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Department of Defense Press Briefing with George Little from the Pentagon

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary George Little
November 12, 2013

GEORGE LITTLE: I'd like to start by providing you with an update on the assistance that the Department of Defense is providing in support of relief operations in the Philippines.

As soon as we received reports of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, Secretary Hagel immediately ordered all available U.S. forces to move to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the Philippines. The Philippines is a treaty ally, and the United States stands by its friends and allies in times of crisis.

Currently, there are more than 250 U.S. service members from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade on the ground, operating from Philippine Air Bases Clark and Villamor. They are supported by five KC-130 transport aircraft and four MV-22 Ospreys, with additional transport aircraft expected in the next few days.

As of last night, the Marines reported that they have delivered 107,000 pounds of relief supplies to the government of the Philippines. Our priority for supplying aid is potable water, food, shelter, hygiene products, and medical supplies.

Yesterday, Secretary Hagel ordered the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and other U.S. Navy ships home ported in Yokosuka, Japan, to make best possible speed for the Philippines, and they expected to arrive in the area sometime tomorrow. The George Washington was in Hong Kong on a port visit.

Embarked on the George Washington is Carrier Air Wing Five, with more than 80 aircraft, including 11 helicopters. The George Washington can produce more than 400,000 gallons of fresh water per day. As you know, and as a reminder, a U.S. Navy carrier, the USS Lincoln, supported tsunami relief operations in 2004 in the Pacific, providing much needed capabilities to operations ashore.

Along with the carrier are the cruisers USS Antietam, USS Cowpens, and the destroyer, USS Mustin. The supply ship USNS Charles Drew is already underway and will rendezvous with the George Washington strike group as they approach the Philippines. The destroyers USS McCampbell and USS Lassen are underway and heading towards the region.

The Department of Defense is continuing to work closely with the Department of State and the Philippine government to determine what, if any, additional assets may be required.

The speed with which U.S. forces are able to respond to Typhoon Haiyan highlights the importance of the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises we carry out regularly in the Asia Pacific. We constantly train for just these types of contingencies, including the annual Balikatan Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise with the Philippines. Coincidentally, personnel for China's People's Liberation Army are in Hawaii now, conducting an HADR-focused exchange with our forces.

I want to emphasize that the support we are providing to the Philippines is a whole of U.S. government response, not just DOD. Relief supplies are on their way to the Philippines from the U.S. Agency for International Development's warehouse in Dubai. Included in the shipment are enough emergency shelter materials and basic hygiene supplies to help 10,000 families.

Switching gears to a different topic, today the secretary is meeting with Chairman Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the combatant commanders to discuss strategy and budget matters for several hours. And they will all meet later today with President Obama at the White House.

Lastly, this is likely my final on-camera press briefing here at the Pentagon. Thanksgiving will, indeed, feel a little lonelier this year without my blackberry going off every two minutes. I want to let you all know that the Pentagon press corps has become like a second family to me since coming to the Pentagon from CIA a few years ago, and it's been the privilege of a lifetime to serve Secretary Hagel, Secretary Panetta before him, the Department of Defense, and all of you. I will forever cherish the relationships we've built, both here at the Pentagon and on the many trips we've taken together around the world.

I want to thank all of you for your hard work telling the story of our incredibly dedicated military and civilian personnel and their families and what they do every day to defend and advance American security, American interests, American ideals, and American freedoms. Thank you.

Lita?

Q: George, first, I guess on behalf of the press corps, thank you for putting up with us for all these years. And best of luck to you.

MR. LITTLE: Thank you. It's mostly my pleasure.

Q: Mostly, okay.

And just as a question, you talked about the response for the Philippines and then also on the budget. Can you talk a little bit about the cost of the response to the Philippines? And we've been hearing so much lately about how the military is not going to be able to do multi-ship responses and multi-pronged responses because of the budget cutbacks. How much is this costing? And is this something that we're not going to be able to do in the future? Or are we unable to do some response currently to the Philippines because of budget limitations?

MR. LITTLE: Well, first, thank you, Lita, for your kind words. On the assistance we're able to provide to the Philippines and the costs, I don't have a precise estimate. Obviously, this is a fast-moving train. And our first priority is assisting the people of the Philippines. We'll come to the cost estimates later. It does carry costs, but I don't have those figures right now.

We are committed as a department and as a government to supporting HADR efforts in the Asia Pacific region and around the world. This has been a key priority in Secretary Hagel's and former Secretary Panetta's travels to the Asia Pacific region, and it's been a focus elsewhere, such as in South America. So this is something that we are prioritizing and that we know is becoming of increasing concern.

Also, on this very point, HADR is critical in that we help business partner and ally capacity. That's one of our main priorities, as well, as helping others help themselves through these kinds of crises. Naturally, we stand ready to assist wherever we can, and especially in areas like the Philippines, a treaty ally. But I don't have cost estimates for you today and -- but we'll develop those as time moves on.

Q: Well, just as a quick follow-up, it took a couple days for the orders to come to get the ships underway. Was there a cost related reason for that? Was there a reason that -- were we waiting for some particular request or...

MR. LITTLE: Well, I would, with respect, take issue with the premise of the question, Lita. We moved as soon as we received a request from the government of the Philippines, we started moving personnel. And this has been a tragically developing situation, obviously, and it takes a little bit of time to define requirements and what assets you have to bring to the table and capabilities that may be required.

But make no mistake about it. We moved out as quickly as we could in the wake of this terrible storm.

Barbara?

Q: So why not send the amphibious ships that General Kennedy says he needs that capability as soon as possible?

MR. LITTLE: We're not ruling in or out any capability that may be required to support our Philippine allies as they sort out this very terrible situation. The nearest Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) is in Japan right now. I'm not ruling out the possibility that they could be moved to the Philippines at a certain point. But right now, we have a significant array of assets, as I described in my opener, to bring to bear, to assist, and that's precisely what we'll continue to do.

Q: But specifically, General Kennedy says the amphibious ships have one thing that none of the other ships do, and that's the ability to deploy tracked vehicles and small boats to help with search-and-rescue and to move supplies over debris-stricken areas. And you say at a certain point, but if he says he needs that capability, why are you not sending it?

MR. LITTLE: Well, we are working very hard to give General Kennedy whatever he needs to support relief efforts in the Philippines, in consultation, again, with the Department of State and the Philippine government. We want to do this well. We want to do it the right way. And we'll continue to define requirements through Pacific Command to make sure that he has the full support of this department.

Q: Can you talk about the Ospreys? Obviously, it's very unique capabilities there. What -- what specifically are you thinking they'll be used for?

MR. LITTLE: I don't have a specific tasking right now, but the Osprey is a key part of any HADR mix that you might want to send. They have capabilities to go in quickly, and they have longer range in some aircraft, helicopters, so I think they have been brought to bear in other situations like this, and we'll continue to see what they might be used for. I don't have a precise operation to announce today specifically geared toward the Ospreys.

Q: Was it seen as a decision to send them in there because of the landscape there and the destruction and their landing capabilities?

MR. LITTLE: I don't know the precise reasons for sending in the Ospreys, but they are a terrific aircraft that could be used in these situations. And we'll get you more updated information as we learn about what they may be used for.

Q: George, can you go into detail or possibly find some examples of the support that the special operations task force in the southern Philippines could provide to the humanitarian and disaster response mission? You know, they do a lot of smaller-type of these things in their own area, but is there any role that they're playing?

MR. LITTLE: I don't have the specifics on a role that they might be playing, but I would refer you to Pacific Command for more details. I would note that it's very tough for me right now to get into the specifics. This is a very fluid situation, and disaster relief efforts aren't something that you can necessarily work in a linear fashion. You have to look at the requirements as they come up at the problems that we might be able to help with, need to work closely with the Philippine government, so it's not always sequential what happens. And I think it's important to bear that in mind.

The key principle here is that we are going to do everything we can to support relief efforts within the parameters of our consultations with the Philippine government and our capabilities. And we do have significant capabilities to bring to bear, whether it's personnel on the ground or other assets.

Mick?

Q: George, the emergency relief supplies that are intended to help 10,000 families, where are those located now? How will they get to the Philippines? And when will they get there?

MR. LITTLE: The emergency shelter and hygiene supplies that I referenced in my opener are actually being delivered by USAID, and they're currently at a warehouse in Dubai. I would refer you to USAID for precise timing.

Q: So U.S. military (OFF-MIC) involved in those shipments?

MR. LITTLE: Well, I don't know if we will be involved in those shipments or not. I would assume that we would look at that request closely if it came in, but I don't have any further information on it.

Q: George, can you tell us what the status of the two hospital ships is, the Comfort and the Mercy? Has there been -- any consideration being given to deploying one or both of those?

MR. LITTLE: I don't have any details on those ships. It's a good question, and we'll keep you updated if we learn more.

Jennifer?

Q: George, there were reports that the Philippine government had asked 40 times since 1992 for U.S. military help, since Subic Bay was closed in '92. Is that accurate? Or is that -- do you have any information about how many times the Philippine government has sought U.S. military assistance since the closing of that base?

MR. LITTLE: Gosh, I honestly don't know the answer to that, Jennifer. We can try to find that out for you, but the key point here is that our relationship with the Philippines has only improved over time and that we have worked closely with them on exercises to include HADR exercises. And this is a key relationship in the region that we're going to continue to nurture. And it's very important that we do everything we can in this terrible situation.

Dan?

Q: On this case, this scandal involving allegations of bribery and so forth with the Navy, there's now several senior officers implicated. Does the secretary believe that this reflects some systemic problem? Because it seems like all the services seem totally unable to manage contracts of these recurring cases of mismanagement or fraud? And there's promises to fix it. Is he concerned that there's a systemic problem here?

MR. LITTLE: Secretary Hagel has been regularly briefed on these matters and these troubling allegations. I'm not sure that he's ready to assign or label or characterize the allegations as systemic at this point. I think we have to let the investigation proceed.

One point that I would make on this is that it was the U.S. Navy itself that discovered these problems and has investigated them. And there is an ongoing investigation. So I think they deserve credit for looking after these problems themselves. This wasn't some outside agency or department coming in to look at these deeply troubling issues. It was NCIS that took the lead, and we believe that they're holding people's feet to the fire. And that's the right thing to do.

Q: George, since the company and its CEO who are implicated in this case have been doing business with the U.S. Navy for some 25 years, I mean, is there going to be a -- do you get a sense there's going to be a constant drip, drip, drip, an endless stream of naval officers that are going to end up in the dock?

MR. LITTLE: Mick, the short answer is, I don't know. It's an ongoing investigation, and I'm not privy to the details of that law enforcement investigation.

Tony?

Q: A couple non-Philippine and non-Navy scandal questions.

MR. LITTLE: Okay.

Q: You leave under the cloud of a budget uncertainty...

MR. LITTLE: Oh, under a cloud. (Laughter.)

Q: Of budget uncertainty.

MR. LITTLE: All right.

Q: Sequestration...

MR. LITTLE: Pop that one on me, Tony.

Q: Not you personally, but you -- the department and you as the spokesperson, sequestration and continuing resolution. There's a perception that a continuing resolution, if it goes through, would -- it would be less damaging than sequestration. Can you walk through some of the tangible impacts of continuing resolution, specifically on the industrial base, on contracts, procurement, R&D contracts that affect companies around the country?

MR. LITTLE: Thanks, Tony. First, if you had told me that I would still be talking about sequestration and this level of budget uncertainty two-and-a-half years after coming to the Pentagon, I think I would have probably -- I don't know. I don't think I would have predicted that.

But here we are, some two-and-a-half years later, and we're dealing with the very real cloud over this department of terrible budget uncertainty and sequestration. And it's done tremendous damage to the morale of our workforce, both military and civilian, and it's done great damage to our military readiness.

It's very tough for me to give examples about the future, but any time that we can't budget ourselves under normal conditions creates problems for this department and, frankly, additional cost. The government shutdown we just went through actually cost more money than it did to shut down the government. That doesn't strike me as a good way to govern.

Continuing resolutions don't allow new starts, as you know. We have had, I think, one new start in this fiscal year in a float forward staging base. But as time goes on, it gets much more difficult to manage these kinds of programs. So what we hope for -- but I've said this before and come up empty, quite frankly -- is that we avoid the kind of budget uncertainty we've seen in recent months and years.

What we really hope for is an end to irresponsible sequestration, a budget that is manageable and that doesn't do harm to our men and women in uniform, the readiness, their families, and our civilians who have been impacted. So it's time for Congress to do the right thing. And I've been saying that for a long time, and I wish that I were leaving, frankly, after it was resolved. But that's where we are.

Q: Okay, and just -- on just one other piece of unfinished business I need to ask you. Last August, September, I think it was, you talked about Matthew Owen as the author of "No Easy Day," the SEAL who was on the bin Laden raid who wrote the memoir, you said he used classified information, he violated his nondisclosure agreement. A year later, this thing has dropped off the map, and I understand Justice and DOD are leaning on him to get his book profits. Where does this case stand right now, George?

MR. LITTLE: The department continues to assert forcefully that this individual breached his legal obligations by publishing the book without pre-publication review and clearance. It's a basic tenet of your contract with the department in these kinds of roles.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Justice are in discussions with his attorney. And we're also poised to pursue civil litigation, if necessary, for the author's breach. So this remains an ongoing process. It's taking some time, but, as you know, the wheels of justice don't always turn quickly.

Q: Well, you know, he was on the bin Laden raid, and he was also on the Phillips raid. The department has lauded the movie "Captain Phillips." Do you think it's ironic that you're still going after one of the raiders, one of the men who put his life on the line, a year later? As you leave the building, do you think this is somewhat ironic and maybe the department should lay off or ease off?

MR. LITTLE: When you are in material breach of your contract with the Department of Defense, that's action worth pursuing in our minds. So I think our position is clear and has been clear from the very beginning. And I wouldn't change a word about what I've said over the past year since this issue came to light.

Q: (OFF-MIC)

Q: So why not file charges?

MR. LITTLE: I'm not going to get into the specifics of the legal discussions. This is something that, as I said, is a matter of ongoing discussion with this individual's attorney.

Q: Do you foresee that happening in the future?

MR. LITTLE: I don't know.

Q: George, going back to the Philippines, does this disaster relief situation highlight a need for raider rotation -- U.S. military rotational presence in the Philippines? And do you think that the relief efforts would have been facilitated if the U.S. had more access? And is this something that you'll discuss with the government of the Philippines and the access negotiations that are ongoing?

MR. LITTLE: We are in discussions with the government of the Philippines right now on greater access for U.S. forces. We haven't come to the conclusion yet on that agreement. I'm not sure I would draw a direct linkage between our rotational presence in the region and our ability to respond to these kinds of crises. The fact of the matter is that we have thousands of forward-deployed American service members in the region who can help respond. So I would not draw a direct causal connection between the two.

Stephanie?

Q: Could you -- still on the Philippines, could you just expand a little bit more on these relief efforts and how they help build partner and ally capacity and just sort of talk me, you know, how it benefits national security and how that's sort of one of the goals going forward?

MR. LITTLE: Sure. One of our -- the key pillars of our defense strategic guidance is to -- not just in the Asia Pacific region, but elsewhere, build partner capacity. One of the lynchpins of that guidance is to continue to invest in our allies and partnerships, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, where we have had bases open and closed over the years. The goal is not to have new permanent bases for the U.S. military, but it's to enable rotational presences so that we can work together with allies and partners in the region to address problems like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The goal in this region and elsewhere is to help build partner capacity. That's in our interest, and it's in other countries' interests, as well. We can do a lot, but we can also only do so much as a military. And it's key that countries in the region and beyond look to shore up their own capacity in situations like this. We realize there is a deficit in places, and we're absolutely game to fill the gap. But it's something that we think is important to continue to work with our partners, and that is capacity-building.

David?

Q: Back on the budget question, you said that you're surprised that we're still here after two-and-a-half years. Looking back over that time, are there things that the Defense Department could have done or should have done differently in handling this problem, could have done things that would have made it easier on the department?

MR. LITTLE: Well, a two-and-a-half-year period, I'm sure you could find small things here and there that we could have done differently. But the fact of the matter is, I think we've overall done precisely the right thing. We have talked about the prospective impacts of sequestration. We were very clear about that. We didn't shy away from discussing what we thought would be the downsides of this absurd mechanism that was designed to avoid absurdities. And we've been clear since sequestration took effect about what's happened.

And so I think we've been clear and straightforward with you and with the American people, with Congress, and we are still where we are. But I think we've done it the right way.

Q: There have been times, though, as well, for example, when the department deliberately did not plan -- was told not to plan for -- for sequestration cuts, because everyone thought that would be dealt with, and so sort of had to adjust at the last minute to those issues.

MR. LITTLE: Well, I think there was some misguided conventional wisdom, to be honest with you, about, you know, how long we -- it takes for us to plan against certain contingencies. And the fact of the matter is, we did plan. We knew that sequestration took effect on March the 1st, and we immediately implemented plans to reduce, in a six-month period, some $30-plus billion.

And it wasn't easy. It had real impact on morale and on our readiness, but we followed the law, and we planned effectively. So I would take some issue with any suggestion that we somehow didn't plan for sequestration. The fact of the matter is, we did, and we implemented the plans.

Q: That's what -- that's what you guys said at the time, that you were not planning for sequestration.

MR. LITTLE: We weren't planning at that time, but there was a certain point at which we did have to -- to plan. I think I perhaps acknowledged in a gaggle or elsewhere that we were planning at a certain juncture. I can't remember the precise date, but...

Q: (OFF-MIC)

MR. LITTLE: Okay. But we ended up doing precisely that. And we had enough time to plan and to look at all the terrible options that confronted us.

Q: George, is the United States Navy, PACOM coordinating with any other regional navies in the relief effort?

MR. LITTLE: It's a very good question. I would probably put that question to Pacific Command. I'm personally unaware of any direct coordination, but we're pleased other countries are joining the relief efforts, and we, I'm sure, would entertain that kind of coordination, if it were put to us.

Q: George, the president's meeting and having lunch right now with enlisted personnel from all services, prior to the meeting later with the secretary and combatant commanders. Is that going to be a focus of this meeting, the concerns of the troops as you go forward with your budget considerations, things like that?

MR. LITTLE: I don't know what precisely is being discussed with the president, but this is something that is certainly on the mind of Secretary Hagel, who regularly hosts private lunches with junior enlisted members of the armed forces. And this is something that weighs heavily on his mind all the time. And I think it is absolutely going to come up in today's discussions with the chiefs and the combatant commanders, the impact that all of this is having on our troops and their families.

I don't know the specifics of what is being discussed right now as you and I speak here, but this is something that this secretary is prioritizing.

Q: George...

(CROSSTALK)

Q: ... just a meeting with the combatant commanders, is this a regularly scheduled meeting? Do they do this every six months? What is it? At the White House.

MR. LITTLE: This is -- at the White House? I don't know that there's a regular periodicity to meetings at the White House, but the secretary does on a regular basis convene what's now called the Secretary's Leadership Council, which is made up of the chiefs, the service secretaries, the combatant commanders, and they do get together on a regular basis -- I would say three or four times a year -- at this point to discuss important issues, like the budget and strategy. These are difficult times, to say the least, when it comes to the budget, so that's going to be one of the top issues that they deal with today.

Jim?

Q: Before you go, can I ask you the status of the department's assessment of Syria's compliance with their agreement to destroy chemical weapons? We've heard some of the reservations emanating from this building, some from my colleague, Barbara's, good reporting. Has that improved at all? Has it moved forward at all in the last week? Where does it stand?

MR. LITTLE: We don't assume, Jim, or take for granted that Syria has declared all chemical weapons-related materials or will fully cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). We continue to review and assess the completeness and the accuracy of Syria's declaration to the OPCW. However, in accordance with OPCW regulations, Syria's declaration is confidential and we can't publicly discuss its details or our assessment of it.

Q: Can I just follow with a question? There were reports that the Syrian government had requested -- had requested (inaudible) vehicles (inaudible) military-type equipment to help move some of these weapons out of the country to comply with the disarmament plan. A lot of allied nations balked at that. Just wanted to -- wanted to get your thoughts on that request and -- and kind of why the regime would even attempt to make that sort of a request.

MR. LITTLE: It's really for the Syrians to speak to. The U.S. military is not involved in that, so that's really for others to address. Is there a last question? Indeed, a last question.

Q: On your way -- on your way out, just a broader question. It's not issue-specific. You've been doing this two-and-a-half years. You were in the secret world over there and now you're here. As you walk out, does this building routinely over-classify at the drop of a hat? Or have you seen a little bit more measured -- attempts over the last couple of years to distinguish what should be classified versus unclassified/FOUO? In other words, is there still problems here with over-classification, that as you walk out the door, that you think this building needs -- the military in general and OSD need to grapple with?

MR. LITTLE: One of the inherent tensions when it comes to classified material and the intelligence community and certain elements of the Department of Defense is the tension between openness and secrecy. And I think there's always going to be some degree of healthy debate about that Venn diagram overlap and how much of an overlap there should be.

In some cases, is there over-classification? I don't know any government official in their right mind who would say there's never over-classification. I think that is an issue from time to time.

But overall, I think that this department does a very good job of trying to be as transparent as possible about as many issues as possible. That's certainly been a goal of mine since coming here, and I hope it continues. That's the right thing to do. Transparency is critical for this department and its legitimacy.

One of the reasons that we in the Department of Defense, the U.S. military, have a very high approval rating with the American people is because we are transparent. Even when it's bad news, quite frankly, we tend to come forward quickly and own up to it and talk about the measures we're taking to ensure that the problem doesn't occur again.

Some people may disagree with me about that, but that's our general orientation. And we're going to, I think, continue to do that, and whoever succeeds me I'm sure will carry that banner forward.

Q: Just a clarification on...

MR. LITTLE: Okay. On transparency?

Q: No, on your Syria answer.

MR. LITTLE: Yes.

Q: Do you have reasons to believe that Syria didn't declare all its chemical materials or chemical weapons?

MR. LITTLE: The declaration's confidential. I wouldn't be able to get into a characterization one way or the other, but I would simply repeat that we don't assume or take for granted that Syria has declared all of its C.W.-related materials or will fully cooperate with the OPCW. We hope they do, but we're not taking it for granted. Our eyes are wide open.

Monsieur De Luce?

Q: Merci. Another question sort of looking back at your time here. It seems like, one...

MR. LITTLE: This is becoming way too reflective.

Q: (OFF-MIC)

Q: Pull up a chair.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: Sequestration sort of exposed a different political situation, where what used to be sort of automatic political support for very high levels of defense spending is now very much in question, very much in doubt. Budgets of over $600 billion are not a given.

Has the -- does the Pentagon need to do more, in your view, to actually explain and justify why it needs to be funded like that, even when wars are basically ending or over?

MR. LITTLE: We want to have enough money to support our mission. That's the bottom line. I'm not -- we're not at all saying that we can't take our fair share of the cuts, Dan. We're not saying that we have to live at $550 billion or $600 billion a year ad infinitum. That's not at all the case.

What we are saying, though, is that steep, abrupt, irresponsible cuts do harm our mission over time. And it would be helpful if we could actually plan over a long horizon, as we grapple with we know -- with what we know are going to be lower budgets in future years, that's the -- that's the key to this. It's not about trying to protect to the last man $600 billion. It's about having enough money to do the right thing to protect this nation.

Q: George?

MR. LITTLE: And, Barbara, you will be the last question.

Q: I got to ask you about bin Laden, you know? You've been in both buildings. You know everything about it, and you talk about transparency. A couple of things I wanted to ask you. What did the news media, number one, never ask you about the bin Laden raid that you were prepared to answer that we just never asked? And, second, if it had gone badly for the troops -- the U.S. troops that were there, had it gone badly for the Navy SEALs, you talk about transparency. Was -- was the plan from the CIA to come forward and tell the American people exactly, precisely what happened? Or would you have had some potentially other story ready to go? What was your plan?

MR. LITTLE: The honest truth on part A of your question is that I don't know that I can really offer up anything that you haven't asked. I think that most reporters over the past two-and-a-half years have asked just about every question imaginable about this very important operation...

Q: (OFF-MIC)

MR. LITTLE: ... one of the greatest intelligence successes in American history. I'm sorry?

Q: Do we know everything about it?

MR. LITTLE: Well, that's hard for me to assess. I'm not sure that every detail has gotten out there, but I think you and the American people know a great deal about what happened on that very important day.

As for what the plan was if there had been a different set of circumstances that unfolded, I think we -- it wouldn't have been my call, for starters, but I think that the likelihood is that, just given the way these things work in this day and age, that we would have had to be truthful and accurate about what happened. Thankfully, we didn't have to go that route and it was a successful operation.

Q: But did you have another -- you always have backup plans -- did you have a backup plan of what you might have said to the American people? And what was that backup plan? What was the story that wouldn't have been told? Are you glad you're leaving?

MR. LITTLE: As I said, I think we would have been -- I think we would have been truthful about what had happened. And the fact of the matter is that we did have a plan for success and we had a plan for failure, in terms of what we would have said publicly.

Q: What would you have said publicly if it had failed?

MR. LITTLE: I think we probably at some point would have had to acknowledge what happened. And, look, there were any number of contingencies that could have occurred and we couldn't possibly plan against all of those. And this was a very risky operation. It involved going into another country. Equipment failure, you name it. And that did happen, in fact, obviously, on the ground and was a tough moment for those of us who were monitoring the situation closely. I think that, at the end of the day, we would have said something about it.

Q: But did you have a different story ready to go just in case? And what was that story?

MR. LITTLE: I did not have some kind of cover story waiting in the wings. If one existed, it didn't exist with me.

Q: And, George, a final point of personal privilege?

MR. LITTLE: Yes, Mick?

Q: Why -- why did you look directly at me when you suggested that some of us might disagree?

MR. LITTLE: I wasn't glancing with any particular purpose or person in mind.

Q: Just checking.

MR. LITTLE: Yeah, no, not at all. Not at all.

Q: And, George, would you like to announce at this point who your successor is going to be?

MR. LITTLE: I don't think a decision has been made, so I can't. You want me to come up with a cover story, Barbara?

Q: Where are you going?

MR. LITTLE: My immediate goal is to spend a little time with my boys, to actually drop them off at school and maybe even pick them up, and I look forward to spending a little bit more time with them and with the entire family. And then I'll pick up from there and see what the options are.

All right.

Q: Well, good luck.

MR. LITTLE: Thank you very much. Nice working with all of you. Thank you.