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Bush to Visit Pentagon to Discuss Long-Range Plans for Military

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2007 – President Bush is slated to visit the Pentagon today to talk with senior leaders about long-term strategic plans for the military, the Pentagon press secretary told reporters yesterday.

Bush will meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Deputy Secretary Gordon England and other defense and military officials, Geoff Morrell said during a Pentagon briefing. Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, also is expected to participate.

The president’s last Pentagon visit, on Aug. 31, focused primarily on the status of the Iraq war and the health of the force in light of more than four years of operations there. “This one is expected to take a longer-term, more strategic look at the military,” Morrell said.

Among topics expected to top tomorrow’s agenda will be “the need for sustained investment in our national defense long after the conflicts in which we are currently engaged have ended,” he said.

Bush said in a statement released following the Aug. 31 Pentagon meeting that he had accepted Gates’ recommendation to increase the overall strength of the Army and Marines by 92,000 over the next five years. The meeting included discussion about military and civilian coordination, noting that joint civilian and military teams currently are deployed in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, the Philippines and Iraq.

Today’s meeting comes days after Gates pressed during a speech in Kansas for the United States to strengthen all elements of its national power -- the “soft” power as well as “hard” military might -- to face challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan and others it will confront in the future. Speaking during a Nov. 26 Landon Lecture speech at Kansas State University, Gates encouraged better funding for the State Department and other non-military U.S. entities so they can serve a broader role working as partners with the military in overseas operations.

Bush’s Pentagon visit today comes on the heels of the Annapolis conference that brought Israeli, Palestinian and other world leaders together to discuss ways to advance peace in the Middle East.

Gates hosted Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Pentagon earlier this week. Barak was in Washington to attend the conference. Morrell told reporters the two defense leaders discussed “a range of issues” of mutual concern, taking advantage of Barak’s time in Washington to “sit down face-to-face to discuss those issues.”

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