United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


DoD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell
February 25, 2009
                MR. MORRELL: Good afternoon. Good to see you all. 
 
                I have nothing to start with, so let's get down to business. 
 
                Anne. 
 
                Q     The Pakistani and Afghan delegations are here this week for the strategic review. Can you give us an overview of their meetings here, the secretary and any other officials' involvement in talking with them and preparing this part of that review, and a sense of how long you expect the review to take from here? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: In reverse order, I think when it was announced a week or so ago, it was announced as a 60-day review, chaired by Bruce Riedel and co-vice-chaired by Michelle Flournoy, our undersecretary of policy, and Ambassador Holbrooke over at the State Department. 
 
                So you are correct that there are a number of Afghan officials who are in town this week. I believe the secretary is right now scheduled to meet with Minister Wardak, the defense minister, as well as the Afghan foreign minister -- or the interior minister, I believe, the interior minister -- on Friday. 
 
                As you know, he met with General Kayani, the Pakistani chief of army, the army chief of staff, yesterday. And you also know from your travels, Anne, with us last week that in dealing with NATO, that the point was made time and time again that we desire this review to be as inclusive as possible. The White House is reaching out to everybody with a stake in this.   
 
                So, clearly the Afghan leadership, the Pakistani leadership, NATO countries, other non-NATO troop-contributing nations, such as the Australians, will all have a say in this, will all be consulted in this. It won't just be window-dressing, take a look at our plan and sign off on it when it's already virtually completed. We have reached out early to all the players and are requesting their inputs. We are all collectively in this and we need as much advice and buy-in as possible for this to be a success. 
 
                Yeah, Joe. 
 
                Q     Geoff, we have seen this week the Pentagon report on Guantanamo. I'd like to know from you what are the next steps regarding this issue. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yes. Admiral Walsh, I think, briefed you all earlier this week on his conclusions that at the end of his 30-day review into detainee operations down at Guantanamo, he concluded -- as we had suspected, but he concluded after that thorough review -- that indeed the facility is Article 3 compliant, that we treat our detainees down there humanely. 
 
                He offered some advice as well on how we could do an even better job of treating detainees, and I think that's pretty remarkable. I think he's the first uniformed officer who's conducted a review of operations down at Guantanamo who has come back and said, "You know what? There is still room for improvement." We are in compliance with our own directives, we are in compliance with Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, but there is still more we could do to provide an even more humane environment, particularly in light of the fact that many of these detainees have now been held for extended periods of time.   
 
                So more interaction is fundamentally what he's calling for. But that's now been presented to the White House, and the effort right now is focused on follow-up on that -- on those recommendations. 
 
                So the secretary has ordered a 30-day review of how to implement the recommendations made by Admiral Walsh. And that review will be conducted by the secretary's new Detainee Task Force, which I think is headed by our new general counsel, Jeh Johnson, as well as Joe Benkert. And so that is where things stand at this time. 
 
                We have -- I think there's a -- there's interest in trying to determine what -- whether there should be -- I think everybody's in agreement on this -- there should be some outside eyes on this process as well -- wise men, jurists, something of that nature, looking over our shoulder as we go about implementing the recommendations made by Admiral Walsh. And I think that is in the process of being worked out. 
 
                Q     Yeah, Admiral Walsh said that the Guantanamo prison will -- would be shut down within 12 months. Do you know what are the alternatives after shutting down this facility? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, the alternatives are really the heart of the question, and that's -- that is part of the review that is -- that the president ordered when he signed a series of executive orders shortly after taking office that first week. One of those deals with the review of each and every one of the 250 or so detainee cases and determining what the appropriate alternatives are for their detention at Guantanamo. So that is part of a review that's under way, and there is, you know, now about 11 months left for them to complete that review.   
 
                Yeah, Jennifer? 
 
                Q     Geoff, President Obama last night spoke about some Cold War weapons systems that could potentially be part of defense cuts or he saw as room for saving money. What weapons systems was he referring to? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I don't know, frankly.   
 
                Q     So he's never discussed that with the secretary? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, I mean, the secretary has discussed our efforts with regards to the FY '10 budget that under way. But as you've probably seen from some of the stories that have been out there, this is a very closely held process, one that the secretary in fact has asked the participants to sign nondisclosure agreements in order to fully participate in.   
 
                So I'm not going to speak to specific programs.   
 
                I -- but you could also go back and look at the secretary's comments before the Congress in late -- or before the Senate Armed Services Committee in -- more specifically -- in late January, where he listed a number of programs that are having, as he calls it, "execution problems," be it that they are over budget or behind schedule. And so he laid out some of those. 
 
                But what I would say about all of these programs -- every big-ticket program, or particularly programs that are having execution problems, are subject to a very thorough review right now as part of the FY '10 budget process.   
 
                And any decisions about their future are going to be made in the context of the whole of the FY '10 budget. His desire is to create a product that is -- that is mindful of the fiscal realities that we find ourselves in these days as well as our national security requirements. And so he's trying to strategically rebalance the budget. And any decisions about programs will be made in that context. 
 
                Q     He specifically said Cold War weapons systems. What would be considered a Cold War weapon system right now? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: You know, I'm going to -- I'm -- really, I think this is a slippery slope for me, because if I start enunciating for you, articulating for you what specific programs the president was referring to when I don't know what he was referring to, it may cause some people to believe that those are the programs that are in the cross hairs of the budget team at this time.   
 
                So I all I can tell you is, as I have, that big-ticket programs that are having execution problems, that do -- that do not necessarily support the strategic balance the secretary thinks is necessary, are clearly getting a very thorough review by this team. 
 
                Yeah, Thom. 
 
                Q     Still on this, thanks. The president also said last night that the cost of the wars in the Iraq and Afghanistan would no longer be hidden, which I'm guessing was a reference to the supplemental process. When we get the top-line budget tomorrow, will that be all DOD spending for FY '10, or might there still be supplemental war budgets proposed during fiscal year 2010? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I am going to try to be as respectful of the process as I can be. I believe OMB is going to have an announcement tomorrow about top-line figures for agencies throughout the government. I believe they will also announce a supplemental figure for this department for FY '10. So I do believe there will be a war supplemental for FY '10. 
 
                Beyond that, the desire is, yes, to try to get away from supplementals and take those costs -- those recurring, predictable war costs, seven, eight years into these conflicts -- and move them increasingly into the base budget. There are going to be costs associated with the war -- associated with persistent presence around the world that are less predictable, that are going to have to remain outside the base.   
 
                But as you've seen in some of the stories that have been written, particularly over the last few days, we will and have provided OMB with our best estimate of what war costs will be for us over the next 10 years. But that's an estimate. That's our best guess -- an educated guess, but a guess nonetheless and a placeholder for them so that they can budget in the out years.   
 
                But as you know, it's extremely difficult for us to predict what our level of commitment is going to be in either theater, let alone theaters that we haven't potentially thought of, God forbid, a year, two years, let alone 10 years from now. So we are trying to be as helpful as possible to this process, but some of this stuff is not known at this point. 
 
                Q     So while everyone endorses the worthy goal of doing away with supplementals, we're hearing you say that FY '10 will not be when that starts. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think you -- I think you will see in the FY '10 base budget an attempt to move recurring predictable costs associated with the war into that base. But there will be costs above and beyond that, with regards to the war, that will not be included in the base in FY '10. 
 
                Yeah? 
 
                Q     A couple questions I have -- when we see the budget figures tomorrow, what is the best base figure on which everybody can judge for '09? If you don't have that, maybe get your public affairs people to get it. But is it 513 (billion dollars), 514 (billion dollars), 515 (billion dollars)? So that everybody's comparing from the same sheet. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, the appropriated base in FY '09 was $513 billion. 
 
                Q     And what was the '09 -- '08, excuse me, for comparison's sake -- and if you have it, the '09 war supplemental number that we could all use as a benchmark? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, the '09 war supplemental number, as you know, is not yet complete -- 
 
                Q     Not '09, the '08. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm sorry, the '08 war supplemental for the year was five -- sorry, $187 billion. 
 
                Q     A question on the F-22. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yes. 
 
                Q     Will there be a decision by March 1st, a go or no-go decision, or will that be delayed until your more detailed budget rollout? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, I would take issue with the characterization of "go or no-go." There will be a communication to the Congress by March the 1st about the $140 million in funding that they have authorized for us to spend on long-lead parts, primarily for the four replacement aircraft that will -- that will be in the FY '10 supplemental, but also for the -- for the potential that we would buy planes above and beyond that. Right now, we have only spent ($)50 million of that ($)140 million that's been authorized, so we're still sitting on $90 million. So I think there will be a communication made to the Congress about the status of that $140 million. 
 
                But I would caution you not to read too much into that, so that if we made -- if we informed the Congress that we weren't going to spend any more than the ($)50 million of this, you know, as of March 1st, or we were going to spend a little more, or all the 90 (million dollars) that remains, that should not necessarily signal where we are going with the F-22 program. The decision about how many, if any, additional planes we wish to acquire will be made in the context of the FY '10 budget. 
 
                Q     Okay, which means in layman's language that that decision point won't be made until mid-April, when the final budget is rolled out? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: It won't be made by March 1st, I'll tell you that. Yeah. 
 
                Q     I'm just -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah. 
 
                Q     So on that -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yes, you're absolutely right. It will not -- we will not signal in our communication to Congress that is due on March 1st, with regards to this ($)140 million in long-lead parts, we will not signal where we are going with the program. 
 
                Q     More -- closer to the April -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: You will know when the FY '10 budget is rolled out where the F-22 program is going, but not until that point. 
 
                Okay. 
 
                Q     It will -- the planes would be in the fiscal year '10 supplemental? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: They were moved from the FY '09 supplemental and into the FY -- it's our anticipation they will be in the FY '10 supplemental. 
 
                Q     Is that a commitment to those planes, then? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, we've -- we've made a commitment to the replacement aircraft. We made that -- we've talked about this, you know, I think a year ago. So those replacement aircraft would put us above the 183 to 187. But those are replacement aircraft. That doesn't speak to where we are going with this program. I mean, that's old news. It's been out there. It's been reported. It's been discussed. 
 
                Q     This -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Part of the reason not to read too much into how that -- the $140 million is spent -- and this has been communicated by John Young to members of Congress on several occasions -- is that that -- that the long-lead parts that we have bought, for example, with the 50 million (dollars) we've spent already, especially the titanium, these are dual-purpose parts. 
 
                So even if there's a decision that we're not going to buy any above the four replacement aircraft, those materials could be used for other aircraft; for example, the Joint Strike Fighter. So I just caution you not to read too much into whatever the communication is that's made to Congress on March 1st. To know the future of the F-22 program, you will have to wait until the FY '10 budget is rolled out. 
 
                Q     What's the genesis of this nondisclosure form that Mr. Gates had generals and admirals -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, not just generals and admirals. Everybody who's participating in this process -- these are the highest-ranking people in this department -- were asked to sign this -- and the secretary signed one as well -- were asked to sign an agreement in which they would agree not to speak to any of the matters that they are working on as part of this budget process. 
 
                This is highly sensitive stuff, involving programs costing tens of billions of dollars, employing hundreds of thousands of people, and go to the heart of our national security. And so he wants this process to be as disciplined and as forthright as possible. And he thinks that by having people pledge not to speak out of school, if you will, on these matters while they are a work in progress, that you will create a climate in which you can ultimately produce a better product as people can speak candidly with the confidence that it will not be leaked.   
 
                And ultimately, this product can't be judged by the sum of its parts; it's got to be judged as a whole. So if bits and pieces leak out, you start to tug on these strings and the whole thing could unravel. This budget the secretary wants to be judged in its totality because that's where you will see the strategic balance he is trying to build. 
 
                Q     Did this directive come from the White House -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: No. 
 
                Q     -- or was this a Gates initiative? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: This was the secretary's idea. And it's not terribly unusual. I think this was -- 
 
                Q     It's highly unusual. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, but it was used during the BRAC process, I understand. 
 
                Q     It wasn't used in any budget process I've been covering, even under Rumsfeld, "Mr. Disclosure" himself. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: This is -- this is a big deal to the secretary. 
 
                Q     When did he ask for it? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think they signed it -- what was the day I spoke to you guys about the defense senior leader -- leadership conference, which is when he COCOMs were in town? I think it was a week ago this past Friday. Two weeks from this Friday. 
 
                Q     Is the concern in the entirety the budget process, or is there also a concern that there could be some manipulation or problems on Wall Street at a very volatile time? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think it's a number of things. I think -- well, our primary -- the secretary's primary concern is the budget process. But we're not naive, either. We understand these involve huge corporations that have a lot riding on the outcome of these discussions. 
 
                Q     Geoff? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah, Barbara. 
 
                Q     I do need to ask you an Iraq question, but I first just briefly want to follow up on this, because I guess I don't really understand one key point on this. But I do want to come back to Iraq. 
 
                If the information is classified, there's criminal penalties for disclosing it. So that is clearly something people are not supposed to do anyhow. Are we talking -- are you talking about nondisclosure of certain unclassified information? Is that what we're talking about here? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think most of the information that's probably being discussed is classified. But there's a process that the secretary wants to try to keep as collegial and confidence-building as possible. So you know, it doesn't have to be germane, necessarily, to speaking to a classified briefing paper that they are working with. 
 
                The whole process the secretary wants to keep out of the limelight. He wants to keep it secret, because ultimately it needs to be judged on the whole and not bits and pieces which may leak out. And he wants people to participate in this with the confidence of knowing that what they are saying is not being leaked, it's not being disseminated, and therefore we can work together perhaps in a more collegial and honest way and come up with a better product. 
 
                Q     What does it say, Geoff, about the secretary's own confidence in his most senior military and civilian advisers that he requires them to sign a piece of paper rather than just say, "I expect you not to talk," and believe that they won't talk? What does it say -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: The secretary signed the agreement himself. He's subjecting himself to the same standard that he's asked of those who are working for him.   
 
                Q     (Off mike.) 
 
                MR. MORRELL: He wants to create -- I'll say it again, Barbara -- he wants to create an environment in which the best possible budget can be built. And he believes the only way to do that is to make sure that we are doing this in utter and complete secrecy until that budget is rolled out. 
 
                Q     But if it's secret, Geoff -- just bear with me a minute, and I still want to ask you my Iraq question -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm not going anywhere, Barbara.   
 
                Q     -- if it's secret, if information is secret and therefore classified, there are criminal penalties for disclosing it, why -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Barbara, you've been around here long enough to know that classified information with potential criminal consequences gets leaked all the time. This is to reinforce the message that indeed this is classified material, these are highly secret discussions, and we should remember that, be mindful of it and honor it. 
 
                Q     Did he require the Joint Chiefs -- if he signed it, did he require -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Everybody who is participating signed it. There is no one -- and if you didn't sign it, you aren't participating. So if you want to be a part of the budget process, you had to sign it.   
 
                Q     Can you just for the record tell us, did the Joint Chiefs of Staff sign this? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Every -- everyone is -- yes, all the chiefs signed it. 
 
                Q     Did you sign one? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I am not participating in the process, which allows me to speak to you with total honesty and a clean -- clear conscience, and so no, I'm not participating in the process. 
 
                Q     So he doesn't think the issue of classification of sufficient.   
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think I've answered the question several times. 
 
                Anybody -- 
 
                Q     Can I ask an Iraq question, Geoff? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah, let's finish this. And I -- I'm not going -- I'm not going to leave you. 
 
                Q     Can I follow up with you on that? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah. 
 
                Q     How does that level of secrecy and control at the beginning square with the new administration's stated goal of maximum transparency throughout all -- the whole process? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I don't think the administration has been advocating a -- transparency in national security matters. I think that at the end of this it will be apparent to everyone where the secretary is and the process -- what the process has yielded. But I do not believe that the president's call for greater transparency means that we should get rid of classification of materials that are highly sensitive. 
 
                Yeah, Luis? 
 
                Q     Jeff, on the issue -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Still on this -- and then if it's on Iraq I want to go to Barbara first. 
 
                Q     Well, what can we -- can we -- 
 
                Q     (Off mike.) 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Sure. Yeah. 
 
                Q     Last question? 
 
                Yes? 
 
                Q     You're leaving the impression with the viewers and listeners that a lot of the material -- the budget material is, like, stamped "top secret" and sensitive, compartmented and all that, when, in fact, most of this is for official use only, or unclassified.  I mean, you need to bound this a little bit so that you -- people don't think the Pentagon Papers are being floated around here, ala the budget season. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: All right. Tony.   
 
                Q     (Off mike.) 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Okay. So Tony, then this goes to answer Barbara's question more completely, then. If, indeed, not all the materials that this gang is working with are marked "secret" or are classified and therefore for official use only, all the more reason for a nondisclosure agreement so that those matters could not be discussed as well.   
 
                The bottom line is, the process is one the secretary wishes to keep close hold while it is under way. When it's appropriate, when decisions have been made, when he has a budget to present, he will do so, I am confident, in a very open and transparent fashion so everybody knows what the end result is and likely how we got there. Okay? 
 
                Yeah. Jennifer? 
 
                Q     Geoff, with regards to money, what does the department estimate it will cost to send the additional 17,000 troops and everything that goes along with it to Afghanistan?   
 
                And what is the estimate -- the working estimate; that doesn't have to be exact -- but what is the working estimate they're working on in terms of drawing down to -- Iraq, if one were to draw down to a 50,000-troop level, what would be the estimated savings? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I -- I got you. I don't know either answer. I mean, I think, as you know, the secretary sent a letter to Congress a month or so ago sort of as a -- giving them, at that point, their -- his best guess of how much the FY9 supplemental would be, the second tranche.   
 
                And that predated a decision about troop levels in Afghanistan. 
 
                And he had in there a caveat that that number would have to change based upon what the decisions were made regarding those troops in Afghanistan. I do not -- I don't have an updated number for you yet on what the second half of FY '09 will be, which takes into account those additional troops. 
 
                I think, if I have
 
Q     (Off mike.) 
 
MR. MORRELL: I will find that out for you, Thom. Let me just tell you what I think -- where we were, because I don't know if I even have the -- (inaudible).   
 
                The secretary's estimate when he sent over a letter on December the 31st was $69.7 billion. And that, as I said, did not take into account additional Afghan forces. So it will likely be revised upwards, but I don't have a new number for you yet. I will check on the status of that. 
 
                Yeah, Jeff? 
 
                Q     Sorry to bring this up again, but has the secretary ever asked his staff to sign a nondisclosure agreement before? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: No. That's the first time. 
 
                Q     First time? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah. 
 
                Q     And still on the budget, we hear a lot about -- that certain projects, certain programs might be cut. But as far as I understand, the majority of the service's budget gets into personnel. Is personnel cost possibly -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think the secretary's talked about this on a number of occasions. And he has a couple of admonitions before we went into this process, I mean, one of which is that across-the-board cuts are lazy and inefficient. And so he has been adamantly opposed to implementing across-the-board cuts as a means of dealing with tightening budgets. He is equally opposed to cutting manpower to deal with constrained budgets.   
 
                So those are two things he's been very up-front about. I think there's been attempts in the past to try to exact savings through reductions in manpower. The secretary believes that our biggest asset, our best weapon is our personnel, our troops. And he wants to make sure that there are no cuts in them. In fact, he's growing the Army and the Marine Corps, and he's stopped reductions in the Air Force. 
 
                Q     Is it possible there might be cuts in special pays? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I have -- I think this is sort of getting me into the nitty gritty of the budget, so I'm going to refrain from doing so. I think philosophically you know where he is on personnel matters now. 
 
                Barbara, sorry. 
 
                Q     If it's not classified and it's not close-hold, can we make a request to have -- see a copy of one of the blank disclosure forms, exactly what people are being compelled to sign, unless the -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I certainly will take the question. 
 
                Q     My question on Iraq and residual forces -- regardless of what withdrawal schedule is announced, everyone seems to agree -- and I think you guys have said it -- that there will be some residual force in Iraq for some period of time. Can you help people understand what those forces who will stay behind, what they will do, what their job will be and how much they still may, on a given day, be in combat? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Again, I -- I guess there will be an announcement this week from the White House about a way ahead in Iraq, and it could very well deal with residual forces as well. 
 
                I can just speak to what the president and what the secretary have said about this in the past. And they've both been forthright about their belief that a residual force of some size -- and the secretary has spoken in the -- in terms of tens of thousands of forces -- will be required after combat brigades have been drawn down, or drawn down and out of Iraq. 
 
                And the three basic areas where those forces would concentrate -- and again, this is something the president and the secretary have spoken to -- are, number one, continuing to advise and assist the Iraqi security forces, continue to help them train and equip, and support them in their operations. Number two, this force of whatever size it turns out to be would also conduct intelligence-driven, warrant-based combat operations against -- against terrorists, and they would do so assisting Iraqi security forces, who would be in the lead. And lastly, they would be required to protect American personnel and other U.S. assets in Iraq. So those are the three fundamental areas. 
 
                But, you know, I've heard all this talk about it's disingenuous to say that combat forces are being drawn down; all forces are combat forces, and those that remain will be combat forces. I think a limited number of those that remain will conduct combat operations against terrorists, assisting Iraqi security forces. That's a limited number, a very limited number. But by and large, you're talking about people who we would classify as enablers, support troops. These are troops that will continue to assist the Iraqi government improve governance, improve financial programs, health care, rule of law, things of that nature; just as they will help the Iraqi security forces with intelligence and aviation requirements and things of that nature. 
 
                But just because these troops would carry a sidearm, as all U.S. troops do in a -- in theater, that should not be confused with them having a combat mission. So for example, U.S. personnel assigned to the ministry of finance may have a sidearm, but I doubt they'd consider themselves a combat force, and certainly wouldn't be equipped in that fashion to perform combat operations. 
 
                Q     But then let me ask you, if you're saying these U.S. troops in these types of functions -- which you've just said will be equipped with sidearms, not equipped for combat. 
 
                Nonetheless, sadly, it's probably likely that some of them will lose their lives at some point in the coming years in Iraq. For purposes of that, will these troops have -- if they are killed by enemy forces, will they be killed in combat? Will these people -- will this be a war zone for them? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think Iraq will -- is still considered a war zone, yes. 
 
                Q     So these people, if they perish in this, they will be killed in combat. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: But Barbara, we have people who are right now performing support missions, support functions, who, sadly, have been killed in theater, and they are considered killed in combat, yes. 
 
                Q     Can I just ask you to go back and clarify one thing from sometime back? You talked about -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Or killed in action, I should say. 
 
                Yes, go on. 
 
                Q     All right. You talked at the very beginning about this 10- year time frame and the budget that's upcoming, and the difficulty in projecting war costs over that 10-year time frame. Right? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yes. 
 
                Q     Does this now mean that you -- the Pentagon and the administration -- are looking at a 10-year framework for Iraq and Afghanistan? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I think the White House has made it clear that they want to do 10-year budget predictions and they want to have a sense from us of what the wars will cost over those 10 years. And we, as I've said, have given them our best estimate at this point of what they will cost. But it is an estimate, an educated guess. It's very difficult for us to predict, sitting here in 2009, what our requirements will be in 2019 or '15 or '12, even, based upon the level of commitment that the president were to articulate. 
 
                For example, we know at this stage that by the end of 2011, we will be down to zero forces in Iraq unless there is some change in the Status of Forces Agreement between our two nations. But we have also signaled that we are plusing-up troops in Afghanistan; that will require expense and so forth. 
 
                So it's tough to gauge, but we want to be as cooperative as we can in this process, and that's what we are. 
 
                Q     What I'm not understanding is, are you projecting costs -- that there will, in fact, be costs for Afghanistan and Iraq over the next 10 years? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: We are predicting there will be costs associated with persistent presence, with combat, with U.S. troops overseas, yes, for the next 10 years. For the purposes of this budget exercise, this work, these projections that OMB is doing, we have provided them with a number, yes. 
 
                Q     And that’s for Iraq and Afghanistan. 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, it's not for -- necessarily for Iraq, because in three years time, we are out of Iraq, or less than three years time, but it is for our operations -- our operations around the world. Okay? 
 
                Let me take -- okay. You guys have had them. Let me do these two and let me get out of here. Yeah, go ahead. 
 
                Q     Thanks, Geoff. On North Korea. We've seen North Korea issuing numerous provocative statements toward South Korea, which seems to invite military confrontations upon South Korea. 
 
                In the meantime, it is reported yesterday, North Korea has deployed many of North Korean special forces near the South Korean border.   
 
                What contingency plan does the U.S. have?   
 
                MR. MORRELL: I frankly don't know specifically what you're referencing, in terms of a deployment of North Korean forces. All I can tell you is that the U.S.-ROK alliance is a strong one. We have many plans for a multitude of contingencies, were there to be provocative action by the north. And we feel we are well prepared to defend the south against any provocation.   
 
                Yes.   
 
                Q     You're going to be sorry you came to me last, because I have two clarifications and a question.   
 
                So the -- to Barbara's, one of Barbara's questions, I just want to be clear. When you said --  
 
                MR. MORRELL: Which one?   
 
                Q     Yeah. I think it was question number eight.   
 
                (laughter)
               
Q     You said that there was going to be --  
 
                Q     We’re in-depth press corps.
 
                (Cross talk.)   
 
                MR. MORRELL: You are and not at all superficial.   
 
                Yes, go on.   
 
                Q     To the -- when you said that there was going to be troops there, who would be doing intel-driven combat operations, that would be -- that was, just to be clear, that was part of the residual force that you were talking about, right? You said it would be a limited number. But that's the residual force that will be there for an extended period.   
 
                MR. MORRELL: The president and the secretary have always talked about the need for there to be some forces, in this residual force, whose responsibility would be to conduct counterterrorism operations, to go after al Qaeda, to ensure that it does not reconstitute itself and present itself once again as a threat, to the Iraqi people and by extension to us. So yes, there has to be, within that residual force, the capability to conduct counterterrorism operations.   
 
                Q     Because you called them combat operations, to be clear, that would be a part of that residual force.   
 
                MR. MORRELL: Okay. Well, I guess we're drawing a distinction between counterterrorism operations and combat operations. I believe most people would tell you, if you're conducting a counterterrorism operation, that's a form of combat.   
 
                Q     My next clarification; last night, President Obama said, in his speech, that in this budget, there was going to be money to grow the Army and the Marine Corps.   
 
                Is there any plan, in this building, to increase the size of either force, beyond what we've been hearing about for the last two --  
 
                MR. MORRELL: No. There in the FY '10 budget is the last year of funding, to complete the growth of the Army and Marine Corps that's been under way for a couple years now.   
 
                Q     Okay. And my final question: On Dover, has the secretary made any decision on opening up the --  
 
                MR. MORRELL: He has not made a decision yet, Courtney. He had a meeting this morning with representatives of all the services, with the chairman, with personnel & readiness, with us in public affairs.   
 
                And we had a lengthy and good discussion about it. There's still some more work to be done. He's had -- he's put out some taskers.   
 
                And so he's not yet in a position to make a decision. But I think he still wants to do something sooner than later. I think he just wants -- he's having some people particularly reach out to family organizations to get their -- some more of their input into all this. But he's still working through this right now. 
 
                Q     What kind of questions -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, just as -- 
 
                Q     What kind of questions is -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: -- just as I said, I mean, he's asked that we do some more outreach to family organizations and gauge a little bit better their concerns about this matter. So that's an example of one. 
 
                All right. I'll give you these last two, and then I'm going. 
 
                Q     Just following up on that really quickly, what was the recommendation from the internal group that was tasked with reviewing this? Because -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: I -- you know, I -- everybody weighed in. I think everybody had thoughts. And -- but I'm not going to -- I don't think it's fair for me to, again, speak to what individuals were recommending. I think everybody had thoughts. I think we're still working through it. And hopefully in the next -- in the coming days we'll be able to come back and tell you where he wants to go with this. 
 
                Q     (Off mike) -- that he's asked for these taskers? 
 
                MR. MORRELL: All -- like all his taskers, they are -- they can be quantified in hours better than days. (Chuckles.) 
 
                Yeah, go ahead. 
 
                Q     Very quickly, the -- President Obama did talk about increasing the pay for troops. Is there any plan under way? And what are we talking about? 
 
                And just -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah? 
 
                Q     -- one more that you can address. Barney Frank yesterday mentioned that -- on camera that he thought the defense budget could be cut by $160 billion. Is that realistic? Is that something -- 
 
                MR. MORRELL: We would obviously disagree with that assessment. And as for the pay issues, I'd have to look into them. 
 
                Thanks. 
 
     (C) COPYRIGHT 2009, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1000 VERMONT AVE. NW; 5TH FLOOR; WASHINGTON, DC - 20005, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.
 
     UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.
 
     FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.
 
     FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL CARINA NYBERG AT 202-347-1400.

Additional Links

Stay Connected