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Media Availability with Secretary Gates at the Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Illinois

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
July 17, 2009

                SEC. GATES:  It was inspiring to watch the graduation of the brand-new sailors this morning, being able to participate in that. 

 

                And it's also been educational.  It's a good training experience for me in finding out how the recruits are trained.  I had lunch with about 10 of the -- those responsible for their training and was just amazed by their dedication, the amount of hours they put in, in trying to get these young men and women ready to be members of the United States Navy, to be good sailors.  It was a great experience.  I think we're in really good shape, very good hands. 

 

                Q     Sir, can I get your remarks on John McCain trying to kill the F-22 of the Department of Defense bill?

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, actually it's a joint amendment that has been submitted, and it's bipartisan.  Senator McCain is one of the sponsors, but the other sponsor is Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  So I think they -- their collaboration in this is the best of bipartisanship, and they're doing what's (inaudible).

 

                Q     One more question, please.  The hate crimes amendment that's being attached to the Defense authorization bill -- can you just talk on that?

 

                SEC. GATES:  You know, I'm not any expert on it in terms of whether it's part of our bill (inaudible) -- how they structure the legislation.  But I don't have a view on that at all.

 

                Q     But my understanding was, you were upset up about it.  That's not true?

 

                SEC. GATES:  That's not true.

 

                Q     Secretary, the Boeing Company, which is based in Chicago --

 

                SEC. GATES:  (Off mike.)

 

                Q     The Boeing Company, which is based here in Chicago, just had to lay off about a thousand workers.  (Off mike) -- missile defense systems.  (Off mike) -- are those cuts indicative of a large spending shift?  Are you -- (off mike)?

 

                SEC. GATES:  No, the truth of the matter is, it's a rebalancing.  And you know, a good example is the F-22 that we just discussed.  There are today about 24,000 direct employees involved in the production of the F-22.  That will go down to about 19,000 next year and 13,000 in 2011.

 

                On the other hand, the money we're putting into the F-35 -- the F-35 already has 38,000 employees.  It will go to 64,000 employees in the next -- next year and ultimately will be 82,000 employees in FY '11. 

 

                So while there may be some job losses with respect to the F-22, there will be significant -- thousands and thousands of new jobs created with the F-35 program.

 

                And so there are a lot of programs that we've plussed up and where people will be hired and doing the work.  There will be others -- (off mike) -- capabilities.  But overall, there's really no reduction in our spending; it's a matter of priorities.

 

                Q     Your thoughts on the Jakarta hotel bombing?

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, it's a tragedy, and if, as -- the only -- basically, the only thing I know about it is what I saw on the television news this morning.  But you know, what's there to say except what we say after all these terrorist attacks -- that it truly is a horrible thing when people kill innocents to try to make (inaudible) political point.

 

Q     Sir, is it your understanding that JI was behind the bombing?

 

                SEC. GATES:  It's what I saw on the news, that’s all I know --

 

                STAFF:  (Off mike.)

 

                STAFF:  Okay. 

 

                Q     Secretary Gates, the -- (off mike) -- the footprint in Afghanistan.  We have the ceiling -- (off mike).

 

                SEC. GATES:  No, I -- what I've said all along is, we have -- General McChrystal is doing an evaluation of -- an assessment of what it takes to implement the president's strategy in Afghanistan.  I expect to get that report from him in the next few weeks.  And I have communicated personally to both General Petraeus and General McChrystal that I want them to feel that they can ask for whatever they genuinely feel they need, and then we'll evaluate that.  And I also said I do become concerned at some point that our footprint gets too big -- the foreign military footprint gets too big.  This is the Afghans' war, and we are there as their partners and their friends, and that's the whole thrust of General McChrystal's strategy.  And so I'm awaiting his assessment, and we will make a rigorous evaluation of it.

 

                Q     Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen has said you've said that Afghanistan is our number-one priority.  Is there a danger, as we're building up in Afghanistan and winding down in Iraq, that the United States loses focus on Iraq and the administration does --

 

                SEC. GATES:  No, I don't think so.  I mean, we've got -- General Odierno is just an extraordinary general and doing an incredible job.  We have an extraordinary new ambassador there.

 

                We have -- we still have 130,000 troops, or thereabouts, in Iraq, and I don't think that any of those people are losing their focus.  I think that as the vice president and others have made clear, what's important is for the Iraqis now, while we're still there, to take advantage of that opportunity to resolve some of the unfinished political business that they have.

 

                Q     Is there shift of attention at the Pentagon towards Afghanistan?

 

                SEC. GATES:  (Inaudible).

 

                STAFF:  Okay.  Thank you.

 

                STAFF:  Thank you all.

 

 

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