CAPTAIN JOHN KIRBY: Good afternoon, everybody. I'm just going to have an opening -- going to open up with a couple of words, and then we'll get right to it.
GEORGE LITTLE: You look a little different, John.
CAPT. KIRBY: I think I needed a bigger book. Tomorrow --
Q: (Inaudible) -- on a book.
CAPT. KIRBY: I am, yeah. I couldn't find a phone book, but I found this really big management of security assistance document. The only thing I've used it for.
MR. LITTLE: There is a taller version.
CAPT. KIRBY: I am so not going to have a job after this.
Tomorrow, as many of you know, Secretary Panetta will be departing on a two-day trip to -- which will start in Groton, Connecticut, and then to Halifax, Nova Scotia. In Groton, the secretary will be visiting the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyards, where Virginia-class submarines are built. He will receive a briefing on submarine construction. In the process he'll get to tour a pre-commissioning unit, the Mississippi, and he'll also get to look at the forward engine room of another pre-commissioning unit, the North Dakota. While there, he's going to be able to talk to shipyard workers and Navy personnel, take questions. That's an open press event.
Then we'll leave and go to Halifax for the third annual Halifax Forum. The forum brings together ministers of defense from across the world to discuss key defense and security issues, and it's primarily focusing on looking at progress from the past year and then discussing challenges ahead.
While there, he'll meet with Canadian Minister of Defense Peter MacKay to discuss our strong bilateral defense relationship with Canada, and he'll also have the opportunity to meet with French General Stephane Abrial, the NATO supreme allied commander for -- for transformation -- excuse me -- and with Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak.
Israel has been a consistent participant in the Halifax forums, and this provides an opportunity for the two leaders to have their fourth meeting. The secretary will also deliver a speech there at the forum primarily about the importance of multilateral alliances and partnerships, particularly in the Western Hemisphere.
And with that, Lita.
Q: One quick housekeeping thing, and then a question. Housekeeping: The secretary yesterday said 29,000 troops in Kuwait when he reeled off his list of troops in the region, which added up to substantially more than 40,000. Has there been a bump in Kuwait there, or is that --
CAPT. KIRBY: No, I think actually the -- I think the number was somewhat in error yesterday. It's actually a little bit more than 24,000.
Q: Okay, so about 24 [thousand].
CAPT. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q: Okay, and then just on Afghanistan, I'm sure you've seen the comments by President Karzai at the start of their meeting. And I was wondering if you had any reaction to his comments about the fact that he is looking forward to a permanent presence by U.S. troops, but he has certain conditions, including no night raids and having the detainees turned over to Afghan control -- can you talk a little bit about what the U.S. reaction is to that and where things stand with those negotiations?
MR. LITTLE: We're watching the loya jirga very closely. This is obviously a very important traditional Afghan institution, and we welcome President Karzai's endorsement of the strategic partnership. The United States and Afghanistan have been working closely together to frame a long-term strategic partnership, and those discussions are ongoing and will go on for some time.
On the specific issue of night raids, the key point for us is that these operations are conducted jointly with the Afghans. We expect Afghan participation in night raids to increase over time. And it's worth noting that 85 percent of these operations are conducted without a single shot being fired.
Q: But is that, like, a deal breaker, though? I mean, is that a point where the U.S. would draw the line that no, there's not an agreement that would include any ban on night operations?
CAPT. KIRBY: I don't think we're looking at the loya jirga process now or even the future of the defense partnership that we want to have with Afghanistan in terms of deal breakers, you know, or red lines. I mean, the night raids do perform a very valuable and necessary function, and we do understand -- and President Karzai has been very clear over the last several years about his concerns about night raids. And frankly, you know, we share those same concerns. Nobody wants to see innocent civilians hurt. But as George pointed out, they are effective, and they don't result in a great number of civilian casualties.
But we're not looking at -- what we're trying to do with Afghanistan is get -- is develop a strong partnership moving forward, and that's what our focus is on. And we're not looking at that in terms of deal breakers or red lines.
MR. LITTLE: Dan.
Q: On that same issue, there's been a lot of concern and criticism that U.S. policy is not sufficiently clear to the countries in the region when it comes to the long-term U.S. military presence there after 2014. Some people are saying the U.S. needs to come out and say very clearly there will be some kind of a military presence there after 2014. Is that -- is that the -- is that this department's view, that there will be some kind of U.S. military presence there?
MR. LITTLE: We don't want to get ahead -- out ahead of any discussions that are taking place, Dan. It's very -- yes, we do want to have a long-term strategic partnership, but specific components of that partnership are still to be defined.
We obviously want to work closely in concert with the government of Afghanistan to define the parameters of that enduring partnership, but it's too early to say. We're in 2011, and our commitment, you know, per Lisbon, goes on at least until 2014 and, we hope, beyond that.
But in terms of a U.S. military presence beyond 2014, you know, it's too early to define those specifics.
Q: Changing the subject -- (inaudible) --
Q: Can we go back to Afghanistan?
Q: More on the night raids? The U.S. has said repeatedly that the Afghan government signs off on every raid. Has -- have they stopped signing off on these raids, or has there been a change in the number of raids they sign off on?
CAPT. KIRBY: Not that I'm aware of, no.
MR. LITTLE: Not that I'm aware of, either, James.
CAPT. KIRBY: And these are, by and large, partnered operations. They're involved as well.
Q: So presumably, the people that signed off on the raids in the -- in the Afghan government are in favor of the raids. So there's a disagreement within the Afghan government over the --
MR. LITTLE: I don't think we can speak to what the views inside the Afghan government are, and to sort those out if there are disagreements. But, you know, we've laid out our belief that these operations are effective and they are joint with the Afghans and will involve increasing Afghan participation over time, just as we, you know, have tried very hard, and are having some success in transferring Afghan lead responsibility for different parts of the country to the -- to the Afghans.
Q: On the same --
Q: Is it still a fact that the -- that the Afghan government signs off on every raid?
CAPT. KIRBY: I think it -- that the best way to put this is that these are partnered operations. These are partnered operations.
Q: On the same -- on the same topic, do you know what are the areas that NATO and U.S. forces are planning to hand over to local security control, and when this will happen?
CAPT. KIRBY: You mean the second -- the second tranche of areas?
MR. LITTLE: The second tranche.
CAPT. KIRBY: Those haven't been announced yet, and I wouldn't get ahead of President Karzai on that.
We do expect that -- we do expect there'll be an announcement on that relatively soon. But again, that's really up to the Karzai administration.
Q: Do you know if there are some areas in the Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the south?
CAPT. KIRBY: I'm not going to get into the -- the geographic locations, but we do expect another tranche.
Q: Do we know yet how many troops are going to be sent to RC East to reinforce the fight there?
MR. LITTLE: I don't have those specifics; do you, John?
CAPT. KIRBY: No. I mean, that question almost sort of implies that there's some sort of decision point coming. I mean, as a --
CAPT. KIRBY: Indeed they have, and they have -- they have already moved some forces from the south to the east as the conditions require. And as you know, they've been very aggressive in the last, well, month or so in RC East going after the Haqqani Network.
So, I mean, the theatre commander has the ability and indeed the responsibility to move forces as he sees fit, and I think that's going to continue. So, I -- I'm not aware of any, like, big decision point coming up here.
Q: Another Afghanistan question, just really quickly. How does the Pentagon approach this idea that, on one hand, we have the 1230 report saying that overall enemy-initiated attacks are down in 2011. On the other hand, we have the United Nations saying quite clearly that they believe violence is on the rise. How do we reconcile those two narratives?
CAPT. KIRBY: Well, we're very comfortable with the data that we've been collecting and on -- I don't -- I'm not an expert on what the UN is saying. I am aware that there is -- there is that disparity. I think ISAF is quantifying them as enemy-initiated attacks, and we do have data that shows that they -- that they're on the decline and that they, in general, have tended to be that way, certainly when you compare right now to this time last year.
So we're very comfortable, I think, when we say that the security situation is better, and in many places improving. But we've also been very clear that it's not just about the violence, whether it's up or down, but the real progress in Afghanistan is going to be determined not by military success but by political, social and economic success. And there are -- there are significant challenges remaining with regard to governance and corruption and --
Q: But on the -- on the violence, the question of violence, is the UN wrong? I mean, I just -- it's hard to understand how both of those narratives can be --
CAPT. KIRBY: Well, I'm not going to pick apart the UN report. I'm just going to tell you that we're very comfortable with what we've -- what we've presented to the Congress in the 1230 report and the data that's in there.
MR. LITTLE: I think -- I think the important thing on Afghanistan, stepping back, you know, from the two narratives as you -- as you've described them, Missy, is that, you know, this has been a much different fighting season than we've seen in previous years. And we've seen tactics of the enemy change, and we believe that's in large part due to the significant pressure we brought to bear on them.
We still have difficult challenges in front of us, but the secretary has full confidence in General Allen's leadership, and what he's doing to bring pressure on the Taliban and the Haqqanis and other insurgents that are disrupting Afghan life and attacking the United States and our partner nations.
Q: One more, quickly. Due to Haqqani network and terrorism activities, and also rising tension in the -- as far as the international community is concerned in Afghanistan, nations around Afghanistan, and also many Afghans, feel that this is not the time for U.S. to announce any withdrawal because of the terrorists get the wrong message. So what I'm asking you, what are you hearing from the President Karzai and his government that -- are they ready?
MR. LITTLE: Are they ready to assume control? Well, that's certainly something that we're all working toward in close partnership with the Afghan government. That's absolutely the goal, you know, certainly before the end of 2014. And supporting the security of Afghanistan will continue to be a goal for the United States beyond 2014. Now, how we do that we still need to determine in concert with the Afghans.
In terms of the Haqqanis, it's important that the NATO-led ISAF forces continue to bring pressure on them, and that's exactly what General Allen is doing. And they, I think, are suffering as a result, and we just need to keep it up.
Q: Finally, you've been talking with -- as far as the India involvement is concerned, the secretary was talking about the Indian officials, and they were here also. Is India getting involved now more than what they have been doing in Afghanistan after 1214 or after next year?
MR. LITTLE: I'm not going to comment on what the Indians may or may not do in Afghanistan.
Q: What message should China take from this announced Marine buildup in Australia that the president revealed today?
MR. LITTLE: Well, this is a very important initiative that we've been working with our Australian allies on for some time. And let's put this into some context. The United States -- the president, on his trip, has said that Asia-Pacific is a priority, a top priority for the United States in our security needs going forward. The secretary said similar things on his recent trip to the Asia-Pacific region.
We have a 60-year alliance with the Australians, and this is an effort to further our ties to the Australian military. And let's put this into some context. This is a training and exercise presence that will be based over time.
You know, we'll start with 250-so Marines, I think beginning next year. The number will grow to some level. The exact time frame isn't known at this time. But the focus of this mission, which will occur on Australian bases, is to work closely with the Australian military on training and exercises.
CAPT. KIRBY: The message isn't -- the --
MR. LITTLE: It's not -- it's not about China. This isn't -- yeah, it's not --
CAPT. KIRBY: The message isn't for China, Justin. This is about -- this is about our commitment to the region and to allies and partners throughout the Asia-Pacific and our commitment to that part of the world.
Q: Are you surprised that China has interpreted it as a sort of an aggressive buildup directed towards them? Is that surprising?
MR. LITTLE: I'm not sure whether they have actually said that or not. But --
Q: They -- well, essentially they have today. Yeah, they haven't reacted kindly to it, that statement today.
MR. LITTLE: Well, this is --
CAPT. KIRBY: No specific nation needs to see this as a threat. This is about meeting our commitments to partners in the region.
MR. LITTLE: And this is about our broader point, too: building a security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region that provides for the protection of U.S. interests and the interests of our -- of our allies.
Q: Yesterday Secretary Panetta -- or two days ago sent out a letter threatening to cut major weapons programs, to include the F-35 and land-based ICBMs. Why is this training mission more of a priority than perhaps those programs? You know, I mean, why is this such a big deal? Why does this need to happen now in this time of so much austerity?
MR. LITTLE: Well, let's just be clear on what the letter actually was intended to do, and that was to address the potential impacts of sequestration, Okay, not to define a U.S. strategy outside that context. So --
CAPT. KIRBY: It also wasn't deemed to be a threat to cut anything. It was -- it was a statement of fact about what kinds of things we're going to need to take a look at should the super committee, you know, not --
Q: But to come back to Justin's question, I mean, does -- the administration officials say -- and maybe Mr. Obama has said this as well, but they said that -- in the backgrounders around the speech today, they said the Pentagon is going to shield from cuts, you know, the U.S. presence in the Pacific, that that would be not subjected to the same level of cuts that the rest of the budget was.
But what does that mean? I mean, are you familiar with that? And is Mr. Panetta -- said the same thing? And what does it mean to shield from cuts the -- is that about bases in Asia or is it about the Navy budget versus the Army budget? What does that mean?
MR. LITTLE: I think the clear message that the president and the secretary have delivered is that the Asia-Pacific region is important for our security interests, and not just our security interests, by the way, but our economic and political interests, and that that -- that the United States is in the Asia-Pacific region to stay.
The particulars of how we're going to engage with our partners in the region haven't been worked out yet, particularly in the context of the budget. The secretary has said that we are going to engage in a strategy-driven process to identify savings in the defense budget. That strategy has not yet been completed. We think it will be completed soon. And then from there he'll look at particular cuts that may or may not be made.
So we have a ways to go here, but the message should be loud and clear, and that is that we will remain a Pacific power.
Q: (inaudible) -- Mr. Gates had said is prior to these -- the bigger cuts, but said one part of the budget that was protected was anti-anti-access/area denial stuff, so modern --
MR. LITTLE: Anti -- we'll -- we'll give you a -- (inaudible).
Q: Well, no, but countering, I should say, countering anti- access/area denial stuff. So things like ship jammers against missiles, other -- other programs to protect carriers, and stuff like that, things -- are those sort of modernization programs that are aimed at countering anti-access devices in the sort of -- in a protected class within the budget because of their utility in the Pacific?
MR. LITTLE: In terms of the budget, there are no decisions yet about anything. Everything remains on the table. A2/AD remains a principle -- an important principle that we think we need to continue to look at closely. But in terms of the budget, no decisions have been made.
CAPT. KIRBY: That said -- that said, these are very important capabilities. As you know, we just formally stood up an Air-Sea Battle Office that is primarily charged with developing a concept of operations for the military that is all about helping improve our capabilities in this arena because they are -- they are growing capabilities that we remain concerned about in -- globally, not just in the Asia-Pacific, and they are capabilities that we also need the ability to improve upon.
Q: But just -- (inaudible) -- on Julian's question, I mean, it sounds like clearly, part of the strategy has indeed been sort of solidified here, and that is that the U.S., at least militarily, will focus and the strategy overall will focus more so on the Asia-Pacific, and that is an area where they're going to shield from cuts. I mean, that raises the question not only what aren't you going to cut there, but if you're not going to cut programs and protections specifically regarding Asia-Pacific, does that mean that, obviously, things in other regions -- formations in Europe and troops and other things in the Middle East -- are -- doesn't that mean that those instead would bear the brunt of the cuts?
MR. LITTLE: In terms of our commitments, you know, to other regions, I mean, let's just be -- let's be clear: Yes, Asia-Pacific is a priority.
We've had a long-standing presence in the Middle East, and we will continue to have a long -- or a presence in the Middle East; that's an enduring commitment. Our commitment to our European partners is unshakable.
So, you know, how the budget cuts, you know, affect our capabilities or our relationships in particular regions, I don't think that's really at this point been defined and -- but our -- the important thing to realize is that our commitment is not measured in dollars; it's measured in our partnerships, it's measured in our alliances, it's measured in our commitments. And it's not measured in our -- in numbers of troops or dollars that we send. It's also measured in alliances.
So there, you know, is no question but that we will maintain our commitments around the world. You know, tough decisions will have to be made eventually, but that's the nature of this very difficult process.
CAPT. KIRBY: And it's not just about shielding. Lita. I mean, it's about investing -- and in some cases divesting, where it's necessary. And in the very austere fiscal environment that we're heading into, there -- we're going to have to be honest about the things that the joint forces can do and should do and must do, and those things that it can no longer do, or should no longer do.
And as George said, there have been no final decisions here made, but in -- under that umbrella, it's going to -- it's going to include programs, things. It's probably going to include people; and I don't just mean in terms of raw numbers, but the kind of skill sets that you're investing in and where that balance is going to come out inside the services. And it's also going to have to include where we operate, where we train, who we train with. But we just -- we just aren't there yet.
Q: Can you explain to a naive foreigner, the U.S. defense spending represents nearly 40 percent of the world's military expenditures. They have nearly doubled since 9/11. Secretary Panetta in his letter said that in the -- if the worst-case scenario is triggered by the sequester mechanism, it would face cuts by 20 percent over the next 10 years. So is the Pentagon overstating the problem, or is it inefficient at spending its money, as it has fewer ships and aircraft than 10 years ago?
MR. LITTLE: We're absolutely not overstating the devastating consequences of sequestration, Matthew. And by the way, you're not naive at all. I take issue with that.
The secretary made clear in his letter to Senator McCain and Senator Graham that there would be very serious consequences that would flow from sequestration.
And just a point of clarification: Some people, I think, are concerned that sequestration will take effect next week if Congress doesn't reach a deal. We hope Congress reach a deal -- reaches a deal by the end of the year. The sequestration bullet is fired in January, but it doesn't arrive until January of the following year. That being said, this is a large department, and we would have to plan for those cuts nearly right away. But our focus right now is on avoiding sequestration, and on feeding the FY '13 budget bill in the absence of sequestration.
In terms of the budget growth since 2001, yes, in absolute dollar terms, the budget has grown. But if you'll look at the defense budget as a -- as a pie, the pieces of the pie have shifted. And the percentages of the defense budget that are required for -- to support military personnel and benefits, those percentages have grown dramatically.
So the percentages inside the budget of 2001 are not the same percentages that we see today, and that's an important thing to bear in mind.
CAPT. KIRBY: And some of those costs have, I mean, outstripped inflation. Personnel costs, for instance -- 85 percent growth in the costs of manpower just since 2001. And it's the -- in weapons as well. Some of these costs just outstrip inflation.
Q: Can I just go back onto Asia for a quick second? Where do things stand with negotiations with Singapore on the naval basing deal that the secretary had discussed when he was in Asia? Is -- are things nearing a conclusion on that? And how would you compare the strategic importance of what's at stake in Singapore, what's being discussed there about possibly basing Littoral Combat Ships there, to this deployment of Marines to Australia?
MR. LITTLE: I don't have any updates for you, Craig. I don't think John does either. We'll have to get back to you on that one.
CAPT. KIRBY: We'll have to get back to you on that, yeah.
MR. LITTLE: Yeah, Kevin.
Q: I have a two-parter on the detainee provisions from overnight yesterday. The secretary's letter was pretty harsh, and the chairman from intel and judiciary, all opposing this provision, even the revised version. But Senator Reid said he wants to pass this -- the whole authorization bill by Thanksgiving, so you have a very short window. What do you -- what do you -- or from this department are prepared to recommend to do anything to stop this or change -- is the secretary going to -- or has he recommended a veto to this bill? And secondly, Senator McCain says that the changes they made are quite expansive, including the fact that there's this waiver that allows the defense secretary to, you know, wipe away the requirements for any detainees. So why is that not acceptable to Secretary Panetta?
MR. LITTLE: Well, the department and the secretary are concerned about maintaining maximum flexibility when it comes to where a detainee ends up in a judicial process.
That was the point of the letter that he delivered yesterday to the Hill. And he believes that that flexibility should remain.
And I think there are some concerns about the time delays and certifications and waivers and so forth. I don't want to get overly technical here. But the key point is that we need to preserve as open space as possible when it comes to our options, and that's what the secretary, you know, would like to see.
CAPT. KIRBY: And he very much looks forward to continuing to work with the Congress and the committee as they get close to conference and to potential passage here.
Q: (Inaudible) -- veto threat on this?
CAPT. KIRBY: He has not, to our knowledge, recommended to veto this. Again, he really -- he wants to work with them as they move forward to this. And that's the purpose of the letter, to express his concerns. It's really about giving us -- as George said, flexibility, but as many tools in the toolbox as we can possibly have -- across the government, not just the military, but across the government -- to deal with the terrorist threat.
Q: Can you describe in the last week or so the kind of contacts this building has had -- that is, Panetta and Carter, anyone else -- with the super committee -- phone calls, you know, off-record meetings, memos back and forth -- just to give a sense of it?
MR. LITTLE: Sure. There has been engagement over time with individual members of the super committee and at the staff level as well. In terms of a formal sit-down with the committee, that hasn't happened, and I'm unaware of any invitation to the secretary or to the department to appear before the super committee. We -- that's, I think, how I would characterize the level of engagement at this point. But it's been -- we've obviously made our views known.
Q: When you say engagement over time, can you be more specific, (inaudible)?
MR. LITTLE: I wouldn't want to get into who, specifically, and I, frankly, don't have a complete list. But the secretary has been personally involved in reaching out to members of Congress. And this is not just about the super committee; it's, of course, about the armed services committees in both houses and the appropriations committees. And he has made very clear his position on the budget.
Q: Does the Pentagon have a view about the Kenyan incursion into Somalia? I mean, does it -- do people think it contributes to civility there? I mean, this is a country that the U.S. and NATO, certainly on the coast, have had operations, ongoing operations. And what -- what's this building's view about that? Have you been in touch with the Kenyans about their plans, how long they intend to stay, those sorts of things?
CAPT. KIRBY: Well, we've been certainly monitoring their military operations in southern Somalia. We haven't taken a view or expressed an opinion about that, but are certainly monitoring it. And we are not providing any aid and assistance to that effort.
Q: Do you think over -- that if it continues it -- I mean, are you -- I guess my question is, their target presumably is al-Shabab, a group that the U.S. has identified as having links with al-Qaida. Is that a good thing, that they're targeting al-Shabab, from the U.S. perspective?
MR. LITTLE: I'm not going to get into what other countries are doing or not doing. But al-Shabab is a very serious terrorist threat, particularly in the region, and pressure that's brought to bear against them is something they deserve.
Q: A perhaps less traditional but equally important topic, and we don't mean -- I don't mean to blindside you with this, but I have to ask publicly: Our colleague, Cami McCormick of CBS News, was grievously wounded in Afghanistan, and comes to work every day on a scooter.
And she has asked, and the press corps has asked, for months, for a handicapped access door to be installed so Cami can safely get in and out of the work area. When we had the earthquake in this building, it was -- Cami's safety was at issue, because she cannot readily access, as a handicapped person.
So I would like to know -- and I'm sure all of my colleagues in this room would agree with me -- what can we do to get the bureaucracy moving in the building, not just on behalf of Cami, but we learned that there's approximately something like 15 requests in this building for handicapped access? Some of them may be wounded troops who have come back to serve in this building. How can we get the bureaucracy moving so these people, including our colleague and the others -- we want to be good neighbors to everybody here. How can we get this moving?
MR. LITTLE: Well, let me just say, with respect to Cami, since you -- she is a -- demonstrated remarkable courage and resilience as she has recovered and carried on with her professional duties, and we greatly respect her --
MR. LITTLE: -- and believe that she does outstanding work.
With respect to the access issue, we understand that it's an important one to all of you, it's an important issue for her and, and as you said, it's an important issue for access to those who have been injured throughout the building, and we take that very seriously as well.
We believe that, with respect to a door that would make press spaces available to her more easily and provide accessibility, that that issue is being worked, and we hope to resolve it very soon.
CAPT. KIRBY: And has been -- has been -- attention has been put on that in the last few weeks. This isn't something that we're just doing today.
Q: No, no, we -- I just want to say two things. Because Cami is not here today, and I know if she was here, she would not want it to be about just her.
She would want to be speaking on behalf of other -- the other 15 cases in this building, give or take a few, that also need the same assistance. So I'm bringing this up on the record so we have a record and you can provide us a date certain on when these people can get the help they need to come to work.
CAPT. KIRBY: I don't think we can give you a date certain, but we -- it's a valid concern, and we certainly share that concern.
MR. LITTLE: And you have our commitment that we'll follow through.
Mmm hmm. All right.
CAPT. KIRBY: We have time for about one more.
MR. LITTLE: One more question. Oh, maybe two.
Okay, yes, sir.
Q: (inaudible) -- a bunch of the Marines are -- according to the White House briefing, this new presence in Darwin, Australia, has nothing to do with the ongoing relocation of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam. I want to make sure if that's correct. And secondly --
MR. LITTLE: That's correct.
Q: Okay, and if that's the case, is there any possibility that Marines in Okinawa will be repositioned in Australia on top of 8,000 Marines moving to Guam?
CAPT. KIRBY: The sourcing for the Marine training that will be happening in Australia will be global. In other words, the intention is not to -- for this rotational training, not to pull the Marines that are participating in that from any one place, but in fact globally from where the Marines are. And there's no -- been no decisions made right now. As George said, we're not -- this isn't really -- the first element is not even going to be on the ground until the first quarter of next year. So they haven't made any specific decisions right now about from where the first unit is going to come, but it'll be globally sourced, not from any one place.
MR. LITTLE: Last question.
Q: (inaudible) -- one and then one capabilities question. Should the Navy and Groton, Connecticut, take comfort in the fact that Mr. Panetta is going up there tomorrow to visit the Virginia class sub? Should they read into that that this submarine program is pretty much off the table in terms of cuts?
MR. LITTLE: The purpose of the secretary's visit to Groton, as John indicated, is to affirm the importance that we place and that the secretary places on the defense industrial base. The defense industrial base is very important to maintaining the skills and expertise that we need to preserve and develop new technologies to guard against the threats of the future. As I said, when it comes to the budget, nothing is off the table, so I wouldn't read anything one way or the other into this specific visit. He's looking forward to it and to, again, affirm our commitment to the industrial base.
Q: The capabilities question -- you mentioned toolbox -- (inaudible) -- toolbox, capabilities. The Air Force acknowledged Monday that it's taken delivery of the first of these 30,000-pound massive ordnance penetrators. Their own news service says it can penetrate, like, 200 feet underground before exploding. What capability does this bomb give the Pentagon that it didn't have five months ago?
CAPT. KIRBY: It gives us a far greater capability to reach and destroy an enemy's weapons of mass destructions that -- weapons of mass destruction that are located in well-protected underground facilities -- without getting into specifics -- to a magnitude far greater than we have right now.
MR. LITTLE: It is much more -- it is much more powerful than its predecessor, the BLU-109.
Q: Should Iran take some kind of message from the fact that the Air Force is announcing that it's taken delivery?
CAPT. KIRBY: The system's not aimed at any one country. It's to develop a capability we believe we need.
Q: How many are the U.S. going to buy, by the way? Do you know how many the U.S. is going to buy?
MR. LITTLE: I don't --
CAPT. KIRBY: We can get you --
MR. LITTLE: We can get you the specific number.
CAPT. KIRBY: We'll see if we can get you a number on that.
MR. LITTLE: Okay. All right. Thank you everyone.
CAPT. KIRBY: Thanks everybody.
MR. LITTLE: Appreciate it. All right.
CAPT. KIRBY: Thanks.