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Background Briefing on Secretary Hagel’s Trip to Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates from the Pentagon Briefing room

Presenter: Senior Department of Defense Officials
April 19, 2013

            SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Morning, everyone.  Thanks for joining us.  This is a backgrounder on the secretary's upcoming trip to the Mideast.  We'll be speaking as senior defense officials.  And I will kick off with some brief remarks and then turn it over to -- (inaudible) -- our (off mic). 

            This is the secretary's first trip in his new role to the Middle East.  This is a trip that will take him first to Israel and then to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.  I would characterize this trip as not just a series of courtesy calls, but as a series of security calls on important allies and partners. 

            As you know, there is a range of security issues to discuss with his counterparts in the region, Syria, Iran and the Sinai, to name just a few.  His goal is to deepen and strengthen relationships with all of these countries.  I would note that, in the case of Israel, he has been to Israel six times in the past, and he looks forward to expressing once again in that country his personal commitment to our alliance and to Israel's security. 

            I think I'll end there and turn it over to (off mic). 

            SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  And I'll just make a few brief comments and then turn it over to -- (inaudible) -- so, obviously, this is a very important trip.  It's in many ways following up on the president's trip of a few weeks ago and a lot of the discussions that the president had during his stop in Israel and Jordan.  

            In each country, obviously, we will be seeking to strengthen and reinforce the relationship.  Part of that -- particularly in Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will be on -- in capabilities issues, which have been reported on, and I'll let -- (inaudible) -- get into the details of that. 

            As -- (inaudible) -- mentioned, obviously, Syria will be atop the agenda in all the stops.  Iran will be clearly an issue that he will be interested in hearing from -- with his counterparts about.  And especially in Egypt, it will be a very important stop in both to reaffirm the importance of the Egyptian-U.S. defense relationship, talk about many of the important issues that we have been -- we, the Pentagon, have been working with the Egyptians on for the better part of two years, security issues, whether it be Sinai, but as well as the relationship with Israel, but also Egypt's internal situation and his meetings there.  He'll have an opportunity to talk directly with Egyptian officials about the difficult times they're in. 

            With Jordan, of course, he'll have a -- a brief stop, but he'll have an opportunity to meet directly with senior Jordanian defense officials about the situation, particularly regarding Syria, the refugee situation, as well as what we in the Defense Department can do to help -- help the Jordanians. 

            So with what, why don't I turn it over to -- (inaudible) -- who can dig in a little bit on some of these capabilities issues, which will be (off mic). 

            SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Sure, thanks.  As -- you know, as -- (inaudible) -- mentioned, an important part of this trip is underscoring the U.S. security relationship with Israel and also our other gulf partners.  And in some sense, the timing of this trip is important because it's the culmination of an effort that the president asked Secretary Panetta to undertake late last year, which was looking for ways, given our shared threats in the region, not just Iran, but the situation in Syria, the threat of terrorism, border issues, a range of things, is to look at ways not just to protect Israel's qualitative military edge, which is a key principle of American policy, but look for ways to increase the capabilities of Israel in a pretty significant and meaningful way, and in doing so, to also increase the capabilities of our key partner nations, which are needed to work together to counter any threat. 

            And it's been reported over a series of sensitive negotiations, really, over the last year, reached an agreement to make an unprecedented release of capabilities to the Israelis that the Israelis requested for a range of reasons. 

            And these capabilities are advanced radar, for Israeli fighters.  And this is in addition to the Joint Strike Fighter, which is a key part of the U.S. effort to make sure that Israel has unprecedented air superiority, really, for the next generation.  It also includes anti-radiation missiles.  It includes refueling tankers, more advanced than sold before, and then the most significant of which are V-22 Ospreys, which are a capability -- which we have never sold to any other countries before.  And it's notable that, for the first time, these will be made available for Israel to purchase. 

            So it's a significant achievement, and the timing of this trip is appropriate, because Secretary Hagel wanted to make sure to travel to Israel very early to go just to finalize some parts of this agreement and -- and  talk through it. 

            On his last -- really, on Secretary Panetta's last week as secretary of defense, he talked to Ehud Barak twice, talking about this, in close consultation.  And then the first foreign counterpart that Secretary Hagel mentioned was Barak, as well, talking about continuing this agreement and the importance it would be between the two governments. 

            And then also, when Minister Ya'alon took over from Minister Barak, Secretary Hagel called Minister Ya'alon on Minister Ya'alon's first day in office.  And this was a core part of their first conversations. 

            And so this trip, the timing is important.  As -- (inaudible) -- said, it's not just courtesy calls.  The big reason is a security call, because it could really -- the timing is important to follow up on this significant weapons sale agreement, which I think is one of the most significant and complex and comprehensive that we've seen. 

            The other part of this, which relates to building our partner capacity, our other key gulf allies, who are needed to defend against common threats.  And that's a follow-up in Saudi Arabia, as you know, the Saudis in 2010 agreed to purchase 84 F-15SAs, a deal which had a value of $29.4 billion, and, in fact, you know, last month, the first F-15s rolled off the line in St. Louis in Missouri, and they're undergoing flight testing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  

            And so Saudis committed to purchase all 84 of this, but also something that really comes out of the trip is that the Emiratis have -- are going to move forward with the purchase of 25 F-16 Block 60 Desert Falcons, and those are manufactured by Lockheed Martin in Ft. Worth, Texas.  The expected value of this sale is between $4 billion to $5 billion, just under $5 billion. 

            And then as part of these sales, the U.S. is agreeing to deploy standoff weapons to Saudi Arabia and UAE, which are more advanced weaponry than we've sold before.  And as part of that, a key part of the agreement is -- is we believe and the Israelis believe that the provision of these capabilities in no way diminish Israel's qualitative military edge, but they're consistent with the more commonly addressable threats in the region. 

            And the United States will jointly train with the Emirati and the Saudi pilots, as they have before.  And these are great opportunities to do that.  There will be enhanced end use monitoring, consistent with what we provide with our sensitive technologies to our other allies and partners around the region and, I think, consultation, of course, prior to any of the weapons' deployment.  We, frankly, expect that -- it's no surprise that the deployment and use of any of these, but the aircraft would be in any joint mission, because it's -- (inaudible) -- I do want to make clear that we've been in consultations with Congress about this and continue to do so.

             Yesterday afternoon, Jim Miller and Wendy Sherman briefed key leadership of our oversight committee about this.  And as the letter of request comes through, as everyone knows in this room well, it's a process that sorts through the details of quantities and pricing numbers, and we'll continue these extensive conversations with Congress along the way, but it's important that we've been having close consultations before we sort of -- sort of announce this agreement and sort of finalize it there, and then the implementation -- the details are worked out along the way.

             So the one final thing I would say is, on the question of timing, this is -- this does not signal sort of a change in U.S. policy towards Iran or -- or anything else.  These capabilities can be used for a variety of purposes, maritime security, interdiction, rescue operation, as well, and so the timing of the announcing this really (inaudible) Secretary Hagel traveling to the region, which follows on from the president's trip, where this agreement was also discussed to lock that down.  But, of course -- (inaudible) -- so with that, maybe just some opening remarks about the (off mic).

             Q:  I have a narrow question, following up on what you just said about -- in particular, when you were talking about the Israeli capabilities, I think you said that the V-22 was the most significant of those items, if I heard you correctly.  Why would you say that?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I think if I -- that's not what I meant  -- the Israelis speak for themselves about what are the most significant, but I think as far as not being released to other countries in the past, that's particularly significant about it.  I think, without getting into operational details of the uses of any of these, I mean, each are significant for different presidents.

             Q:  Can't talk at all about why they -- why the U.S. would be interested in selling them that particular aircraft?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I mean, as I mentioned for this, I mean, there are a variety of uses for -- for that.  And without getting too much into -- you know, as I said, maritime operations, search and rescue, a variety of lift purposes that they can have, and it's something that's been important to the Israelis.

             And we really had a pretty frank and extensive discussion of their security needs and -- and their requirements of how jointly we can use capabilities to enhance it together.  And it's not just the purchase of these which are important for the United States, but how we would talk together as part of our really extensive and robust military and defense consultations.

             The way I would think about this, you know, Ehud Barak said several times -- including when Secretary Panetta was there -- that the U.S.-Israel defense relationship and intelligence relationship was stronger than ever.  And I think this is one of the dividends of that, this is kind of the fruit of that tree, that -- and working closely together about aligning.  We feel very comfortable -- and the president was -- thought it was very important to enhance our capabilities, and also the Israelis were comfortable with provision of more advanced capabilities to other partner nations – that we have seen in the past.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Tony?

             Q:  Can you go through the -- kind of some of the timing issues?  Because -- (inaudible) -- specific process.  Yesterday, you did not begin the 20-day informal notification that leads to a 30-day 36(b) notification, correct?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  That's -- what we're talking now is -- we're talking about the announcement of the agreement of this between the key players here, the Israelis, the gulf partners, and the United States, which we want to, frankly, let you know about before this trip. 

             Q:  Sure.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  And we wanted to have some initial -- we've had initial consultations with Congress before this.  The formal process, of course, will be triggered as we received the formal LORs [letter of request] and go through the regular process that you're -- you're very well aware of.

             Q:  Now, realistically, timing-wise, is it -- we're talking months before 36(b)s go up and the formal 30-day is triggered, or possibly years? 

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  You know, I can't speak to the specific timeline of when it would be.  I mean, that's an issue of when the governments choose to provide their letters of request, though I will say that we are consulting with Congress extremely intensively.  It's a top priority -- (inaudible) -- and, of course, we're in extremely detailed and ongoing consultations with the government to make sure that we're doing everything we can to provide the capabilities to these countries as they (off mic).

             Q:  Thank you.

             Q:  (off mic) can you talk a little bit of these standoff weapons for the Saudis and UAEs?  Can you tell us any more about what those are?  And can you tell us if Israel has those same type of standoff weapons and also whether we've provided those same kind of standoff weapons to non-NATO-plus -- other non-NATO-plus allies?  Could you give us any more detail on that?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  So I think for -- for various operational security reasons, I think what we've -- what we're comfortable talking about is that we have provided these more advanced weapons.  And for those -- I think folks in the room are familiar with what standoff weapons are, but -- but they are, you know, advanced weaponry that are more precise and -- and can fire at further distances away without getting to the specific numbers and details of the weapons, we're not talking about that in further detail, just making clear that we've made available the capabilities that they've requested.  The Saudis and Emiratis are very comfortable with that, and the Israelis are, as well.

             Q:  Okay.

             Q:  (off mic) follow on the Ospreys.  We've seen a lot of back-and-forth -- (inaudible) -- and the Emirates on possible -- on the Emirates' possible purchase of the Ospreys.  Where does that stand?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I think this -- this agreement now has been focused on the immediate needs that the Saudis and Emiratis made clear to us, and this was -- and the package we’ve agreed to right now.  I think, of course, there's a whole range of ongoing discussions we have with the Emiratis.  So I can't speak specifically to where that is right now, but the Emiratis are very comfortable and very enthusiastic about what we've been able to reach right now, and then we're having ongoing discussions about continuing to provide, you know, a range of equipment to all the countries in the region.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  (off mic)

             Q:  Sorry, dumb question.  Is the intent to sell these capabilities to the Israelis or give them to the Israelis?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  The intent is to -- is to sell them to the Israelis.  We're making these capabilities available for Israeli purchases.  Now, I would say, as an important part is, this year, the United States provided $3.1 billion in FMF [foreign military financing] to Israel, which is the highest the United States has ever provided.

             And I would also say that, in addition to that, the United States provides about $300 million in missile defense.  That's both Iron Dome, and the Iron Dome funding is on top of that $3.1 billion -- on top of that.  And as you know, when the president was in Israel last month, he and Netanyahu, Prime Minister Netanyahu made an important announcement, that they agreed to extend the memorandum of understanding for Israel's FMF and -- and directed their teams to enter into discussions about that.  And they did that even in a very difficult budget environment.

             So -- so the U.S. funding for Israel's security needs has been unprecedented.  We're continuing to have discussions about doing so, and the president made clear the U.S. remains committed to working with the Israelis to make sure that they have what they need to meet their security needs.

             Q:  And did you put a rough dollar value on the anticipated sales to Israel that (off mic).

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I didn't -- right now we've been talking about the release of these capabilities that I've -- they've looked for.  I mean, the fact that we haven't released, for example, Ospreys, any of them before, and we're still working with the Israelis on their security and operational needs as we work out specific details and numbers.

             Q:  Okay, so how much would this be worth?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  What were we -- what have we been saying?  I think about --

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  About ten --

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I think $10 billion.  It's a back -- I think it --

             Q:  All of it combined?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  All -- and the deal --

             Q:  So all three countries?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  -- about $10 billion. 

             Q:  Right, and can you divide it by country, just rough ballpark?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Why don't we -- I think I don't have those numbers in front of me.  Maybe we can just get back to you about sort of what -- what (off mic)

             Q:  I mean, it'd be helpful.  Otherwise, you know, is it $9 billion to Israel and -- you know (off mic).

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Right.  I totally understand.

             Q:  (off mic)

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  We'll take that and get back to you.

             Q:  (off mic) right?  So (off mic)

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yeah, so we just price out -- I mean, rather than just (inaudible) the math right now, why don't we just come back to you to get the -- you know, get sort of more concrete numbers.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Okay.

             Q:  And is that -- the $3.1 billion that you mentioned, was that the highest ever to Israel or the highest ever to any country in FMF?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  In FMF, it's -- I mean, we give more to Israel than to anyone else

             Q:  So it's any country --

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yes.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Paul?

             Q:  So in terms of the numbers, I mean, what kind of numbers are we talking about for -- (inaudible) -- all of the F-15, F-16s that Saudis and UAE have?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  So we're working through -- so we're working through what their -- what those specific requests and numbers are, and that's -- and that's part of LOR process that -- that we work with right now.

             I mean, right now, I would say is that the important thing is this is a substantially different type of capability that's qualitatively different than before and the quantities we're working through -- but qualitatively, it really raises the level of Israel's military superiority to a level it has not been before, and I think that has allowed us to provide a rise in the level of the gulf partners, as well, and sort of -- the numbers of all of those.  We'll work through this how they will be deployed, what they would want to use that for, and we're in ongoing consultations about that.

             Q:  (off mic) timing, you said this is not intended to signal any change in the policies toward Iran, because these weapons are kind of for maritime security, interdiction, and so on.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  And -- and in addition to a range of --

             Q:  But the quality of these suggest that it's quite different.  I mean, why would you need like a standoff weapon for maritime security persons?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I was talking -- when I was talking about maritime security, I was talking about the -- about the V-22s in response to that specific question.  About the standoff weapons, I mean, I'll just say that the common threats that we, the Saudis and Emiratis have in the region are clear.  And we've made clear to make sure that we're equipping our allies and partners to deal with the threats that they have.  It's been an ongoing process, and I think it's deeply in the United States interests to make clear that we are prepared for any contingencies and we understand, in a clear-eyed way, what the threats to the region are.

             Q:  So just last point on the timing of the standoff weapons, are they on a faster track than the others?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  They are -- we are -- for all of them, we are working to make them available as quickly as possible to meet the needs of our -- to meet the needs of our partners.  And -- and part of those are ongoing consultations with -- with both the Saudis and Emiratis, as well as the Israelis.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Because no one should think that this capabilities package is being developed in direct response to any one contingency in the region.

             Okay, Thom?

             Q:  Can I just clarify on the timing part of this?  Can you give us a sense for how soon these weapons or the planes might arrive?  I mean, what's the earliest date it could be?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  You know, on the -- on the timelines of the -- I mean, there is as you can image -- on some of the planes, for example, there's a fairly large lead time, because there's contracting and sort of other issues, discussions and negotiate with them.  So like I said, that's -- you know, the 2010 (off mic) deal was signed in 2010, and so now planes are rolling off the production line. 

             So on the planes, it's working with industry and those types of lead times on that, so that's the first piece.  On the timing of sort of the weapons themselves, part of it is the discussions with the government themselves about how they're prioritizing their funds and when they want to be purchasing it.  And then the ongoing consultations we have about when we receive letters of request.

             But from our end, we're in intensive consultations with Congress, and we want to do what we can to allow these countries to receive it as soon as they -- as soon as they can.

             Q:  Is it -- I'm sorry, is it a matter of months

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  (off mic)

             Q:  (off mic)

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  So I think, in the -- in the -- so the congressional consultations are -- you know, are so a matter of months.  Where it comes after that, it really just depends, and I just don't want to give an answer without, you know, having a sense of where these countries are themselves, it just really depends on a number of moving pieces that -- that we work in partnerships.

             Q:  These are weapons the United States Air Force and Navy already use, right?  They're not new weapons that are coming out of R&D.  These are from (off mic).

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yeah, these are -- yeah, these -- these are -- these are existing capabilities.  We're not giving other countries things the United States doesn't have themselves.

             Q:  And the KC -- the tankers that we're talking about for the Israelis, that one is going to be new off the production line?  It's not -- we're not giving them --

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  We're working with the Israelis on particularly -- on exactly what they -- you know, what they want or what type that makes the best use of their -- of their resource -- (inaudible) -- ongoing discussion.

             Q:  Right.  And the timing of that would be the same as the timing for the other stuff we're talking about?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yeah.

             Q:  It's not something that we're rushing to get them tankers?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  No.  No.  It's basically -- we've made it available and we want to have consultations.  I mean, rather than saying we'll work on it, we say, we're going to make these available, and that helps their defense planning that they can have their assets and that's going to meet their security challenges.

             Q:  Sorry.  Sorry.  So it's not clear if it's an existing tankers, a mixture of some existing aircraft and future -- a newer model?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Well, I think we -- I mean, we'll make both -- I mean, from our side, from the American side, is we are flexible.  We are making available what the Israelis want for their needs.  Now, we can go through and they can -- because we work with them, they can make decisions on what's the most cost-effective of what they want to have and what gets done and the timeline they need, but mostly we want to be flexible and making either new or any other ones available (off mic)

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  (off mic) KC-135s. 

             Q:  I want to ask about the Jordan stuff.  It was announced earlier this week about the headquarters detachment going over.  Is there anything else on the table you'll be discussing with them?  In particular, there's some reports out of the region that Patriots are under discussion to be moved to Jordan for their security.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I don't want to comment on anything specifically regarding the -- you know, what might be on or off the table in terms of what we're talking about the Jordanians, but as the secretary mentioned in his testimony the other day, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, that he did decide to deploy this headquarters element, which is a sort of more enduring effort than the ad hoc effort we've had underway, which has been quite effective, but I think this is the more -- over time will be more effective to have.

             But part of the point of the trip is to hear directly from the Jordanian military officials about their needs, which are considerable, obviously, but their specific needs and what we may be able to do to help them more.

             Q:  (off mic) because we did move some to Turkey, and Jordan apparently has the same kind of (off mic).

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yeah, I just don't, Thom.  I don't want to get into any specific things right now -- (inaudible) -- so --

            SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  The other Tom (off mic)

             Q:  I'm done ?.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  You're okay?  All right.

             Q:  Can I ask -- you know, it's more toward Egypt.  It came up in the hearings the other day, this -- 1,000 national guardsmen from Indiana was supposed to go to the Sinai.  About -- (inaudible) -- Sinai (off mic).

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  (off mic)

             Q:  -- and to the Horn.  And that was canceled, and now it's all active-duty.  What's the reason for that -- (inaudible) -- situation in the Sinai?  What's that about?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  You know, I will have to get back to you on that.  That's not something that's been in our lane in policy.  I mean, we're aware of it, but in terms of the Army's reasons -- I think it's the Army -- (inaudible) -- the different kinds of deployment, I'm not sure, to be honest.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  We'll get back to you specifically along this point.  It's not about security situation, per se, in the Sinai.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I don't think --

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  It's about issues on our end.  It's about force structure, deployments --

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yeah.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  -- and budget.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  There's no policy -- policy in terms of security reasons that I'm aware of that was driving that, so --

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Right, so we have full confidence in the Indiana Guard to support this kind of mission.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Absolutely.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yeah, okay.

             Q:  If I could just ask one more and come back to the -- the Osprey sale.  Are those going to be then essentially like the Marines -- (inaudible) -- V-22s or CV-22s?  Or is there going to be some third variant?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  We're working through some of those details right now, which will come up when we have the letters of request and others with the Israelis.

             Q:  Do you know how many you're talking about, how many Ospreys?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Again, we're working -- we're working through those numbers to determine what their needs are and when they'd be wanting them.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I mean, there's -- you know, with a process like this, this is as much as a beginning of a process when you talk about (off mic).

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I would make the point where we're -- on the arms deal -- (inaudible) -- this is one of the most complex and carefully orchestrated arms sale packages in American history.  And that's not just because of the kind of equipment that we're providing to Israel and Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.  It's also a reflection of intensive defense shuttle diplomacy.

             As you can imagine, working with all three of these countries to fashion an important agreement like this is not easy.  It's involved a series of discussions at all levels, including two secretaries of defense with their counterparts, and is reflective, I think, of, you know, the kind of creativity and innovation that we need to address security challenges in the region.

             On QME [qualitative military edge] very briefly, we think that this not only sustains, but augments Israel's qualitative military edge in the region.  This package is a significant advance for Israel.  And I equate this to a rising tide lifts all boats.  It's not about relative gains -- if you can go back to your international relations theory class -- or zero-sum calculations of arms inventory.  This is about giving all three partners in the region added capacity to address key threats that they may face down the road.

             Q:  Just to follow on that real quick, can you elaborate on how those discussions would -- I mean, were they all on a bilateral basis?  Was the -- the Saudis and Emirates aware of what you were negotiating with the Israelis?  Or to what degree not?  You know, how did that work?  How did you juggle the --

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  (off mic) do you want to --

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Sure.  Sure.  I mean, as -- (inaudible) -- said, I mean, it really was a really intensive and long and time-consuming set of shuttle negotiations and was incredibly complex and involved huge coordinations with -- not just with -- with Secretary Panetta meeting with his counterparts in the Israeli government, but Secretary Panetta had lunch with -- dinner with (off mic) last March.  They spoke about some of these interests, you know.  He was in consultation -- he saw the crown prince, Prince Salman, last year when he was there.

             So at the very highest levels -- and then the president, of course, made this clear about his interest and priority in doing this.  So there was all -- there was all that.

             And then, really, over the last, I would say, at least the nine months, very sensitive, very small negotiating team, led by, you know, the working level from the Department of Defense, met with teams in Israel and also a talk with the Emiratis, as well as the Saudis, to really determine what the needs were, what would be possible, and I think ultimately, as -- (inaudible) -- mentioned, this is only possible together as a package, but basically I think doing one of these pieces would not be enough, but only by first starting with raising Israel's capabilities does then it become possible, I think, to give the confidence that they have the ability to sort of address their threats and enhance their QME.  And then we could work in the shuttle way with the other countries, as well, determine what was possible there. 

             In a sense, I mean, you know, we talk -- this is almost a little of a new paradigm as we think about our commitment to QME.  You know, it is not about keeping everyone at a low level to deal with the risk.  It's about, let's make sure to elevate everyone.

             And I think having this unprecedented elevation of Israel capabilities allowed us to also increase our partner capabilities in a way that was possible for, and the level of -- I mean, just the sheer number of -- I mean, you can measure these by sort of late-night meetings where a negotiating team was here from Israel, you know, sort of three nights in a row, past midnight talking through these things, or the last week that Secretary Panetta was, seeing Minister Barak many times, even when there are other things he was doing, just the sheer time it took, as I think as you're implying, was really significant, I think as intense as sort of anything I've seen, as far as -- as sort of policy or in particular with an arms deal --

             Q:  (off mic)

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Let me -- let me (off mic) I think we're talking here about a series of bilateral discussions (off mic).

             Q:  (off mic)

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  It wasn't together.  That's right.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  (off mic) this wasn't a quadrilateral (off mic).

             Q:  Right, right.  But were they aware of what you're -- they obviously were all aware that you were having these (off mic).

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yeah.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Yep.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  That's correct.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  We discussed it transparently with each of the parties and (off mic).

             Q:  (off mic).

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  (off mic) choreography was intentional, I mean, in terms of trying to work with everybody.  Just to pile on what -- (inaudible) -- said, because some of you have raised about some of the details.  And I think sort of understanding the broader context of how intensive this conversation has been with all three of the partners over the last nine months, that's just going to continue, so it's not as though this -- we're sort of cooked up in short order and there's just a lot of details.

             A lot of these details have been discussed.  They're not necessarily nailed down yet.  That's part of what the secretaries has on his agenda next week, is to further those conversations at high levels, which then will allow people like us to do more of the work to nail down some of the details.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  And, frankly, on some of the details, our weapon systems, we just don't discuss publicly right now.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Right.

 

            SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I mean, some of these -- I mean, when we talk about threats, we don't telegraph exactly, you know, what we're doing.  But, I mean, a lot of these -- (inaudible) -- working through exactly -- I mean, the level of detail at a whole range of levels -- (inaudible) -- because these are very complex (off mic).

 

            SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Louie, you had a question, and then (off mic).

 

            Q:  (off mic) if I could follow on, I mean, so just to be sure, the genesis of this was the Israelis nine months ago.  It was their request that began this whole process?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  No.  The genesis of this was the president directing Secretary Panetta to do what he could to think about QME in a way that raises Israel's capabilities, which would allow us to approach this with greater capabilities for Israelis -- for the Israelis, which would allow us to partner more effectively, as well, with other partners in the region.

             So, I mean, I think this is a concrete thing that the president set out to do as part of make the U.S.-Israel defense relationship stronger than ever.

             Q:  And if I can follow up, specifically the -- are these JASSM missiles that we're talking about?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I think as far as the details of what, no, we're not prepared to talk more about them right now.

             Q:  Yeah, I just was hoping -- I mean, you guys had packaged this as a one package.  Usually we hear about these arm sales as kind of country by country, not clumped together like this.  So is it possible for us to get kind of how this compares to previous deals so we can say this is the biggest -- I mean, you know (off mic).

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  (off mic).

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  (off mic) yeah, we (off mic).

             Q:  (off mic) yeah.  Because I know the Saudi deal on the aircraft was a huge dollar amount.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Right, huge dollar amount.

            Q:  So how does this compare (off mic)

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  (off mic)

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  We can take that, okay. 

             Kevin, did you have a question?

             Q:  I did.  Go back to Egypt a little bit.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Okay.

             Q:  I apologize for coming in late, but I wondered if you could describe (off mic).

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  (off mic) confirm an arms sale (off mic).

             Q:  (off mic) I want to know a little more about the -- you know, the DOD relationship with the Israeli military -- I mean, the Egyptian military, excuse me, and what -- you know, how has that been going since those months?  You know, I know Hagel's new to this, and he's going to go meet somebody new, but who else among DOD staff, what kind of interactions, meetings?  You know, has there been radio silence?  Has there been (off mic)

            SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  No, no, no.  We have -- we have very regular interaction with the Egyptian military.  I just had a phone call yesterday with the deputy defense minister.  We stay in regular contact.  Last November, we had the MCC [military coordinating committee] meeting, the annual MCC meeting that was in Cairo that --

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Can you spell that out?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  -- Military Coordinating Committee.  It's a long, 20-plus-year annual get-together of senior DOD and MOD officials from Egypt.  I led that delegation with (off mic) from the Joint Staff.  And so Secretary Hagel had talked to the defense minister, Al-Sisi, on the phone the first week in office.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  (off mic) yeah.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Secretary Panetta had regular conversations with Al-Sisi, as well.  So it's -- it's been a very regular interaction, seamless interaction.  Obviously, since the civilian -- civilian rule returned, really, last summer, it's changed.  When I -- a year ago, when it was the SCAF, we -- (inaudible) -- they were running Egypt, so we were the main -- the Egyptian military was, so we were the main interlocutor.  Now some of our civilian counterparts in State and otherwise are also dealing with the Egyptians quite intensively.  But it's been -- it's been seamless.

             Q:  So, I mean -- so are there -- do you have concerns about the military's relationship with the political structure there now that are new?  Or any concerns about internal security that you're bringing, you know, to them to talk about?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Well, we're -- this is -- that's part of what we talk with our Egyptian counterparts at all levels about a lot, is our mutual concern and mutual interest, and we're very open about -- they're open about what they're doing and how they see things.  We're open about how we see things.  So that will be part of the conversation that the security will have next week (off mic).

             Q:  You seem -- you seem encouraged by the continuity post-Tantawi.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I'm sorry?

             Q:  Are you encouraged by the continuity of the relationship post-Tantawi?

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Personally, yes, I am.

             Q:  Despite -- despite the continuity, how has that mil-to-mil relationship changed now that the civilian (off mic).

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  It has been -- I can't -- it's been very strong.  I mean, it's -- it's -- there's no diminution in the relationship.  But I think part of it's the context that the role the Egyptian military is currently playing in Egyptian society the way it was a year ago.  A year ago, it was the SCAF, and it was running Egypt.  Now it's proverbially gone back into the barracks. 

             And they're very focused on -- on, you know, supporting the civilian leadership in Egypt and not having to come into run the country again.  And so they're very focused on their own internal security.  They're also focused on Egypt's wider regional interests.  And that's also something we talked with them about.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  I mean -- (inaudible) -- the important thing is that we can pick up the phone, the secretary of defense, and have his counterpart who we can talk to at any time about our shared regional concerns -- (inaudible) -- and that is -- despite changes in the Egyptian military and political system, that's been constant.  It was constant with Secretary Panetta.  Secretary Hagel talked about it often, as -- (inaudible) -- said.  You know, he was there for a really significant, robust delegation in November.  I went to follow up on it in January.

             So there's just -- I mean, I think probably a month or two doesn't go by that we don't have some sort of regularized conversation, and it's basically to make sure that, with the shared number of regional issues, when we pick up the phone, there's -- (inaudible) -- talking on it often with the other line.

             Q:  And given the history, the decades of that relationship, is it -- is it stronger?  Is it easier?  I mean, is there a comfort level there as opposed to the civilian-to-civilian exchanges --

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  Well --

             Q:  -- where all the problems appear (off mic).

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  The challenges Egypt faces are -- are significant.  And that's a big difference.  I mean, Egypt has gone through, say, you know, one of the -- very significant historical periods since February -- January-February 2011.  So -- and they have -- they -- whether you look at their economy or you look at security issues, in terms of just the domestic security or you look at the Sinai, there are huge challenges for Egypt.

             With that said, in many areas, we're very encouraged.  The Egyptians and the Israelis have maintained close interaction in relations.  Egypt played a very critical role in helping bring about the Gaza cease-fire last November.  And as -- (inaudible) -- said, and I said, we still have a very open interaction with the Egyptian military on a whole wide range of issues, so there's not an issue we can't -- we feel like we can't bring up.

             But the challenges are significant.  We'll see that next week in Cairo, but then that will be Secretary Hagel's opportunity to talk directly with his counterparts face-to-face about some of those challenges and how we may be able to help them.

             SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL:  We should probably wrap it up.  Are there any final questions here before the traveling delegation gets a brief on the specifics of the trip?  All right.  Thanks, everyone.  Appreciate it.