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DoD News Briefing with Press Secretary Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell
November 20, 2007 3:00 PM EDT
            MR. MORRELL: Good afternoon. Thanks for gathering a little later than usual today. I'm sorry for the delay. Hopefully, it will have been worth the wait. I'm going to ask you permission to have a longer than usual opening statement, but I think it's important to go through some of these things. 
            In the weeks since I last visited with you all, there has been a great deal of discussion and, dare I say, confusion about the financial position of the Department of Defense. I'm here to tell you the department -- and therefore the nation -- is in an extraordinarily difficult position due to inaction by the Congress.   
            We urgently need lawmakers to pass the President's $178 billion supplemental budget request as quickly as possible. Without dedicated funding for the global war on terror, we have been forced to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with money from the budgets of each of the services. By doing so, the Army now is on course to run out of operations and maintenance money in early February. The Marine Corps will run dry in early March. And the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, the group tasked with protecting our troops from the number-one killer in Iraq, won't even make it into the new year. 
            With those deadlines fast approaching, today Secretary Gates took measures necessary to address the situation. He notified Congress the department proposes to borrow -- or as we call it, reprogram -- $3.7 billion from the Navy and Air Force payrolls. We are also tapping $800 million we have excess in the working capital fund.   
            By cobbling together that $4.5 billion, we will be able to sustain the vitally important IED Defeat Organization for a few more months. But we can only keep the Army and Marines afloat for a few -- for a couple of additional weeks. That means the Army will now be able to operate into mid-February, and the Marines into mid-March, but that's it. 
            This is the last such move Congress will allow us to make. We have no more reprogramming authority, to borrow money from other accounts, to keep the Army, Marines or anyone else operating.   
            In light of this, at the secretary's direction, the Army and Marine Corps have begun planning to reduce operations at all Army bases by mid-February and all Marine installations by mid-March. At that point, the bases will be all but shut down, only able to provide the most basic safety and security measures for those who reside there. The most immediate impact will be felt next month, just before Christmas, in fact, when we will begin notifying roughly 200,000 civilians and contractors that we can no longer afford their services and that absent additional funding, they will be furloughed, or temporarily laid off, within a matter of weeks.   
            This is an extraordinarily complex process which requires time and evaluation. There are complicated laws and regulations involving notification of government employees and contractor personnel. For example, in some cases, in order to furlough a government employee for 30 days, a 60-day notification is required by law. Hence some notifications will have to start in mid-December.   
            Generally for contractor personnel, the department can cancel or issue a stop-work notice at any time. However, contractors may have to comply with the Workers Adjustment and Retraining Act, what they call WARN, by providing 60 days notice of impending furlough to their employees. Additionally congressional notification is required for any termination of more than 100 contractor employees.   
            Now, these are highly regrettable but entirely avoidable measures that we have to take due to Congress's inaction. It is imperative that lawmakers reconsider this matter as soon as possible and send the president supplemental funding legislation free from objectionable policy provisions, in order to ensure that we can continue to support our troops and their families, as well as protect our nation's security. And with that, I'll take your questions.   
            Q     Geoff, on a separate topic, this morning, General Mullen addressed --  
            MR. MORRELL: Let me stop you here for one moment, then.   
            While I'm in this frame of mind, does anybody have a budget question?   
            And I'll come back to you, Lita.   
            Q     (Off mike) -- situation back in March and April, there was no talk of furlough then. The Army came out with whole laundry list of ways to mitigate in the time frame before the supplemental was signed. '06: It was the same issue. Nobody was furloughed.   
            What is so compelling at this point that you're going to have to take a drastic option like laying off, putting up furlough notices? You know, why not delay travel? Why not delay depot maintenance? Why not delay putting things on contract at facilities that -- you know, regular upkeep? Why this step?   
            MR. MORRELL: Well, a couple things: First of all, we have taken a number of belt-tightening measures, but let me go back to last spring. I wasn't here then but I've been told that there are fundamental differences between our situation now and the situation we found ourselves in last spring.   
            First and foremost, we had a base budget then, which we have now. But back then, we had a $70 billion global war on terror bridge fund, a supplemental bridge which was passed, in fact, -- (inaudible) -- September of the year before. So we had not just a base budget but a supplemental budget with which to operate.   
            We also had enormously more flexibility. We had two, I believe, types of transfer authorities back then. We had the ability to transfer money within the base budget. We had the ability to transfer money within the bridge.   
            And there was also -- I'm told this anecdotally because obviously I wasn't here then but I remember this as well, that there was sort of -- the climate was different then. There was every expectation that a supplemental would indeed be passed. The question was, when? And thankfully the Congress acted in sufficient time that we were able to avoid going through on some of the things that were threatened then or are threatened now, which is the possibility of furloughing government workers.   
            And luckily they acted in the nick of time, and we had -- we were able to prevent that extraordinary step.   
            Right now, I think, we're operating in a different climate. I think it is not at all clear that the Congress is prepared to pass a supplemental at this point. And thus we find ourselves in a more precarious situation and are having to take the kind of prudent planning that the men and women in uniform and indeed the American people would expect of us. 
            Q     Can you -- one follow-up. Can you assure the 200,000-plus who may get furlough notices that your comptroller, all your budgeteers went through every step to find out where you can nickel- and-dime a billion (dollars) here, 200,000 (dollars) there, 200 million (dollars) there, to try and cobble together funds to get you through February and March without furloughs? 
            MR. MORRELL: I can tell you that we have taken some belt- tightening. But Tony, I'd take exception, I think, to the strategy, and that is, for example -- let me just break it down to the base element. Let's say we decided to stop cutting the grass, for example. That doesn't buy you the kind of money we need to fund our war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It doesn't give you the kind of money you need to keep our men and women in uniform properly equipped with enough ammo, with the kind of fuel they need to perform their mission. It does not do what a supplemental budget for this war would do.   
            So while we've taken belt-tightening measures, there are problems with doing too much nickel-and-diming. There are problems in terms of the long-term impact it has on your ability to operate. Sometimes it's penny wise and pound foolish. We will get ourselves in a situation where we may gain a few million dollars here, a few million dollars there, but in the process it may become more costly in the long run to do that move, because not only are you taking money -- well, there are consequences within contracts and so forth, that we could become penalized if we were to suspend or terminate contracts. It becomes costly to reactivate those contracts.   
            So the view at this point is, we've taken the belt-tightening measures we believe to be prudent, but we do not believe that it would be wise to gain a few million dollars there, a few million dollars there, here or there, when what we really need is -- are billions of dollars to keep our men and women in uniform properly equipped for the fight they find themselves in. 
            Q     Can you quantify "billions of dollars"? What does it mean per month? Is it 6.50 billion (dollars), or roughly -- you know, how much are we talking that they need here? 
            MR. MORRELL: Of what, for the global war on terror? 
            Q     Yes. The global war on terrorism -- 
            MR. MORRELL: What we're now asking is $178 billion for the global war on terror. And I remind you, Tony, that this is a request that went up to the Hill last February. Nine months ago we began working with the Congress on -- we laid out for them what we anticipated our costs to be in the global war on terror. We presented it to them initially back in February and we've been working with them ever since then.   
            So this should come as no surprise to the Congress that we need this money, and we've been trying to work with them to get it passed as quickly as possible, and now we find ourselves really coming up to a very difficult position and having to make very unpleasant choices. 
            Q     Didn't DOD just send up the supplemental just a couple weeks ago, the final numbers? 
            MR. MORRELL: There was an additional supplemental request which went up in the fall, but the bulk of the supplemental request went up to the Hill back in February. 
            Q     Geoff, can you quantify -- I'm sorry --  
            MR. MORRELL: There was $89 million (sic) which went up -- 
            Q     The actual official -- 
            MR. MORRELL: Eighty-nine billion dollars, pardon me. 
            Q     -- (off mike). The first one to go up in February was, here's an estimate, what we think possibly we're going to come in FY '08. But the one -- the actual here is our request, was only last month, right? 
            MR. MORRELL: No, I believe that we original came up with the original request back in February and we added to it this fall. 
            Q     Can you quantify -- (inaudible) -- measures, how much that is? 
            MR. MORRELL: I don't have it in front of me, but we can -- I can -- we can perhaps look into this. I think it may be difficult to quantify exactly how much, you know, because this is done on a service-by-service basis. I mean, each of these services have looked into their own budgets and determined, you know, what they can do at this point and what they can't do.   
            And like, for example, you know, this idea that there are billions of dollars in excess -- in our working capital funds, excess money in our working capital fund, Tony -- I think it's a question you raised with me. The truth of the matter is we are taking our excess capital from that fund, and that number is $800 million, and we are applying that, with the $3.7 billion we have in transfer authority, and that $4.5 billion is what's going to keep the Army and the Marine Corps going a couple more weeks and keep JIEDDO, the Joint IED Defeat Organization, alive into the new year. 
            Q     Dropping back from the immediate point you're making, five years ago the administration said the war in Iraq would cost nothing or very little, given oil revenues, and polls also show that most Americans don't think it was worth going into Iraq. So in that context, are you at all concerned that what you're saying now could have not the effect you hope for in public opinion? 
            MR. MORRELL: Well, I'm not going back five years ago. I'm dealing with the current situation. This department deals in the here and now, and the here and now is that we have an enormous force in Iraq, an enormous force in Afghanistan fighting two vitally important wars. And those troops deserve to be treated right. They deserve to have the money needed to support their operations, and we are very much working with the Hill trying to convince the Hill that this money is needed now so that their operations are not adversely impacted. Right now to ensure that they are not adversely impacted, we are eating into our base budget to make sure that they go -- that they do not go without essential equipment and ammunition and so forth. But as I just mentioned, we can only go so long by eating into our own base budget. We only get until mid-February, in the case of the Army, or mid-March, in the case of the Marines. 
            Q     When you talk about taking money from -- $3.7 billion from the Navy and Air Force payrolls, that doesn't mean that Navy and Air Force personnel will not be paid. 
            MR. MORRELL: No, thank you for asking that. That's a good question. No, it does not mean that the Navy and Air Force will not be paid. I can assure our sailors and airmen that they will be paid, but like everything else, the Army and the Marine Corps are not the only ones who are eating into their budget to support the war operations. Every one of the services is depleting its base budget in order to support their men and women, the sailors and airmen in Iraq and Afghanistan, too. And this is a little complicated, but we have the ability to move funds around within each of the services. Congress provides that kind of latitude. So with operations and maintenance funds, we can move that around within each services to support their work in Iraq and Afghanistan. What we cannot do, though, except in the case of a reprogramming, is move from service to service. 
            So our only chance to move from service to service is this $3.7 billion reprogramming, which we are taking from the payroll of the Navy and the Air Force to fund additional operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the Army and the Marine Corps as well as keep JIEDDO alive. But you know, eventually and at a later date the Navy -- or pardon me, the Air Force, rather, will also get to a point where they will run out of money. 
            Yes, Kristin (sp). 
            Q     Geoff, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee today was really clear that he does not intend to move a bill that does not include this commitment to a national goal for a withdrawal timeline, essentially this December '08 goal, as he calls it. And he's also saying the Pentagon is just simply unwilling to negotiate. Is this a non-negotiable point, even to the point where we're going to be laying off people? 
            MR. MORRELL: Well, first of all, it's not a negotiation for the Pentagon; it's the president's budget. 
            It's not ours. We make a request of the Office of Management and Budget, and with the president's blessing, it's sent to the Hill. So this is the president's budget that they have issue with.   
            We believe we asked for the monies we need to fight the war on terror, not a penny more. But without that money, we find ourselves in real difficulty. And the longer this goes on, the more precarious our situation becomes. So we believe it's advisable that the Hill pass a budget that is signable by the president. The president, I think, has made it abundantly clear that he does not intend to sign any supplemental budget request, even if it meets the dollar amount he wishes, if it has strings attached to it that he believes will impede his commanders from fighting the global war on terror.  
            And so our recommendation to the Hill, our wish, our desire is that they were to pass a budget free from any sort of policy contingencies that would make it not palatable to the president, because, above all else, what we're focused on is making sure our men and women in uniform have what they need to do the job we've asked them to do. 
            Q     Well, at some point, will the secretary go to the president and say, "We need this money, or else we're really going to have to lay these people off. It's going to get to such a point where we don't have the funds past February, past March, and it's time to reconsider"?  
            MR. MORRELL: We haven't gotten to that point. But I think that the secretary is very much in tune with the president on this. It does -- he believes that the Congress should fund these measures without attempting to micromanage the war from Capitol Hill.   
            We would like for this to be a budget that comes free with (sic) restrictions, as it has come in the past. It has worked well. We are on a good path in Iraq now. And we want to continue to capitalize on the progress that we've seen there. And our fear is that unless the funding comes soon from the Hill, that our operations will be adversely impacted, not just in Iraq, in Afghanistan, but globally. 
            Q     Geoff, if you've transferred everything you can transfer this year, and those other operations are evidently funded out of the baseline budget for the year, what good does it do to cancel any of these operations or lay people off or close these bases? 
            MR. MORRELL: Say it again? I'm sorry.   
            Q     What good does it do to close these bases or lay these people off if that money's -- if those operations are funded out of the baseline budget, and you've already transferred everything you can transfer? 
            MR. MORRELL: Well, we'll be forced to furlough people when the money runs out. And right now the money is set to run out for the Army in mid-February and for the Marines in mid-March. So come that time, there will be no money to pay for the civilians who work for the Army or the Marine Corps or the contractors with whom we have contracts. So it's a necessity. 
            And the reason we're notifying people in December, in mid- December, is that by law we have in many cases as long as a 60-day notification period that's required of us, which would -- if it's -- in the Army's case, if it's in -- mid-February is the end of the line in terms of the budget, that requires us to notify some employees as early as mid-December. 
            Q     Well -- 
            MR. MORRELL: Am I -- is that not clear? We're running out -- we will be out of money in the Army in mid-February. We will be out of money in the Marine Corps in mid-March. We will not have the funds to keep contractors or civilians under our employment. 
            Q     Do you have a projected month for the Air Force? 
            MR. MORRELL: I don't have the Air Force month. That's a good question. But I do not have it with me. I take it from the fact that what I have -- the Army and the Marine Corps is so imminent; my sense is that the Air Force is further down the line. 
            Q     I guess, Geoff, the question is, if you don't have the money, if the money at question is the global war on terror funds, and the Pentagon does not have the capacity to transfer any more money from its operating budget that has been passed to the global war on terror, once those global war on terror funds run out, why isn't it that that stops as of -- because you can't transfer any other money from the operating budgets? That you have money to operate -- 
            MR. MORRELL: So you're suggesting -- you're suggesting we should -- 
            Q     I'm not suggesting -- 
            MR. MORRELL: So the alternative is to shut down the war but keep our bases at home working. Is that what you're suggesting? 
            Q     No, no, no. But you said you can't transfer the money. So if you can't transfer the money -- you said you have no other recourse. 
            Q     (Off mike.) 
            MR. MORRELL: The furloughing of the employees is just a necessity. It doesn't buy us any additional money. 
            Q     (Off mike.) 
            MR. MORRELL: I understand that, but we're using the baseline budget. We're using the O&M, the Operation and Maintenance budget of each of the services right now to fund the war in Iraq. So that money will be depleted entirely for the Army in mid-February, for the Marines in mid-March. 
            Q     Okay, so you can transfer O&M money from the Army -- 
            MR. MORRELL: To Army operations in Iraq. 
            Q     Okay. 
            MR. MORRELL: We can transfer O&M money from the Marine Corps to Marine Corps operations in Iraq or in Afghanistan, and -- you get it -- with each of the services. But by doing so, we run out of money at a very fast rate. 
            Q   If you do transfer that money, when will you -- 
            MR. MORRELL: For example -- let me give you an example. The Army's base budget, I think, is $27 billion, and we -- for O&M -- and we need, I think -- I think we need another $55 billion for the Army to fight the global war on terror in this fiscal year. So we are using, you know, that $27 billion to fund the Army's operations thus far, and that money's going to run out, you know, within a matter of months. 
            Q     And as a result, when would then the money for the global war on terror run out if you transfer all you can? Is it after or a little -- like a month or two after you run out of money for the actual Army and Marine O&M? 
            MR. MORRELL: There are -- we have extraordinary measures, absolutely extraordinary measures that can be taken in the eventuality that we find ourselves in a situation where we have no money and the Army -- and no ability to move funds and we find ourselves with our men and women in uniform in the theater potentially unfunded. But all that we would be able to do in those circumstances is provide -- is basically provide for their survival.   
            It's a "feed and forage" provision. It dates back before the Civil War. And it will allow us to, really, just provide for their feed and that's it. So it's an extraordinarily desperate situation. We are not there yet. We are not talking about invoking that yet.   
            We very much wish to work with the Congress to get this done. But there is a limited window of opportunity, I understand it, in the legislative calendar to get something done between this break and the Christmas break. 
            So we are very much encouraging of our friends on the Hill to help us out here. They have shown, you know, an enormous capacity to be helpful. They have shown enormous commitment to force protection measures. You know, the one part of the supplemental which we have received thus far is MRAP funding, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, funding. We've gotten $11 billion of that. 
            So there is -- there has been a commitment shown by the Congress to provide for force protection measures for our men and women in uniform, and we wish they would apply that same care and consideration to the rest of the operation, not just providing them with vehicles, but providing them with everything they need to do the duties they have. 
            Q     So, Geoff, I understand why you need the lead time to make preparations to shut down facilities and furlough personnel, but why is the Pentagon, why is the administration so convinced that this is just not another political kabuki dance between the administration and Capitol Hill and at the 11th hour the money will be made available? Why are you so convinced that that may not happen? 
            MR. MORRELL: Well, Jim, we have nothing to deal with but the facts that are presented, and the situation -- we take Congress at its word when it says it is not about to pass a budget this year -- additional funding -- supplemental funding for the global war on terror this year. We have no reason not to take them at their word. 
            Q     But if it's passed in January, won't the money be made available then? 
            MR. MORRELL: But Jim, if it's passed in January, we're still legally obligated to notify people in December of the potential for furloughs. 
            Q     No, I understand. 
            MR. MORRELL: Yes. So we're at the point of doing that right now, but in order for us to get, you know, past January, we need to make the moves we're making right now -- transferring the money we can transfer. The JIEDDO program wouldn't make it that far. We have to use some money. We're putting $444 million of that $4.5 billion, which we have been able to cowl together; $444 million of that will go to keep the Joint IED Defeat Organization in business into the new year. 
            Q     John Murtha today described the Pentagon's dire predictions about what the military's going to have to do as scare tactics. How do you respond to that? 
            MR. MORRELL: These aren't scare tactics. These are the facts. We're not out to scare anybody. 
            We're not out to issue propaganda. We're out to adequately fund our troops who are in battle right now. And we're only dealing with the facts here. And the facts are that we will run out of money for the Army in mid-February, and the facts are that we will run out of money for the Marine Corps in mid-March. We consider that a very dire situation, and we are taking all measures possible to make sure that our men and women in uniform are adequately protected in light of that. 
            Q     So, Geoff, you had this initial -- this transfer of money from the Army and Air -- I mean, from the Navy and Air Force payroll fund, $3.7 billion, and then an additional amount of money from another area. But is there an ongoing transfer of funds from O&M accounts? For instance, the money that's going to be -- going to run the Army's $27 billion in O&M accounts? I mean, is that kind of ongoing, or are you going to -- 
            MR. MORRELL: No, the Army is right now depleting its $27 billion O&M account to fund Army operations -- 
            Q     That fund's going specifically -- 
            MR. MORRELL: -- domestically and in the war in Iraq, internationally and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. So yes, that one pot of money is being used to fund operations.   
            Q     The transfer authority requires you tap any new -- 
            MR. MORRELL: In each of the services, within the O&M accounts, you can use that money for operations elsewhere, including the global war on terror.  But I can't transfer money from the Army to help the Marine Corps, or the Navy to help the Air Force, aside from that one $3.7 billion reprogramming, which we're announcing today.   That's it.  
            And Tony, getting back to the difference between last spring, we had additional reprogramming authorities back then. We could make more than one move. We are allotted one move this time.   
            Q     (Off mike) -- part of the change in climate not only the war language but just the tighter restrictions on the Pentagon you talked about? 
            MR. MORRELL: Just part of it -- well, I mean -- 
            Q     You talked about change in climate, though, and most importantly, the climate has changed --  
            MR. MORRELL: Oh, when I -- you know, the -- I think the climate back then was one in which it was clear that there would eventually be a supplemental provided to us for the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Part of that was due to the fact that the surge was under way, it had just been under way, and there was a time of sort of "Wait and see; let's see how it works." And it was beginning to show the first signs of progress back then. 
            Now I don't think there's the same sense of inevitability that a supplemental is necessarily in the offing. I mean, we take members at their word when they say to us that they do not plan on passing a supplemental before they adjourn for Christmas. And that puts us in a very, very difficult situation.   
            Q     Can you quantify at all how much roughly would be saved by furloughing up to 200,000 contractors and DOD civilian employees? You're going to get asked -- 
            MR. MORRELL: It's not a question of savings, though, Tony, because by the time we do that, we're out of money, okay? We will have expended the O&M budget in the Army and in each -- and the Marine Corps.   
            Q     By doing that, you're freeing up money. 
            MR. MORRELL: No, we're taking this to the end. We are not -- we -- and at that point, all that will happen on the bases is that the most basic security and safety personnel -- fire, police and so forth -- will be operating. Day care centers, libraries, all of the additional benefits that are there for families living on the base will cease to operate, because we will not have the funds to keep them going. 
            Q     Okay. And when they're furloughed, are they reimbursed later, or does that not happen? 
            MR. MORRELL: Well, there -- these are complicated, as I said, issues, and they can vary from contract to contract, union contract, work contract. But suffice it to say that it becomes actually a rather costly endeavor for us to go through this process. There are penalties and so forth that are incurred that can be quite expensive. So -- but I don't -- I think it's on a contract-by-contract basis, Justin, as to sort of what the impact is on these employees. 
            Of course, we hope this to be only -- if it comes to this, which we of course hope it does not, our desire is that it's only temporary and that we can get these people back to work as quickly as possible.   
            We're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves in the sense that all we're talking about at this point is the law requires us to notify people, some people, beginning in mid-December. And the secretary has asked the services to take the preparations necessary. 
            Sir, yes? I'll come back here. 
            Q     How much of this O&M money has been spent in Afghanistan and Iraq so far? 
            MR. MORRELL: I don't have a precise number for you. You know, I don't have a number for you. 
            Q     Can we have a rough estimate and when -- 
            MR. MORRELL: Well, I mean -- 
            Q     -- we can start spending the money, what day? 
            MR. MORRELL: I think we had to start spending the money once the president signed the 2008 base budget, which I think was the week before last, something of that nature. 
            So -- but we've -- yes. So I don't have a precise number as to how much of the base budget we've eaten up so far. 
            Yeah, Alan (sp). 
            Q     Geoff, are you saying that in mid-February and mid-March, respectively, for the Army and Marines, when you run out of that money, that you'll not only have to virtually shut down the bases, but that the Army and Marine Corps personnel in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan will essentially be confined to their bases, just eating and doing basic security? 
            MR. MORRELL: We haven't gotten there yet, Alan (sp), so I don't know precisely what the most immediate impact will be on them. But when we run out of money from the base budget and we do not have a supplemental budget to fund the global war on terror, we have no more means by which to fund the war. We can -- there's no more money to move, obviously, because the base budgets will have been depleted when it comes to O&M money. And if there's not a supplemental provided by Congress by then, there is no money to fund the war. 
            So yes, we would approach a very, very dire situation at that point. And there are provisions legally that would allow us to at least feed the troops, but God knows we hope it doesn't come to this. That's why are urging the Congress to do what is necessary as quickly as possible to make sure that our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are adequately provided for. 
            Q     And if nothing changes, that happens to the Army in mid- February and the Marines in mid-March? 
            MR. MORRELL: If nothing changes right now, based upon all the maneuvering we have done, as I said, we could get the Army to mid- February and we can get the Marines to mid-March. 
            Yeah, Tom. 
            Q     Geoff, can I change subjects? 
            MR. MORRELL: Yeah, any more on this? 
            Q     One last -- 
            Q     One more. Can I just say on the -- you explained the O&M money. Can you explain the reprogramming process, how it works? You said that the Navy and the Air Force suddenly won't stop getting paid, but obviously you're taking money from the payroll to fund the war. How does that process work? And what does happen to the payroll? Where do they find money for it? 
            MR. MORRELL: Well, no, there's -- and I'm not a budget expert, although I'm playing one on TV today. But there is money appropriated in the base budget for the payrolls of the -- of the services. And so what we are choosing to do is sort of borrow against the future to pay for operational costs now. So we're eating into the Air Force -- 
            Q     (Off mike) -- that money -- yeah -- anytime soon, so there's a big chunk of money to borrow, essentially, since we're at the beginning of the fiscal year. 
            MR. MORRELL: Right, right. Since we've gotten that money, we have the means by which to -- Air Force personnel, Navy personnel will continue to be paid at this point. But it, too, eats into the money that's available for them. 
            Q     Do you have any idea why those two accounts were picked? We're just sort of -- 
            MR. MORRELL: I think we looked for a means -- we looked for accounts that would -- in that you would have the least impact -- the least adverse impact -- and I guess there seemed to be enough money in both those accounts that you could deplete for them and still provide for the pay of Air Force and Navy personnel, and, at the same time, fund operations. 
            (Off mike.)   
            Q     Two questions on the reprogramming.   
            So what would be the status of the Air Force and Navy operations & maintenance budget? And to what extent could they be a source?   
            And also --  
            MR. MORRELL: They have been a source. Each of the services right now is depleting their O&M budgets to fund their operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.   
            Q     So when would those two accounts run out?   
            MR. MORRELL: I'm sorry, the Air Force?   
            Q     And Navy.   
            MR. MORRELL: It's less imminent than the Army and the Marine Corps. I do not have a precise date for you though. I think if it had been on the heels of either one of those deadlines, I would have -- it would have been provided to me. But that is one, I think, that is less imminent.   
            Q     And what about the possibility of any of the services moving money from other accounts that they have internally into operations & maintenance?   
            MR. MORRELL: I don't think that there is the latitude, Ann. And again I'm not a budget expert but I do not believe there is the latitude provided by the Congress to move within even service accounts to get to -- to fund operations, that O&M funds are the only ones that are sort of fungible, that are moveable in order to fund the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.   
            Q     Geoff, taking the money aside here, what has the secretary said on the Democrats' conditions of requiring the troops to come home on this? What has he said in terms of -- why is this not acceptable?   
            MR. MORRELL: Well, I haven't talked to him today. He's, as you know, out in Whiteman Air Force Base, visiting with troops out there -- where, by the way, he served as a second lieutenant many moons ago. But you know, in my previous conversations with the secretary about this, he is very much in line with the president, the commander in chief, on this issue.   
            It is best for our troops in harm's way to be funded without strings, to be funded free of whatever policy restrictions the Congress wishes to impose on what we believe to be essential funding for our men and women in uniform, whether it be deadlines, whether it be operational considerations, whether it be even caveats about what -- how other arms of the government can behave in interrogation settings. We believe all that stuff has nothing to do with what is needed for our troops in Iraq. They need the money we've asked for, and they need it as soon as possible. And they deserve better than that.   
            Q     In this situation though, people who look at it say, okay, the administration and the Pentagon are calling on Congress to make all of the changes, to back off. Is there anything on the administration's end that they could do to sort of help this along, by maybe accepting or, you know, coming up with some kind of --  
            MR. MORRELL: I think an enormous amount has been done. I mean, the secretary's talked about this at length and, I think, he enunciated it to you last week when he saw you that, you know, there was a desire that -- the Congress expressed a desire for there to start to be a redeployment of troops from Iraq.   
            The president has announced a redeployment. That redeployment has begun. The operational priority of the mission has changed, and so I think -- all the things -- many of the things that the Congress has asked for we have taken heed of, and you are seeing -- you've seen a real change in what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. We're going to go down to 15 brigades by next July, and the secretary expressed his desire for that to continue conditions permitting, so that we're down to 10 brigades by the end of the year. That's the desire, that's the hope. 
            So there has been a change in philosophy; there has been a change in mission, as many in Congress have advocated. 
            Okay. (Off mike) -- and then I'll take one more after this. (Cross talk.) But I'll come back to you. 
            All right, Jonathan. 
            Q     Thank you. Yeah, the AP photographer, Bilal Hussein -- I just wanted to ask you how it is that for 19 months he has been held without charge, and what it is exactly that, you know, the charges are now against him? 
            MR. MORRELL: You know, Jonathan, I really think this is one out of my domain. I mean, this is really an MNF-I issue. They're the ones who are holding him; they're the ones who have apprehended him; they're the ones who have recommended that he -- that the Central Criminal Court of Iraq now try him or are about to recommend that. And I think you should take it up with them. I know the bare facts, and the bare facts are that after apprehending him and holding him they now believe it is appropriate to refer his case to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq.  And it's up to the Iraqis to decide what they wish to do with him from that point on. 
            Q     Can you explain the additional evidence against him? 
            MR. MORRELL: I can't. It has not been provided to me, and I can't characterize it in any way other that. I'm told there's additional evidence, but I think there was sufficient evidence to begin with, obviously, to hold him. The MNF-I, I think, clearly believes that he poses a security threat. They characterized him as a terrorist media operative who infiltrated the AP. They found IED devices or materials in his home, as well as some other discomforting evidence, and as a result of that, they've held him. And now they're recommending that he be tried. 
            But I do not know -- Jonathan, I'm not going to get into the particulars of this case because I just -- I'm not familiar enough with it. 
            Q     (Off mike) -- particulars of the case. What does it say, though, about the U.S. military presence in Iraq that you can hold without charge and without an opportunity to defend himself, an individual, AP photographer, who's part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize; you can hold him for 19 months without giving him an opportunity to defend himself, and then, now, you know, turn him over to an Iraqi court. 
            MR. MORRELL: (Off mike) -- not familiar enough with his case. For all I know, his case could have been reviewed at some level before this. So I'm not in a position to tell you whether the question as you're posing it to me is -- accurately reflects the situation that he finds himself in. But I'm sure MNF-I, who's been dealing closely with this, can help you out better than I can. I'm just not there. I apologize. 
            Q     I was going to ask you a little bit about some of the comments that Admiral Mullen made this morning. He was asked about Afghanistan and about the increasing trends of violence in Afghanistan, and he suggested that, as the military sees trends move, that there's always an opportunity for reassessment. Yesterday, you were talking to us a little bit about establishing additional border security centers in Afghanistan. I'm wondering if this is part of what can be considered a shift in strategy in Afghanistan to deal with the increase in violence or if such a shift is being considered. 
            MR. MORRELL: I don't know that I would characterize what's going on in Afghanistan as a shift in strategy. 
            I think our strategy there is constantly evolving. But at no point have I been in a meeting which has articulated a shift in strategy in Afghanistan. So I wouldn't characterize it that way.   
            And in terms of the border observation posts, that we believe is something that will be mutually beneficial to the Afghans and to the Pakistanis. And I guess that's a shift in strategy in terms of how we deal with the border, perhaps, in that we're trying to beef up how our security forces operate there and try to create more of a cooperative climate between the Afghans and the Pakistani security forces so that they can better patrol the FATA, which has become an extremely, you know, dangerous and difficult part of the world. 
            Q     One more? 
            MR. MORRELL: Okay.  
            Q     (Off mike.) 
            Q     A numbers question. Two hundred thousand, what does that represent in terms of the total percentage of DOD -- (inaudible) -- contractors and employees? Is it like 5, 10 percent? (Off mike.) 
            MR. MORRELL: I don't know. But if we're running out of money, I don't know that it's more than that. So, you know what I mean? But I don't know. Maybe there are -- maybe there are other accounts that are able to pay for contractors. I don't know. 
            Q     (Off mike.) 
            MR. MORRELL: I don't know. I just -- I hate to characterize it, not knowing. 
            Q     Going back for a second to the -- 
            MR. MORRELL: This is it. 
            Q     -- budget. I mean, when you say you wanted a budget with no strings attached, what Congress would say is those strings are its policy preferences. You're not saying that Congress, in spending money, should not indicate its policy preferences, are you? 
            MR. MORRELL: No. I'm saying that the president has made it clear that he will not sign a budget with strings attached. We'd like to see our troops funded adequately, so we urge the Congress to send the president a budget he can sign. That's all we're saying. That's what -- we're in this to make sure that our troops have what they need to do the job they've been tasked with doing. That's it. 
            Okay? Thanks.
AT 202-347-1400.

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