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DoD News Briefing with Press Secretary Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell
June 11, 2008
                MR. MORRELL: Good afternoon. Good to see all of you. I must say, it does feel as though we've spent a lot of time together lately. And for some of you, we'll spend even more over the next couple of days.   
 
                As you know, Secretary Gates returned to Washington last night after a two-day visit to Langley, Peterson and Scott Air Force Bases, the three major commands responsible for our nuclear arsenal.   
 
                While there, the secretary had a chance to speak with hundreds of airmen about the supreme importance of safeguarding those weapons. He also explained why failures in that field, as identified by the Donald Report, required a change in Air Force leadership.   
 
                The airmen seemed to appreciate the fact the secretary delivered this message personally. And the secretary came away with the impression that they are committed to rededicating themselves to that all-important mission.   
 
                This evening, Secretary Gates travels to Brussels, where he will participate on Thursday and Friday in the annual formal meeting of NATO defense ministers.   
 
                While these meetings will cover a range of subjects, everything from NATO's mission in Kosovo to European missile defense, clearly a lot of time will be spent on Afghanistan.   
 
                After the heads of state recommitted themselves to that mission in Bucharest last April, the Brussels meetings will serve as an opportunity -- opportunity -- pardon me -- to get a status check on pledges for additional forces and equipment, implementation of the strategic vision statement and how well the allies are supporting Ambassador Kai Eide in his efforts to better coordinate civilian reconstruction in Afghanistan.   
 
                And with that, I'll take your questions. 
 
                Lita? 
 
                Q     Geoff, can you clear up a couple of things about the Pakistani airstrike? The State Department has put out a statement that says, and I'll paraphrase, but that they're sorry for the loss of life among the Pakistani military, and, quote, "This is a reminder that better cross-border communications between forces is vital." Has it been confirmed yet that indeed Pakistani paramilitary were killed in the strike? And then can you also address what impact you think the incident has, whether or not there is that certainty? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: For the particulars on this strike, I'd refer you to the 101st Airborne, which released a statement from Bagram which details how this went down. So I'm not going to get into the particulars. I will say this: Although it is early, every indication we have at this point is that this was indeed a legitimate strike in defense of our forces after they came under attack. 
 
                Q     And can you address what impact this incident may have -- considering the questions involved, what incident (sic) this may have on U.S.-Pakistani relations?  
 
                MR. MORRELL: We are aware of some of the concerns that have been expressed by the Pakistani army and other elements of the Pakistan government. And I can tell you that we are working with the Pakistani government to try to get to the bottom of this incident so that they have a better understanding of it, so that we have a better understanding of it. But again, in these early hours after this strike, every indication we have is that this was a legitimate strike against forces that had attacked -- had attacked members of the coalition. 
 
                Q     Geoff, but not even the Pakistanis are contesting that this was a legitimate strike aimed at enemy forces that had attacked coalition forces in Afghanistan. Their problem is how it was carried out, and emerging facts seem to indicate, as the State Department concedes, that Pakistani military were killed in the process. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Without speaking, Jim, to this particular incident, I will tell you that the operations along the border there are done in close coordination between U.S. forces, coalition forces and the Pakistani military. 
 
                Q     Well, this was, apparently, because it sounds as if -- as the State Department concedes -- Pakistani military -- so how can the State Department make this kind of statement and the Defense Department then refer us to the 101st in Afghanistan? Wouldn't someone at the Pentagon have sufficient facts to be able to fill in the blanks about whether Pakistani military were, in fact, killed in this strike? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Jim, I think what I would urge you to do is, if you have a question as to why the State Department -- or, in this case, I think it's the embassy in Islamabad -- issued the statement they issued, I'd refer you to them. I can tell you that in the aftermath of attacks like this one, there is a time period in which we are trying to assess exactly what happened.   
 
                But again, every indication we have at this point is that the actions that were taken by U.S. forces were legitimate in that they were in self defense after U.S. forces operating on the border of Pakistan in Afghanistan territory came under attack from hostile forces and, in self-defense, they called in an airstrike which took out those forces that were attacking them. 
 
                Q     Is it possible that Pakistani military were killed in these airstrikes? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Listen, Jim, it's very early on in the aftermath of this attack. I suppose anything is possible. We are trying to get a handle on what the facts are. I'm sitting here 8,000 miles away. It's difficult for me to do so. But I can tell you that we are working closely with the Pakistanis to try to determine what, exactly, happened. And we are determined to do so in a cooperative manner so that we all have a clear understanding of what happened. 
 
                But again, what we've heard from the 101st and those men and women who were operating along the Afghan-Pakistan border is that this incident and the strike that ensued was legitimate. 
 
                Q     But in saying, in calling it legitimate, you -- 
 
                Q     Hold on. Dave -- 
 
                Q     In the reports that you've seen, are there indications that these frontier corpsmen may have been actually firing on the U.S. forces, which, in that case, would've made them a legitimate target? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, this is a little bit of a slippery slope, because I don't want to get into the particulars of what the 101st is releasing 
 
                But clearly you guys have all seen a release, which has talked about the fact that our forces came under attack, came under fire, from forces that had come over from the Pakistani side, into Afghan territory, and then retreated into Pakistani territory and continued to fire upon our forces, even though we did not pursue them into Pakistan.   
 
                Q     But are there any indications that these were frontier corpsmen, who were the second group of --  
 
                MR. MORRELL: I can't sit here at 1:39 and tell you, only a few hours after this incident, who precisely was involved. That is something that we are working to get to the bottom of, in coordination and cooperation with the Pakistanis.   
 
                Q     (Off mike.) It's like 24 hours, isn't it?   
 
                MR. MORRELL: I'd refer you to the release, David. I mean, let's say it's 24 hours. I mean, these -- David, this is a complex attack involving, you know, involving an airstrike and artillery and a number of forces, in an area of the world and along a border that has traditionally been a problem and is often the cause of some confusion, as to who the forces are that are involved.   
 
                Q     By calling it a legitimate strike, you're not ruling out the possibility that friendly forces could have been killed, are you?   
 
                MR. MORRELL: I am telling you that our guys came under attack. And they responded to the attack they were under.   
 
                Q     Are you ruling out the possibility?   
 
                MR. MORRELL: David, I haven't ruled anything in or out. I'm sitting here. If you say it's 24 hours, I'm sitting here several hours after an incident, unable to tell you the particulars of who was involved, but that we are working very hard to get to the bottom of what actually went down.   
 
                Every indication we have at this stage is that our guys acted in self defense and were within their rights to take the action they took. I can't help you out much beyond that. But you're welcome to call the 101st. And you're welcome to wait for updates that we have, on our efforts to work with CENTCOM and with the Pakistani government, the Pakistani army to find out exactly what went down.   
 
                Q     Did the U.S. military, in this instance, target accurately everyone who was involved in the operations against coalition forces in Afghanistan?   
 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm not going to get into the particulars from here. I'm just not able to do so.   
 
                Q     The only reason I ask that is because this area of the border is apparently hotly contested between Afghanistan and Pakistan and has been the scene -- not this kind of skirmish, but the area has been contested between Pakistan and Afghan forces previously.   
 
                Is it possible that Pakistani Frontier Corps were involved in the firefight -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm -- 
 
                Q     -- (inaudible) -- coalition forces, therefore were targeted legitimately, and it turns out that when they were struck, they were actually Pakistani forces? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm not going to get into the hypothetical here. I mean, we are going to get to the bottom of this and we will eventually know who was targeted and who unfortunately perished or fortunately perished in this attack, and when we do, we'll certainly let you know. But I'm just not in a position here and now to provide any more clarity than I have already. 
 
                Q     Not in a position because you don't know or because you're not allowed to tell us? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: No. Jim. I sort of resent that. But I mean -- 
 
                Q     No, I mean, I understand that -- 
 
                (Cross-talk.) 
 
                MR. MORRELL: If it were an operational concern, I would say to you, "Hey, Jim, I can't talk about it because it's an operational security issue." In this case I'm saying to you, Jim, I can't tell you because we're looking into this with the Pakistanis to find out what, exactly, happened. But as I've said for the third, fourth or fifth time now, every indication we have at this stage is that it was a legitimate strike in self-defense. That's all I have at this moment. I'm not trying to be difficult. It's all I have. 
 
                Q     And are you or is the U.S. military confident that they struck everyone who they had specifically targeted? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm not in a position to tell you with confidence what the U.S. military feels about who was targeted this particular time. I can tell you with confidence that the people involved were operating legitimately in their self-defense. But our investigation will get to the bottom of who perished in this attack and if anyone perished beyond those people who were firing on U.S. forces. Okay? 
 
                Yeah? On this, Bill, or something else? 
 
                Q     Something else. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Anybody else on this? Let's exhaust this. Let's get done with it. 
 
                Q     One other quick thing. Just do you know if the U.S., if the military or anyone is actually attempting to go into Pakistan to ascertain the identities of who -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: We will do what is necessary, working with the Pakistanis, to find out what, exactly, happened here. We have made that commitment that them, we've made it now publicly here with you- all, that we will work in close coordination with the Pakistanis to find out what, exactly, happened. 
 
                Ken? 
 
                Q     Any U.S. casualties? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: None that I know of, no.   
 
                Q     (Off mike.) 
 
                MR. MORRELL: No. But again, I'd refer you to the release. I do not believe the release speaks of any U.S. casualties. 
 
                Ann (sp)? 
 
                Q     One more on this, if I can. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah. 
 
                Q     Is this going to complicate cooperation between U.S. and Pakistani military? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I hope not. We hope not. It's a vitally important relationship in an extremely dangerous part of the world. We have shared goals, and that is to take on terrorists who may be plotting, training in the FATA. And so it is incumbent upon both of us not to let an incident like this or any other interfere with that fundamental shared goal of making sure the FATA is not a refuge for terrorists who may be plotting attacks against the Pakistani government, the United States government or any of our allies. 
 
                Yeah, Joe. 
 
                Q     Yeah, Geoff, about the investigation that is going on about the airstrike. Do you know -- can you tell when the results will come out? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I can't. Joe, I mean, they'll come out when we get the information. That could be a matter of hours. It could be a matter of days. We want to take as long as it takes to get the facts straight. 
 
                Q     Do you know if Secretary Gates is planning to call his counterpart in Pakistan? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I know of no such plans.   
 
                Barbara. 
 
                Q     I do need to ask you an Iraq question, but I just want to ask you -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, I'll come back to the Iraq one. Yeah, let's -- 
 
                Q     I really do.   
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah. 
 
                Q     But on this, the thing still is -- the State Department spokesman said, in – saying that he regretted an incident in which Pakistani military people were killed. He then goes on and says, would they want to -- looking to the whole matter and review how to prevent a reoccurrence. 
 
                So the State Department, by all accounts, seems to be acknowledging that Pakistani military forces were killed in this incident. I don't know how else one could possibly interpret that. State Department -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I would talk to the State Department about it. 
 
                Q     My question is this: You seem -- this building, this department, seems to be on a very different page. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Barbara, I can only tell you what I know. We can only tell you what we know. 
 
                Q     Well, how can -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: And this release that has been provided to you by the 101st tells you what we know about this incident. 
 
                Q     Do you feel, as the chief spokesman for this department, on a different page than the State Department? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm not here to judge whether I'm on the same page or a different page. I'm here to communicate what this department knows. And this release details what we know about this incident at this point. Unfortunately, this release does not have a great deal of clarity on who was killed in our counterstrike against those who attack U.S. forces.   
 
                So all I can communicate to you is what we know at this juncture, which is our guys believe it was legitimate, that they were acting in self defense, the details are provided in this release and that we are going to work to find out who was killed in this attack and we will be doing so with the Pakistani government. Beyond that, I can't really help you at this point. 
 
                Q     It just seems like the U.S. ambassador knows something you don't know. Is that --  
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, the U.S. ambassador, David, if I can point out to you, is 8,000 miles closer to the situation than I am, okay? And we also like, as you -- David, David.   
 
                (Cross talk.)   
 
                And we also like to, as you know from three decades in this building, try to get the facts straight and know exactly what's going on, before we put our necks out and tell you something we don't know to be the case.   
 
                So all I can tell you at this point are the facts provided by the 101st and our belief at this point that the strike was legitimate. I can't help with beyond that. I'm not trying to be difficult but I'm trying to give you what I have, not anything more.   
 
                Q    But you're not trying to tell us that the 101st has the same resources available to them that the larger U.S. government, including DOD --  
 
                MR. MORRELL: What I'm trying to tell you, Jim, is that the 101st is closer to this incident than anybody else is.   
 
                Q     But they're not across the border. They're not inside Pakistan.   
 
                (Cross talk.)   
 
                MR. MORRELL: This attack -- this attack -- these forces were about 200 meters from one another, okay? They were 200 meters from one another.   
 
                Q     I'm talking about the air strikes. That was a few clicks in, or at least a half click.   
 
                MR. MORRELL: I don't know that to be the case.   
 
                Q     A half mile or so, I believe, at least one of the strikes.   
 
                But the larger U.S. government certainly has more resources than the 101st --  
 
                MR. MORRELL: I see nothing that indicates it was a half mile in, Jim. I see something in here that indicates that they were 200 meters away.   
 
                Anybody else on this subject.   
 
                (Cross talk.)   
 
                Q     Your words stress that there was coordination with the Pakistani side. At what level and, you know, between what organizations did that coordination take place?   
 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm not going to get into how we coordinate with the Pakistani military, other than to say that we -- along the border area it is vital that there is coordination on operations. And I can tell you that there -- initial indications are that we did have coordination in this operation.   
 
                Q     Well, I mean, you also said there is close coordination that is routinely done. So surely it's known, very basic things, such as which units were involved, which Pakistani military unit was involved, which U.S. unit was involved. I mean, those are very basic facts that must be known at this point.   
 
                MR. MORRELL: The facts as I know them, Ann, are articulated in this release from the 101st.   
 
                Anybody else? Ken.   
 
                Q     Can you give us any scope as to the size of the engagement, particularly the size of the U.S. unit that was involved?   
 
                MR. MORRELL: If it's not in here, I don't have it for you, okay?  
 
                Yep.   
 
                Q     How would you characterize Pakistani cooperation in the war on terror also, in light of the RAND report that came out on Monday, saying that elements within the Pakistani security and intelligence forces are helping insurgents fighting in Afghanistan?   
 
                MR. MORRELL: I would only reiterate the secretary's words on this. And that is that this is a new government in charge in Pakistan.   
 
                And our government and this department is exercising a great deal of patience as we allow them the time and the space necessary to get on their feet and form a government and get about running their country. 
 
                We, as I've said before, have a shared vital interest in making sure that militants, terrorists, insurgents, others operating in these Federally Administrated (sic) Tribal Areas do not have the means to mount attacks against the Pakistani government or any other government, for that matter.   
 
                And so we are hopeful that the efforts that have been undertaken thus far by this new Pakistani government will be fruitful. As you know, they've made attempts or are in the midst of attempts to work out some sort of negotiated arrangements with militants in the FATA. It is our insistence, our belief, our urging that any kind of arrangement they come to be enforceable and that the FATA not be allowed to become a safe haven for al Qaeda. 
 
                And our government will do what is necessary, as the president has said from 9/12/01 to protect the homeland from any future attacks from terrorists. 
 
                Okay, we done on this? 
 
                Q     Quick detail question? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah 
 
                Q     The three aircraft, were they two F-15s and one B-1? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Is it in the release? 
 
                Q     It just says three aircraft, and I -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Then I don't have it for you, then, Tony. 
 
                Yeah. 
 
                Q     Does coordination mean that the Pakistani military gives the U.S. military clearance to fire on its side of the border, or is it simply the U.S. military informing the Pakistani military that it's going to be firing? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I'm not going to get into our operational arrangements. I'm just not going to do it from here. 
 
                Yeah, Luis. 
 
                Q     There have been various proposals to assist the -- and providing assistance to the Frontier Corps. Do you know where we stand on the millions that are being -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, we know -- there is a multimillion or actually several hundred million dollar package of aid and assistance that -- I frankly don't know what the status is, in terms of how much of that money has been distributed, but there is a multiyear plan to try to assist the Pakistanis with better governance in that area, with economic development and so forth. 
 
                And we and the Pakistanis are both committed to improving the situation there. 
 
                Yeah? 
 
                Q     Different subject. 
 
                Q     Okay. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think we're done with this. 
 
                Q     There was a report last week that the president's now prepared to sign an Iraq supplemental that includes Webb's GI Bill if there are some adjustments made to the GI Bill. Can you tell us what those would be? And is there a discussion going on between this building and Webb's office about what that would be? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I can tell you that the secretary of Defense has had no discussions with Senator Webb about his bill. I can tell you that he has had outreach to congressional leaders about some of our concerns, about the -- some of the legislative proposals with regard to a new GI Bill that are being considered.   
 
                I will just reiterate what we have said time and time again and has not changed: We believe that any additional benefit include the ability for servicemembers to transfer any unused portion of that benefit to family members. The secretary, wherever he goes, has heard from spouses, from troops themselves that that is the biggest thing they're interested in. So he believes he has to represent their interests and communicate to Congress that anything we do should include this transferability. 
 
                Q     There's been, as you know, a -- (off mike) -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Let me just finish this one thought. The other thought is that whatever we do, we don't want to incentivize people to prematurely leave the military. No one in this building is against an enhanced benefit for our troops. The secretary is a huge champion of the GI Bill. As you know, he went -- he got his Ph.D. based upon the GI benefit.   
 
                But we also don't want to create a situation in which we are inviting troops who we have trained, invested in, given a great deal of experience to, to three years into their tour with the United States military, walk out the door because this benefit is so enticing. So we advocate instead upping the benefit the longer you stay.   
 
                And so those are the only two things that have been communicated to the congressional leadership and to others who have asked. Cost is not a factor as far as this building is concerned; although I should point out we are not the lead in any sort of discussions with the Hill on this. 
 
                The OMB is the lead on this, as is normal. But when asked, we have communicated what our concerns are. 
 
                Q     Well, as you know, there have been transferability provisions written into the Webb bill on the Senate floor. I'm trying to get at -- what about those is not acceptable? What more does the department want? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I don't have the -- I don't -- frankly, the particulars of what his -- I think his -- as I last understood the Webb bill, there was a pilot program for transferability. What the secretary is advocating is transferability for everyone. And he's advocating providing that in a way that does not incentivize people to leave the force prematurely. 
 
                Q     Do you -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Anybody else on the GI Bill? 
 
                Q     On just the supplemental -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Okay. 
 
                Q     You don't have the supplemental. You don't have reprogramming authorization yet -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: We do have reprogramming. 
 
                Q     You do? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: We do. 
 
                Q     Do you think you could tell me? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I can. Let me get my notes so I'm exactly accurate. 
 
                Today, in fact, the Congress approved $1.6 billion that we have requested for continuing operation and maintenance budget funding. Obviously, this is not new money. This allows us to move money so that we have more O&M funds. That comes on the heels of the Congress also approving $4 billion in military personnel account reprogramming. 
 
                So because of that, we will now be able to pay our troops, at least -- or we will now be able to pay our troops until the end of July. And operation and maintenance accounts will remain -- will remain solvent until mid-July. So we have bought ourselves a little time -- not much, but a little additional time. You'll recall that June 15th, before the Congress approved the $4 billion MILPERS reprogramming, was the date at which we would last be able to pay our troops -- the Army -- pardon me, the Army. And this allows us now to pay the Army and everyone else, for that matter, until the end of July. 
 
                Q     But you didn't get everything you asked for. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: No. 
 
                Q     You wanted 9.7. You got -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: We got 5.7. 
 
                Q     5.7, and this money comes from the Air Force and Navy personnel accounts as previously discussed, or -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: We move money from the Air Force and Navy military personnel accounts to the Army personnel account so that we would be able to pay our soldiers longer.   
 
                We move money from the Army -- from the Air Force and Navy operation and maintenance accounts to the Army and defense-wide O&M account so that we can operate on the civilian side longer, as well. So that has bought us, as I said, a little additional time, but we still face a very grave situation if we don't get our full supplemental funding, the remaining $1.2 billion (sic\$102 billion) that we've requested, which has been before the Hill for now 16-plus months.   
 
                And so we are, as you know, I think, taking some prudent planning measures just in case that money doesn't come through. Deputy Secretary Gordon England sent a memo throughout the department earlier this week asking for all the departments to begin planning for a possible shutdown, and all the departments are due to report back to him by June 30th with a plan as to what they would do to shut things down. And he's additionally, I think, asked that we figure out who sort of the essential civilian personnel is that would have to remain working even without pay in the event of a shutdown. 
 
                Q     You're missing 4.1 billion from that reprogramming request. What are you coming up short on between now and, say, mid-July and July that you were hoping to fund? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: What we were hoping to do was get us past -- that additional money would have allowed us to fund the O&M accounts beyond mid-July. So we'll be able to do everything we now do until mid-July. We'll be able to pay all our men and women in uniform as we now do until the end of July. But we won't know until June 30th what additional measures we have to take in the event that Congress does not pass the supplemental, although we remain confident, or hopeful, at least, that they will do as they say they hope to do, which is to pass a supplemental and get us the funds we need to continue our operations. 
 
                Q     Geoff -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: On budget? Yes. 
 
                Q     On the budget.   
 
                MR. MORRELL: You're on Iraq, right? Okay, I'll come back. 
 
                Q     Are you aware of any furlough notices that are either being prepared or -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I said 1.2 billion; excuse me, $102 billion. Thank you -- (name inaudible). 
 
                Q     Are you aware of any furlough notices that either have to be prepared to be sent out or any other preparations for furloughs that -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: No. Not at this time. 
 
                Budget, Ken? 
 
                Q     Yes, related to the budget. A question about the run-up in fuel prices. That's obviously having an impact on the budget. Is it having an operational effect? Are any missions having to be curtailed, training missions, for example? Any cutbacks? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: To my knowledge, not at this time. 
 
                Q     So it's purely budgetary, not operational. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: To my knowledge, the Congress has -- listen, we are at the mercy of the Congress in this area. And they have been funding us and have been -- we have gone to them and adjusted some of our budget requests to reflect a rise in fuel prices, and they have shown a willingness to continue to fund our operations based on those adjusted costs. 
 
                So as far as I know, we have not had to curtail any of our operations due to the rise in fuel prices.   
 
                Q     How many times have you had to go to Congress and ask for those adjustments?   
 
                MR. MORRELL: You know, we had -- I frankly don't know, Ken. I don't think it's been multiple times. I think we did so with this outstanding -- with the -- the outstanding supplemental, I think, has been altered, in terms of how we allocate funds within the supplemental, to reflect a need for more money for fuel.   
 
                Q     Is there a point at which that no longer works, and you will have to be -- have to start cutting back on --  
 
                MR. MORRELL: If that's the case, I'm not aware of it.   
 
                Okay, Barbara.   
 
                Q     Your other favorite subject: the Status of Forces Agreement.   
 
                (Cross talk.)   
 
                MR. MORRELL: A welcome respite today.   
 
                Q     There's talk about what the Iraqis want in terms of, you know, cutbacks in U.S. forces, limitations on U.S. operations. The fundamental question is, what concerns do you have? Or what can you do in negotiating the Status of Forces Agreement, and to the extent you have a role in the strategic framework in this department, about ensuring that the next administration doesn't have its hands tied by any provisions in that?   
 
                Since that might not really be your goal, what can you -- what do you -- what concerns do you have? Or is there anything --  
 
                MR. MORRELL: I don't know that that is a concern frankly, Barbara, because it has long been the position of the secretary and this department that nothing that is being negotiated, with State as the lead, on the Status of Forces Agreement or the strategic framework agreement, would in any way tie the hands of the next administration. We just don't view this as doing so. I know there are some on the Hill who are concerned that that will be the case.   
 
                We are not in these negotiations at all trying to mandate minimum troop levels or, you know, secure permanent bases; anything of that nature that would tie the hands of a future administration or a future commander in chief. Our efforts are merely to provide the legal protections for our forces to continue to operate in Iraq.   
 
                And we, you know, I mean, I read the reports. You read the reports. They're -- despite all the stuff you read, we are hopeful. We remain focused on trying to get this done, as the president has requested, by the end of July. You know, it's a -- these negotiations are serious and difficult, and we hope that we will get there as he wishes, but we do believe that the things were asking for are vitally important for our troops to continue to operate in Iraq. 
 
                Anything else on this subject? Yeah, Tony? 
 
                Q     No, not on Iraq.   
 
                MR. MORRELL: Okay. 
 
                Q     Admiral Donald's report -- you came out talking about that. What are -- what's the administration's plan to declassify parts of that report? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think you and I have discussed this previously, and my position -- our position hasn't changed. The secretary, in his announcement last week, had a lengthy opening statement in which he detailed a great deal of the findings in the Donald report, and I think that he is of the mind that that will serve as the declassified version of the report at this time. 
 
                Q     Need to push back, though. That's hardly a transparent issue -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think, Tony, there have already been members of the media who have filed a FOIA request, and I'm sure those will be reviewed. I can just tell you that at this point, that is what the secretary wishes to release from the Donald report. 
 
                Q     Can you push -- ask him to reconsider, given that was a -- it was the basis for a historic decision on --  
 
                MR. MORRELL: He was, but keep in mind, this involves a key component of our national security. This involves our nuclear arsenal. And this is very sensitive material, and he's read it and -- listen, he is clearly a friend of the press. He understands your need for access and information. And yet in this case, this is what he thinks is appropriate with regards to the Donald report. 
 
                Q     No, because, you know, in his opening statements, he talked about all the things this report was not, and you know, it doesn't place at risk the integrity of the nation's nuclear deterrent force. All the things this report found were not a problem. One wonders is this because of the embarrassment of eight years in the Bush administration and two years of the Clinton administration having problems with the safety issues -- nuclear surety issues versus substance. You must be able to get some of this out, and so I just ask that -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm not so sure if I totally followed the question, but I will -- 
 
                Q     (Off mike.) 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Tony, Tony, I will -- I will do this. I will ask the question again, okay? But I don't know -- I doubt that I'll get a change of answer, and therefore I would recommend that you join your colleagues in filing a FOIA. 
 
                But I will ask the question again.   
 
                Q     Fair enough. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Okay. 
 
                Anybody else? Anything else? Luis, last one.   
 
                Q     A kind of random one. The tomatoes, the tomato health incident that's going on right now -- has this affected the DOD commissary in any way? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think it has. I went to try to get a sandwich the other day. I couldn't get tomatoes. So -- but I don't know, frankly, on a -- you know, whether it's impacted on a wide-scale basis and if that's having an adverse effect on the morale of troops. (Laughter.)   
 
                But safety comes first, Luis. Health and safety comes first. 
 
                Q     No service member's gotten sick? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Not that I know of.   
 
                Thanks. 
 
                Q     Thank you.
 
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