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DoD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell
September 30, 2009

                 MR. MORRELL:  Good afternoon.  Great to see you guys, as always. I have a meeting at 1:45, so we're going to have to hold this briefing to about a half an hour or so.  So let me quickly make a couple of brief announcements, and then we'll take your questions. 

 

                I'm very pleased to report that the first seven M-ATVs, the all- terrain version of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles, will be arriving in Afghanistan overnight.  That is really an extraordinary achievement considering that the contract for production of these highly maneuverable armored trucks was awarded to the Oshkosh Corporation just three months ago. 

 

                Yesterday, three M-ATVs were loaded onto a C-17 and four onto a C-5 at the Charleston Air Force Base and flown to Afghanistan.  That is just the first wave of a massive production and transportation program that will see at least 6,644 of these life-saving vehicles delivered to our forces in Afghanistan over the next year or so, making it one of the fastest and highest-priority acquisition programs in the history of the Defense Department. 

 

                These new vehicles are urgently needed because improvised explosive devices are claiming the lives of more U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan than ever before.  The hope is that the M-ATVs will have the same impact in Afghanistan as the MRAPs did in Iraq, providing our troops the best counter-IED protection money can buy so that they can defeat the terrorist networks responsible for planting these bombs, and ultimately win the trust and confidence of the Afghan people. 

 

                With so much riding on this program, of course Secretary Gates will be watching it like a hawk in the coming months, just as he did the MRAPs. 

 

                Next, on Monday evening, Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will participate in an hour-long joint interview about American power and persuasion at George Washington University.  It will be conducted by Frank Sesno, the director of the GW School of Media and Public Affairs, and CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. 

 

                The discussion will take place before an audience of students and faculty at the Lisner Auditorium, and will be broadcast the following afternoon as part of a CNN special program that will air around the world. 

 

                And with that out of the way, I'm happy to take your questions. 

 

                Lara . 

 

                Q     Geoff, what is the posture that the secretary is taking into -- on Afghanistan that the secretary is taking into the principals meeting today?  What's his message going to be as he walks in? 

 

                And also, on the ground, is it safe to assume that, as the administration tries to decide what the strategy is going to be going forward, that the mission on the ground is the status quo, or are there plans to ramp up in the north and the west, as some of the locals have been asking? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Let's take these in order, if I could. 

 

                The first one is you're asking me to share with you the message that Secretary Gates will be providing the commander in chief during a private, secure conversation in the situation room of the White House this afternoon. 

 

                Q   (Laughs.) 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  It was a good try, but I'm hardly going to take that bait. 

 

                I mean, the president deserves from Secretary Gates, as he deserves from all his advisers, frankly, the opportunity to hear from him very candid advice, within the -- within the confines of that secure environment.  And I don't think it's appropriate for me or anybody else to be discussing what they are going to be telling the president or going to be discussing with the president in this session or any of the follow-on sessions that will take place over the next few weeks. 

 

                I mean, I think the secretary, clearly based upon his appearances on a couple of the Sunday talk shows last week -- or earlier this week, as it were -- you know, once again made it clear sort of that he  is as yet undecided about what the appropriate tack should be going forward in Afghanistan.  But I think he clearly also signaled to you that some of his concerns that he had raised over the -- over the months preceding have been -- have been mitigated by -- during his conversations with General McChrystal.  But I think he is going in, as I said, open minded, undecided, willing to engage in this discussion -- in these discussions that will take place over the next at least couple of weeks. 

 

                Q   And the on-the-ground status? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  You know, I mean, I think you heard General McChrystal talk about, particularly in the "60 Minutes" interview over the weekend -- and the secretary reiterated it in his appearances on the Sunday shows -- that the situation in Afghanistan that they found -- that General McChrystal found when he arrived is clearly worse than he had anticipated. 

 

                And one of the areas or two of the areas where it is clearly worse is in the north and in the west, two parts of the country that we thought were -- were largely secure.  We've seen pockets of problems in the north, particularly in Kunduz, and in the west, particularly in Herat, that are of concern.  And I think the commander and -- and Lieutenant General Rodriguez will have to make some determinations about whether that requires an adjustment in the resources allocated to those areas.  But I know of no decision that -- you know, that would warrant an announcement or that would mark a clear change of strategy towards those areas. 

 

                Yeah, Jeff. 

 

                Q     Can you talk about what aid has gone to American Samoa for tsunami relief? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I can.  Are we done with Afghanistan?  I'm happy to come back to that, Jeff. 

 

                Q     Okay. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  All right.  Let's keep -- I'll be with you in one moment. 

 

                Yeah, Yochi. 

 

                Q     You mentioned a moment ago the secretary was undecided about which tack to take.  Does that mean that in this sort of first principal’s review at the White House that the secretary personally is also not convinced that a counterinsurgency strategy is the right approach? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I don't want to do your reporting work for you, but I think you could clearly, over the past several weeks, listen to the -- listen to the secretary's statements and draw inferences about where his concerns lie and where they don't.  I think he's been clearly very forthright about his concerns about trying to do a limited offshore, remote -- however you want to characterize it -- counterterrorism operation.  He has expressed concern in the past about too large a footprint, the kind of footprint some would argue is necessitated by a full-scale counterinsurgency operation.  He had since expressed to you the fact that some of those concerns had been mitigated by what he's heard from General McChrystal. 

 

                I think he is -- his thinking on this is evolving, but I don't think he has come to a final determination on what he believes to be the appropriate course going forward.  I think you can determine there are certain things he believes are not the appropriate path, but I don't think he has come to a final determination on what precisely the path should be from here on out. 

 

                I know that's not an entirely satisfying answer, but the truth is he is going into a process -- I mean, this is -- we say going into; I noticed the articles talked about this beginning in earnest.  The truth of the matter is there was a previous discussion with all these same characters, save for the commanders, a few weeks ago.  But today will be the second sort of major session with all the principal national security advisers to the president, the added benefit being with this one that you're going to hear from General McChrystal, you're going to hear from General Petraeus.  You're also going to hear from Ambassador Eikenberry and Ambassador Patterson from Pakistan.  So I think the president, and the secretary for that matter, will gain a real benefit from hearing from the people who are closest to the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

 

                Q     Just a follow-up, briefly.  When Admiral Mullen was testifying, I guess a week or so ago, it sounded as if he personally was onboard with the counterinsurgency strategy.  General Petraeus' public remarks a few days ago sounded the same.  So is it right that the uniformed side is sort of behind counterinsurgency as the approach, but the secretary is still -- as you say, his view is still evolving, and he's not as firmly behind it? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  If that's the crib-note version of the situation, I guess I wouldn't quibble with it.  I mean, I think, clearly, the senior military representatives who have equities here -- General McChrystal, General Petraeus and the chairman -- have all stated publicly their view of counterinsurgency as the preferred method of dealing with the threat we face in Afghanistan. 

 

                I think the secretary, as you've heard in the past, has clearly been a strong proponent of counterinsurgency.  But he wants to have a thorough discussion, with the president and the rest of the national security team, about whether that does remain the best way to pursue our enemies, in Afghanistan, and ultimately bring a level of peace and security there, so that it no longer poses a threat to us or our allies.   

 

                Sorry I can't be more specific than that.   

 

                Yeah.   

 

                Q     Geoff, in March, the overall objective was set as disrupt and destroy al Qaeda and prevent the establishment of a safe haven. Does Secretary Gates still feel comfortable with that as the overall objective?  Or does he believe that that too should be discussed as part of these?   

 

                MR. MORRELL:  No, no, and I don't think the president is questioning the objective.  I mean, the objective is clearly still to disrupt, dismantle and destroy al Qaeda.  And that was laid out for us in March.   

 

                That was the end.  The means that were articulated then were counterinsurgency.  And I think the discussion focuses now less along what the ends should be but whether or not counterinsurgency is still the preferred means of achieving that end.   

 

                But I don't think there's any -- I don't get the sense that there's any at all second-guessing, about whether or not that should be our goal in Afghanistan.  It has to be our goal.  That's where we were attacked from on 9/11.  And there is still a threat that emanates from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.  And it has to be dealt with.   

 

                Q     Because if you talk to some uniformed military types, they will say that, you know, their strategy that General McChrystal has laid out is to meet that very specific goal.  And if you wanted to change their strategy, you should change that goal.   

 

                Maybe just disrupt al Qaeda or maybe leave aside the safe haven issue and just say, disrupt al Qaeda.  And if you had a more limited goal, then you could have perhaps a counterterrorism strategy or some other kind of strategy.   

 

                But they argue that the --  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I'd take it a step further surely.  And I'd say that not only does General McChrystal's assessment deal with that as the ends, it deals with COIN as the means to that -- ends.  That's what -- those were his marching orders when he hit the ground in June of this year.  It is only after this -- he has submitted this that there is now a discussion about whether that should continue to be the means by which we achieve those ends. 

 

                So if there is a change in the direction we're taking in Afghanistan, there would -- that would necessitate a change in how General McChrystal goes about his business on the ground there.   Did that -- did I not answer your question directly? 

 

                Come again.  Maybe I didn't quite get it. 

 

                Q   No.  I mean it just -- they would -- some people in the uniformed military would say, you know, to -- that the only way to, you know, totally destroy al Qaeda and prevent a safe haven is to do a full-on counterinsurgency, and that anything less would not achieve that objective. 

 

                So if you want to do something less, you should alternate the objective as opposed to, you know -- and then once you quibble with the objective, then your strategy changes. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yeah.  Yeah.  I always hesitate to characterize, you know, people in uniform, the military experts -- things of that nature.  I think that there are -- the president is going to hear from, in this process, the person who is closest to the situation on the ground, his commander, General McChrystal. 

 

                He's going to hear from the regional commander, General Petraeus. He's going to hear from the chairman, and he's going to hear from Secretary Gates.  And I think that those voices, as well as the -- you know, those voices on the civilian side, the diplomats operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, will give him the perspective that he probably needs to make an informed decision about the ends and the means to achieve them. 

 

                I think one thing that I should make very clear to you is that the president has assured the secretary that the commanders will have as much time as they need to make their case to him.  That begins today in this three-hour session this afternoon.  And if -- I would imagine that if follow-on communications are required via teleconference or otherwise, that there will be arrangements made.   

 

                But I think the secretary feels good; that there is -- that the president wants to make the -- take the time, make the time, to hear from those who are most intimately familiar with what we are facing in Afghanistan. 

 

                Q     Final -- if I could make -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yeah.  Yeah, Justin. 

 

                Q     Geoff, you said that the secretary's thinking is still evolving, but he knows what's not the appropriate path.  So what is not the appropriate path?   

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, listen.  I'm not going to go through a list of what's on or off the table in his mind.  But I think you have heard public statements from him about a number of the strategies that are supposedly under discussion.  And I think, at least on one of those, he has been pretty emphatic about the -- its utility or lack thereof, in his estimation. 

 

                Q     Can you expand on that?  Just -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I mean, I -- Justin, I don't know how much more expansion -- do you -- does anybody need help with my expansion on this one? 

 

                Q     If I could follow -- 

 

                Q     I mean, I'm just asking you to explain what he talked about. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I think we -- you guys asked him personally a few weeks ago about what he thought of George Will's column, which advocated a limited counterterrorism operation using mostly drones and small special-operation forces, and really reducing our presence in Afghanistan to sort of what would be minimally required to track terrorists and capture and kill them.  And I think he made it abundantly clear to you then, as I think he did, frankly, on at least one of the Sunday shows over the weekend, that he does not think that is a path to success in Afghanistan.   

 

                I think we've tried that before with little to no success.  In fact, some would argue that we paid the price for it on 9/11.  And so I think he has been very clear, at least on that issue, where he stands. 

 

                Q     Then by process of elimination we could assume that COIN is the way to go for the secretary. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I would be very leery of engaging in games such as the process of elimination, because these are much more sophisticated conversations than just either/or. 

 

                Yeah, Al.   

 

                Q     Well, right along that line, if the goals are what the president stated and counterinsurgency is the overall approach, are they then discussing maybe a different type of counterinsurgency, or a limited type, or some sort of hybrid? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  (Inaudible) -- could be.  I'm -- I don't feel comfortable speaking to what the president and his chief national security advisers are going to be discussing this afternoon.  Frankly, I don't know what they're going to be discussing this afternoon.  But if I did, I don't think it's appropriate for me to share it with you at this point. 

 

                I think at some point the president and his team will make a decision and probably share with you the -- their thinking and the discussions that led to that decision.  But we're just in the beginning of this process.  And I don't think it's appropriate at this juncture. 

 

                Q     I understand you're not going to get into the details, or you wouldn't if you knew.  But you talked in broad strokes about the goals and about counterinsurgency.   

 

                So you know, the question is, if counterinsurgency is the approach, and General McChrystal as the military commander has laid out what he needs to do that, then in general terms, what is the discussion about?  Is it about doing it more slowly, doing it differently, doing it with fewer troops, or what?   

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I think the discussion is about, as we've said time and time again, it's been six months since that strategy and that goal were set out by the president.  A lot has happened over the intervening six months.  We have added nearly 22,000 forces.  Our NATO allies have added thousands of forces.   

 

                We've had an election that took place, which was successful security-wise but clearly questionable in terms of the outcome, given that there is an investigation at least ongoing, into whether or not there are a number of fraudulent ballots that may have tipped the election.   

 

                The secretary has added just recently additional counter-IED assets.  We're having -- you know, we've got record operational tempo; at the same time, record U.S. and coalition casualties.   

 

                August, last month, was the deadliest month of this conflict. We're seeing more wounded than we've ever seen in Afghanistan.  We've seen increased military pressure on the other side of the border, in Pakistan, that is heartening.   

 

                We've had success in killing Baitullah Mehsud.  There's a litany of things clearly, Al, that have developed in the six months since this was unveiled.  And I think this is a natural reflection point to sort of stop and assess, okay, what's happened over the past six months?   

 

                What have we achieved?  What have we failed to achieve?  Do we believe that this is the right path to continue on?  Or do we maybe make modifications or a wholesale adjustment?  And what are the resources required to carry that on?   

 

                Those are the kinds of things, I believe, that will be discussed in this session and the ones that follow.  And there are -- you know, the White House provided you with a list of a dozen people, who will be speaking with the president as part of this.   

 

                I -- there are probably a lot of opinions about all this, and he'll hear from them all, because that is his nature.   He is a -- he is a decision maker who likes to hear from a variety of people, get as much input as he can; he'll absorb it, digest it, and ultimately make a decision.  But the secretary, the chairman, the commander are all completely comfortable with this process and are looking forward to it. 

 

                Q     (Off mike.) 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  At some point -- at some point -- at some point, resources will clearly be a part of the discussion, at some point. We're not there yet.  It has not been injected into this process yet. But there will become a point when the secretary and the president decide, okay, let's -- let's interject resources because the discussion has evolved to the point where we're ready to consider that as well. 

 

                Yeah, Mike. 

 

                Q     Change of topic?   

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Are done on this, last three on this?  Yeah, go. Brian. 

 

                Q     It may be a difficult question to answer, but on timing --  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Because the rest have been easy.  (Laughter.)  

 

                Q     Well, sort of looking into the future, can you give us some sense of the timing of all of this process? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I think -- I can only give you the sense that's been shared by the secretary and -- again, not to cite them incessantly, but the Sunday shows.  The secretary talked about this not -- he does not believe this will take unduly long.  He laid down the notion of it being a matter of weeks.  And he put in perspective the fact that for the Bush administration to come to a resolution about whether or not to surge significant number of forces in Iraq, it took three months.  And Secretary Gates was a part of that process. 

 

                So I don't think he has any expectation that it will require that amount of time to come to a decision on whether or not we are on the right course or whether it needs to be adjusted and how to resource it accordingly. 

 

                So I think weeks is -- is my understanding. 

 

                Q     The reason why I ask is there's obviously been some concern expressed, I think most recently by Senator Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee that this should not be a rushed process, given that resources are a big part of that. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I don't know anybody who would describe this as a rushed process.  Nor would I -- nor would I say it is unduly slow.  I think it is probably taking the right amount -- taking -- is probably progressing at the right pace.  But I don't think anybody in this building, certainly, would describe it as a rushed process.  

 

                I think it is proceeding at the pace which we are all comfortable. 

 

                Yes. 

 

                Q     Thanks, Geoff.  Geoff, many believe that immediate problem in Afghanistan is not by -- solving to send more forces, but also to have cooperation from the regional countries, and especially from Pakistan.  General McChrystal -- last week he clearly said that there is a problem in -- as far as dealing with Pakistan and training camps and going -- Taliban and al Qaeda’s are coming from Pakistan.  So what do you think that he will lay down, the new strategy as far as dealing with Pakistan now, after the eight years that we have been dealing -- or U.S. has been dealing with Pakistan?  What will we do now? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, I'm not going to speak to the assessment, because that is still what we would view as a document that's best not discussed in public at this point.  I know that may be a little naive of me.  But I'm not going to -- not going to go down into what he says in the assessment about Pakistan. 

 

                I can just speak to the fact that we have seen great progress by the Pakistani military over the past several months -- you know, nearly a year now, probably.  And we are pleased with that progress. The issue had always been the willingness, the ability of the Pakistani military to sustain their operations, to sustain the pressure they need to put on the terrorist and extremist groups in their midst.  And I think they have shown over the past several months the ability, the -- to sustain pressure on those groups.  And that's key to our success in Afghanistan. 

 

                One of the things that you will look to historically is, what prompted the decline in the security situation in Afghanistan in 2005, 2006 was the Pakistani military letting up the pressure on the militants on their side of the border, which enabled them the freedom to move throughout that region and across the border into Afghanistan, conduct operations there, retreat across the border into their safe haven in Pakistan.  That clearly had a deleterious effect on the situation in Afghanistan.   

 

                So we need the pressure from the Pakistani side of the border, for us ultimately to be successful in Afghanistan, just as the Pakistanis need us and the Afghan military -- the Afghan military to maintain pressure on the Afghan side of the border, so that the militants don't become even stronger in Pakistan than they have been.   

 

                So this is very much a cooperative endeavor to achieve a mutual goal of defeating the terrorists, who wish to unseat both these governments and pose a real threat, to the peoples who live there and to us and our allies around the world.   

 

                Q     Also at this time between the U.S. and India, as they're dealing with Afghanistan, is anything going on?  Because the U.S. is selling almost $3.2 billion of arms to India.    

 

                Any deal there, as far as bringing India into Afghanistan or dealing with problems in Afghanistan?   

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, I think, India -- I mean, we've been over this.  You've asked me this question several times, if I recall correctly.   

 

                India obviously is an important regional player.  It has a strong relationship with the government of Afghanistan, a country that is in desperate need of financial investment.  India has provided a lot of that, and that is clearly needed.   

 

                So I think all the regional players are needed, to play a cooperative role in turning around the situation in Afghanistan.  It is a desperately poor country with a -- you know, with a real, destabilizing influence in its midst, in the form of these militants.   

 

                So we need help from India.  We need help from Pakistan.  We need a much more positive role being played by Iran.  We need help from all the regional players, so anyway.   

 

                Okay, Mike.   

 

                That's it on this.   

 

                Q     One last quick one:  On Afghanistan, is Secretary Gates dismayed by the firing of Ambassador Galbraith?   

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I have not had a conversation with him about it.   

 

                He doesn't work for us.  He works for the State Department or the U.N. or somebody; doesn't work for us.  I have no opinion on the matter.   

 

                Yeah, Courtney.   

 

                Q     So the resource request will not be on the subject today.   It will not be in the discussions at today's meeting.   

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I do not believe so, no.   

 

                Q     Okay.   

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I think it remains locked in his desk drawer.   

 

                Q     A week for the whole question of strategy to be resolved, not whether or not we're going to bring -- that's not the timeline for when the resources will be --  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  No.  I think -- I think that would encompass solving this issue.   

 

                Yeah, okay.   

 

                Q     Sorry, totally different topic or totally different story.   

 

                There have been 59 earmarks added into the operations budget by senators, I think, totaling something like $171 million.  This is the same budget that you've said falls about 3 billion short, for what's needed by the Pentagon.   

 

                Are these earmarks the Pentagon needs?  Have you all looked at them yet?   

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well -- 

 

                Q     And is this something you think that many of them or all of them are needed? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I think, Mike, I would answer this question by repeating a mantra which you've heard from Secretary Gates time and time again:  Every dollar that we are forced to spend on things we do not need takes away dollars from things we do need.   

 

                And that, frankly, is a trade-off that is a loser for our troops and for the American taxpayer. 

 

                As for cuts in operation and maintenance funding, that is obviously something we frown upon.  It is -- that money is vital to our -- to maintaining the readiness of our forces and conducting our operations around the world.  So I think that's what I'd --  

 

                Q     Is there a list we can get of some of these earmarks that you think are not worthwhile and senators that have --  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  No.  I don't think we gain by getting into this -- getting into individual appropriations and who sponsors them and things of that nature.  I think we've been very, very clear with the Congress, with the American people about how we feel about dollars being spent on things which are -- which we don't need, which are excess to our needs, which we have enough of already, and how that forces us to take dollars away from things which we do need.  And that is a -- that's a loser for everyone. 

 

                Q     Is it appropriate that -- I think, even though this is how things work -- is it appropriate that senators or representatives are making these decisions --  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, senators -- they appropriate.  The Congress appropriates our funds.  I mean, that's their role in this wonderful democracy of ours.  And I don't think anybody in this building takes issue with that, or would want to change that. 

 

                But I think all we can do is what we've done, which is make clear to the Congress, to the American people that every dollar that we are  forced to spend on things which we do not need requires us to take money from things which we do need.  And the people who lose in that trade-off are our troops and the taxpayers. 

 

                And operations and maintenance funding is vitally important to this department.   

 

                It is what allows us to maintain the readiness of our troops and conduct our operations around the world.  And given all that is being asked of the military these days, it is more important than ever. 

 

                Okay?  Yes? 

 

                Q     You came out very bullish on Oshkosh and the effect of these -- the M-ATVs going over. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yeah. 

 

                Q     What's the confidence level of the department that this company can meet the schedules?  This is one of the largest contracts, defense contracts, if not the largest they've ever had, and there's been some whispers that they may not be able to meet the production schedule. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yeah, I haven't heard those whispers.  I choose not to listen to whispers.  I choose to listen to on-the-record statements. 

 

                Q     What's the department's view, the confidence level, that they can deliver --  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I think -- I think we are very confident in their abilities.  We wouldn't have rewarded the contract to them if we weren't confident in their ability to deliver on it, especially given that this is such a high priority for the secretary, for this department, for our war fighters. 

 

                I think that Undersecretary Carter has a high degree of confidence in Oshkosh's ability to deliver.  And thus far, as last I checked, they were, I think, ahead of schedule in their monthly production rates. 

 

                Obviously, there's a huge ramp-up here, and this is -- these are the easy months.  But they'll, I think, peak at producing a thousand of these vehicles a month, which is obviously a lot to ask of them. But I think they believe they can do it, we believe they can do it, but they're going to have a lot of oversight in the process.  And there will be a lot of people watching to make sure that they are on pace, that they are delivering on their promises, that they are upholding their contractual obligations, and that we are getting our forces the armor -- the armored vehicles they need to deal with the growing IED threat in Afghanistan. 

 

                Q     Remember on the MRAP, Mr. Gates designated it as -- the top acquisition priority.  There was some designation --  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  DX? 

 

                Q     DX, yes. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  The program still enjoys that rating, yes. 

 

                Q     This new one, will this also enjoy that rating? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yes, yes.  But that's mostly for -- that's mostly for materials.  It's mostly for ballistic steel.  So we still have that same DX rating on this program and in our steel acquisition, so that we are the -- we, as a consumer of ballistic steel, we get priority above anybody else in this country. 

 

                Couple more, and then I got to run.  Jeff ? 

 

                Q     Samoa?  Samoa? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Okay, Samoa.  Luis, and then Samoa.  

 

                Q     (Off mike.) 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Okay, Samoa. 

 

                Q     Thanks. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Samoa, Samoa, Samoa.  

 

                Let me just go to my notes, because I don't -- so.  Obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with all of those who've been affected by this tsunami in American Samoa. 

 

                The Federal Emergency Management Agency is working this problem, given that it's a United States territory.  They have made several requests of the department thus far.  Let me just read you a few of them.  We have activated the Defense coordinating officers and Defense coordinating elements, which I guess are military personnel who interface with local officials on the ground to determine what precisely we could be offering them that would be assistance to them in this hour of need.   

 

                We are providing Travis Air Force Base in California, Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, Andersen Air Force Base in Guam as base support installations.  These are basically staging areas for operations to provide aid and assistance to those in American Samoa.  We're going to be providing medical triage, Hazmat response, mass-casualty care and strategic airlift.  That's sort of the -- what the focus at the outset will be of our assistance. 

 

                I can tell you that The United States Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) has two C-17 missions scheduled today with cargo and personnel, the first of which is scheduled to take off at 1500 Eastern, followed by a second flight at 1900 Eastern. And the DX rating is en route with an estimated arrival time of 1900 Eastern today.  So that is where we are focused right now with our efforts.   

 

                As with all natural disasters, we can give you updates as -- over the course of the day, but that's where our focus is at this moment. 

 

                Okay? 

 

                Q     What is the Ingraham bringing?  Does it have hospital facilities or -- 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Well, I think it probably has the kinds of things I enunciated earlier, which is medical triage, Hazmat, mass-casualty care, strategic airlift.  Those kinds of things can be provided via the C-17 flights and the Ingraham, which will be off shore. 

 

                Okay? 

 

                Q     What kind of -- the Ingraham, is it a destroyer? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  It's -- what is it? 

 

                STAFF:  Get you a fact sheet on that. 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  What kind of ship is it?  Do we know?  I don't know.  We'll get you all those.  Sorry, buddy. 

 

                Okay?   

 

                Q     (Off mike) --  

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Thank you all.  Appreciate it. 

 

                Oh, Luis.  What?  Luis, quickly. 

 

                Q     Where does the secretary stand on -- (audio break) -- soldiers? 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  I haven't talked to him.  Haven't asked him. 

 

                Q     (Off mike) 

 

                MR. MORRELL:  Haven't asked him. 

 

                Q     Female soldiers will be -- (off mike).  (Laughter.)

 

 

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