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DoD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon Briefing Room, Arlington, Va.

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell
December 18, 2008
         MR. MORRELL: Good afternoon. I have nothing in particular to start off with, so let's get to questions.
 
         Anne?
 
         Q     Could you describe for us the initial U.S. planning for Iraq troop withdrawals under the SOFA and who has been told of those plans so far?
 
         MR. MORRELL: I wouldn't describe for you the planning, per se, but I would be happy to share with you the fact that when we were in Iraq on Saturday, the secretary met with Generals Odierno and Austin up in Balad. And they had a lengthy and very good conversation about the proposed way ahead in Iraq in the coming year, including projected force levels during the coming year. This was -- and I would emphasize -- not any sort of decisional meeting, but rather a discussion about possible options for troop strength next year, depending, of course, on events on the ground, including the fact that there are scheduled to be three elections taking place next year in Iraq.
 
         Subsequent to that discussion, the secretary, as you know, flew out to Chicago to meet with President-elect Obama and his national security team. He was joined by Chairman Mullen. And the secretary asked that Chairman Mullen brief the Obama national security team on the current thinking about the way ahead in Iraq.
 
         The secretary described that conversation, that discussion as an excellent one. He said he feels as though the group has already exhibited excellent chemistry. 
 
        But ultimately coming back to sort of the substance of your question, I think, the most important thing to know here is that while there are options being discussed, at this point, nothing decisional.  
 
         None of these meetings, conversations has been decisional. Ultimately this will be up to the president-elect, to the new commander in chief, to determine the direction he wishes to go, in Iraq, and what the force requirements will be to get there.  
 
         I would add only that the secretary, I believe, wishes to conduct a similar process to the one that he has conducted as these decisions have been made, over the past couple of years, in which the president, the commander in chief gets to hear from virtually every commander with a vested interest in this particular area of the world.  
 
         That means General Odierno; it means General Petraeus, in his new capacity at CENTCOM; it means the Joint Chiefs; it means the chairman; it means the secretary will all get to speak, if the secretary is able to do this, directly with the president, so that President-elect Obama gets a wide variety of views, a number of varying perspectives, not necessarily any discord among them, but hears from a number of people, about what they believe to be the proper course.  
 
         Q     Is it safe to presume then that the options, as you describe them, would take out -- take up that whole three years laid out in the SOFA?  
 
         MR. MORRELL: I don't think it would be safe to assume anything other than the fact that according to our agreement with the Iraqis, all U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, barring a decision, a mutual decision by two sovereign government if, at some point, they should choose to tear up that agreement and negotiate a new one for a longer period of time.  
 
         We're not there yet, don't see a need for it at this point yet. But that's a possibility. But I'm not going to characterize, in any way, what the options are that have been presented thus far. You know, these are private conversations that are had between the president-elect and his commanders.  
 
             Q     Well, what about a shorter (agreement ?)? I mean, you're talking about the -- of U.S. and Iraq ripping up the SOFA and coming up with a longer one. But what about a shorter one?
 
         MR. MORRELL: Or conversely, it could happen sooner.
 
         Q     Geoff, you said that this was -- these were discussions about projected force levels for the coming year. Did they look further than that or only for the coming year?
 
         MR. MORRELL: The coming year and beyond. (Pause.) I think that answers it.
 
         Q     Geoff?
 
         MR. MORRELL: Yeah, (Jim ?).
 
         Q     Did General Odierno recommend that the -- just two brigades be drawn down next year?
 
         MR. MORRELL: I'm not going to get into what General Odierno's recommendations are, what the chairman's brief was, what the secretary's recommendations are. I mean, we have to preserve some sort of integrity to this process so that these very important decisions can be made without any sort of -- without any sort of distractions. And so the focus will be on making sure there is direct communication between the commanders and the president-elect, so that he can make an informed decision about the way ahead.
 
         Q     The other thing is that Secretary Gates, on television -- a television interview last night, said that he thinks that there will be a need for several tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq beyond 2011. Is that something that's been -- that he -- that was raised in -- 
 
         MR. MORRELL: I think what he said was that the -- the SOFA calls for us to be gone from Iraq at the end of 2011. If, however, by mutual agreement there -- we were to agree that there were -- was a need for American forces to stay on in a support/enabling capacity, he could see where a -- you know, a force in the size of tens of thousands, as he said, would still be needed to help the Iraqi military continue to grow, continue in its -- in its training, and also provide the kind of support that it cannot provide for itself at this point, whether it be through logistics or aviation or intelligence or other means. But this is a hypothetical at this point. There's no determination that that is the need. We could see an Iraqi military conceivably grow by leaps and bounds, in size, in capability, and there would not be such a need. But as we sit here now, based upon what we know of the current capabilities, he threw that out as a possibility if there were an agreement beyond 2011.
 
             Q     Was that discussed with Obama, though?
 
         MR. MORRELL: I'm not going to get into what was discussed with the president-elect.
 
         Q     Geoff, was --
 
         MR. MORRELL: But I would -- I would say this, though. If you -- if you've looked at the president-elect's statements throughout the campaign, he has made it clear that his desire has been to reduce combat forces rapidly. He has always talked about the need for there to be a residual American presence there to both protect our American assets -- our people, our facilities -- and also to conduct counterterror operations, should they be needed, and also to help train and equip the Iraqi military.
 
         So I don't think it -- that is at all out of sync with what the president-elect has said during the course of the campaign.
 
         Q     But prior to the election, Secretary Gates sounded as if he were speaking more than simply hypothetically -- and as a matter of fact, he sounded quite definitive when he said that -- something to the effect -- no matter who's elected president, significant numbers of American troops will remain in Iraq for years to come.
 
         MR. MORRELL: Jim, that was before we had a signed agreement between two sovereign states, where we have both committed that American forces will be gone from Iraq at the end of 2011. That's what the agreement calls for. If there's a change in the agreement, perhaps then other alternatives could be discussed. But right now, we've signed onto and the Iraqis have signed onto a zero force presence from the American military at the end of 2011.
 
         Q     But with loopholes that you could drive a combat brigade through.
 
         MR. MORRELL: Not at all. Not at all.
 
         Q     Absolutely. There is a provision that, at any time, either side can say, "Hey, you know, let's renegotiate it."
 
         MR. MORRELL: Well, sure. That's a -- sure. Two sovereign states can always renegotiate a deal they have together. But right now the current deal, which is the only one that's in force and    effect, calls for us to be out of there at the end of 2011. That's the only deal that's operative right now. If at some point both sides choose to renegotiate, tear it up, proceed with another one, we'll have to cross that bridge, but we're not there yet.
 
         Q     Does the secretary really believe that, at the end of 2011, all American -- all American forces are going to be out of Iraq?
 
         MR. MORRELL: I think you can ask him directly. I think what he's said time and time again is he could see, based upon how things are currently, the need for a long-term American presence there, much reduced in size, and with an entirely different mission than it currently has, but that that would be potentially necessary, given the current weaknesses we see in the Iraqi -- and the -- and the Iraqis, for that matter, see in their -- in their military capabilities.
 
         While they are an excellent combat force at this time and have demonstrated it time and time again, they will acknowledge that they still lack many of the logistical capabilities, the intelligence capabilities, aviation capabilities that are essential to sort of protect themselves internally and externally.
 
         Yeah, Jeff.
 
         Q     Geoff, you had mentioned that --
 
         MR. MORRELL: Still on -- you're still on this?
 
         Q     Yes. You had mentioned Admiral Mullen briefed the transition team -- excuse me, the national security team, on the thinking about the way forward in Iraq.
 
        Does that thinking include withdrawing brigade combat forces in Iraq over 16 months?
 
         MR. MORRELL: I'm not going to discuss what -- what he briefed the team on.
 
         Q     Well, let me put it this way. That information is out there. I'm extending to you the opportunity to correct the record if it's wrong.
 
         MR. MORRELL: I'm not going to discuss at all what the secretary or the chairman discussed with President-elect Obama or his team. If the -- the Obama national security team or their representatives wish to discuss it in public, that's their prerogative. It's not my right to do so, and I'm not about to.
 
         Yes? Still on this?
 
         Q     Yeah, on the same issue. I mean, the process that you used to have -- to have with General Petraeus, an evaluation and assessment every six months, do you know if this process would continue with General Odierno?
 
         MR. MORRELL: We got rid of that process, (Joe ?), after the last assessment. The determination was at that point that we would no longer go through this every-six-month -- this every-six-month -- I was going to use a choice word -- this every-six-month evolution, and instead will make these decisions on -- on an as-needed basis, so that when the conditions on the ground are such that we can reduce forces, that decision will be made.
 
         Q     Yeah, but I'm asking this because you said that Secretary Gates wishes to conduct a similar process.
 
         MR. MORRELL: Similar process only to the extent that -- obviously, these decisions are made by the commander in chief. And he wants to make sure the commander in chief is as -- is as informed as possible from -- with a variety of points of view from -- from all those commanders who are involved in this particular area of the world. I said the term "variety" of points of view because that suggests, I think, that there would be differing points of view. And thus far, there never has been.  
 
         But he will hear from a range of -- of military leaders responsible for this part of the world. He thinks that's the best way   for the commander in chief to make an informed decision about the way ahead.
 
             I don't think that is at all out of step with the secretary's vision of what our future role would be, should there be some agreement that it would be necessary.  
 
         Or for that matter, maybe things progress so well, Barbara, over the next several months, that we could have a much more rapid drawdown than we, you know, than people had thought.  
 
         Q     You just said -- I'm sorry to press a point; I just want to be clear. You just said, as recently as last night, the secretary has been talking about a long-term presence beyond the current strategy, which is the SOFA timetable.  
 
         MR. MORRELL: If there is an agreement between the two sides that it continues to be necessary.  
 
         Three years, as -- 
 
         Q     (Off mike.)  
 
         MR. MORRELL: Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me.  
 
         Three years is an awfully long time. Much can happen between now and then. If over the course of the three years, we can -- Americans are no longer needed in any capacity, I'm sure the secretary and the president will be more than glad to adjust that view.  
 
         But should there be a longer-term need for American forces in Iraq, that is going to be something that's going to be left to the new president, and whoever the current Iraqi leader is, to determine.  
 
         But right now the agreement that the United States and Iraq have entered into calls for American forces to be out, at the end of 2011, regardless of what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates may think is necessary at this point.  
 
         Q     Can I just ask briefly, very quickly on a semi-different military subject, as long as I have you?  
 
         MR. MORRELL: We'll come back to another subject. Let's stay on this one.  
 
         Q     Thank you.    Q     Can we get to this definition of combat troops versus other troops?  
 
         When you say combat troops -- 
 
         MR. MORRELL: I'm probably not the best person to give you the definition of combat troops. I think the commanders -- 
 
         Q     Well, I'll give you one.  
 
         I mean, when you say combat troops out of the cities or Obama's view of combat troops out of the whole country, are you talking about troops that are assigned to brigade or regimental combat teams? Or is it a broader definition?  
 
         MR. MORRELL: I'm not going to get into a definition. I mean, I think, we all know.  
 
         Fundamentally what we're talking about here is transitioning from an independent combat role to one in which we support the Iraqi forces, as they go about protecting their population, in whatever capacity the Iraqis feel is helpful to that effort, whether it be strictly training and equipping, whether it be mentoring, whether it be embedding.  
 
        You know, those are determinations that the Iraqis will make in concert with our commanders on the ground. I don't think it's helpful from Washington to impose, you know, my, really, uneducated view of combat forces on them.
 
         Q     Well, do you expect troops that have been engaged in combat operations in Iraqi cities, for example, to sort of have their designation changed to trainers or mentors and to then be able to stay in the cities beyond the June deadline?
 
         MR. MORRELL: You know, this isn't -- this is not a -- you know, I think you guys seem to think, Al, that there is sort of some, you know, some sleight-of-hand at work here.
 
         This is an agreement entered into by two sovereign nations who respect each other and want to work together to ensure the long-term stability and success of Iraq. We will do, in concert with the Iraqis, what they believe is necessary to bring about that -- that end.
 
         There's not any attempt by us to sort of, you know, keep more troops around than are necessary. We want success. We also want to come home. That's what the focus is on right now.
 
         Yeah, Jennifer.
 
         Q     Geoff, my question is simple. Does the secretary think it's possible or wise to withdraw all combat troops in 16 months?
 
         MR. MORRELL: I think -- the secretary believes that the -- that the president-elect should benefit from the counsel, the advice, the recommendations of all his commanders. After getting that, the commander in chief will make a decision about what he believes to be the best way ahead.
 
         Q     What does he think?
 
         MR. MORRELL: You will have to ask him directly when you see him. I mean, I think he's weighed in on this subject a number of times, in the sense that he thinks you can have a responsible drawdown of American combat forces in Iraq and a transition from sort of the lead combat role to an over watch and assistance role. And he hopes that can be done as soon as humanly possible. But he defers, as he believes that the -- the commander in chief should do, to the recommendations of his commanders as much as possible.  And they're the ones on the ground. They know what's possible. And, obviously, there is one boss, and the secretary appreciates that more than anyone, as you've heard him talk about time and time again, but that ultimately all these decisions will be made by one person, and that's the new commander in chief.
 
             The president-elect will have the one and only say about how many troops there will be in Iraq in 12 months, in 16 months, however many months. He is the determinant of that future force. 
 
         Q     Just to get back to the briefing in Balad, would it be fair to say that this discussion on options or force levels was, in fact, the sketching out of a potential timeline if current trends continue?
 
         MR. MORRELL: Say it one more time. I'm sorry, Andrew.
 
         Q     Would it be fair to say that the discussion in Balad was really the sketching out of a potential timeline for withdrawal of combat troops if current trends continue?
 
         MR. MORRELL: Well, I mean, two things. Number one, we've been withdrawing combat troops for more than a year now. I mean, that's what we've been doing. We've got six brigades out, from the peak of 20 in June of 2007. So the direction, as we talked about, has been determined for quite some time.  
 
         Whether this was sketching out a precise timeline, I wasn't in the room. All I can tell you is that the focus was on the way ahead and what that requires with regards to American troops in Iraq and the levels of those troops.
 
         Q     (Off mike) -- dates?
 
         MR. MORRELL: Well, it's not -- I mean, this is not in the abstract. But I don't -- I wouldn't believe that it is predicated as much on dates as it is events. But obviously -- obviously, as --
 
         Q     (Off mike.)
 
         MR. MORRELL: Obviously, as you go about military planning, you've got to look at the horizon, the months on the horizon, and figure out what will be needed, given what you can see at this point, but leaving yourself always with the ability to make adjustments should conditions on the ground require them.
 
         You look confused, Jeff. Are you okay?
 
         Q     I'm just pondering the significance of your words. 
 
         MR. MORRELL: Okay. Do you want to follow up? Q     Not at the moment. Thank you.
 
         MR. MORRELL: Okay. Kimberly?
 
         Q     Given future planning, has there been any indication yet of which either Army BCT or Marine Corps RCT might be diverted from Iraq to Afghanistan? I know that that was going back and forth.
 
         And how about -- for McKiernan's request in Afghanistan, what does it mean in terms of a combat support -- a combat aviation support brigade? Has that been factored into the mix?
 
         MR. MORRELL: For the first question, I can guarantee you that there are people in this building -- people, in particular, who work for the Joint Staff -- who have figured out which are the BCTs that would be available to fulfill the commander's request that the secretary has endorsed, although not formally signed off on, in Afghanistan.
 
             Q     (Off mike.)  
 
         MR. MORRELL: Whatever it may be, BCTs, RCTs, whatever it may be, I'm sure, there is somebody at the Joint Staff who is fashioning exactly how this will work. But it has not gotten to the secretary. And with regards to this question of aviation combat brigades, I got this question earlier today.  
 
         I would not confuse the need for an aviation combat brigade with the need for BCTs. An aviation combat brigade will not fulfill one of those slots. We view them as enablers who will be needed in addition to the four BCTs that the secretary has endorsed for General McKiernan.  
 
         So I don't know that that unit has been identified. When it does, and when the secretary signs off on it, we'll announce it. But right now the focus is on identifying those BCTs.  
 
         You -- the premise to your question was that they had to come from Iraq. I think the secretary talked about, on our trip to the Middle East, last week, that at least perhaps one or two of these, in addition to the 3rd of the 10th, which has been diverted from Iraq, but the follow-on second and third BCTs may not require diversion from Iraq. They may be able to be gathered from other resources.  
 
         Yeah, I'll come back to you.  
 
         (Cross talk.)  
 
         You still on this?  
 
         Q     Afghanistan, but I -- 
 
         MR. MORRELL: Afghanistan, that's fine.  
 
         Q     We've heard for the last couple briefings that there hasn't been a plan or recommendations presented to the secretary. It seems though this has been a while. Why hasn't something been given to the secretary?  
 
         MR. MORRELL: You've been around here, Jeff, longer than I have. I mean, things take an awful long time in this building. But it -- they have to work through the system.    I think for the purposes of actually making a decision, there has to be a sourcing solution readily available, before you present the secretary with a DEPORD or deployment order which says, here, sir, this is what we want to do; sign off on it.  
 
         So conceptually he's agreed to four more BCTs. We haven't gotten to the point where the sourcing solution has been identified and is now being presented to the secretary for his signature.  
 
         Q     (Off mike.) I thought you had said that the Joint Staff had identified the units that could be sent to Afghanistan.  
 
         MR. MORRELL: I think it's more than a planning identification and an actual, we're ready to source this requirement process. Okay?  
 
             Any more Afghanistan? Okay. Yeah.
 
         Q     I have a transition question, though.
 
         MR. MORRELL: Yeah.
 
         Q    What progress has the secretary made in interviewing candidates and making recommendations (to ?) the Obama team for new officials? I'm thinking particularly of a new deputy.
 
         MR. MORRELL: I'm not going to get into specific positions that he may or may not have interviewed candidates for. I can tell you he is in the midst of interviewing candidates for a variety of positions within the building. He is working closely with the transition team on a range of personnel issues, with the goal, of course, of being -- securing as smooth and seamless a transition as possible. But I have no personnel announcements to share with you at this time.
 
         Q     On budget questions? (Off mike) -- probably has been helpful on that.
 
         MR. MORRELL: Oh, yeah.
 
        Q    What's the status of the second half of the' 09 supplemental? It's about $83 billion.  
 
         MR. MORRELL: I think you'd have to ask OMB to see where that is at this point.
 
         Q     (Off mike) -- OMB, then?
 
         MR. MORRELL: I believe so.
 
         Q    Okay. Another question. Has Mr. Gates made progress with the Obama team in terms of getting their buy-in on the large increase in the '010 baseline budget?
 
         MR. MORRELL: I really, Tony -- it gets me into a spot where -- I don't substantively really have an answer for you, but I don't even want -- I don't believe they've gotten in these issues yet. But I don't really want to be in a position of discussing with you what issues they have or have not discussed. The only one I have shared with you, that I feel comfortable sharing with you, is the fact that they have discussed, you know, the way ahead, the proposed way ahead in Iraq. 
 
            Q     Well, (budget's ?) less sensitive than that. (Laughter.) I'm just asking the status of the discussion on the budget.
 
         MR. MORRELL: There's varying opinions about how sensitive issues are. Yours is that anything regarding the budget is fair game --
 
         Q     Well, it (is ?).
 
         MR. MORRELL: -- and for Bloomberg, in particular.  
 
         Q    A clarification. 
 
         MR. MORRELL: Yeah.
 
         Q    You said that the secretary was in the midst of interviewing candidates. Are all of these candidates forwarded by the transition team?
 
         MR. MORRELL: Oh, absolutely. I mean, these are -- this is the president-elect's team. I mean, this is -- he makes the -- now, the secretary has talked with the -- with the -- you know, these are people who ultimately not just support the president, but support the secretary in his capacity as the head of this department. He has talked with them -- I can share with you this -- not about particular names, but about skill sets for particular jobs.
 
             He has -- the only advice he has provided in terms of the personnel matters is -- has really been focused on making sure that whomever the transition team has in mind for a particular job has the requisite skills for that job. And that's -- and I think they've had a very productive working relationship as they've gone about the early stages of fulfilling these -- of filling these personnel vacancies.  
 
         And -- but he's really in the early stages. He's just now started to identify -- to interview candidates.
 
         Q     And has the secretary --
 
         MR. MORRELL: And then he'll make a recommendation, of course, to the president.
 
         Q     Has the secretary, in turn, provided a list of names to the transition team of personnel currently in the job that he would like to see remain?
 
         MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I'm not -- I'm not going to get into it any more than I have. I think his desire is to have as smooth a transition as possible, have as -- have as much continuity as possible, and is working with the transition team to ensure that.
 
         Yeah? I promised Barb I'd come back to hers.
 
         Q     I just wanted to ask you briefly about the military's role in -- on Inauguration Day. The head of the Northern Command, General Renuart, this morning said the U.S. military would be on high alert that day. Tell us how prepared -- what did -- why would that be? From a security standpoint, how prepared are they? And does the military view this Inauguration Day any differently than its role in any other Inauguration Day? Tell us about what they'll be doing.
 
         MR. MORRELL: You know, Barbara, I really am not in a position -- I'm not prepared to address this question with any specificity. I'll be happy to talk to you off the podium when I'm armed with more information on what exactly we're going to be doing on Inauguration Day.
 
         I would say with -- and General Renuart, I think, addressed a lot of this in his discussion with reporters -- but I would say that obviously in a -- in an event of this kind of national and international significance, everyone in this building wants to make    sure we are doing all we can to ensure that it is as safe and secure as possible. The commanders, General Renuart and others, obviously have ideas about what is required to ensure that this event goes off in a secure manner. But I don't know specifically what the resources are that they've asked for or that have been committed at this point.
 
         Yeah, let me just come back to one thought I have -- I have and I'll come back to you. I got a question last week that I -- that I gave an answer on that I'll -- that I've now learned some additional information on.  
 
         Somebody, I think, asked me sort of what the status was within this building in terms of planning -- contingency planning for the closure of Gitmo.
 
        And I gave an answer which I think fundamentally said this building does a lot of contingency planning, but I was not aware of anything in particular.
 
         I can tell you now, after talking to the secretary, that he has asked his team for a proposal on how to shut it down; what would be required specifically to close it and move -- and move the detainees from that facility, while at the same time, of course, ensuring that we protect the American people with some very dangerous characters.
 
         So he is -- his team is in the process of doing that for him. And I think fundamentally the motivation for the secretary in this -- in this respect is not just the fact that he believes that closure is the right thing, but that the president-elect has made it perfectly clear throughout the course of the campaign that this -- that he wishes to address this issue early on in his administration. And so the secretary wants to be prepared to assist him in trying to figure out a solution to this thorny problem.
 
         Q     (Off mike) -- the first time that he has requested this?
 
         MR. MORRELL: All I can tell you at this point is that the request has been made; his team is working on it so that he can be prepared to assist the president-elect should he wish to address this very early in his -- in his tenure.
 
         Q     (Inaudible.)
 
         MR. MORRELL: There are lots of people, lots of people who have expertise that can -- that can contribute. I mean, there are people who handle detainee issues. There are people who handle legal issues. I'm sure there are people that handle facilities issues. That kind of thing.
 
         Q     Is he forming a task force, a specific group of people?
 
         MR. MORRELL: No. No.
 
         Q     When did he ask for it? And did he give the -- did he set a deadline for when he wanted the recommendations?
 
         MR. MORRELL: Well, I mean, he wants to be a -- he wants to be in a position to be able to help the president-elect as soon as possible. 
 
            Q     So before Inauguration Day?
 
         MR. MORRELL: As soon as possible. Should the -- so when the president-elect takes over, this is one of his first orders of business. He wants us to be prepared to be able to -- to help them fashion a solution.
 
         Q     And did he make the request -- 
 
         MR. MORRELL: I can't tell you with any -- with any specifics.
 
         Q     So the last week or two or months ago or --
 
         MR. MORRELL: I -- (off mike). I think since the election.
 
         Q     But haven't they done this before?  
 
         MR. MORRELL: Well, I -- I think --
 
         Q     The secretary --
 
         MR. MORRELL: I think there have always -- that's why my answer last week was not incorrect, in the sense that we are always making -- doing contingency planning. But there was a specific request from the secretary to, whatever we have done, let's update it, let's improve it, let's get it ready so that we could deal with this, if called upon, as soon as the president-elect takes office.
 
             Q     Does he have -- does he expect this to be really a first- or second-week issue?
 
         MR. MORRELL: I know --
 
         Q     Was he requested by Obama to do this?
 
         MR. MORRELL: Al, no, I'm not going to get into what was requested or not requested of him. I'm telling you what he's requested his team to do. I have no idea -- you'll have to talk to the president-elect's spokespeople about how soon they wish or wish not to address this.
 
         I'm just telling you he wants to be prepared in the event that it were an early request. That's all.
 
         Q     Can I just clarify? When you said it's one of his first orders of business, you mean the secretary's first -- the secretary?
 
         MR. MORRELL: I don't know. What are you referring to?
 
         Q     You just said it's one of his first orders of business.
 
         MR. MORRELL: I don't know that I said that.
 
        Q     You were referring to the president-elect.
 
         Q     Yes, you did say that.
 
         Are you referring to, this is one of the first orders of business --
 
         MR. MORRELL: Did everybody else understand me?
 
         Q     Well, it sounded as if you were referring to the president- elect -- 
 
         MR. MORRELL: If this is one of the president-elect's first orders of business, the secretary wants to be prepared to help him as soon as possible. That's all.
 
         Q     But Geoff -- may I just clarify? So this review, whatever, how it would be done, this will be in the secretary's hands by Inauguration Day, then, clearly. 
 
            MR. MORRELL: I think I've answered this question, Barbara. What I've said is he wants to be ready should the president-elect wish to deal with this as one of his first orders of business?
 
         Q     But to be clear, Geoff, this --
 
         MR. MORRELL: I think I've been very clear. We have not --
 
         Q     May I just ask a clarifying question? This is now being done, this review. However, when you said "his team," this is being done by the secretary's Bush administration team, the team currently in office.
 
         MR. MORRELL: This is not being done by outside people. This is being done by the people who currently work for the secretary of Defense.
 
         Q     Does this involve --
 
         MR. MORRELL: And at the instruction and according to the guidance of the current secretary, who will be the future secretary.
 
         Al, yes.
 
         Q     Does this involve drafting legislation or proposing -- (off mike) --
 
         MR. MORRELL: Well, the secretary has talked to you from this podium and elsewhere that he believes one of the requirements of closure is a -- you know, constructing legislation that will provide some sort of comprehensive framework -- statutory framework for the detention of this population outside of the confines of Gitmo.
 
         Q     So the secretary doesn't believe that Guantanamo could actually be closed as one of the first orders of business in a new administration?
 
         MR. MORRELL: (Sighs.) Come on. I'm not going to get into this roundabout.
 
         Anybody else?
 
         Q     On a new subject -- 
 
         MR. MORRELL:  Yeah -- are you still on this?
 
         Q     Georgia -- no.  
 
         MR. MORRELL: Great. That two. We've gone way long. Last two here. Let's do -- 
 
            Q     I wanted to ask about this report on Georgia, the assessment of the Georgian military that apparently found that it was really poorly led, had problems with command and control and so on. So my question is, you know, how much of a question mark does this raise on the readiness of Georgia to become a member of NATO?
 
         MR. MORRELL: You know, I'm not, Jim, very familiar with the assessment. I read the story today by one of your colleagues that European Command had done an assessment, that they had taken a sort of snapshot of post-conflict Georgia's armed forces, and that this assessment clearly highlighted that there had to be -- that there had work to be done within the Georgian armed forces on a number of issues.
 
             But I know of nothing thus far that was found, in that assessment, that would require anybody to change their belief, at this point, that MAP for Georgia or eventual NATO membership for Georgia is not the appropriate path. But I'm not terribly familiar with the specifics of the report.  
 
         Okay.  
 
         Q     Geoff, does the Pentagon have any reaction to the Russian navy showing up in Cuba tomorrow?  
 
         MR. MORRELL: You know, I think, the secretary said last night, as a matter of fact -- God, I get these -- I get these events confused, as to when he said it.  
 
         Anyway he has said that -- no, there's no -- other than the fact that, I think, the secretary has said that frankly had the Georgian conflict not taken place that he would have been amenable to inviting one of these Russian ships, one of these Russian naval ships to port in Miami, take a port call in Miami on this tour of the -- of this hemisphere.  
 
         You know, this is just not a big deal as far as this building is concerned. But obviously in the wake of the invasion of Georgia, it would not have been appropriate to invite the Russians for a port call. But in terms of any sort of threat or any sort of worries, I just have not picked up anything in this building coming anywhere close to that.  
 
         Last one from Luis Martinez of ABC News.  
 
         Q     Real short, on Pakistan aid.  
 
         Is there consideration being given to a significant aid increase for military aid, military training for Pakistan?  
 
         MR. MORRELL: I think -- I think you're referring to a program that Central Command -- 
 
         Q     (Off mike.)  
 
         MR. MORRELL: Yeah.  
 
         Well, right now we've got, you know, in addition to the coalition support fund and the foreign military financing, there is a proposal   coming out of CENTCOM to provide some additional kinds of financial assistance that would -- that would assist the Pakistani military in their counterterrorism operations.  
 
         But this is just a proposal at this point, hasn't gotten to this -- to the secretary, hasn't been briefed to Congress. I think it's in the conceptual stages. And I don't have really anything further beyond that.  
 
         Okay.  
 
         Q     (Off mike.)  
 
         MR. MORRELL: No.  
 
         Thanks.   
 
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