assessments now, and we should know something in the next few months.   
            GEN. SATTLER: Yeah, Bob, if I may, add just briefly, we've discussed this before, that as we build the Iraqi forces, and they continue to grow in capacity and capability, we started by building the tooth, you know, the warriors, to go forward, and put those both on the police side and especially on the army side. And the enablers: We always knew we would provide the enablers as we grow now their logistics capacity and capability, their artillery, all the other supporting arms and combat support elements. So as we bring some of our combat elements out, the Iraqis grow up towards 600,000 for a total security force, that we will still be required for a period of time to provide those enablers.   
            Q     For them, you mean. For the Iraqis.   
            GEN. SATTLER: For the Iraqis, yes.   
            Yes, sir.   
            Q     Yesterday General Cartwright said that the window to take a shot at this satellite opens in three or four days. It was also said that a shot would not be taken until after the shuttle lands, which is the 20th. So just for the record, when does the window open? And what is the current estimate on when the satellite is supposed to enter the atmosphere?   
            GEN. SATTLER: The window will open when the shuttle is on the ground. And then this body of experts from Strategic Command, NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office, all those who have a vested interest in this, will then apply their best judgment as to when the best opportunity is to intercept the satellite as it begins to come off orbit.   
            So, I think, as you heard yesterday, it's a bit of an imprecise science at this point.   
            So they'll look for best opportunities to engage with the interceptor so as to -- to get the best predictability that we can to determine point of impact. And obviously, we would prefer point of impact to be in the water if we can at all affect that. 
            Q     What is the current estimated date of you passing the point of no return, when in fact it is already entered the atmosphere and it's too late to shoot? 
            GEN. HAM: Again, imprecise, but probably right around -- sometime in very early March. It would probably -- it would probably de-orbit of its own energy somewhere in that time frame. 
            GEN. SATTLER: Yes, sir. 
            Q     If I could follow on -- up on that. I believe that foreign governments are notified that the date would be March 5th. Is that the actual date that you have for it to de-orbit, March 5th? 
            GEN. HAM: I'm not -- I'm not positive of that date. But that -- but that time frame is about right. I wouldn't say to that specific date, but certainly the time frame is right. 
            Q     And how much time -- General Cartwright said yesterday there would be two days of assessment to determine whether the object, the satellite had been struck adequately enough to bring it down. Is that the minimum time frame before you could launch another missile, or can you launch that some -- anywhere in between that two days? 
            GEN. HAM: We could -- the capability would exist to launch a second missile, if that was necessary, shortly after a first. But they'd what the period -- they want the period of a day or two to assess the effect of the first missile, you know, to probably get an orbit or two to get an understanding of what effect the first intercept had on the satellite before launching another interceptor. So you'd want to -- you want to know as much as you can before you would launch that second one. 
            So I think a couple of days is probably about right. Technically, you could do it sooner than that, but there probably isn't great value in doing it sooner than that. 
            GEN. SATTLER: Yes, sir. 
            Q     Generals, I was hoping you could provide some clarity to an incident in Iraq. There are media reports that a coalition airstrike killed a number of civilians, including a family. MNF-I just put out a press release saying there was no such incident on Friday, and the closest incident was Wednesday or Thursday. Can you elaborate more on what might have happened here? 
            GEN. HAM: I can't. I'm not -- I'm sorry, I'm not aware of that incident or that reporting. I probably should be, but I'm not. I don't -- I'm not tracking that particular one. But I would be -- you know, we don't ordinarily do that, but that one I'd be glad to take as a question and get back to you, if that's okay. 
            GEN. SATTLER: Yes, sir. 
            Q     General, back to the drawdown in Iraq. It's become apparent that it looks as though some sort of pause of indeterminate length is likely to be recommended beginning with the July time frame. Could you characterize for us some of the force options you all are talking about in terms of that likelihood or that possibility? 
            Not really asking for your conclusions -- you may not have reached those yet -- but at least your considerations, but what are the Chiefs talking about here? 
            GEN. HAM: Well, I think that, you know, again, starting with all three groups -- General Petraeus as the commander on the ground, Admiral Fallon regionally, and the Joint Chiefs are all looking at the same basic issues, but maybe with a different -- little bit different perspective. So there are a lot of variables that will come into play as to, you know, if there's a pause, how long should it be, or what the next force posture changes should be. 
            The variables are -- will be familiar to you. It is the performance of the Iraqi security forces. How numerous are they and how capable are they from region to region? Certainly, as has been said from this podium numbers of time, the enemy gets a vote. So what the level of insurgent activity or al Qaeda in Iraq activity certainly will have a bearing on this as well, as will the progress along the other lines of operation, of governance and reconstruction. Those will also have a significant play as to how ready are the Iraqis to assume an ever-increasing responsibility for security. So provincial Iraqi control, how that progresses beyond the current nine provinces to others. All of those factors, I think, will be on the minds of General Petraeus, Admiral Fallon, and the Joint Chiefs, as they weigh that right balance between a force posture that is sufficient to sustain the security gains that have been achieved over the past several years, but most importantly over the past year of the surge. How do you sustain that but still seek to transition security responsibility to the Iraqi security force? So that's the delicate balance that those commanders have to wrestle with. 
            Q     If I could follow, how long do you estimate that a pause could last before some sort of impact to -- some sort of change would have to take place in 15-month deployment for the Army and/or perhaps a more drastic option such as calling up more Guard and Reserve units? 
            GEN. HAM: I guess that's the proverbial $64,000 question, and that's what the commanders are wrestling with, is all of those factors. Tour length, the force posture, the mix of active and reserve component forces, all of those are being considered. But at this point, here on the 15th of February, to say that they're at conclusion, I think would be very much -- very premature. 
            I think all of those factors are still very much in play. Those groups are conducting their assessments. There is a pretty structured process that will ultimately yield a recommendation to the secretary of Defense and the president, but we're pretty early in that process, frankly. 
            Q     Can you say that one of the options is to call up -- one of the options being considered is a possible call-up of more Guard and Reserve forces? 
            GEN. HAM: I don't think there are any options that are necessarily off the table. I think the commanders will look at, again, in their reasoned judgment, what's the best way ahead. 
            GEN. SATTLER: If I could just -- just one last burst on that. You know, General Petraeus, he's looking at Iraq. He is the commander on the ground. Admiral Fallon owns both Iraq, Afghanistan plus the Gulf Region, so he's trying to balance the utilization of resources across both. And as General Ham said, the chairman and the Joint Chiefs, they have the responsibility for health of the force plus the global -- the ultimate global war on terror. So this is -- there are multiple points, multiple levers in the equation, and all are being looked at. 
            Sir. Yes, sir. 
            Q     I'd like to ask another question about the satellite shoot- down. When you do this, will you be gathering data from, you know, all your various sensors as you would in a missile defense test? 
            GEN. HAM: Yes, very much so, because that -- there are a number of different sensors that can help us assess the effectiveness when the intercept occurs with the first missile, what the effect of that has been. And then, importantly, to then -- the next important issue for us is to predict likely point of impact. So yes, there will be sensors operating, and some of the very same sensors that operate in the missile defense role. 
            Q     So it's an added bonus here that this test -- that the data from this test, you know, could be used in the sense of it being an anti-satellite test. 
            GEN. HAM: No, the technology, I think, is very different. These missiles have been modified specifically, I think, as General Cartwright said, three missiles specifically modified for this role, and that the tactics are quite different. This is an object which is -- which is coming off orbit, not something that's in a higher- altitude orbit. So it -- I think there are -- those parallels I think are really a stretch of what we're trying to do. 
            I think we've tried to be as clear as we can. This is a de- orbiting object over which we presently have no control. We're trying to gain some predictability because of the potential hazard to health and life that could accrue if that -- if the hydrazine tank were to impact on land in a populated area. 
            So it's not really any more than that. We felt we had -- we have a responsibility, and we were able to, through the good work of some really bright people, develop a capability. And we felt that we should do that. 
            Q     Okay. Well, so it's not going to go away. 
            (Cross talk, laughter.) 
            Q     It's been said over and over again that the chances of debris hitting someone on the ground are infinitesimal. So then you get the gas, which covers, they said, two football fields. What does that really do to the odds? I mean, two football fields on the surface of the Earth is still a very minute area.   
            GEN. HAM: It is pretty small. And I don't think we've -- I don't think anybody has said that it's anything other than that. I mean, the -- but the -- but it is -- there is -- because we can't control this satellite, which we ordinarily can, but because we can't control it, and thereby reasonably predict the point of impact, then a determination was made that it would be responsible on the part of the United States to try to affect the satellite so that we could predict the point of impact and then take measures to protect folks. 
            So I mean, certainly there was consideration to that course of action, of the do-nothing course of action, just let it come off orbit, as many things from space do. 
            But what changes this one, I think, as you heard yesterday, was because this satellite has not had power since shortly after launch, the hydrazine is, we think, almost entirely if not entirely still intact, and so it's a larger health risk than would otherwise occur. 
            Columbia, for example, was at the end of its mission cycle, so its hydrazine content was very, very low. So that's -- I think that's what's different in this particular circumstance.   
            GEN. SATTLER: And I would just add we -- as a nation, I believe we have the responsibility to mitigate the risk to the rest of the world, and that goes back to exactly what General Ham said.   
            Doing nothing and playing the odds, which was one of the potential courses of action -- but doing the shoot does in fact increase -- decreases the odds of a large object, you know, making contact with the Earth's surface somewhere. You know, hopefully it'll hit harmlessly in the water, but this just -- there's no downside to trying to increase or mitigate the risk. 
            Q     Have they been able to determine the cost to this operation? 
            GEN. HAM: The one piece I can tell you -- the missiles are about 10 million (dollars) each. So there are other costs, obviously, of sortieing the ships, but they would already be operating anyway. I think we're working to -- with all the parties to kind of capture a comprehensive, you know, how much did it cost to modify the missiles, the fire control, that kind of business. But the missiles themselves, about 10 million (dollars). 
            Q     Has that modification already been complete or is that -- 
            GEN. HAM: For the -- yes, for the three, yes. 
            GEN. SATTLER: Okay, why don't we can grab one back here, please, someone -- 
            Q     This is all a little off-topic, turning to Iraq. Does the -- legislation that you talked about a little bit earlier, does that affect the strategic -- the talk about the strategic security agreement or the SOFA? Is that moving you guys forward? Is there an update now that that legislation is through, or does the legislation not affect those talks at all? 
            GEN. SATTLER: Of course, everyone's excited about the fact the legislation moved through, and the same folks who were working the strategic framework agreement and the Status of Forces Agreement are obviously took time to applaud that. But the two are decoupled, totally decoupled. What the strategic framework agreement will provide and the SOFA will provide are completely separate from the three key pieces of legislation. 
            Q     So there's no update on that. 
            GEN. SATTLER: It continues -- we continue to work it within the interagency. Everyone's had the opportunity to take a look at it. But it will move forward to Iraq hopefully sometime during the -- during February or early March to start negotiating with the government of Iraq. 
            Q     Is there a hard deadline? 
            GEN. SATTLER: The hard deadline is we would obviously like to have it passed when the U.N. Security Council resolution expires at the end of '08 along with CPA Order 17, which provides us the authorities -- and our allies the authorities to be in the country and the protection for all our men and women and our contractors. 
            So earlier would be better, but that is sort of the -- the far end would be 31 December. 
            Q     Back on the satellite, was the Pacific chosen -- well, I mean, it's this way. Why was the Pacific chosen as the point from which you would attempt to make this intercept? 
            GEN. HAM: Again, assessment by the -- by all the parties who were engaged in the process that afforded the best launch basket, if you will, for the missiles, based on the specific characteristics of this satellite's orbit.   
            Q     Doesn't have anything to do with just where the ships happened to be, anything -- 
            Q     You don't have --  
            GEN. HAM: But ships can move. I mean -- 
            Q     Well, but they can't move from Pacific to Atlantic in that time frame, can they? 
            GEN. HAM: Well, sure with advance notice, they certainly can. The one thing that -- I mean, there is the -- the sea-based X-band radar is one that couldn't, could not make that transit. But the surface ships obviously could, (given they were on time ?).  
            Q     But the fact that you've had so many of these sensors sort of over pointed in the direction of North Korea, is that why the Pacific is a better place to try to -- to try this intercept? 
            GEN. HAM: No, I think it would -- again, based on the characteristics of this satellite and all -- and its orbital characteristics, this was what made this the best site to launch from.  
            GEN. SATTLER: In the second row, please. 
            Q     Going back to the legislation, what remains for the Iraqis to do? What legislational benchmarks remain for them to do? Is it the hydrocarbon law or -- 
            GEN. SATTLER: Well, the hydrocarbon law, which comes with revenue sharing, and even with the provincial powers -- when the provincial powers law -- it now requires them to pass the election law. And then that sets the date for the elections, which I believe, by the legislation, they have to pass the elections law within 90 days, and then the elections are to be held, which will be critical, on 1 October. And that's my interpretation, without any notes or having it in front of me here. 
            So this is a key move in the right direction for unification and to get onward with the provincial elections and potential -- provincial power-sharing and a federal system. 
            Q     For a long time they haven't -- they didn't do an awful lot, and then it seems that there's been a law passed every week, day. What caused -- 
            GEN. SATTLER: Well, they've actually passed over 70 to 80 pieces of legislation.   
            It's just nothing that got up to the level of the big ones that we drew attention to and that we were running metrics on.   
            But again I think it also speaks, as I mentioned earlier, to somewhat the maturity of the council of representatives, figuring out how to negotiate and debate, to move something through when there are those who take umbrage with it, by taking three pieces and bundling, and then doing some trades back and forth. So these are all very positive signs.   
            One all the way in the back, then we'll go to round two.   
            Yes, ma'am.    
            Q     About the satellite shooting, is there an assessment of what impact it may have on planes in case of an impact, you know, if objects get into the atmosphere, not hit the ground but, you know, before it hits the ground? Is there a possibility --   
            GEN. SATTLER: Yes, that was a consideration, as it is with any time we know of any material that's deorbiting that could be in the flight paths. So there will be -- this is another reason for the importance of this assessment, once the intercept has occurred, to have a good understanding of what action that may have. And there are procedures in place, that there's a determination that it could create a hazard to aviation, and those notifications will be made. But yes, that's part of that consideration.   
            Q     One more thing about -- there are reports in the Turkish papers that Turkey will be a part of the missile defense system, including Czech Republic and Romania most likely. Can you confirm? Are there any talks about that issue?   
            GEN. SATTLER: I can't. I don't know.   
            GEN. HAM: The discussions right now are obviously with Poland and with the Czech Republic. There are other options that have been discussed, or that are potentially out there. But those are the only two countries that I'm aware of that we're involved in missile defense discussions with right now.   
            Yes, sir.   
            Q     On the satellite, if the satellite were to descend uncontrollably, you know, crash to the earth, do you all have a sense of what the probability would be that it would land on land as opposed to water?   
            GEN. HAM: Not yet.   
            We won't know that until after intercept or, if intercept is not successful, when the object actually de-orbits, because there are just so many variables that will apply to its reentry. 
            But there is an expectation that we will have some number of hours of ability to determine where the point of impact is likely to be. Not surprisingly, shortly after it comes off orbit, you'll start to narrow it down but very broadly -- perhaps, you know, to a continent or to an ocean. And then as time goes on and you're able to monitor the actual characteristics of this very unstable, non- aerodynamic object, you get more and more precise as you get closer to point of impact.  
            So that's what we're looking for, and make sure we have processes in place so that if it is going to come down on land that we have -- either in the United States or through other nations, which is one of the reasons of the State Department's notice to other governments, so that folks can be prepared to respond to that once there's a reasonable determination of where impact is likely to occur. 
            Q     Could you say, for instance, in a current orbit, right now, you know, what percentage of that would be over land as opposed to the ocean? 
            GEN. HAM: At this point, it is too unpredictable to even say that until such time as the object actually comes off orbit because -- again, because it is not controlled. It's premature to assess likelihood of impact, whether that's water or land. 
            Q     The notification, what -- in a couple of hours, what can you really do? I mean, just wait for it to come down. 
            GEN. HAM: Well, in terms of -- but in terms of being prepared to respond -- for example, if the point of impact were to be inside the continental United States, then local authorities, state authorities, FEMA and others can be postured -- and we have some Department of Defense assistance available in that case as well -- to try to contain the scene and control the scene.  
            That's really the primary concern, is to control access to -- particularly to the hydrazine, which is the threat. And we think, again, if there's impact over land, and we can reasonably predict with some notification where that will occur, then we have a fairly high degree of confidence that local law enforcement, first responders, assisted by state and some federal entities, can take the appropriate precautionary measures. And that's -- we would encourage other nations. Again, this is the reason for State Department's notice to others. 
            Q     Would you order an evacuation of any particular area? 
            GEN. HAM: I think, again, that would be very premature, to do that. And I think that would be very, very unlikely. That would not be a DOD responsibility or effort to do in that regard. 
            I think probably have time for one more, General Sattler. 
            GEN. SATTLER: We've got one right here. 
            Q     On the -- going back to the election date of October 1st, the last time there was a provincial election you actually had a plus- up of forces. How significant an impact is setting a date going to be on the force levels as they go on through the rest of the year? 
            GEN. SATTLER: Now, the troop-to-task for the elections -- and I'll pass it to General Ham, but I'll take the first shot at the question -- the troop to task will be done by the forces on the ground. Each province is different. As you know, of the 18 provinces, some have already gone to a provincial Iraqi control. By October, as we roll forward, there could be as many as another six that have gone to provincial Iraqi control -- six or more, depending -- once again, those are conditions-based, for conditions to be met -- that the governor of the province would make the call in conjunction with the sovereign country of Iraq. And we would certainly be standing by to assist. 
            Other key point is, the Iraqi security forces continue to grow not only in numbers but in capacity, in capability, capacity and capability. So they are capable, as they have proven. Through some of the religious holiday seasons, where there's been big pilgrimages where they have provided the security, they have really stood tall. 
            So I would not want to predict what additional security would be required, and if it was required, whether that would be U.S. or would be Iraqi security. 
            General Ham? 
            GEN. HAM: I think that's fair. I think in any future provincial election or national election, the primacy for security will fall to the Iraqis, and we'll take a reinforcing role, Quick Reaction Forces, and other ways that we can help. Obviously with the -- with intelligence collection, with transportation, with logistics, some of the other things that we can do to help, we would certainly do that.   
            You want to make one more announcement?   
            GEN. SATTLER: Are we authorized?   
            GEN. HAM: Yeah.   
            GEN. SATTLER: Our director, the beloved director of the Joint Staff, Skip Sharp: The announcement's out that he has been nominated for his fourth star, and to replace General B.B. Bell as the commander of the U.S. Forces Korea. And for those of us who work with General Sharp on a daily if not hourly basis, as the 3 and the 5, we think that's great news. That's great news for the Sharp family, great news for soldiers and their family, I will say, you know, worldwide. And it's super news for the country of Korea and our forces who are there.  
            Carter, anything you want to add?   
            GEN. HAM: No, I would just -- congratulations.   
            GEN. SATTLER: A thundering Hooah, Hooah for General Sharp and his family.   
            GEN. HAM: Okay. Thanks. Thanks very much.   
            GEN. SATTLER: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
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