(Media stakeout following testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services. Also participating were Senator John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.)
Warner: I wish to thank Secretary Wolfowitz, General Myers and Secretary Grossman.
We had a 4 ½ hour hearing, 22 Senators participated and the questions were asked forcefully, the answers came back I think thoroughly responding to these important issues.
That this one theme, and I feel it was on both sides, is that America is going to see this through there is no indication that we’re going to cut and run, no indication that we’ll not support our President and our troops. These witness made it clear and I think the statements by the Senators likewise show that degree of support.
The question of the $87 billion dollars will be thoroughly examined primarily by the Appropriations Committees. Nevertheless this hearing today I think laid a foundation.
I look forward to the challenges in the future I hope we can reconcile such differences that remain regarding participation by other countries. I’m optimistic there will be a strong resolution from the United Nations that work has been laid carefully by Secretary Powell. Therefore, I think our President has gained the support that he asked for Sunday night and we’re well on our way to the future which I believe in due course will show without any doubt whatsoever. We’ve made the right decision with our coalition partners and the American people stood by the brave young men and women in the Armed Forces and their families that they bore the brunt of this country.
We’re here to respond to your questions.
Q: On the extension of the (Inaudible.) for the Reservists, why is this necessary and what does this do to the families?
Warner: I think the General will respond to that. But in my judgment there’s been enough strong signals from the Hill, they’re concerned about their respective states and their Guard and the Reserves to make certain that Secretary Rumsfeld and the General together with the Guard -- the General whose in charge of the Guard and Reserve Forces that that calculation was made carefully but I’ll let you respond.
Myers: Let me just add and we talked about some of it in the hearing and that is that particularly in the United States Army the majority, the vast majority of their combat service support, combat support is in the Reserve component and we’ve got to match up that support to the combat units that are participating in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And so I think what the Army has tried to do is try to indeed match that up and provide predictability to these units and we need to look at those questions that came up today, Senator Nelson and others and make sure that we got that right but that’s the reason behind that.
Q: What about the families?
Myers: Well what we say to families and to their employers particularly in the Reserve component is that we very much understand the sacrifices they make. On my staff I have two 2 Star Generals, one Guard and one Reserve that keep me up to speed on these issues that people are free to communicate with and bring to me directly the concerns of the families and employers. I meet with these people all the time and we’re very concerned about the sacrifices they’re making. I would remind you that we are in fact a nation at war that we’re in extraordinary times that failure is not an option and so people are going to need to make sacrifices. We just need to make sure that it’s as fair possible.
Q: General, if (Inaudible.) force levels you said you should expect -- the U.S. should expect to maintain about 150,000 total there including foreign coalition partners. Can you share or explain the duration?
Myers: Well as I said, as General Abizaid is going to predict his force needs out through March of 04 and he told the Senators the other day and I think the House members that that’s as far as he’s willing to predict because the situation on the ground will change as more Iraqi’s come on board 55,000 plus now more coming every day as a matter of fact as we look forward to getting the third multinational division in Iraq to help those -- that will all change but it won’t rule the March ‘04 in saying that’s about what we can do.
Q: Mr. Secretary Senator’s Levin and McCain they expressed some concerns over the funding specifically the reconstruction in Iraq and Senator Daschle today said that there ought to be some (Inaudible.) in terms of the funding for the troops versus the funding for reconstruction. Are you concerned at all that the funding for the reconstruction may be in jeopardy?
Wolfowitz: Well I think for the first time that I know of we here to consult about the details of this supplemental before we actually submit the request so we’re very interested in people’s views. Obviously there are differences between funding for the military and funding on the civilian side, civil reconstruction side in many different ways including the fact that some of those reconstruction bills may go out over more than just a single year so we need to look at it, but I’d say that the principle on which we hope people will look at is with a sense of urgency and if we can get electricity effectively fixed in Iraq quickly it could save us vastly greater sums on the military side because there’s a very close relationship in our view between some of these investments in infrastructure and the ability to stabilize the situation so we can bring down our troop levels and make our troops safer. So it should be looked at in a sense as very much related expenditures but obviously they’re going to have to (Inaudible.) .
Warner: We the committee prepared a breakdown of the supplemental. We’ll be happy to give copies to you but it appears that as you might imagine the largest portion 65.5 billion goes to the Department of Defense for the purpose of primarily our military operations and the other with our coalition partners. Then the provisional authority under Ambassador Bremer gets the 20.3 billion, the Department of State request 1.2 billion and a small amount other areas. So this is available, I think it’s a pretty authentic cut and a very helpful one.
Staff: We’ll take 2 more questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, are you anticipating as you go forth these troops are being worked very hard, you’re anticipating affects on recruitment and retention? Can you talk about that?
Wolfowitz: Well we look at it very closely I must say I think it’s a wonderful statement out the patriotism of the men and women serving including in the Guard and Reserve who are under the additional strain that so far we have good re-enlistment rate and good retention rates but can’t take anything for granted here and we also want to do it when we can to improve the conditions in Iraq for people who are out there.
Warner: General Myers.
Myers: In fact the recent DoD survey on the (Inaudible.) of our troops to re-enlist it has shown that since the 1999 through 2003 that the percentage of people attending saying almost likely to re-enlist has actually gone up over those years. Now this is all fragile business we have an all volunteer force they performed magnificently and we’re going to make sure we take proper care of them with that as we look at it right now there’s good news in the recruiting and the retention area.
Q: Senator do you believe that the prediction for post-combat Iraq need to be (Inaudible.) ?
Warner: We didn’t hear that clearly enough.
Q: You believe that the prediction for post-combat Iraq by the intelligence community need better scrutiny?
Warner: Well I said at the initiation of this hearing there will be a time when we can go back and review all the actions by the Department of Defense and Department of State and, indeed, the Congress with regard to important operations in Afghanistan and in Iraq but for the moment we should concentrate on the future and every effort made to try and reduce the level of casualties, get stronger participation from other nations and achieve our goals.
Thank you very much.