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Department of Defense Briefing

Presenters: Lawrence Di Rita, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
December 14, 2004 1:15 PM EDT

Tuesday, December 14, 2004 1:15 p.m. EST

Department of Defense Briefing

(Also Participating; Brigadier General David Rodriguez, Deputy Director for Regional Operations, Joint Staff Operations Directorate)


            MR. DIRITA:  Good afternoon.


            I wanted to just, if I could, acknowledge what happened at the White House just a little while ago with the president honoring the handful of folks involved with U.S. Iraq policy with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  We obviously count at least two of those awardees as alumni of the Department of Defense, if you will, General Franks and Ambassador Bremer, who both did a terrific job while they were serving, and the president's remarks stand on their own.


            Later today -- and it's just serendipitous timing -- the secretary will be acknowledging at a ceremony here a number of participants in the coalition provisional activity with some awards,   including Ambassador Bremer, who will be receiving the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award later today.  And again, as I said, it was a happy coincidence of timing that these ceremonies came together on the same day, but it was something the secretary felt he wanted to do for some time and we were able to arrange it.  So Ambassador Bremer and several other individuals under the Coalition Provisional Authority who performed quite well on behalf of the country will be recognized this afternoon.


            Q     Will that be a private ceremony or --


            MR. DIRITA:  It's a private ceremony here in the department.  We may have a statement on it later on today just to provide the details.


            I think there was also an announcement with regards earlier today about some units that have been identified for the ongoing rotation in Iraq, and if you haven't seen it you will, an announcement that -- as we are identifying some of these units, we're notifying the units, we're notifying the families, we're notifying the congressional constituency -- or the congressional representatives and, obviously, publicly making the acknowledgements.  And you'll see a statement on that later if you haven't seen it already.  Just, again, it's part of the ongoing rotation.  There is no change to the level or the disposition of the forces other than that we've identified some units that would be in the follow-on rotations.


            With that, I'll ask General Rodriguez to make a few comments.


            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  Thank you, Mr. DiRita.  And good afternoon.


            Iraqi and multinational forces continue offensive operations against anti-Iraqi forces throughout the region.  Operation Al-Fajr continues search and attack operations in order to set the conditions for the citizens of Fallujah to return to their homes safely.


            Yesterday in Baghdad, a patrol identified a suspicious vehicle which upon further investigation contained over 40 bags filled with ammonium nitrate surrounding a couple hundred pounds of mines and several large artillery rounds.  Additionally, VBIED materials were also found in the same location.


            And with that, we'll take your questions.


            MR. DIRITA:  Mr. Aldinger.


            Q     Larry, first of all, I want to thank you, I think on behalf of everybody, for increasing the rate of these briefings.


            Q     Hear!  Hear!


            MR. DIRITA:  You're welcome.


            Q     I think it is welcomed by us and our bosses, mommies and daddies, friends, everybody.  (Laughter.)


            MR. DIRITA:  It's part of our holiday package.  (Laughter.)


            What have you got?


            Q    I just wanted to ask you about these charges yesterday by Human Rights Watch that the situation -- the alleged abuse of prisoners, in Afghanistan especially, is being fostered -- that an atmosphere is being created, that these investigations are so secret that nothing is being released, and therefore the suspicion arises that there's a cover-up and these people aren't really being punished. What's your answer to that?


            MR. DIRITA:  I have read the Human Rights Watch letter.  To my knowledge, the secretary has not, although I understand the -- I mean, the letter is to the secretary, but it's dated yesterday, so he just hasn't seen it yet.


            I don't know that I would characterize it the way you did, but I would say that I reject aspects of the letter out-of-hand, in particular that we've launched criminal investigations only after abuses have received media attention.  And in fact, just last week from this podium I talked about conclusions of criminal investigations for which we were queried as to why there wasn't more media attention to the conclusions of the investigations.


            So, you know, when we have things to announce with respect to detainee abuse allegations, we announce them.  And we've initiated more than a -- about a dozen or a little more investigations.  We've held -- we've held, between the Army and the Marines, I think the number is on the order of three dozen courts-martial.  We've had about that many non-judicial punishments.


            In the case of Afghanistan alone there are eight alleged cases of deaths of detainees in Afghanistan, of which four are investigation by the Criminal Investigative Division of the Army, and another one by the Department of Justice because it involved a contractor.  We had the cases of the deaths at the Baghram facility in which we recently announced, after a fairly exhaustive investigation, a couple of dozen or more, I think 28, indictments.  And there's already been one criminal charges referred.


            So, everybody wishes for as much transparency as possible, and we're going to be as transparent as we can.  But I think that's been our pattern.   The notion that this has been the result of serious investigative work by journalists is -- overstates the case.  There has been a lot of work by journalists investigating various allegations.  But much of what journalists have investigated is following what we've announced and what we released.


            I'll give you another example.  Last week we talked about the ACLU having placed a bunch of documents on its Web site, and one of the documents that got some notoriety was allegations involving DIA personnel.  We had held administrative proceedings and removed individuals from that unit before it was even publicized that the allegations had been made.


            We have another ACLU FOIA that's going to be provided -- a Freedom of Information request collection of documents.  Those collection -- and I'm going to help you along because I doubt this is what will be highlighted.  But in the collection of documents that the ACLU has sought, there has been at least one court-martial -- or at least -- there's one murder allegation in which there's already been a court-martial.  There's a larceny investigation in which there were six court-martials or non-judicial punishments.  And that's -- those are the disposition of some of the cases involved in the ACLU Freedom of Information request that is soon to be posted by the ACLU.


            We're going to provide this documentation, and when we have the details of individual cases, we'll provide that, too, as appropriate, and consistent with classification.


            But as I said, many of the cases that are being celebrated have had disposition already made.  And there may be a desire that disposition, when it's made, be publicized, but that's a different thing from saying we're reacting to publicity.  It's quite the opposite, in most -- in many cases.  And I'm not saying that's going to happen every single time.  But we've held a number of individuals accountable.  We will continue to hold people accountable.  And we will continue to pump out documents.  And as I said last week, you will then continue to read those documents and come back and say, "How come we didn't know about this?"  And we'll say, "Sorry.  When we had the court-martial, we should have put a press release out."


            But in many cases, we are holding people accountable prior to people even knowing that there was a case, and that's not anybody's fault.  That's just the way the military justice system operates. It's quick.  It tends to be quick.  There are plenty of times when it is not.  There's plenty of times when we wish it were quicker.  The Bagram cases were under investigation for a couple of years.  Justice delayed is justice denied.  That's true.  And so we do need to be quick.


            But these are complicated cases.  And many times people have transferred.  The investigators have to go out and gather sworn testimony from people who are all around the world.  It takes time, and we're doing our very best.


            But the assertion by any organization that we are responding to press reports and that's the only reason why people are being held accountable is just false.


            Q     Larry --


            MR. DIRITA:  Yes?


            Q     Just a follow-up on that.  I mean, in terms of releasing documents --


            MR. DIRITA:  Yeah.


            Q     -- is it your policy that you'll just do it in response to FOIA requests, or is there any --


            MR. DIRITA:  No.  We didn't -- nobody FOIA'd any -- most of the things we released when it came to these -- the various investigations   -- I mean, people may have FOIA'd it -- let me correct myself -- but we released an awful lot of documents regarding the Abu Ghraib investigations, and we'll release a heck of a lot more.  And there will be -- I mean, the Freedom of Information Act still exists, and people will still ask for things that we may not have, for whatever reason, released.


            But the general policy is one of transparency, and this is an important issue in which there be transparency, consistent, as I said, with operations, with security and all of the other things.  Privacy -- in some cases, it's a privacy issue.  And when these things are released, they're -- they tend to be redacted.


            And as I said, I'm giving you a heads-up.  There will be another ACLU tranche of documents.  I've just given you the disposition in some of those cases.  As we learn further disposition in other of those cases, we'll be sure to provide those.  But we may not be able to do it in the same news cycle that you're operating in; I understand that.


            Yeah, Will?


            Q     All right.  Just to follow up on that, on the ACLU documents, there have been a number released today.  Some of them are Navy documents talking about Marines -- incidents involving Marines. One of them was one in which four Iraqi juveniles were instructed to kneel down while a pistol was discharged to conduct a mock execution. What can you tell me -- what do you know about that particular incident?  And do you know what disciplinary action was taken in that incident and in the other incidents mentioned in the ACL(U) documents today?


            MR. DIRITA:  Will (sp), you're doing exactly what I said -- I predicted you would do, which is here's something I've got and now what can you tell me.  I don't happen to have at this instant in time the disposition of that individual case.  When we get it, we will provide it.


            I will simply refer back to the record, and I would caution people, last week when the letter that was -- the Jacoby-Cambone letter was presented, I saw an awful lot of reports about the letter. I saw very few reports about the fact that there had been a disposition in that case, and we put that information out as quickly as we learned it.  And we'll do the same in this one as well, but -- and we'll -- we will try and get that information.  I don't know that that information is available at the moment.  But what I've -- what I have told you is that, in the case of the ACLU request for information on investigations, there has been a number of -- a number of the cases were disposed of through courts martial or non-judicial proceedings. And with respect to individual ones, when we get them -- when we get that information, we'll put it out.


            Q     On the armor issue.  I wanted to revisit that a second. Last week you got criticism not only for the armor and the pace of up- armoring, but remarks that have been described as cocky and condescending by the secretary to that soldier.  In retrospect -- you've answered the how we're up-armoring -- in retrospect, does the secretary regret the tenor and tone of his response to that soldier?


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, I won't speak to that in that -- let me answer the question, first of all, by encouraging anybody who hasn't done so to look at the video of that event.  Nobody who saw that video would believe that the secretary was being cocky and condescending.  I feel confident in asserting that most people who made that comment did not see the town hall meeting with the secretary, which was, by participants in the town hall, soldiers, was generally seen as a sort of typical meeting that the secretary has with the forces.  It was -- they were very appreciative that he was there.  He wanted to be there. There was a good give and take on a -- across a range of issues.


            I will say this.  Nobody is more impatient than the secretary of defense to fixing what's wrong with this department.  We are organized, trained and equipped for a different era, and he recognizes that.  And sort of implied in the series of questions that we've seen not just at that town hall meeting, but from members of Congress and others is their own recognition, the questioners' recognition that this department finds itself in a world in which we aren't optimized with respect to how we're organized, the weapons systems that we have purchased, et cetera.  And I don't think anybody would take -- the secretary will take second place to no one in his impatience to change that, to see that we become a more flexible, adaptive military institution to better serve this country for the investment that the public is placing in it.  And it is -- I think it is the case that he feels an obligation on behalf of the department when he's -- particularly -- specifically when he's speaking to troops -- to convey that there's a lot of work going on to change it so that the forces understand that they -- that the things that they need that they'll have.  And I think that has been his record when he meets with forces.


            Q     Didn't it come off, though, as a little impatient, patronizing --


            MR. DIRITA:  Certainly not with respect to the individual.  He didn't feel that way.  And as I said, if you watch the video, I don't think anybody could accept that interpretation.  But probably what didn't come out as much as I've seen it in other venues is the secretary's own sense -- his shared sense with that soldier of let's move along, let's get this department doing what it needs to be doing now as opposed to being organized for a different era.


            Q     Quick follow-up.  Some Democratic staffers on Friday night were saying that the department was going to set up an armor task force to review requirements overall.  Is that true?


            MR. DIRITA:  That is.  I think the secretary of the Army has set up a task force to see what else might be done to continue the acceleration of capability in this area.  As we've discussed from here and as has been briefed -- and I think we've got some more data being provided to you in a briefing tomorrow on armor -- the Army has already done an awful lot to mobilize the industrial base, and we've talked about it here.  But the secretary of the Army has a view that if there's one more, you know, faucet to turn even wider open, let's see if we can.  But it's got to be done, in his view, in the context of a broader strategy of how do we flexibly respond to the challenges that we face in Iraq?  And armor is one way to do that, but it is not the only way.  And if every soldier in Iraq had armor, we would not defeat the insurgency.  It is going to require a range of capabilities.  Our ability to --


            Q     (Off mike.)


            MR. DIRITA:  Let me finish the question.  Our ability to respond to the IED threat -- and there's been an awful lot of thinking and analysis and technology to go into that challenge as well.  So it's -- the secretary of the Army -- indeed, the secretary of Defense has the view that we should be doing all we can, but let's also make sure that we aren't losing sight of the real challenge, and the real challenge is being flexible against a very adaptive adversary.


            Q     Follow-up on that, if I may?


            Q     In the death cases in Afghanistan, is it true that one of those death cases was -- you know, the person responsible was punished with a reprimand?


            MR. DIRITA:  I'll see what we can provide for you in that regard. I don't know off hand.


            Q     That's been reported.  And I'm wondering how that could be justified --


            MR. DIRITA:  Justifiable homicide has occurred in some of these cases -- I don't know if these specific cases.


            Q     (Off mike) -- punishment for any kind of a wrongful death.


            MR. DIRITA:  I'm in no position to be able to kind of look over the shoulder of investigators who have taken sworn testimony and analyzed the charges and analyzed the circumstances of the case and from this podium say he came up with the wrong answer -- he or she came up with the wrong answer.  So --


            Q     Could the general --


            Q     Maybe the general could address that?


            MR. DIRITA:  Do you have anything to add?


            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  No, I don't.  I don't know the specifics on that case.


            Q     Larry?  Larry?


            Q     Larry?


            MR. DIRITA:  We'll get to everybody.  We've got time.  That means more or less.  (Laughter.)


            What do you got, Robin (sp).


            Q     You know, to follow up on what Larry was saying about IEDs, General Rodriguez, can you bring us up to date on how you are seeing this IED threat evolve in Iraq; the solutions, the tactics, techniques, procedures the military is engaging in to deal with it?


            And very specifically, General Jumper apparently told a group of reporters this morning that the Air Force is going to increase its C-130 cargo flights into Iraq to try and get more cargo in by air to reduce the number of ground vehicles in convoys to help lower that threat.  Can you bring us up to date on all of that?


            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  Well, on the -- on the last part, on the C-130s, yeah, that's ways been an alternate way to get supplies there.  So rather than run, you know, thousands of trucks up and down the main supply routes, if you could put it in by air, that would decrease those number of convoys that go up and down.  So that's been an alternative that they've looked at and have been able to expand that as the ability to fly into different places throughout Iraq has opened itself up over time.


            Now on the other piece -- and the up-armored part is only one part of it.  Everything -- another significant part is absolutely, like you said, tactics, techniques and procedures.  And you know, it's a whole concept that has to be put together between protection,   between attack, between detection, between analyzing the things that go wrong, the things that happen when an IED goes off.  And to that end, the department has established a(n) IED task force that is focused purely on how we protect our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines better against the improvised explosive device and the tactics and techniques that the insurgency uses.  And that's been going on for several months.  And like I said, what it does is it focuses on the prevention, the protection, as well as attacking the personnel or people that are making them.


            So it's a broad effort that, like I said, no one area in that four or five areas I just discussed are going to be the answer.  It's got to be a whole process there that does that.  So that's what is happening.


            The other thing that it does is, for example, is if they get attacked by a certain tactic and technique procedure from the insurgency over in one place, in the information is shared and spread quickly throughout the force so that they all can be watching for those indicators of those type of attacks.  So that's the urgency with which the department's going after the process to defeat improvised explosive devices.


            Q     Can I just very briefly follow up?  Whenever there's an IED attack, how much does the military look at each situation?  Or do they just move on?


            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  Oh, no.  No.  Every situation is analyzed in detail.  So you're looking at every place by how the thing was put together, how it was detonated, what type of material was used in it, what type of technology, because people design things differently.  So they're tracked that way.  And then, like I said, that's spread out immediately throughout the force so that the -- as soon as people understand how that went on and what went on, everybody then is prepared to go out the next time and look for those same type of indicators to protect themselves better.


            MR. DIRITA:  And to really just put a fine point on it, our objective is to defeat this insurgency and to do so with a minimal loss of coalition life.  And so we're going to provide all of the capabilities that the forces need, all of the armor that they need. But keeping in mind that armor is part of a spectrum of things that is going to help save their lives, as will flexibility, adaptability, the ability to analyze the threat and react to it, and change the enemies -- we're dealing with an enemy that has a vote and they're going to decide how to react to us based on actions we take.


            So, you know, pursuing aggressively one thing -- and that's armor -- we have pursued aggressively and will do what we need to to provide the security to the forces -- by itself -- let me say, it must be combined with a lot of other activities to meet that objective of minimizing coalition casualties.  And the flexibility and adaptability cannot be overemphasized as one of the things that we need to do.


            Q     A question on the troop rotations announced today.  I wanted to -- I didn't see any Marine units on there, and so I wanted to ask, is that something that just hasn't been announced yet?  Are the Marines getting a year off?  (Laughter.)


            And also, how much -- is there a sense of how much, in terms of Guard and Reserve, are going to be a part?  I noticed there were some specific units, but is there a percentage or anything?


            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  No, that's still being done, on the first part, for the Marines and everything.  We'll continue to announce the units as they get identified and alerted, and everything, so that's not, you know, the full number of people that will be alerted.


            And also, for the combat support and combat service support, which is a big part of the Reserve units that get activated and mobilized to support the operation, that's still being planned.  And just like last time, we put out the combat forces first and then it takes about two or three months to do the rest of the planning, to get the combat service and combat service support.  So until that gets done, then you won't have your percentages exactly in the Guard.


            Q     Can you speak a little to the -- why these units are the best ones for the job at this time, the ones that were announced today?


            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  Well, it's what the combatant commander requests and everything.  And the other reason that we put out -- as soon as we can announce these units, so they can properly prepare and get trained and ready for the type of operation that they're going to be faced with.


            MR. DIRITA:  If you look at the units, I think it reflects what we've been talking about.  You've got some heavy units there.  You've got some mobile units.  I mean, there's a Stryker Brigade Combat Team. It reflects a mix of capability, and that's what the combatant -- combatant commanders don't ask for units as much as capability, and then we go back and find those units.  And it reflects a range of capabilities, including some heavy capabilities, some mobile capabilities, some air assault capability.  There's a range of things we need to be able to provide the combatant commander.


            Yes, (Tammy ?).


            Q     Can I follow up on that?


            MR. DIRITA:  Oh.  Okay.


            Q     General, the announcement basically said that the Pentagon will maintain the current troop level for the next two years.  Is that a reflection that Iraqi security forces perhaps are not going to be ready in time as originally anticipated, or there is a better understanding of the insurgency and what it's going to take to finally end it?


            MR. DIRITA:  Let me be very clear that this announcement is not intended to say that whatsoever.  We're going to be at the current force level through the elections.  This maintains -- for the purposes of planning, we've identified sufficient units to maintain this brigade structure that we're currently holding should that be necessary.  And we'll continue to evaluate it.  The plan right now is to maintain this temporary plus-up through the elections and for a period thereafter, for --


            Q     (It said ?) maintain the current 138,000 for the next two years.


            MR. DIRITA:  Again, we'll continue to evaluate that.  We could very well decide that while these units have been identified, we don't need them.  Some of these don't deploy until mid-2005.  So it would be wrong to say that for as far as the eye can see, this is the number. What this is is prudent planning to identify those units so that we can then continue the assessment that will determine what the actual level might be.  It may very well be less than this, it may be the same amount, it may be more.  And I think the pattern that we've established is that the commander will evaluate it, and should there   be a need for more or less, then there will be more or less.  But it would be inaccurate reporting on this announcement to say we're announcing that until 2007, there will be this many troops in Iraq, because nobody knows that answer.


            Q     (Inaudible.)


            MR. DIRITA:  Okay.


            Q     Thank you.  Could you explain why until Friday the up- armored humvee production line had not been maxed out?  Was it a cost- benefit analysis?  Was it a question of logistics getting them over there?  Was it miscommunication, that you didn't know they could more?


            MR. DIRITA:  I think it's probably closest to the last point you made.  As I understand it -- and I would refer you back to the Army to get a little more refined understanding of this --


            Q     (Off mike.)  (Laughter.)


            MR. DIRITA:  -- the company was operating at the maximum capacity for what the Army was ordering.  It had other capability, but it required retooling to be able to do what the Army wanted.  The Army was operating under the belief that this company could make no more than, I think the number was, 450 up-armored humvees a month.  The company then came out Friday -- in some press reports somebody was attributed in the company to have said, well, we can produce a lot more.


            Well, the secretary of the Army called and said, if that's the case, we'll take them.  And the company then came out and said, well, not so fast; we'd have to retool, and it would be February before we can do that.  So there was a lot of qualification to early press reports that suggested that -- and again, this was based on statements made from the company, so the company kind of requalified its own comments.


            Q     (Off mike) -- knew that, it's because the Army had asked them earlier what their max production rate could be at that --


            MR. DIRITA:  As I understand it, they had had that discussion. The company said, "Based on other things we're doing, based on other contracts we have to fulfill, based on other capabilities, our line is configured in such a way that we can produce this number for the Army every month."  And that number was 450.


            Somebody then made a statement in the company, apparently, that was reported on Friday morning, that "Oh, we could do more than that." And when the Army went to them, they said, "That's not really quite right.  We could do more than that, but it'll take us four months to get there, and we've got to retool."  So the Army said fine.  Then we'd like to get there, but it -- we recognize it's not the same kind of excess capacity as was originally reported.


            So I think the --


            Q     But where does it stand?  Are they going to make more or not?


            MR. DIRITA:  Where it stands is, it's been announced, and I think the company and the Army have both made statements to this effect on Friday.  So I don't have anything new to that -- to add to that. (Cross talk.)


            Q     Can I just question one thing?  I mean, you talked the last time we were here about World War II and the mobile -- industrial mobilization.


            MR. DIRITA:  Right.


            Q     And obviously, in a time of war, if the government's willing to put the money behind it, they can mobilize industry to do whatever it is they want.  So why would you allow a company to tell you how many they can produce and go with that, as was given --


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, let me turn your question around by saying that from the time that the Army decided it needed more of these until now, they increased production thirtyfold.  And the company then said, "We're maxed out."  And then they said, "Well, maybe not maxed out. We can squeeze a little more, but we'd have to cut back on some other contracts and retool our lines."  And so that conversation continues.


            But there has already been a tremendous mobilization.  I mean, I think you've answered your own question.  We -- the Army came and said, "We want more," and they went -- I mean, another one of these is these ceramic vests.  I think we were -- we went from something like 1,500 a month to 25,000 a month.  I mean, that is called wartime mobilization.


            And there's always more that can be done, and we'll keep -- that's what the -- somebody asked about the armor task force.  They're going to see if there's any other place they can squeeze down and get even more production.


            Q     Larry, Larry.


            (Cross talk.)


            MR. DIRITA:  I --


            Q     Thank you, sir.  General --


            MR. DIRITA:  At some point, I get to say "new topic," and then we're off on some --


            Q     (Chuckles.)  (Off mike.)


            Q     No.  Well, I was -- I have a new topic, but you answered it while I was waiting.  But I do have a follow-up on all this.  Are we -- and I'm not suggesting the Army go into combat naked, but the humvee is basically not a combat vehicle.  Are we perhaps overemphasizing this up-armor?  Because, as I understand it -- and please correct me if I'm wrong -- that the armor on humvees will stop small arms and shrapnel, but is useless against heavy IEDs and many rocket-propelled grenades, particularly armor-piercing.  So you know, are we overemphasizing this up-armor thing?


            MR. DIRITA:  You want to take that?


            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  Well, the -- you know, we use obviously a combination of vehicles in everything.  But the IEDs -- now, understand, we've lost a tank to an IED, too.  So you know, it's a mixture of all those things.  You know, the advantage of the humvee is the speed with which it can get around, also the maneuverability inside a city, relative to a tank sometimes.  So the people are mixing and matching all the capabilities they have, and that’s why they have that range of capabilities. But the armor itself, on the up- armored humvee, is not the solution.  It's going to have to be a combination of things, like I said, about tactics, techniques, procedures, different vehicles for different times, and those types of adjustments.  And the rapidity with which we can adjust, the speed with which we can adjust to the situation dominate is what's going to be critical --


            Q     Really, to answer the question specifically, I mean, the up-armor that's being placed on humvees, that will only stop a very small portion of what the troops are facing in these things, right?  I mean, an armor-piercing round or an RPG will penetrate an M1-AI.


            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  Right.  That's exactly right.  But you got to understand that to -- you save a guy versus a guy getting killed. That's what -- the type of thing that helps.  I mean, yeah, the thing will go through it.    Some of the RPGs that are armor-piercing will go through it.  But you know, it goes through it with less impact and it doesn't destroy the entire thing, and you lose three guys -- maybe you lose one.  You know, that's the kind of difference and stuff.  And the bottom line is, we want to get out of there with losing as little number of people as we can, and we're doing everything we can to best protect them.


            Q     Larry, what's your reaction to Senator McCain's comments yesterday that he has no confidence in the secretary and his concerns about more troops needed in Iraq?


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, Secretary Rumsfeld has relied upon the judgments of military commanders to determine the appropriate mix of capabilities and the appropriate levels of forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, elsewhere in the world.  That's just -- that's the way the system works.  There's a secretary of Defense and there are military commanders, and those judgments are rendered and decisions are made. And it's perfectly understandable that people -- observers and others -- will offer their own views, and Senator McCain is certainly an important member of an important oversight committee and has well- informed views.  But the secretary has a responsibility to make decisions, and he makes those decisions based on the judgments of military commanders.  And I don't think he -- there's no other real way to do that.


            I don't think there's much more to be said on that.


            Q     Follow on that:  Could you tell us if the secretary sees a need to mend relations with Congress?  There's been a lot of criticism from both parties, and it may just be a matter of personal style.


            MR. DIRITA:  Whose personal style?  (Laughter.)


            Q     Well, clearly they don't care much for him.


            MR. DIRITA:  Oh, okay.


            Q     But is he -- does he see any need to change the way he relates to them --


            MR. DIRITA:  Look, the relationship with Congress is -- the Congress is, as the secretary likes to remind people, Article I of the Constitution.  He's a former member of Congress.  He is intimately aware of the important role Congress plays in the United States and spends an enormous amount of time with members, individually and collectively.  I don't have the figures at my fingertips, but I would bet that there were -- he probably had two dozen breakfasts or lunches or events here at the Pentagon last year with a range of members, individually and collectively.  He goes up to the Congress regularly; he testifies to the Congress regularly.  The Congress has been, in the main, very supportive of the global war on terror, the president's objectives in the global war on terror; the imperatives of this department to transform, and what we were talking about earlier.  We have sought from the Congress and received authority to bring our civilian personnel systems into the 21st century.  We have sought from the Congress and received the authority to conduct another round of base realignment.  We have embarked on a global posture realignment, with the support of the Congress.


            It is -- the relationship with the Congress is one in which very few things we do doesn't require intimate understanding of each other, and we spend an enormous amount of time making sure that the Congress understands what it is this department is doing.  And you always want to make sure that if somebody wants or needs more information that they get it; if they have views that they would like to express, that they have the opportunity to express them.  And I think our record has been one in which we've tried to provide that opportunity.  Indeed, Senator McCain himself has received an enormous number of -- or at least we've offered a number of briefings to him on issues that we know are important to him.  He's been over here as part of groups, as well as individually, with meetings with the secretary.  We know that he has a particular concern about this issue involving the Air Force tanker capitalization, and we've tried our very best to provide the information that he desires and that the secretary shares an interest in providing.


            One of the things that I found very interesting about Senator McCain's comments with respect to his specific concerns about what's happening in Iraq, for example, is that he shares many of those concerns with the secretary of Defense.  We have a mix of forces there that reflects a reliance on the Guard and Reserves, and that's been a priority of this department to change that balance from the Cold War balance that was developed over many years; prior to the arrival of President Bush and his administration those decisions were made.  We now have to reevaluate those decisions.  And as I said, the secretary takes second place to nobody in his impatience that we do that.  And I think Senator McCain has the same view that we've got to get on with this task.  The difference is that the secretary's got a large department that he has to manage and lead, and we've got decisions that have to be made in a way that will stick.  And that takes time.


            Q     Larry?


            MR. DIRITA:  Yeah.


            Q     Regarding the tanker situation, I've got a few points that I want to clarify and close the loop on.  First, the AoA is supposed to be complete.  Can you give us an idea of when key officials, such as Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Wolfowitz and General Myers will be briefed on it?  Also, when will it be briefed to Congress?


            And there's a concern about the AoA being rushed into a five- month time frame.  You've probably seen the e-mail exchanges on that. Can you give us some idea of how a formal AoA can be accomplished in a third of the time in which AoA's are normally done?


            MR. DIRITA:  I don't know what e-mail exchanges you're referring to.  But when it comes to the issue of tanker recapitalization, I'm very sensitive to the topic of e-mail, so -- but I don't know what e-mails you're referring to.


            Q    Well, Ms. Crawford, who is in charge of the RAND project, sent an e-mail to the acquisition chief, one of the acquisition chiefs of the Air Force saying specifically this is not an AoA; an AoA requires 18 months; this should not be billed as an AoA.


            MR. DIRITA:  I'll tell you what we'll try and do is get you some more detailed understanding of that issue from Mr. Wynn, the acting undersecretary for acquisition, who has applied himself to -- Senator McCain in particular, but I think there were some other members -- concerns on the question of the AoA.  I think he believes that he has built in some additional review and understandings such that the work done by RAND can be seen to have the effect that everybody wants it to have, which is to give an honest assessment of what the alternatives are.  But without wanting to speculate, he has, I think, recently communicated with Senator McCain in this regard in a letter, and it would be best if I just leave it to Mr. Wynn, and we'll get that information for you.


            I think there's a general view that that analysis was sufficient to the task but that we need to do a -- that he, Wynn, has built in some additional reviews and oversights of that analysis to make sure that we didn't miss something and to take account of some of these concerns that it may have been seen as a partial analysis.


            Q     And what about the briefing schedule?  Who's going to be briefed, when?


            MR. DIRITA:  That I don't know.  I mean, when these things complete or conclude, they tend to kind of work their way through the system.  There's a strong desire to capture any of the conclusions of this that may be needed as we develop our '06 budget, and we're in that process now.  So to the extent that any conclusions from the analysis are necessary, those briefings will move, but I couldn't give you a schedule of that.


            Q     The Congress is going to briefed next week, so is it safe to assume that Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Wolfowitz and General Myers will be briefed sometime this week?


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, I wouldn't assume that.  First of all, you know more than I do, because I didn't know Congress was being briefed next week.


            Q     (Off mike.)  (Laughter.)


            MR. DIRITA:  Believe me, on any given issue, I'm always playing catch-up.  But it could be something that is briefed to the deputy and not the secretary, or briefed -- I mean, so I wouldn't be locked into a schedule of briefings.  The system -- everybody is seized with the desire to learn and move forward, and as a result, we will have whatever briefings are necessary for us to be able to do that.  How's that.


            Q     Larry, can I ask an Iraq question?


            MR. DIRITA:  Okay.


            Q     What do you think it will take -- what conditions will it take for the elections in Iraq to be viewed as a success?  And what effect do you think successful elections will have on the insurgency?


            MR. DIRITA:  Well, I think it will be the Iraqi people who determine whether they have had successful elections.  There are obviously institutions that are both governmental and nongovernmental that have expertise in helping ensure elections can be seen as credible, and those institutions are involved in Iraq.  I think the United Nations is very much involved in helping the Iraqi government develop its procedures.  There are other nongovernmental organizations there.  There will be -- they will have the opportunity, as will other observers, I'm sure, to be able to give their view.  But the Iraqi people ultimately will decide if they feel as though they have had a voice and that that voice has been conclusive in its elections.  And I don't think we need to referee it, and certainly we don't need to handicap it.


            Q     But if they do -- and I know maybe it's a better question for General Rodriguez -- you know, what effect do you think that might have on the insurgency?  I mean, the insurgency seems to be intensifying leading up to the elections.  I think the secretary said that.  So if the elections are successful, do you think that will displace the insurgency?


            MR. DIRITA:  I don't think anybody knows.  I mean, I just don't. We can take Zarqawi at his word.  In his letter that came to light about a year ago, he -- it was Zarqawi himself, if it were indeed his letter, who said, "A legitimate government in Iraq is against our interests," or words to that effect.  So he understands what's at stake.  Certainly the Iraqi people understands what -- understand what is at stake.  But I think to be able to predict how this could affect the insurgency, it would be guesswork, and I'm not into that.


            I don't know if the general -- (off mike).


            We've maybe got time for one or two, and then we're going to wrap --


            Q     An easier question.  Anything on the size or timing of a supplemental budget request?


            MR. DIRITA:  No, we don't have anything to announce on that.  We don't.  There's work going on inside the department to understand what's needed, and there's work going on with the Office of Management and Budget to understand, you know, so that they can get a sense of what the range of assumptions.  And when we've got something to announce, we'll announce it.


            Last one.


            Q     Larry, Afghan officials are saying that the security chief for Mullah Omar and another senior Taliban commander were captured last night.  Do we have any confirmation of this or --


            MR. DIRITA:  I haven't heard that report.  I don't know --


            GEN. RODRIGUEZ:  No, we don't have any confirmation of that and everything right now.  We're trying to get that done right now.


            MR. DIRITA:  Great.  Thank you very much.


            Q     Thank you




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