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DOD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell
March 23, 2010
                MR. MORRELL: Good afternoon. Good to see you all. 
                This is a busy week for Secretary Gates. So I want to provide you with a quick rundown of the schedule, and then we'll get to your questions. 
                As most of you know, the secretary's in Mexico City right now.  He, along with Admiral Mullen, are part of the U.S. delegation led by Secretary Clinton participating in the U.S.-Mexico Merida high-level group meeting. The Merida Initiative is a three-year effort by the United States to assist partners nations in our region, including Mexico, as they combat drug trafficking and violence by organized crime elements. 
                Under President Calderon, the government of Mexico has taken strong actions to address these security threats. They are making some progress, but have paid a high price for their brave stand. We applaud their commitment, but also mourn their losses of military and law enforcement personnel. Those sacrifices have only made our two nations more determined to work together to combat these criminal groups. To that end, we are providing intelligence and surveillance support, communications gear and mobility assets. 
                Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen met this morning with the Mexican secretary of defense, General Galvan, and the secretary of the navy, Admiral Saynez, to discuss what more we can do on a military-to-military basis to coordinate and develop a comprehensive approach to counternarcotics planning and operations. They talked about improving bilateral information sharing, joint defense cooperation, and the need for transparency and accountability on human rights. 
                The secretary and the chairman return home tonight, and will head up to Capitol Hill tomorrow morning to testify before the House Appropriations Committee Defense. This testimony will encompass the entire budget, including the overseas contingency operations and the supplemental request. 
                Thursday afternoon, the secretary will return to Capitol Hill for more testimony, only this time he's scheduled to appear with Secretary of State Clinton before the Senate Appropriations Committee. His testimony will focus on the fiscal year's supplemental request, totaling $33 billion, for, among other things, the U.S. troop buildup in Afghanistan and training of Afghan national security forces. Secretary Gates will also use this joint testimony to highlight the close cooperation between State and Defense, and the importance of properly funded and integrated civil-military approach to the challenges we face in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. 
                Throughout the week, the secretary has been and will continue to conduct meetings with members of the high-level Pakistani government delegation visiting Washington -- meetings designed to strengthen, broaden and deepen the strategic partnership between our two nations. As many of you know, he met with General Kayani yesterday. Tomorrow he will head to the State Department, where he and Admiral Mullen will participate in a daylong strategic dialogue or -- or, pardon me, they'll participate in the opening of a daylong strategic dialogue.  He is also scheduled to meet with the Pakistani minister of defense on Thursday here at the Pentagon. 
                So, as you can see, there's a lot going on this week. With that, let's get to it. 
                Q     What increase, if any, will we see in military aid to Pakistan as a result of this week's talks? And do you -- has Pakistan been able to make a more compelling case for an increase in aid because of the recent Taliban arrests? 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, listen, I'm not going to in any way forecast what will result from this dialogue that's taking place this week. I think it would be a mistake, though, to in any way characterize it as a discussion of requests and replies. This is much broader than that.  This is -- this is an attempt that really began very early in the Obama administration, as I said earlier, to broaden, deepen and strengthen our long-term strategic relationship. 
                Obviously, we've had a mil-to-mil -- a very active mil-to-mil relationship since 9/11, as we've both been taking on terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan. And we've over the last few years attempted to develop that relationship much beyond just the military realm. 
                And so that's why this is being led by Secretary Clinton. The dialogue will be taking place at the State Department. 
                And I would not look at --- look to this at the end of it for there to be some great announcement about any hard items that are being produced as a result of the conversations. This is a dialogue designed to produce a better long-term strategic relationship between our two countries. This is not simply about asking and receiving items. 
                Obviously, there are things that we both need to work on to further this relationship, and we -- I think there's a clear desire to proceed down that road. 
                Yeah, Dan. 
                Q     Just on Pakistan; a different angle, though. You have President Karzai's government and the former U.N. representative expressing concern about Pakistan's arrest of some Taliban figures as somehow damaging or undermining its attempts to reconcile with the Taliban. What is -- what is Pakistan's proper role when it comes to reconciliation? And is there a danger there that Pakistan might dominate or somehow manipulate that process too much? 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I don't think I'm the best person to weigh in on that. I mean, if you want to try over at the State Department, you can do so. I just don't think it's appropriate for me to be offering my opinion on what the appropriate role of Pakistan would be in reconciliation efforts. Obviously, you know, this is an Afghan-led initiative, and we are supportive of their efforts to proceed down the path towards more -- a greater, a wider reconciliation effort. 
                Obviously, there are certain red lines that we both feel strongly about: the need for insurgents to lay down their arms, to respect that the government has a monopoly on military force within the country; a respect for the constitution and the democratically elected government; renouncing al Qaeda -- ties to al Qaeda; those kinds of things. 
                But I think more broadly you've heard the secretary talk several times over the past few months about his belief that there needs to be more progress made on the military side, the dynamic on the ground needs to change more, the momentum needs to shift more in our favor for there likely to be widespread reconciliation, for it to be a game changer. That's not to say that there shouldn't be outreach on the part of the Afghan government or by insurgent groups who wish to begin contacts with the government. But I think that ultimately it's going to require some more work on the ground for the insurgents to feel as though they do not have a chance at winning this conflict, and for them to reevaluate their hard-line stances that they've been taking. 
                Q     Can we at least say that Pakistan does have some role to play, and that that was discussed as part of the meetings that the secretary had? 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, you've heard how I've characterized their meetings thus far. I'm doing my best to keep that at a very high altitude. I'm not going to get into specifics about what's been discussed at any of these meetings. 
                Q     You mentioned some of the U.S. goals for Afghanistan. Based on your understanding of the views in the department, how closely aligned do you think Pakistan's goals are with U.S. goals for Afghanistan, which include becoming a strong democracy with a strong military, reasonably self-sufficient, et cetera? Is that what the Paks are looking for as well? 
                MR. MORRELL: I think it is in everybody's interest in the region for there to be peace and security, development and democracy on both sides of this border. That is what we are working for with the Afghan government. 
                That is what we are working for with the Pakistani government. And I think they both recognize it as an essential component to regional security. 
                Yeah, Mike. 
                Q     So you think the Pakistanis share that -- the goals for Afghanistan, then, in that regard? 
                MR. MORRELL: I think broadly speaking that the Pakistanis share the desire to live in peace and security with their neighbors. And an essential component to that is for there to be progress made against the terrorists that are trying to undermine efforts towards developing greater peace and security in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 
                Whether we all agree with every particular tactical decision to get to that point is another matter. But I think -- broadly speaking, I think everybody recognizes that the key to long-term peace and prosperity and security in the region is a respect for the democratically-elected governments in those countries, increased capability of the -- of the security forces in those countries, economic development that benefits a much wider group of the population. Those kinds of things are essential to long-term security in the region. 
                Yeah, Jeff. 
                Or, I'm sorry, Mike. 
                Q     With General Kayani in town as the head of the Pakistan army and a former head of the ISI[Inter-Services Intelligence], is Secretary Gates going to try and get a new pledge from the general that there will be less affiliation with the Taliban and Pakistan? 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah, again, I'm not going to go into any particulars of their conversations other than, as I've said to you before, that this is part of an ongoing effort months in the making, but that will culminate at least this week in a week-long strategic dialogue here to try to strengthen, broaden and deepen our long-term relationship. But I'm not going to get into the particulars. 
                Q     Geoff, could you give us an update about Iran's role in Afghanistan? We have seen in the past two days a lot of reports talking about Iran is giving Taliban militants training in -- on its own soil. Could you address that, please? 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, I think you've -- I've seen the reports you're referring to. I think you've heard Secretary Gates speak to the fact that he believes that Iran is playing a double game in Afghanistan: on the one hand, professing and providing support to the government at least on some level; and on the other hand, clearly trying to take measures to undermine the efforts of our forces and the coalition forces as they take on the Taliban and other -- and other insurgent groups. 
                There has thus far, as he said, been pretty limited support for groups in-country that are trying to undermine our efforts. And that support has ranged from arms -- providing arms, explosives training to the Taliban. However, you know, we have not seen anything, I think, on the scale that is being described in the story I think you're referring to, and certainly nothing on the scale that Iran has provided other groups in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas. 
                That said, you know, articles like that are of course concerning because we are not aware of perhaps all of the levels of support that the Iranian government provide to insurgents in Afghanistan. 
                Q     Any details -- any information about Iran is training the Taliban about how to use and how to -- how to use IEDs? 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, I think, as I said, we've seen -- we've seen some sporadic support for insurgents, as I mentioned, including providing arms and explosives, which would include IEDs. 
                Thus far, we have not seen anything like what we saw in Iraq in terms of this kind of interference. And in fact, in Iraq it became extraordinarily deadly with the -- with the providing of EFPs [Explosively Formed Projectiles] to many of the Shi'a groups that were attempting to undermine progress in Iraq. We have seen nothing on that scale in Afghanistan. 
                But we have, as we've talked about before, seen interference on the part of the Iranians in Afghanistan, an attempt to undermine our efforts and the coalition's efforts to bring peace and security there, and it is not helpful. And we implore them to play straight with the -- with the government of Afghanistan and the Afghan people, make their relationship much more one-dimensional than it is now, have it be focused on providing support and assistance to the Afghan government, and allow the Afghan forces and the coalition forces that are there to do their work, because ultimately Iran benefits from peace and security on both sides of its borders. 
                Q     Can I just follow up? 
                MR. MORRELL: No. I'm going to first stay over here. Thanks. 
                Yeah, Mike. 
                Q     Geoff, on Mexico -- 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, let's stay on this subject. We'll come back to Mexico. 
                Q     Okay. 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah, Julian. 
                Q     Over the weekend, I had a story on Bagram and the debate within the administration on the possibility that that prison could be used for out-of-theater detainees. And I was wondering if you are able to talk a little bit about what the view of the -- the leadership of this department's view -- what their view of using Bagram for terror suspects who are captured outside Afghanistan. 
                Is that a wise idea? 
                MR. MORRELL: So you're looking to do part deux of your -- of your Bagram story? One was not enough, Julian? 
                Q     No. It ran on a Sunday. 
                MR. MORRELL: It's amazing. 
                You know, frankly, I don't have much to add. I would say this. 
                I mean, it -- obviously, what to do with people that are picked up in certain parts of the world is a -- is a difficult question for -- you know, for all of the governments that are joined in this global war on terror. And it is an issue that -- that we and others have been wrestling with. It's an issue this administration has been wrestling with. It's an issue the last administration has been wrestling with. 
                But I think that any -- any attempt by you or others to suggest that there is some sort of decision made or movement towards putting such people in Bagram would not be accurate. 
                Obviously, you know, Bagram is being used. It's a very important facility for picking up people and taking them off the battlefield in Afghanistan. And that is the function that -- that it serves. At this point, nothing beyond that. 
                Q     Just to follow on Afghanistan and also U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue, during this meeting, since secretary had been in the region, including in Pakistan and Afghanistan, many times, during this meeting tomorrow and next day, do you think they will be discussing as far as according to many stories that Pakistan and Iran, they have some kind of a gas pipeline agreement? 
                And also, according to another story, there was some business between Pakistan and Iran as far as nuclear material was concerned. 
                And another day -- 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I mean, I -- let me just stop you there, because I'm just not going -- number one, I'm not going to get into it. But, number two, I'm not the appropriate person to get into it. 
                So any particular questions of that nature, I'd take over to the State Department. 
                Q     Thank you. 
                Second, the CIA director, Mr. Panetta, was saying last week that Osama bin Laden may be hiding in Pakistan, and now time has come to do more. And also many think tanks are saying that this meeting could be a platform for U.S. to push Pakistan -- (inaudible) -- 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah. Again, I'm just -- I'm not going to go into it. I don't have anything to add to Director Panetta's comments. 
                Q     (Inaudible.) 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah. And then we'll go to Mike. Sorry. Go ahead. 
                Q     Non-Pakistan bin Laden question? 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah. I think that it's about time. 
                Q     All right. 
                Where does the department stand on considering EADS' [European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company] request to extend the tanker solicitation 90 days? When do you feel you'll make a decision? Or when do you think you'll make a decision? 
                MR. MORRELL: You mean E-A-D-S? 
                Q     Yes. 
                MR. MORRELL: Yes, as they like to be called, not EADS or E-ADS. Anyway, Tony, we are -- we've obviously been contacted by EADS. They've expressed some interest in possibly bidding on the KC-X, the tanker replacement. We are right now engaged in active discussions with the company to better understand the reasons why they would need an extension, why they would want an extension. 
                I would say those conversations are going very well thus far. And we have not come to a conclusion and therefore have not made a decision yet about whether to extend the bidding period any further. 
                As you know, it's still open right now. This is -- this has been and continues to be a fair and open competition where we solicit bids from any and everybody who is qualified to bid on this huge procurement project. 
                And they are due -- the bidding is due to close I think on May the 10th. And we have nothing to announce yet as to whether or not that deadline might be extended. 
                Q     Have you gotten any interest from other American companies besides Boeing? 
                MR. MORRELL: I -- right now, Boeing is the only formal communication we've received in terms of bidding on the KC-X other than the conversations we're engaged in with EADS. And so I think that that's the extent of it at this point. 
                Q     For just a final question, can you put some closure to this "from Russia with tanker" tale that The Wall Street Journal put in play last week? The Russians are denying it. 
                Have any representatives of that company -- 
                MR. MORRELL: You want me to stick up for your paper? 
                Q     Well, let me finish the question. 
                Q     Have any representatives -- have any representatives from that company approached the department in the last couple of weeks? The attorney in Los Angeles who was flagging a lot of this said that their representatives actually got clearance from the department's general counsel. 
                So could you put some clarity -- some focus on this? 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah, what I said -- what I'll say to this is what I've said before, which is that we have received no formal communication from this Russian aerospace company. So we have no sense that they are interested in bidding on this project other than what we've read in the paper. 
                Obviously, it is an open competition, but it's open to qualified buyers [sic: bidders] and there are -- there are requirements in the RFP for a certain percentage or certain quotient of the business to be American- made. So I wouldn't be able to tell you whether they or anybody else would qualify under those -- those rules. 
                MR. MORRELL: And I don't know if they're interested in teaming up with somebody. We've received no formal communication from -- from this Russian company whatsoever. 
                Anything else on the tanker and anything of that nature? 
                Okay. Yeah? 
                Q     Last week -- last week The Washington Post had compared the wars of -- in Iraq and Afghanistan to the war on drugs in Mexico. I would like to know, on that -- he was saying that the U.S. is not doing enough to provide support -- enough support to Mexico. 
                Is anything else U.S. can do, maybe the Pentagon, to support the Mexican military in this war? 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, we're -- we're doing a lot, and yet there -- keep in mind that, historically, the Mexican government, the Mexican military in particular, has not been very solicitous of our help. They've been very -- in fact, very sensitive to accepting help from us in this regard. 
                I think, in the last two or three years, we've seen a change on that front, and Merida is part of that. It's been the vehicle through which we've engaged in greater cooperation, not just on a military-to- military basis, but on a government-to-government basis. 
                But I think we've provided, over the last couple years or few years, significant -- significant help. I think it's $1.3 billion to date has been provided from the United States to Mexico through the Merida Initiative. 
                We have provided -- just in our portion of that, $415 billion was appropriated in fiscal year '08 and '09, through foreign military financing funds to purchase aircraft, eight -- up to eight Bell helicopters, five Sikorsky helicopters, four CASAaircraft, all designed to improve Mexico's ability to deploy rapid-reaction forces in support of police operations against drug cartels and to conduct maritime surveillance in an effort to deny the use of the Eastern Pacific and Western Caribbean to transnational criminal organizations. 
                Thus far, five of the Bell helicopters have been delivered. And in 2010, one of the CASA aircraft will be delivered to the Navy, and three UH-60 helicopters to the Secretariat for Public Safety. 
                Outside of Merida, we've got 1206 funding that's been provided, $14 billion -- $14 million, pardon me, for equipment such as night- vision goggles, rigid-hull inflatable boats, personal protective equipment, digital media forensics, tactical communications equipment and specialized training. 
                MR. MORRELL: So there's clearly been a lot of support offered by this government and this department to our friends in Mexico over the last couple of years, but we're looking to work with them to see what more we both can do to try to combat this problem that, you know, is not just a threat to them. It's most immediately a threat to them, but obviously the drugs that eventually reach this country are a menace to our society as well. 
                Q     Do you think -- this is the third year of Merida Initiative. Do you think there will be another plan that continues this effort and -- 
                MR. MORRELL: Listen, I'd encourage you to take a look at -- I don't know if they're going to announce anything down there or if you want to ask the State Department. It's a State-led initiative. They would be the ones to announce any extension to it. 
                Q     And do you think this war can be compared to the same threat from Iraq and Afghanistan? 
                MR. MORRELL: I don't think so. Not from our perspective. Obviously, the Mexicans are -- have a -- have a -- you know, what has been described by many people as a war on their hands. 
                Obviously, our role in it is far different than the role that we are playing in Iraq and Afghanistan, where we have 200,000 troops on the ground in both -- you know, in both those countries combined. 
                So we do not have forces on the ground in Mexico. We have been providing assistance and hardware and advice and intelligence, things of that nature, but there is not a military role per se for us in Mexico. We hope there never will be. 
                Yeah. Mike. 
                Q     Geoff, I'm struck by the sheer number of senior government officials who are in Mexico today. And I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about the message of sending people from so many different agencies to Mexico, what that says to the Mexicans and to the world about our relationship with Mexico. 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, you're right. 
                I mean, I think sending a delegation of this stature to Mexico is a clear indication of the critical importance both we and the Mexican government, for that matter -- because they match us in terms of the horsepower that they're bringing to the table -- that we place on law enforcement cooperation, strengthening Mexican institutions, and other cooperative efforts to support the government of Mexico's campaign against organized crimes and drug trafficking organizations. 
                Clearly, to get people such as the secretary of State, the secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the secretary of Homeland Security, the director of National Intelligence, the president's counterterrorism adviser and the host of others who are down there, it shows our level of commitment to working with the Mexican government to help them combat this threat within their midst, and one that ultimately permeates into our country and becomes a threat to our citizens as well. So we are very much committed to this effort. 
                Q     Has the secretary made a decision on the more humane application of don't ask/don't tell? And, if so, when will it be announced? 
                MR. MORRELL: He is -- I think -- I think, Jeff, he is prepared to offer a way ahead on that subject this week. So stay tuned.  Hopefully you'll be seeing him later this week and can address the changes that he is going to be making to the -- to the department's policy to provide for a more humane enforcement and application of the law. 
                Q     This is going to sound like it's just a self-defeating question, but can you say what some of these new -- 
                MR. MORRELL: No, no. No, I don't think that would -- 
                Q     You think Thursday he might say this? 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, we've still got a -- we've still got three days left. So we'll -- you know, he's away today, but we've got Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. We're still working on nailing down a precise time. But you will in all likelihood see him this week on that subject. 
                Okay? Yochi. 
                Q     Geoff, during and immediately after the elections in Iraq, there was some happiness that there was no violence and some belief that, to the degree there'd be a delay, the delay would be in forming the government. We have now that delay, but you also have these attacks on the legitimacy of the balloting itself. Maliki wants a recount. Talabani wants a recount. So there appears to be just a baseline question about whether the voting itself was legitimate or it needs to be redone. 
                Has the department either -- is there -- is there a position here about whether there should be a recount? Or, in a different way, is there any more concern than there was, let's say, a week or two weeks ago, that instability politically there is becoming a security threat? 
                MR. MORRELL: The first part of your question is no, I don't -- we don't have a position on whether or not there should be a recount. You may want to see if the White House has a position on that. 
                I would note, however, just factually, that 12 million Iraqis went to the polls. Sixty-two percent of the electorate turned out; 10,000 polling and balloting places were protected by the Iraqi security forces. They performed admirably. They show that they're not just capable of pulling off a huge logistical and operational challenge, such as a nationwide election, safely, but they also showed definitively that they are more interested in protecting the people and democracy than they are in any particular government. 
                That said, in the days since the election -- now weeks since the election -- as the tabulation continues, I think it is very much worth noting that both the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq as well as the Arab League have come out and said that the elections appear to be -- to have been fair and free, and that there are only, by their estimation, I think, small irregularities, and they seem to be being dealt with by the Independent High Electoral Commission. 
                So we don't have a position on it, at least not that I'm aware of. The White House may. The State Department may. But I think it is worth noting that people in the region have viewed the elections to be free and fair and largely devoid of irregularities. 
                Q     Is there a date by which General Odierno would need to make a recommendation to the secretary about whether to keep that extra brigade in the north that he has talked about keeping in the north? 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, any dates or any conversations that they have I'm going to let stand between them. Obviously, we're at about 96,000 U.S. forces in Iraq right now. It has been General Odierno's desire to keep it at about that level through the formation of a government. Obviously, the longer that takes, the more problematic that becomes because the president has mandated that we be down to 50,000 -- no more -- forces in Iraq come September the 1st of this year. 
                That is why we and he -- we are clearly advocating that the Iraqi politicians who fared well in this election do everything they can to form a new government as quickly as possible. I think you've seen General Odierno and Ambassador Hill reach out and engage, and I think they will be able to offer whatever assistance they can or is needed to try to -- to try to propel that process. 
                But right now, the ballots are still being tabulated. I think they're due to all be counted by Friday. So I think hopefully by week's end we'll have a better indication of who won the election. But I think it's pretty clear right now that it's a very close count, and that there will likely have to be wheeling and dealing and accommodating and ultimately a coalition built that will -- that will govern -- that will govern Iraq into the future. 
                But I -- on the security -- the second part was not the security side? Oh, it was the drawdown. I don't see any reason at this point for us to deviate from the prescribed course of getting down to 50,000 forces by September the 1st. Obviously, there's still time. We're still in the process of tabulating votes, let alone forming a government. We're heartened by the fact that this period has been relatively violence-free. We certainly hope it continues in that way, and that we can peacefully form a new government and we can begin the rapid drawdown of American forces. 
                Yes, Jayhawk. 
                Q     Hi. 
                MR. MORRELL: Sorry about your loss. (Laughter.) 
                Q     Thanks. 
                Can you tell us about the schedule of the secretary's meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Okada? And what's the expected topics in the meeting? 
                MR. MORRELL: I have announced as much of the secretary's schedule as I'm prepared to announce at this point. I have no additional meetings to confirm at this point. 
                Q     Yeah, a Japan question. The Japanese just concluded a high-level ministerial meeting at which the prime minister was present. And they're -- seem to be focusing on the White Beach option and the Camp Schwab option. Have you had any feedback from that? 
And -- 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm not going to get into whether we have or we haven't. I, frankly, have said as much as can be said on this subject over the past several weeks. I don't think it serves anybody's purposes for me just to repeat myself on this subject. 
                The prime minister is going to take until May. We're fine with that, and we anxiously await word come May. 
                Q     Geoff, a follow on that? 
                MR. MORRELL: Yeah. How can you follow on that? How could you follow on that? (Laughs.) 
                Q     On the other end of that issue, though, is Guam, where I'm sure you saw The Washington Post story about increasing concerns and opposition on the island. Is the department looking at any changes to the plan or have any concerns about being able to implement the Guam part of the plan? 
                MR. MORRELL: No. I mean, obviously, this is a -- there are elements of this government that are working with the government of Guam in terms of dealing with the environmental impact study and making sure that we are taking into account whatever the impact would be of expanding our operations in Guam. And that's being -- you know, the Navy obviously has the lead for us, but the Environmental Protection folks in the U.S. government are working on this as well. 
                Q     So you're confident that the arrangements can be made where the island can absorb the additional personnel and operations? 
                MR. MORRELL: Yes. I mean, that's the whole -- we have a plan here that's been worked out, that's been thoroughly thought through. And we are confident that plan makes sense and that it will hopefully one day soon come to fruition. 
                Yes, Mike. 
                Q     I know that Secretary Gates was asked this question the other day, and you may have the same answer. But I wonder whether the -- 
                MR. MORRELL: If I didn't have the same answer, I would be in a lot of trouble. (Laughter.) 
                Q     Okay. I understand. 
                I just wonder whether all the facts have yet been collected about Michael Furlong and whether any conclusions have been made. 
                MR. MORRELL: Well, I can -- I can update that slightly today by saying that the secretary has directed a small team of senior military and Defense officials to conduct a quick-look assessment of DOD information operations programs, operations and procedures. The results of this assessment are designed to provide the secretary with a factual baseline from which to determine whether or not systemic problems exist, and if so proper scope and focus of subsequent corrective action. 
                This survey phase he has mandated be complete within 15 days. So they have embarked on their work and are due to report back to him -- I guess that would be early the second week of April. 
                Now, let me just point out one thing. The scope of this endeavor is as I described it. You asked about a specific individual related to a specific story. There is an ongoing investigation by investigative bodies in this building, including the IG, into the particulars of that case. That is not the scope of this particular effort. 
                They are going to focus on this particular case. This quick deep-dive that's being done is going to look at the overall information operations programs and whether or not there is proper oversight, guidelines and that sort of thing. 
                Q     Just to clarify, you're saying that they are looking specifically at IO [Information Operations] programs, but is it the use of contractors in those IO programs? Or is it just IO programs in general? 
                MR. MORRELL: It's everything. 
                Q     Beyond the Furlong case, were there other things that motivated this broader look that you're describing? And also, do you know who's leading the team? 
                MR. MORRELL: I do know who's leading the team, but we're not going to offer that. They're going to work anonymously, and they're going to get in and get out and do their work quickly and report back to the secretary so he knows whether or not this is something that needs to be pursued further. 
                The other question was? 
                Q     Yeah, you're saying that the Furlong incident is IG and that this is broader. Were there things other than Furlong -- you know, specific discrete things that motivated this? 
                MR. MORRELL: No. I think this is -- this is what prompted it. 
                Obviously, the Congress has had a great deal of information in information operations. We spend a lot of money on it. I think we're spending -- I think in FY '10, $528 million, and we're requested $384 million in FY '11. So it's a significant sum of money, and the secretary wants to make sure that the programs that execute that money are being done according to our guidelines and with proper oversight, and that it's -- that they are achieving the desired objectives and that we're getting our money's worth out of it. So that's what the focus is on. 
                Yeah, Mike. 
                Q     Is there any reason for the -- for the anonymity of the investigation? 
                MR. MORRELL: No. 
                Q     It's sort of a significant -- 
                MR. MORRELL: I don't think it's significant because it's really not -- you characterized it as an investigation. This is a quick look at this area of operations. 
                I don't -- it's certainly not unusual for the secretary to task people in his office to look into something for him, and you never know who it is who's doing it. So I wouldn't read into it. He's having some trusted staffers take a look at it and get back to him quickly. That's it. 
                Q     Are you concerned -- (inaudible) -- warning from al Qaeda? 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm sorry? 
                Q     Are you concerned about the latest warning from al Qaeda there might be attacks somewhere in the Gulf against the U.S.? 
                MR. MORRELL: I'm not familiar with the warning you're speaking of. But obviously we're always concerned about terrorist threats, and that's why we take the actions we've taken around the world to combat them. 
                Thank you.

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