United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


Department of Defense Press Briefing with George Little from the Pentagon

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary George Little
September 05, 2013

           GEORGE LITTLE: Good afternoon. It's after Labor Day. School is back in session. And it’s good to see you, class. I don't have any announcements to make today, so I'll go straight to your questions, and we'll start with Lita.

           Q: George, there's just I think a couple of things from yesterday's hearing, if you could maybe try and clarify them or add a little bit more information to them. There was a mention of 10 countries participating in the military action. Can you define what "participate" means? I mean, because the normal decision, you would think, would be that they actually would do something. And what those 10 countries are?

           And then, secondly, there was also some discussion about the percentage of the opposition that would be considered bad guys being, you know, somewhere, 15 percent to 25 percent. Does the Defense Department agree with those estimates?

           MR. LITTLE: The answer to the second part of your question, Lita, is yes. I think the fraction of the opposition is what we would consider elements that we don't want to deal with on a regular basis, but the vast majority of the opposition is composed of Syrian opposition fighters and officials that we can certainly deal with.

           On the first question, I don't have a precise list to offer, but we do believe that we would be joined by other countries in this effort. International participation is not necessarily a prerequisite for our action, but obviously we prefer that there be an international effort in this case, should we be involved in military operations in Syria.

           Q: But are there 10 countries who have agreed to participate militarily, as in provide military assets?

           MR. LITTLE: I don't have the precise list for you today. We do believe that some countries will provide some support, if we take military action. I'm not prepared to provide a precise list at this stage.

           We're continuing to consult, and we're gratified by the number of countries around the world who have condemned the actions of the Assad regime. That support has been vast, and we will continue to consult with our allies and partners on their continuing efforts to underscore for the world that the Assad regime should not use chemical weapons. It's a blatant violation of the international norm banning chemical weapons use. And when it comes to military action, we'll see at the appropriate time who joins. But international participation does not need to be vast in order for us to succeed.

           Q: George, yesterday Secretary Kerry said that the Saudis had agreed to pay for this military operation. Is that true, first? And, second, has the Pentagon been asked to begin making plans to upgrade and train the opposition fighters?

           MR. LITTLE: No decisions have been made on the second point, so no current plans that I'm aware of. And on the first point, I would refer you to the State Department.

           Justin? We'll stay with Fox for a second here.

           Q: Thank you. Good idea. (Laughter.)

           Yesterday, what came out of the resolution, the draft resolution was that, you know, one of the policies now is to change the momentum on the battlefield. This was not something that had been discussed in the original sort of military plan and the policy coming out of the White House.

           How would that alter your military plans for striking Syria, changing the momentum on the battlefield? Would that -- to do that, would you have to increase the scale of attacks?

           MR. LITTLE: We're focused right now on what the president and others have said about what this military operation -- if it takes place -- would try to achieve, and that is a clear objective of stopping the Assad regime from using chemical weapons, deterring and degrading the ability of this regime to murder innocent Syrian men, women and children. We are focused on that limited objective.

           Let me repeat what the objective is of this potential operation, should it take place. It is to deter and degrade the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. It would be of limited scope. It would be of limited duration. And there would be no boots on the ground. That's the scope of what we're looking at now.

           Now, what we're contending with more broadly in the context of Syria are multiple tracks. As you know, the State Department in particular has been heavily involved in diplomatic efforts with the Syrian opposition to try to move toward an ultimate political solution in Syria that's driven by the Syrians. That's what we want at the end of the day. That's what the Syrians want.

           So I think we need to look at all of this in a nuanced way, the military options that are on the table for chemical weapons purposes, and then the political track that we're contending with through other forms.

           Q: Just as a follow-up, as a matter of policy, is that something that the SECDEF agrees with, which is this idea of being involved in changing the momentum?

           MR. LITTLE: Well, I think that every senior U.S. official, broadly speaking, through all of our tracks, wants to see momentum on the side of the opposition and momentum against the Assad regime. That stands to reason.

           Phil?

           Q: Yesterday, the secretary said that the operation would cost tens of millions of dollars. Could you give us a sense of how the Pentagon would hope that that would be paid for? Would it be through a continuing resolution? Would it be through existing funds? Can you detail it for us?

           MR. LITTLE: I wouldn't be able to offer details on costs at this time. We don't know precisely what the military operation would look like, so I can't give a precise cost estimate.

           But what I will say is that we have said that this is in the national security interests of the United States. And if this operation goes forward, if we're asked by the president to conduct a military mission, we will conduct it. When something is that important, we'll find a way to pay for it.

           Luis?

           Q: George, yesterday, the chairman said -- he mentioned the indirect support from regional partners in terms of basing and overflight. That would imply air assets being used. Could you talk about what he's talking about?

            MR. LITTLE: We have conducted planning on this issue, chemical weapons use in Syria, with regional partners and allies for some time, to include Turkey, Israel, the Jordanians, and others. And I'm not prepared to discuss the specifics of what they may or may not do in the context of prospective military operations against the Assad regime, but we continue to consult -- to consult closely with them.

           Q: Is it safe to assume that air assets would be part of some of the planning that is currently under way?

           MR. LITTLE: I'm not going to speculate on what may or may not be used.

           Q: George, yesterday, Secretary Kerry suggested that the extremists may make up as little as 15 percent of the overall opposition. Do you see that 15 percent interspersed throughout the country, among different groups, or segregated into pockets of the country?

           MR. LITTLE: I'm not sure that I can say that they're located in one particular location or they're concentrated in one particular location inside Syria. I think that there are different extremist groups in different parts of the country. I think that we have a pretty good understanding of where they generally operate, and we're certainly not blind to the realities in that there are extremists in Syria, but we believe that, at the end of the day, the Syrian regime -- excuse me, the Syrian people will reject extremism and find a path that gets them to -- back to a civil society that's more inclusive and that ends the violence.

           Q: A couple of questions. One of the members of the Senate -- or the House Foreign Relations Committee, in talking to Kerry about the percentage of extremists there in Syria said that he had been repeatedly briefed by intelligence -- he got intelligence briefings that said that number was more than 50 percent when he was briefed. Can you explain that disparity?

           MR. LITTLE: I would refer you to the intelligence community for a precise figure that they estimate. But we don't believe that extremist elements make up the majority of the Syrian opposition.

          Q: Are you differentiating between the forces fighting Assad and the opposition? Or are you just -- are you just not including Al Qaida as part of the opposition? Is that the dynamic here?

           MR. LITTLE: Mik, for a specific breakdown, I would go to the intelligence community and I would leave at what Secretary Kerry described yesterday.

          Q: And then one more question.

           MR. LITTLE: Sure.

           Q: In July, in response to a request from Senator Levin of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Dempsey expressed concern that any potential strikes could raise the possibility that extremists would have access to the chemical weapons that are now being protected by the Syrian military.

           If the U.S. military intends to take out much of the chemical weapons infrastructure, how do you guarantee that there will be enough Syrian military left to guard those chemical stockpiles? How do you make that happen?

           MR. LITTLE: Well, first, on Gen. Dempsey's letter, I think it's very important to note that that letter was sent before this horrific attack that we saw in late August. And it was addressing different questions, largely, broader context of the Syrian conflict, so I would make that point number one.

           Point number two, yes, the security of the chemical weapons stockpiles is a very important issue for us, and we have taken that into consideration as we develop military options for potential missions that the president would request us to perform.

           Q: But, I mean, do you have any assurances that -- that those stockpiles could be protected if, in fact, you're carrying out these air strikes from, what, 500, 600, 1,000 miles away?

           MR. LITTLE: We obviously have a strong view that the security of the weapons stockpiles needs to be maintained, and we've taken that into account in our planning. To use a phrase that Gen. Dempsey used yesterday, we can never take the risk down to zero when it comes to military operations.

           Look, this is a complex civil conflict right now. And we're aware of all of the dangers. But that should not preclude us from prudent planning, and that's what we've done in this instance.

           Yes?

           Q: The U.S. would not send boots on the ground in Syria, but could you support boots on the ground of any third country of your allies to secure these chemical weapons in Syria?

           MR. LITTLE: I'm not aware of any other country that's offered to put boots on the ground, so it's a pure hypothetical to even speculate about that at this stage.

           Q: There is concern in Afghanistan that your military actions here would divert attention from Afghanistan. Is that a valid concern?

           MR. LITTLE: Let me be clear. We can walk and talk and chew gum at the same time. We know that we have a war to prosecute in Afghanistan, and we're continuing to engage in that process. And we are not taking our eye off the ball in Afghanistan. We can conduct the Syria mission, if called upon, and we can fight the war in Afghanistan, too.

           Q: One more question on Pakistan.

           MR. LITTLE: Okay. (Laughter.)

           All right.

           Q: Thank you.

           MR. LITTLE: You work for Fox now? (Laughter.)

           Q: There are these reports appearing in Pakistani media that around 19,000 U.S. containers which include arms and ammunitions have been stolen from the port Karachi which are headed toward Afghanistan. Do you have information on those reports?

           MR. LITTLE: I do not have information on this report, but we'd be happy to follow up.

           Q: Thank you.

           MR. LITTLE: Yes.

           Q: Let me ask you a couple of questions on Syria and North Korea.

MR. LITTLE: Okay.

           Q: First, in this week's hearings, Secretary Chuck Hagel said North Korea has a massive stockpile of chemical weapons. What's the ground for the assessment? What led to the assessment?

           MR. LITTLE: Well, we have very good information that suggests that the North Koreans do have stockpiles of chemical weapons. This was an issue that arose last week in Asia, when Secretary Hagel met with his South Korean counterpart.

           And this underscores what we're talking about here, the international norm against the use of chemical weapons. If we sit idly by and allow the Syrian regime to perpetrate atrocities the likes of which we've seen recently, then what signal does that send to countries like North Korea? If the Syrians are allowed to get away with it, then perhaps that sends a signal that others might be able to get away with it, too.

           We believe it's a norm worth defending, and not just North Korea, but what about the Iranians? What about Hezbollah? What about other rogue actors in the international community? This is very serious business. And it is very important not just for the United States, but for other countries to step up and say this international norm is worth defending.

           Q: Second part. Actually, I got two questions.

           MR. LITTLE: Okay. All right. (Laughter.)

           I'll order dinner for all of us. (Laughter.)

           Q: Actually, some Korean media reported that North Korea traded chemical weapons with Syria for some related technology. What did you say about those allegations?

           MR. LITTLE: Well, I think there's been sharing between North Korea and Syria on any number of fronts. As you'll recall, the al-Kibar nuclear reactor was built with the support of the North Koreans. So there has been a relationship and an exchange of information between the North Koreans and the Syrian regime for some time. And I can't count out the possibility that they've discussed or shared information on chemical weapons. But I don't have details for you today.

           Q: Secretary Kerry created a lot of confusion about boots on the ground. And we understand that there won't be boots on the ground for the effort to deter and degrade Assad's forces, but is there still a need to use boots on the ground to secure chemical weapons, if, in fact, the country implodes and we need to go in and make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands?

           MR. LITTLE: We are not contemplating boots on the ground at this time in any way, shape or form, and I think Secretary Kerry came back and clarified that point on several occasions, both in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and yesterday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. So there are no plans at this time for boots on the ground.

           Q: So you don't see a need to use boots on the ground to secure chemical weapons?

           MR. LITTLE: At this point in time, we absolutely do not see any need for boots on the ground. And I would refer you back to what Secretary Kerry said very directly on this point.

           Jon?

           Q: George, yesterday Secretary Hagel estimated that any Syria operation would probably cost in the tens of millions of dollars, but this morning, Adm. Greenert pointed out that each Tomahawk missile costs about $1.5 million. They cost about $7 million per week to keep destroyers in the area, $25 million to keep the Nimitz carrier group in the area. So would you acknowledge that it's quite possible that this operation, if it goes ahead, could cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars or even more?

           MR. LITTLE: I'm not going to get into specific numbers, because I don't want to suggest that we have a precise picture of the military operation that would be conducted if we're called upon to conduct it. I'm just not going to get into costs today. I don't think that's appropriate.

           It'll get sorted out at the appropriate time, and we will afford it, if this moves forward, again, because this is in the national security interests of the United States. And when Americans make that determination, then we move ahead.

           Q: But to be fair, George, you have spent the last year at this podium talking about budget concerns and a lack of money. Can you afford a 60 to 90-day operation, given the -- you know, the constraints you face under sequestration?

           MR. LITTLE: Well, you're putting a time frame on an operation --

           (CROSSTALK)

           MR. LITTLE: -- they put a timeframe -- a limit, if you will, in their draft resolution or resolution that passed the committee yesterday. Look, I'm not going to speculate on cost at this stage. I don't think it's fruitful. What we need to focus on is the objective that we're looking at, and that is to deter and degrade chemical weapons use. That's the key point here.

           When it comes to sequestration and budget uncertainty, when this country decides to come together and take military action for a just cause that's rooted in the legitimacy of a very strong international norm, then we'll find a way to fund it.

           Q: Given the president's characterization of a missile strike, limited in scope and duration, the kind of limitations being put on in the resolution off the -- off the Hill probably don't apply in this case, but is there any concern here at DOD or within the U.S. military that there's a dangerous precedent being set here, in that Congress is putting limits on the use of military force, even though they're being ordered into an operation?

           MR. LITTLE: Well, we haven't been ordered into an operation yet. And we believe that consulting with the Congress is the appropriate thing to do in this case. The president has made the right decision, the secretary believes, to consult with Congress. And if we speak with one voice as an American government, the president and Congress, that sends an even stronger message to the Assad regime and to the rest of the world on the norm of international prohibitions of chemical weapons.

           Q: That was a great answer to another question.

           MR. LITTLE: I think it was. (Laughter.)

            Q: But the question is, is there concern about the kind of precedent that is being set here, to have Congress kind of, you know, pull the strings and make some really kind of minor -- impose minor restrictions on a military operation?

           MR. LITTLE: Well, I think we're continuing to work with Congress on this. I think that it's hard to suggest that there's going to be precedent set, when this is a rather unprecedented situation. I think it is. I don't think that we see chemical weapons use that often. And I don't think we can draw any lasting conclusions about what this may or may not portend for future deliberations about the use of force in the United States Congress with future presidents or this president. I just don't think it's necessarily going to set precedent.

           Q: George, I don't understand how the mission will degrade the chemical weapons stockpile or use, or deter the Assad regime from using them if regime change is not involved, if boots on the ground are not involved, if the target sets do not include chemical weapons, storage facilities because of concerns of releasing the sarin into the air. How do you assure people that this mission will deter him from using the weapons again or from sharing them with Hezbollah?

           MR. LITTLE: Well, if I were in the Syrian military right now facing the prospects of U.S. military action with support from international partners, I think it would make me think twice about using chemical weapons again. And I think the risks of inaction, as you heard Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel say on several occasions over the past two days, are high.

           And the risks of inaction, in our view, far exceed the risk of action in this case. What message does it send if we don't take action against chemical weapons use? Over 1,400 people killed.

            This is the discussion we need to be having as a country. And we can do this. We can do it in the right way. We can take action that's effective, that gets at Syrian intentions and capabilities. And they need to be deterred.

           Q: George, one of the things that Secretary Kerry kept saying during his whole testimony was that Obama is not asking America to go to war. So -- and you guys are aware of the war-weariness among the public. So how is this not war?

           MR. LITTLE: Well, I'll let Secretary Kerry speak for himself, obviously. But what I think he was getting at, if I may be so bold -- my colleagues at the State Department may send me cards and letters later -- but I think what he was saying was that this is not going to be a long, protracted, drawn-out conflict akin to Iraq or Afghanistan.

           What we're talking about here, again, is a limited mission, limited in scope, limited in duration and no boots on the ground. So I think that's the point he was trying to make.

           Q: Is this the sort of thing that you guys are sort of looking at as you -- in the rebalance to Asia, these sort of limited, precise targeted strikes? I mean, is this something that you see going forward?

           MR. LITTLE: Well, I hope we don't have to consider this kind of military operation again. I hope that others don't use chemical weapons. And I'm not going to speculate about what we may or may not do. But we have conducted limited military operations in the past. And, if necessary, we're prepared to do so in the future.

           Q: Just to follow up on that, would the Pentagon consider this to be an act of war?

           MR. LITTLE: I'm not going to get into those kinds of labels here today. This would be an action that would be consistent with American law and would absolutely comport with the legitimacy of international norm against the use of chemical weapons.

           Q: Can I ask you, the 800,000 civilian workforce here is not only watching Syria, but they're also watching sequestration probably going into effect on October 1. What is the current planning on reductions in force? Your -- on August 1st, planning -- execution plan pretty much laid out. You've had to start RIFs because the services, quote, "aren't contemplating furloughs." Can you give a state of play on that?

           MR. LITTLE: We haven't moved the ball forward on any announcements about what may take place in fiscal year 14. We're still, as you know, in fiscal year 13, the waning days of this very turbulent budget year. And I think the secretary's guidance remains the same, that we may, in fact, if we face sequestration in fiscal year 14, have to look at RIFs and other measures to meet the budgetary requirements of sequestration.

           Q: You put out memos, though, yesterday kind of pulsing the -- career workforce to the extent of interest in voluntary early retirements to get the ball rolling, so to speak?

           MR. LITTLE: Well, we have issued these kinds of notices before and offered them up. And absolutely these kinds of offers are made during these periods of budgetary downsizing. And some of our employees may, in fact, take advantage of them.

           Q: I just want Syria clarification, too.

           MR. LITTLE: Sure.

           Q: To be clear, stockpiles of chemical weapons, sarin and VX, those are not in the target set. It's the infrastructure and the capability to employ those weapons that are the target set. Is that accurate?

           MR. LITTLE: Without confirming what is and what isn't in the target set, because I'm not going to define specific targets, I will make note of what Jennifer pointed to earlier, and that is we're taking into account in our planning the fact that there could be environmental impacts if there were large dispersions of chemical weapons stockpiles.

           Q: Thanks.

           Q: You said earlier there's been no decision yet on the possibility of assuming a role in the training of Syrian opposition members in Jordan. But has planning begun for that possibility of options?

           MR. LITTLE: I'm at this point, given the current situation, I'm not going to get into the specifics of our planning, but we plan for just about everything, as I've said before, and we continue to plan and consult with our partners in the region.

           Q: George, could you tell us when Secretary Hagel learned from the president that he was going to go to Congress for authorization? And had Secretary Hagel advised him for an authorization vote or at least a broader congressional debate?

           MR. LITTLE: I'm not going to get into their private conversations, but they had a discussion Friday night upon the secretary's return from Southeast Asia.

           Q: George --

           MR. LITTLE: Let me go to a couple other folks. Gordon?

           Q: George, can you give us some way to characterize the degree to which time is of the essence? Clearly, the regime's had time to respond to the threat of whatever strikes may come. I mean, how important is it that whatever might happen happens relatively soon?

           MR. LITTLE: We are the strongest military power in the world. We are also one of the most flexibility and adaptable. And we have access to information that will enable us to take effective action at the appropriate time, if called upon.

           No one in the Syrian regime should take solace from the deliberative process that we're undertaking right now with the United States Congress. We have the time to adjust, if necessary, given conditions on the ground, given what the Syrian regime may or may not do, in terms of movements of equipment and so forth. We have time to adjust.

           So the Syrian regime does not get a strategic or a tactical advantage from the time we, if called upon, will carry out a military mission effectively and we will meet our objective of deterring and degrading their chemical weapons use.

           Q: American capabilities, in effect, almost negate whatever they could do in response during this period of time?

           MR. LITTLE: We have very strong capabilities to exercise military options, if requested by the president, and if we are requested to exercise those options, we'll carry them out, and whatever the Syrian regime does in between now and then, we will probably have a good lead on.

           Justin?

           Q: George, do the options that you guys are preparing include an emergency scenario, where you might have to put troops on the ground? And if not, how is that the case, given as you just said a moment ago, DOD plans for just about everything?

           MR. LITTLE: Well, again -- and I also said I'm not going to get into specific planning. There are no plans right now -- we are not contemplating boots on the ground in Syria.

           I will say it to this section of the audience: There are no plans for boots on the ground when it comes to military operations that we're contemplating right now.

           There are no boots on the ground plans right now, okay?

           Q: George, what can you say about reports that the U.S. military may take over training, arming, equipping the opposition forces in someplace like Jordan? Is that at least under contemplation? Or if it is, how far along is that?

           MR. LITTLE: Again, I'm not going to get into our specific planning efforts. We're consulting with partners in the region to include Jordan, but I'm not going to go further than that.

           Colin?

           Q: Have there been any discussions about bolstering the abilities of U.S. troops to operate in chemical environments?

           MR. LITTLE: Can you repeat that?

           Q: They do receive training, but it comes and goes. We've got people in Jordan.

           MR. LITTLE: We have a lot of expertise on chemical weapons and how to manage them and to destroy them, but, again, I don't want anyone to get the impression that we're going to have boots on the ground or chemical weapons expertise on the ground in Syria, at least U.S. military personnel.

           So I -- yes, we have some of the best expertise in the world, probably the best, when it comes to chemical weapons. And we may have to use it in some way down the road, but we're not contemplating, again, boots on the ground for this mission.

           Q: James Rosen, new Pentagon reporter for McClatchy.

           MR. LITTLE: All right. Welcome. (Laughter.)

           Q: Thank you. First briefing.

           MR. LITTLE: All right.

           Q: I'll try not to ask more than one question.

           MR. LITTLE: Well, this might be my last. Who knows? (Laughter.)

           Q: In recent days, Secretary Hagel and General Dempsey have repeatedly said that their job is to provide options to the president.

           MR. LITTLE: Yes.

           Q: They portrayed it pretty much as a one-way street. In that advisory role, is part of -- is part of their role to also, if -- as the president narrows down his choices and continues to consult with them, is part of their role to also tell him, using their expertise, that if -- that perhaps an option he's zeroing in on is risky or a bad idea? Is it -- is it more than just a 100 percent one-way street?

           MR. LITTLE: I think that -- well, I'm not sure it's a 100 percent one-way street. I'm not sure where that perception comes from.

           Q: (off mic)

           MR. LITTLE: Okay, all right. Okay. Well, first, welcome, again, to the Pentagon. You're working alongside brilliant people in the press corps.

           Q: I hope to join their ranks.

           MR. LITTLE: Okay. It's a two-way street. It's the chairman's role to provide military advice to include risks. And that's the conversation that the president and the chairman and the secretary have, so it's not just a one-way street. I think it is our role in the Department of Defense to determine what risks there may or may not be when it comes to military action and to give the president, the commander in chief a full picture of what those risks are.

           Q: George, when -- because Congress is doing this resolution and the -- just to take another stab at this whole changing the momentum discussion -- does -- is it the Pentagon's assessment that you can change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria by simply doing what had been planned all along to deter and take out their capabilities for use of chemical weapons? Or does changing the momentum require something additional, i.e., maybe training, equipping? Can you do the change of momentum with what had been planning initially?

           MR. LITTLE: In terms of this chemical weapons operation that we may undertake?

           Q: Yes.

           MR. LITTLE: Look, I think it's very important to step back, okay? And momentum can be defined in various ways, all right? There's momentum on the battlefield, if you will. There's military momentum. And then there's political momentum. And what we're focused on right now is the possible use of military action to deter and degrade their chemical weapons use. That's the objective for this prospective operation.

           The political momentum is in a separate category, so you need to have a broad-based view of what's happening in Syria and look at the full context. And we think that momentum on the political side is achievable. It's not going to be easy. The State Department is working hard and working with the opposition to try to build a more cohesive opposition that leads to a political transition that doesn't involve Bashar al-Assad.

           So I think we need to break this into pieces, to some extent, and look at it in a nuanced way.

           Q: But can you -- but the Congress has said its view of the resolution isn't just deterring use of chemical weapons, it is changing the momentum on the battlefield. And if that language stays in place, my question is, can you do that with an operation meant to deter the use of chemical weapons? Does that change also momentum on the battlefield?

           MR. LITTLE: Well, I think we're getting ahead of our skis a little bit here. We don't have final resolution language yet. So we'll see, and we'll leave those decisions ultimately to the president of the United States in consultation with Congress.

           I'll take one or two more. Mathieu?

           Q: Yesterday, Secretary Kerry mentioned that General Salim Idris of the Syrian Free Army would come to Washington. Is this building coordinating with him or with the Syrian army ahead of that?

           MR. LITTLE: I'm not aware of any direct contact, but I'll follow up if I'm wrong.

           Q: There's been a lot of talk of reducing senior military brass, generals and whatnot. Is there -- does Secretary Hagel have a goal for reducing senior civilians at all in the department?

           MR. LITTLE: I haven't heard that come up specifically, although I will note that he has directed a 20 percent reduction of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and the headquarters for the services. But I don't know of a precise initiative or a specific initiative designed to reduce the number of senior executive personnel, if that's what you're getting at, although I have to assume that would be part and parcel of the 20 percent reduction.

           Q: Just a clarification. You announced secretary -- former Secretary Donley will be overseeing this operation. Will he just be overseeing the OSD aspect of it, or will he be overseeing the services reductions as well?

           MR. LITTLE: He'll be engaged in this effort for, I think, approximately six or seven weeks. So -- and I think he'll have a broad-based view and role across the department.

           Okay, one more question. All right Jon.

           Q: George, just to reframe Phil's question a little bit. If another country launched cruise missiles against the United States, would you consider that an act of war? (Laughter.)

           MR. LITTLE: Again, I'm not going to get into labels, but -- and I'm not going to get into the hypotheticals, but let me be very clear, we take our right of self-defense very seriously, and naturally we would defend ourselves.

           Thank you all very much.