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DOD News Briefing with Adm. Willard via Telephone from Hawaii on humanitarian assistance operations in Japan

Presenters: Adm. Robert Willard, commander, U.S. Pacific Command
March 17, 2011

            GEOFF MORRELL (Pentagon Press Secretary):  Hi, guys.  Thanks for sticking around tonight on this St. Patrick's night.  But as you know, there's lots going on in the world, including obviously in Japan.  And we are lucky enough to be joined this evening by Admiral Willard, our PACOM commander, who is joining us via telephone from Hawaii.   

             As I understand it, Admiral Willard, you've just had your update from your commanders on scene and are prepared to give us the latest and greatest on what the United States military in Japan is doing to assist the Japanese self-defense forces and other Japanese authorities in responding not just to the earthquake and the tsunami but also the nuclear crisis as well. 

             So with that, I'm going to turn it over to you, if I may. 

             ADM. WILLARD:  Yeah, thank you very much.  It's afternoon here in Hawaii, and I know it's a late evening for you, which illustrates some of the time-zone challenges across the Pacific.  Here in Hawaii, we find ourselves about in the middle, with Japan obviously in extremis and on the -- on the other end of the time zones. 

             Like to thank you for this opportunity to talk with you.  I would offer our very sincere and deep condolences to our Japanese friends. I had the privilege of serving in Japan twice, so I have an enduring relationship on both a personal and professional level.  And we're -- at Pacific Command, we're all very saddened by the tremendous losses that the Japanese have experienced. 

             As you suggested, I just finished a video teleconference with my component commanders, where I receive their summaries of the last 24 hours' actions.  We talk about the future, and I provide guidance on what we're terming Operation Tomodachi, which is a word -- Japanese word for "friendship."  We are placing our very highest priority on the operations in support of our ally Japan.   

             And we're currently engaged in what we believe is one of the biggest natural and man-made disasters that we'll face in our lifetime.  That combination of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, a 10-meter tsunami, the many aftershocks that they have experienced and the consequent nuclear reactor accidents together create a humanitarian crisis in northeastern Honshu that is without precedent -- a very complex area, I know, for the Japanese defense forces that are attempting to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and a -- and a difficult environment as well for the U.S. forces that are supporting them. 

             The risks associated with the combination of reactor accidents obviously threaten a larger area of Japan, including Tokyo.  And so we are committed to assisting in that dimension of this very difficult disaster response effort as well. 

             United States PACOM has Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, Special Operations Command all engaged in direct support to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, performing functions ranging from humanitarian assistance -- support in bringing food, water and other supplied to the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the area that have been affected by the earthquake and the tsunami -- and we're providing logistic support, and in some cases direct support to General Oriki and his forces that are also helping mitigate the reactor accidents that have occurred. 

             We've got ships at sea that are attempting to -- they are continuing search-and-rescue efforts.  They're also attempting to characterize the large debris fields and other impacts from the tsunami that have created maritime hazards in the -- in the sea space to the east of Honshu. 

             We are deeply committed, as well, to our U.S. service members and their families, and to DOD civilians across our many bases in Japan who assist us in keeping the forces ready. 

             As you're all aware, we're currently -- authorized a voluntary departure of family members, and we appreciate their patience and understanding as we spool up to support that particular effort.  The voluntary departure does in no way draw down U.S. military personnel or assets that are required to be forward and continue operating, nor does it have any impact whatsoever on this relief operation.  In fact, I would offer that it is -- it is growing and evolving commensurate with the situation in northern Honshu.  So we continue to advance our support to the Japanese, not in any way diminish it. 

             My wife and I will leave Saturday morning to head to Japan to visit our forces and their families, and also to engage our Japanese friends.  I'll spend time with General Oriki (ph), the chief of defense for Japan.  And on behalf of all Americans, I'll certainly offer our condolences for this tremendous disaster.  And there are many losses that they've experienced. 

             And I very much look forward to your questions.  In the end, I would offer that we're confident that Japan will achieve a full recovery.  And we'll do our utmost to ensure that happens. 

             MR. MORRELL:  Terrific.  Thank you.   

             Let's start off with -- Phil, you got anything? 

             Q:  Yeah.  So can you give us an idea of how soon the voluntary evacuation of families will begin, departure of families will begin?   

             And also, you said that the U.S. effort was expanding, but there's been some question about whether the U.S. couldn't do more to assist with the nuclear crisis.  Is there any feeling that -- have U.S. offers for assistance been turned down by the Japanese?  And if so, what are those? 

            ADM. WILLARD:  To answer your first question on how soon we'll commence the voluntary departure of family members, the order from the Department of Defense was received earlier this morning, so that mission has commenced, in fact.  The State Department began flying commercial aircraft in and out of Narita Airport last evening.  And all dimensions of this have now -- have now begun. 

            We have and continue to offer assistance in a variety of ways to help the Japanese mitigate the challenge that they're experiencing with their nuclear reactors.  In some cases, they are only able to assess our offers because, at the end of the day, it has to be integrated into the many other efforts that are ongoing by many agencies in Japan, by the vendor obviously.  And the Japanese Self- Defense Forces have only begun in earnest an effort in support of that, and my operations are in support of them.  So we have given General Oriki a long list of areas in which we believe we can help, and we're also seeking additional ideas on unique technologies that we might bring into this to help them with some of the most difficult parts of both assessing the condition of these reactors and then responding to what they find. 

            MR. MORRELL:  Okay.  Yeah, Justin. 

            Q:  Thank you, Admiral.  It's Justin Fishel from Fox News. 

            In terms of the nuclear reactor at Fukushima, what is the worst- case scenario for the Japanese people and for the U.S. citizens in Japan?  And what plans are you making to respond to that worst-case scenario? 

            ADM. WILLARD:  Well, the -- you know, certainly I think the worst-case scenario has been characterized many times on -- within the media, and that would be a situation where the recovery effort to keep the cores -- to keep the cores covered on these reactors would ever be abandoned.  And we believe that that can't happen, that we must do everything required in order to keep water and cooling affecting these reactors. 

            I would offer that, based on the update that I received at about 2:00 a.m. this morning, I am cautiously optimistic that we're progressing in that regard based on what we've seen and the restoration of power and the efforts that they've made to add water, both, you know, from the outside and the top of these reactors.  Every effort is being made. 

            And with regard to our response to the worst scenarios, we have obviously all of our military personnel located forward in a position to help.  We have the plan in place to protect United States citizens. And they're -- nearly half of the Japanese Self-Defense Force is engaged with us in order to mitigate any potential impact. 

            So we're very -- we're optimistic that we'll continue to progress in this, and that that worst-case scenario will never be encountered. 

            Q:  You said you would do everything you can in a worst-case scenario.  You said you'd do everything you can to keep the cores covered should they be abandoned.  Would that mean the U.S. would intervene in a worst-case scenario there at the nuclear reactor if you felt that was necessary? 

            ADM. WILLARD:  Yeah, I think that's a question that should be probably asked elsewhere.  But I would offer that -- the expertise of the U.S. military in providing the kind of capabilities that we could provide to support the effort.  In the event that we see increased difficulty with the reactors, we'll definitely provide, if directed and when requested. 

            MR. MORRELL:  Courtney (sp).   

            (Inaudible.) 

            Q:  Can you be more specific about what those capabilities are? 

            ADM. WILLARD:  We have certainly the sensing capabilities that we're already sharing with the -- with the Japanese military and the government of Japan.  We have tremendous logistics capabilities.  And we're supplying relevant equipment to the Japanese now, as well as to the U.S. government agencies where needed as they come in to support this effort.  We have capabilities in radiological controls, and teams in place to assist in everything from monitoring to decontamination.   

            So the U.S. military has a pretty effective and self-sufficient capability to work in these environments, and we certainly have the forces to assist where we're needed. 

            MR. MORRELL:  Courtney, do you have -- do you have anything? 

            Q:  Yeah.  Hi, Admiral Willard.  This is Courtney Kube from NBC News.  Two questions.  First, on the -- or I'm sorry, the voluntary departure, do you have a rough estimate of how many family members may take advantage of this departure and may want to leave Japan with the U.S. government's support?   

            And then also, on the nuclear facility, can you talk a little bit about -- a little bit about the specific capabilities that the U.S. military is using to monitor the radiation, to monitor the levels of radiation?  We know that there's a Constant Phoenix that's in the air -- that will be in the air soon, and there's an assessment team going in, but the question for me is, what's that assessment team going to do?  And are they going to go to Fukushima directly and gather information? 

            ADM. WILLARD:  Yeah, thank you.  On the number of families that may volunteer to depart, I don't -- we don't know.  Our planning was to fulfill the needs of all U.S. citizens in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area.  The numbers were on the order of about 87,300, if I recall, and that included the Department of Defense military members.  So we have developed the plans in order to meet those kind of capacity requirements should they be needed.   

            Thus far, the number of volunteers that have departed Japan are relatively small.  There, I think, have been about four commercial aircraft working out of Narita, and at times they leave unfilled.   

            So it appears that, thus far, many of the family members are choosing to remain in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area, though we anticipate that, as the word gets out and the opportunities arise, that more will take advantage of it.  So we're geared up for the maximum, and we're monitoring the pace at which the family members, you know, choose to depart. 

            On the capabilities to monitor, we are -- we are flying airborne systems on the outside of our helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes in order to monitor activity in the area.  And again, where we encounter, you know, radiological effects, we report those broadly, both within our own forces and to the Japanese.  As you suggest, there are teams on the ground that have monitoring equipment.  We have individuals that are carrying personal dosimetry, and our ships are equipped with the ability to gauge any activity that the encounter as well. 

            So the U.S. military is pretty well-equipped and self-sufficient in terms of monitoring activity that they might encounter.  There are other systems that we have assisted in bringing in-country that are able to characterize some of the ground contamination, should it occur.  And those systems flew today and will fly on a regular basis to assist both the U.S. government and the Japanese government in characterizing the conditions around the plants. 

            MR. MORRELL:  Yeah. 

            Q:  And then just, Admiral Willard, the assessment team that went in from NORTHCOM, from Northern Command, are they going to go to Fukushima and assess the plant?  Or are they going to work from outside the 50-mile perimeter? 

            ADM. WILLARD:  (Off mic) -- that team to my operational commander on the ground with instructions for them to conduct a broad assessment of the situation throughout the disaster area, to include the area around the Fukushima plant, to determine whether or not we should rationalize bringing a larger force forward.  And I have requested a force of about 450 radiological and consequence-management experts to be available to us.  They're on a prepare-to-deploy order.  And one of the purposes of that advance team is to assess the need to call them forward. 

            MR. MORRELL:  Larry. 

            Q:  Admiral, Larry Shaughnessy from CNN.  Thank you for taking time out to talk to us.  I know you're busy. 

            Have any more bases beside the Atsugi and Yokosuka, I believe the name was -- big naval base -- and the Ronald Reagan, have any of -- beyond those assets, have there been any places where radioactivity has been detected?  And have any more pilots or air crews come back from missions near those reactors testing positive in the past 24 hours? 

            ADM. WILLARD:  To answer the question on the base, if you're referring to the low levels of activity that tripped sensors in Yokosuka, Atsugi, there were also sensors at one point as a consequence of a wind shift in Yokota air base that alarmed -- again, very low levels, but nonetheless activity that we sensed. 

            Those are the bases -- those southern bases -- when the wind shifts to a more northerly direction, or coming from the north, and the plume tends south, then the sensing down in that area will likely detect any activity that occurs.  So we -- we're monitoring on a regular basis in that regard. 

            Our aircraft that are conducting search-and-rescue missions and humanitarian assistance missions, taking supplies on and off the ships, depending on where Ronald Reagan and our other ships are located that are conducting helicopter operations, will have occasionally experienced, you know, activity based on the sensing that is located on the external portion of the aircraft.  None that I'm aware of in the last 24 hours. 

            Q:  OK, I had one follow up.  Since the 50-mile exclusion zone for U.S. forces has been established around the damaged reactor, has there been any instance in which the commanders have ordered an exception to that and sent any U.S. forces inside that exclusion zone for any reason? 

            ADM. WILLARD:  Yeah, the exclusion zone has been established for United States personnel.  And while the 50-mile limit is a -- is a good idea for much of the humanitarian assistance and disaster response effort that is currently ongoing, we, when necessary, will conduct operations inside that radius when they're in support of the Japanese defense forces. 

            So while U.S. citizens are constrained from operating in there, my forces are not when they're needed to conduct humanitarian assistance, disaster response or logistics support to our Japanese friends or to our own forces or any other forces that we happen to be supporting.  So we will make excursions in that area as necessary, recognizing that the plume that is of such concern is blowing out to sea the vast majority of the time.  And the forces that I have operating on the ground, while they have monitoring equipment and they carry in many cases personal dosimetry, have not been detecting activity in the area in which we've been conducting the relief operations for the Japanese people that were displaced. 

            MR. MORRELL:  Viola. 

            Q:  Admiral Willard, this is Viola Gienger from Bloomberg News. Can you tell us how has the communication been with your counterparts in Japan?  How well have you and your staff been able to contact and get the information that you need from counterparts in Japan, both to protect the U.S. forces on the ground and to provide the kind of support that you have available to provide? 

            And you also mentioned involvement of special forces, and if you could tell us what their involvement has been in this.  Thanks. 

            ADM. WILLARD:  Sure -- and a good question.  

            We have a regular dialogue with General Oriki and his staff.   

            In fact, when I -- when I visit Japan in the coming days, I'll spend time with General Oriki.  We've known each other for a long time.  We conduct strategic-level discussions on a regular basis.  And I'm in contact with him on the phone and have been throughout this particular crisis. 

            The Japanese Joint Staff, which is the staff that my operational commander works so closely with, is as forthcoming as they can possibly be with us.  They exchange the information and answer our questions.  Frankly, we exchange information with them, to include the sensing data that we have.  So this is a very transparent and open line of communication between U.S. military forces and Japanese military forces that are conducting this relief effort together. 

            I have an Army ground force commander that is responsible for coordinating our ground activities in disaster response in the area where so many Japanese people are displaced.  He is co-located with the Army northeast ground force commander, who has been established as a joint task force for the Japanese ground Self-Defense Force.  So my command element is co-located with him, and they're communicating and planning and conducting bilateral operations, for all intent and purposes.  So the patrolling, the search-and-rescue, the security operations and the logistics support to the Japanese people are being coordinated between those two ground-force commanders.  So it's very good. 

            Our Special Forces are conducting, similarly, some logistics activity.  They have aircraft in the area.  They're very much a part of the overall task force -- U.S. task force that's there, and they're performing, frankly, many random responsibilities. 

            They're conducting logistics support, they're conducting direct support to both the Japanese defense forces and our own.  So they've rolled in to become an augment to our ground force.  They're very fit, capable and mobile, so -- and self-sufficient, so they're a great addition. 

            MR. MORRELL:  We have a couple members of our Japanese press corps here, so let me turn to them now.  Do you have anything? 

            Q:  Thank you, Admiral.  This is Yushin Sigira (ph) from Kyodo News.  First of all, thank you very much for your support to our country in these most difficult moments.  I think U.S. and Japan have been exercising these disaster relief for a long time, but these operations conducted right now are beyond those exercises.  Can you give us some examples which you are experiencing for the first time? And with that, could you give us your sense, what kind of impact would these -- this joint operation give to the U.S.-Japanese alliance? Thank you. 

            ADM. WILLARD:  Yeah, thank you for those questions.  And from the standpoint of support, we are dedicated to supporting our ally in this case.  And as you suggest, we're together a great deal and exercise. We're hosted in Japan, and our forces are very interoperable and similar in capability to their Japanese counterparts.  So this is a natural fit for the United States military.  And we're hopeful that the support that we're providing is helping the Japanese very much in this effort. 

            From the standpoint of the exercises that we conduct, as you suggest, exercising disaster response and humanitarian assistance is part of our regular exercise series.  And then, together, we go beyond that to become truly two interoperable militaries.  And we -- and we exercise in a very complex manner in combined arms with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.  So these are two very capable militaries and familiar militaries with one another, and interoperable militaries in that we have very similar systems and processes and procedures between us.  So, again, a good fit. 

            What's different about this particular disaster is that we -- it's a confluence of three major disasters in one:  the earthquake, which is widespread; the tsunami, which, though along the coast, has created a very, very challenging and unique area in which to conduct search-and-rescue search and support; all complicated by the consequence of the reactor accidents that have occurred and the complexity that that's placed in terms of mobility and just its effect on the overall dynamics of the -- of the operations in which we're embarked. 

            So what's different about this is that it has raised the level of complexity from most exercises that we would conduct.  But from the standpoint of the unit-level efforts that we're making, the exercises have served us very well.  And at the unit level, whether it's with our Japanese counterparts, or in support of our Japanese counterparts and being conducted unilaterally, the U.S. forces and the Japanese forces that we're working with are performing magnificently and courageously in this very complex environment. 

            MR. MORRELL:  Yushin (sp), did that cover it for you? 

            Q:  The -- if you could give us shortly the impact of the alliance. 

            ADM. WILLARD:  Well, we have a very powerful and strong alliance. My relationship with General Oriki (ph) and the Japanese defense forces couldn't be stronger.  I'm confident that when we're through and we've succeeded in this disaster-response and humanitarian-relief effort, we'll be only closer and stronger for having performed in this kind of an environment. 

            MR. MORRELL:  Were you also asking about anecdotes of cooperation?  Or you're covered? 

            Q:  (Off mic.) 

            MR. MORRELL:  Okay.  All right. 

            Yes. 

            Q:  This is Ichiro Kabata (ph) with NHK Japan broadcasting corporation.  Admiral, first of all, thank you very much for the enormous support for the people of Japan and the government of Japan. 

            And my question is, U.N. council -- Security Council just approved a resolution on Libya.  Do you think this resolution will potentially affect to the operation in Japan? 

            ADM. WILLARD:  Yeah, thank you for that question, and I think it's a fair question.   

            First, it's our pleasure to provide the support that we're providing. 

            Secondly, you know, I think this entire operation has illustrated for me the effectiveness of the forward presence of our forces.  We were very fortunate that the USS Ronald Reagan strike group was proximate to Japan when the disasters occurred and could offer immediate support. 

            Likewise, we had two amphibious-ready groups that were in close proximity to Japan conducting exercises actually and could themselves flow into the effort and become part of the supporting force. 

             From the standpoint of the division of labor, certainly what is occurring in Central Command, what has been occurring in the Middle East and what is occurring in the Pacific all place demands on U.S. armed forces.  And we're fortunate to have forward forces and continuously present forces so that we can conduct these kind of operations simultaneously.    

             We don't anticipate any negative effects from the standpoint of the United States Security Council actions today.  We -- you know, we're constantly managing the forces that we have on hand and the back fill of those forces as required.  And I would offer that I have additional options to bring either relieving forces in or augmentation forces to bear if I need to.  So I think we're in -- we were in a good posture to begin with.  Right now, I think we're providing support in all the tasks in which we're being asked, and we'll continue to do that. 

             We're doing this, remember, alongside nearly 100 other countries that in one form or another are providing support to the Japanese and this disaster in Honshu.  And so there's a great synergy by the international community in this effort, and we're proud to be a part of it. 

             MR. MORRELL:  Anybody else?  OK.  Yeah, go ahead. 

             Q:  Thank you, Admiral.  Raghubir Goyal from India Globe and Asia today.  My question is that, what do you think Americans are thinking that they are getting different stories from the U.S. forces and different stories from the Japanese government?   

             How serious is this as far as nuclear disaster is concerned? 

             And in your viewpoint -- (inaudible) -- what sort of help really Japanese are asking you, I mean the U.S. forces? 

             And finally, are you advising any neighboring nations, any kind of advice, or they are asking you any kind of help? 

             ADM. WILLARD:  Yeah, thanks. 

             On your last question first, the neighboring nations that have asked for inormation, we've provided it.  And I know that governmentwide there is a consideration for ensuring that the nations around Japan receive the same kind of information that we're sharing together between the United States and the Japanese. 

             The tasks that we're being asked to perform by our Japanese supported commander are tasks that the two of us have agreed to that the U.S. has the capabilities to bring to bear, and they're either needed or they're filling gaps in the capabilities that are required to be on hand.  So there is a whole list of individual tasks, ranging from simple logistics support in the humanitarian area to very complex technical support in the area of intelligence-gathering and sensing around the reactor challenge that's ongoing, that we're providing.  So many, many individual tasks associated with it. 

             On your first question, with regard to the information flow between the United States and Japan and between the United States self-defense forces and my forces, first of all, the communication at my level is very good, and I'm -- I know that firsthand. 

             But I would offer -- and I think it's been well characterized in many forms of media around the world -- that in every instance of very complex disasters such as this, when, you know, electricity, logistics, roads are down -- and I think there are more than a thousand roads affected in northern Honshu -- communications are challenging and the on-scene situation is very confusing.   

             It's very hard to ensure a continuous, smooth flow of accurate information.  Everyone is fighting to know more.  And we're endeavoring to collect and sense as much as we possibly can so that we have accurate information on hand. 

             And in a situation as fast-moving, as volatile, as dangerous and as complex as this, there will be actions taken by all hundred countries that are participating at times based on imperfect information.  And the information exchange is as strong as we can make it.  But nonetheless it's -- you know, it's many agencies that themselves are fighting for accurate information, exchanging with other agencies that themselves are fighting for accurate information. 

             So I can't overemphasize how important it is that, you know, we continue to stabilize this, that these actions that we take to restore capabilities in this area of Honshu continue to progress.   

             And I think as you see us gain ground in all aspects of this particular disaster, you'll see the exchange of information between all sides become smoother and smoother and will tend to be more accurate. 

             MR. MORRELL:  Admiral, I think we have time for one or two more. 

             Yeah, go ahead. 

             Q:  This is Tejinder Singh from AHN Media. 

             I have this question again on your information flow.  Today, the NRC chair and the deputy secretary of energy told us at the White House that there are 11 American technicians on ground in Tokyo, and the U.S. experts are getting their information from Japanese sources.   

             Are they getting anything from you?  Why this was not mentioned? He said that these are the best (technical ?) experts in Tokyo from the U.S. 

             ADM. WILLARD:  We have -- thank you.  We have many, many experts from -- you know, both in terms of the nuclear accidents that are -- that are being dealt with right now, as well as the tsunami effects, as well as the earthquake effects.  So there are many, many technical experts on all dimensions of this disaster that have flowed from many of these hundred countries into Japan.  Whether it's medical expertise or technical expertise or collection expertise or nuclear expertise, there are many on-hand. 

             There -- recently the United States flowed additional nuclear experts in to assist the government of Japan in the nuclear accident area that we're dealing with.  And to the previous question that I answered, this was to improve the exchange of information.  We have a -- you know, a language barrier in this case.   

             Frankly, we have a lot of language barriers that we're working our way through with all of our partners that are -- that are helping in this particular disaster.  And no doubt, you know, the language barrier is a challenge for all of us to work our way through, too.  So the more expertise that's in-country with eyes on, able to stand side-by-side their partners -- their technical partners and exchange information, the better the information flow is likely to be. 

             So I have welcomed the arrival of expertise, whether it's in the medical area or it's in the nuclear area.  And we have seen the information exchange improve when those experts are in-country. 

             MR. MORRELL:  OK, let's have -- I think we have time for one follow up, if we may.  Yeah, Courtney, you got something? 

             Q:  I just have one clarification, Admiral Willard.  You said -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- you said that the U.S. is gathering intelligence around the reactor, I think.  Can you explain what assets you're using to gather that intelligence, specifically? 

             ADM. WILLARD:  Actually, you know, many assets, to include unmanned aircraft that are able to image the reactors, determine heat sources in the reactors, and actually photograph the reactor area. We're exchanging this information with our Japanese counterparts, and together we're trying to amass as much accurate data on the status of the Fukushima series reactor as we possibly can. 

             And this has been, you know, very dynamic, as you know, with the circumstances across the six reactors, you know, changing fairly constantly.  So it requires information-gathering on all sides.  The Japanese have asked for that help, we've provided it, and they're providing us their information so that both sides know as much as we can know, you know, as we -- as we gather the data with regard to the status of these reactors. 

             So when I have that data in hand, some of my assets are helping to collect it.  This is not only an exchange with General Oriki (ph) and his staff and his government, but also provided back to our interagency so that our engineering experts can assess it and we can determine status, you know, as real time as possible. 

             MR. MORRELL:  One quick last one.  This is the last one, though. 

             Q:  (Off mic) -- very quick clarification.  You said before, your 2 a.m. briefing you'd become a bit -- that was 2 a.m. Hawaii time? 

             ADM. WILLARD:  (Chuckles.)  (Off mic) -- a.m. in the morning. And at 2 a.m., I'm in a video teleconference with the interagency in Washington, D.C. to try and help exchange information.  And I've gained a great deal out of the whole-of-government perspectives that are shared, and I'm able to share the situation in Japan as the U.S. military understands it and provide the perspectives that I can into those discussions. 

             So it's a terrific opportunity to exchange, albeit, you know, at the wrong time of the day. 

             If I might offer just in wrap-up, again, I would offer our deepest condolences to our Japanese friends for this -- you know, this terrible disaster that they have been subjected to.   

             We're committed to seeing this through in every way and to be successful in that.  And so whenever we can improve our support to the Japanese defense forces, we're striving to improve it.  And our plans, our approach to the problem, is constantly evolving as the humanitarian-assistance and disaster-response situation evolves. 

             It has been dynamic.  There are still nearly half a million displaced Japanese that are -- that we're attempting to help care for in northeast Honshu, all complicated by the many challenges, including the radiological challenge that you're all very familiar with.  And we're going to continue to care for both the Japanese people that we're there to assist and our own U.S. citizens that are in Japan. 

             I'm grateful for Japan's leadership.  It's been certainly challenged in what is the most complex disaster environment that I've ever experienced in my 37-year career.  I think the Japanese government and the Japanese agencies, the Japanese military, have performed magnificently and courageously, and there's more to come. So we're, frankly, privileged to be able to help in this environment, as challenging as it is.  And you know, my deepest sorrow to the Japanese people and the half a million that are displaced, the more than 10,000 that likely have perished as a consequence of this. 

             MR. MORRELL:  Thank you.  I think I speak for all of us here; we appreciate you taking 45 minutes out of your day to brief us on the latest situation with our forces assisting the Japanese in Japan.  So thanks.  Hopefully we'll get to hear more updates from you in the future.  Best of luck to you all. 

             ADM. WILLARD:  My pleasure.  Thank you very much.