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Department of Defense Press Briefing by Secretary Hagel and General Dempsey in the Pentagon Briefing Room

Presenters: Presenters: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin E. Dempsey
December 04, 2013

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Good afternoon. First, let me acknowledge an announcement I made yesterday regarding Christine Fox, who is going to be our new acting deputy secretary of defense.

I recommended Christine to President Obama because I felt we needed the continuity to continue with some of the most defining challenges that we had been facing and will continue to face in this department over a number of years, and you know what those are. It's budget sequestration, we're finishing up QDR [Quadrennial Defense Review] review, and how all that impacts strategic interests and focus and where we go from here.

She brings the continuity. She brings the expertise, the leadership. She has relationships. She's highly respected in the Congress, in the White House, and certainly around here. So I want to acknowledge her coming over to give us some of her time.

She thought a few months ago she was going to escape; she did for a while. So she will be an important part of how we go forward here for the next few months. And I have great confidence in her and look forward to working with her again. I just spent some time with her this morning as we laid out kind of the next steps here for the next few weeks.

I also want to take an opportunity to thank Ash Carter. We had a going away ceremony on Monday, which some of you attended or saw. He will be greatly missed here. I will miss him personally. He has been a tremendous part of this institution for certainly the last five years, and even before that. So I want to publicly acknowledge his service and sacrifices and what he's meant to all of us, and we'll miss him.

Now, this afternoon, General Dempsey and I want to talk about some things that we are doing and decisions we've made to go forward in the area of consolidation and realignment and efforts to streamline our headquarters operations, and particularly Office of the Secretary of Defense operations. And General Dempsey will offer some comments on -- on what he's doing with the Joint Chiefs.

I think you all know that institutional reform has been an important part of what we have been trying to accomplish this year. It is not just a matter of being forced into that because of sequestration and budget reductions. That's part of it. But like always, all institutions, we are captive to and subject to environments. Challenges change. Threats change. And our world, our country, this institution is not in the same place as it was 12 years ago, or even five years ago, if you begin with we have unwound from one long war in Iraq. We are unwinding from the longest war we've ever been in, in Afghanistan. Different kinds of threats today, different dynamics. Strategic interests vary.

But the other part of that is that it doesn't mean that we are retreating from any part of the world. In fact, I'm leaving tonight for the Middle East to spend a couple of days in Bahrain, attending the Manama Dialogue, and then over to Qatar, and maybe some other countries.

But I will say in that speech that I give there -- and it does relate to what we're talking about here today -- that our interests, the United States of America's interests, are the world's interests. Our interests are not defined by one region or one country or one area. And that's part of what this announcement is today, as we develop toward and into the next year on a lot of changes and adjustments and realignments that will be made in this institution to better prepare this institution to deal with the threats and the challenges that not only are here today, but what we anticipate is to come, cyber being a very, very good example. Cyber threats are real. Five years ago, it wasn't the same dimension as -- as we now see.

So let me begin this way. And then I'm going to ask General Dempsey to make some comments, and then we'll take your questions.

With the Pentagon confronting historically deep and steep and abrupt spending reductions after a decade of significant budget growth, there is a clear need and an opportunity -- and I emphasize opportunity -- to pare back overhead and streamline headquarters across this department. And that is a result of, really, an era of post-9/11 that we have appropriately been focused on, had to focus on to secure this country.

Our efforts have begun with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff. And today, General Dempsey and I will announce decisions and organizational changes within, for me, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, General Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs, that would result in budget savings and better align our structures and resources with DOD's strategic interests and priorities.

Earlier this year, I directed a Strategic Choices and Management Review. That review developed options to help DOD plan for a range of future budget scenarios, including the persistence of sequester-level cuts over the next decade. And as all of you know, these cuts, unless changed, will represent roughly a $500 billion reduction over the next 10 years, and that's in addition to the $487 billion spending cut DOD is already implementing.

Included in the Strategic Choices and Management Review was a comprehensive look at a savings -- all savings that could be achieved by reducing overhead throughout the department and streamlining organizations, including OSD and the Joint Staff. As you may recall, I announced this summer that DOD would reduce major headquarters operating budgets by 20 percent over the next five years. These reductions are only a first step in DOD's efforts to realign defense spending to meet new fiscal realities and strategic priorities.

Difficult, but necessary choices remain ahead for the department, choices on compensation reform, force structure, acquisitions, and other major parts of DOD. These choices will be much more difficult if Congress fails to halt sequestration and fully fund the president's budget request.

Congress must be a full partner in our efforts to responsibly bring down defense spending and to implement needed institutional reforms that maximize the use of our resources. And I look forward to working with Congress next year in this effort.

When I announced the 20 percent headquarters reductions, I made clear that they would begin in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Subsequently, I asked former Air Force Secretary Mike Donley, based on the initial findings of the Strategic Choices and Management Review, to lead a review of OSD that would determine how to implement these cuts and consider opportunities for organizational change and streamlining. Secretary Donley has completed his work, and we are moving now ahead with implementing a number of recommendations and changes in line with his work and the results of the Strategic Choices and Management Review.

Specifically today, I'm directing each of my principal staff assistants to begin implementing their plans to meet the 20 percent budget reductions by fiscal year 2019. Much of these savings will be achieved through contractor reductions, although there will be reductions in civilian personnel.

Ultimately, other headquarters elements will be implementing similar reductions, and we will detail our plans to achieve these savings in the Pentagon's budget submission next year.

The OSD reductions are comprehensive, touching many aspects of our organization, personnel and resources. We recognize that the dollar savings generated by the OSD reductions, at least $1 billion over the next five years, is a small percentage of the sequester-level cuts, underscoring the challenges that face this department in absorbing these very large sequester-level reductions.

Still, every dollar that we save by reducing the size of our headquarters and back-office operations is a dollar that can be invested in warfighting capabilities and readiness. Beyond these fiscal considerations, our goal is to use this opportunity to streamline OSD, making it more agile and responsive. A related goal was to reduce the number of direct reports to the secretary of defense, consolidate duplicative or overlapping functions, and strengthen department-wide management functions.

With these objectives in mind, Secretary Donley's review took a close look at OSD's organizational chart and reform proposals. Today I'm directing a series of changes that will reshape OSD and, I believe, better prepare us for our future fiscal challenges in an evolving strategic environment.

First, we will be restructuring the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, based on an extensive internal review of the organization led by the current Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Jim Miller. This restructuring will better balance workload across policy's assistant secretaries of defense, sustain our emphasis on the Asia Pacific region, space and cyber capabilities, and better integrate our focus on emerging threats with homeland defense efforts and strengthen our security cooperation efforts, while eliminating some senior executive positions. Specifically, the plan eliminates a deputy undersecretary of defense position and SES chief of staff, phases out the SES-led task force on business and stability operations, and realigns the portfolios of the five assistant secretaries of defense for policy.

The plan also eliminates four deputy assistant secretary of defense positions and their corresponding support structures through a consolidation and realignment of the policy staff overall structure.

Second, we will strengthen the deputy chief management officer, the DCMO position, by realigning the Office of the Director of Administration and Management and its components under the DCMO structure. Secretary Donley's review found that, since its inception, the DCMO has lacked the resources and the mandate to effectively fulfill its role as a DOD-wide manager. Meanwhile, the DA&M and others have important organizational management planning and oversight functions across the department and the National Capital Region that will further enable the DCMO's work.

The consolidation of these offices into a true DOD-wide management office will provide for better coordination and integration of DOD's business affairs, including performance management and compliance, and result in a much stronger and more empowered deputy chief management officer.

Third, as the DCMO organization becomes the focal point for DOD-wide management, administration and business oversight, it's my intent to transfer specific responsibility for business IT systems from the DCMO to DOD's chief information officer. I will work with Congress to make this change because it will strengthen DOD's ability to address growing IT and cyber challenges. The undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics will continue to be responsible for acquisitions of IT systems.

Fourth, in order to consolidate intelligence oversight and privacy compliance functions, I am directing that the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Oversight and the Defense Privacy and Civil Liberties Offices be combined into a single office that will be aligned under the new DCMO organization.

Fifth, as part of our overall streamlining efforts, the Office of Net Assessment, ONA, will report to the undersecretary of defense for policy. We will preserve ONA as a distinct organization with direct links to the secretary of defense, but this change will better ensure that its long-range comparative analyses inform and influence DOD's overall strategy and policy.

Six, I'm directing that the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness rebalance resources across their office's three assistant secretaries of defense in order to sharpen P&R's focus on force management, force readiness, and military health care and military compensation and retirement reform.

Seventh, I'm directing the undersecretary of defense for intelligence to move forward with planning for how its mission and focus should evolve after the drawdown of the post-9/11 conflicts, including staffing levels, organizations, and programs.

Eighth, I've also approved plans for eliminating the five remaining deputy undersecretaries of defense who are not presidentially appointed or Senate confirmed, fulfilling direction from the Congress. To further improve the management administration of OSD, I'm directing additional longer-term follow-up actions to include refining OSD budget categories, improving oversight of contractor support, completing a review of OSD's workload, and directing a biannual review of OSD to establish a regular assessment of the office's requirements.

Once fully implemented, these actions will provide for improved and sustained oversight of OSD structure and resources. All these decisions will not only result in a smaller and flatter OSD, but one that I believe will be better prepared for the serious and complex 21st century security challenges that we face as a department and as a nation.

In this constrained budget environment, we will continue to look for ways to reduce overhead, improve efficiency, and maximize combat power. But we must do so in a deliberate manner after careful consideration of how best to ensure this department is able to carry out its mission of defending the nation.

Most of the reductions in OSD staff that I've announced today will occur through a process of natural attrition in order to minimize the impact on our workforce. If the department is forced to take the steep sequestration cuts on the order of $500 billion over the next 10 years, we may need to implement additional reductions.

As I've said before, sequestration is irresponsible and poses an unnecessary risk to our military's ability to accomplish its mission and our readiness. Congress should roll back sequestration and fully fund the president's budget request, which provides the department with the time, the flexibility, and the certainty needed to strategically transition our military to a postwar posture.

One final point. Bureaucracies are often derided, but the reality is that an organization of DOD's size, complexity, and global reach will always require sophisticated headquarter structures that provide effective oversight and management of our half-a-trillion-dollar enterprise. The men and women who work at the Pentagon and other headquarters elements, whether civilian, military or contractors, are dedicated individuals who deserve respect and appreciation.

Even as we realign our headquarters organizations, we will focus new energy on retaining the world-class professionals who we depend on every day to fulfill our mission and keep this country safe. My expectation is that the changes we make will empower our people by reducing layers of bureaucracy and making our organization more adaptable, accountable, and agile.

I know this has been a trying period for all DOD personnel and their families in the wake of sequestration, furloughs, and a government shutdown. Through it all, our workforce has remained focused and dedicated, and I know that they will remain just as focused as we work to put our organization on a strong path for the future. Thank you.

General Dempsey?

GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY: Thanks, Mr. Secretary.

Just I'd like to highlight what the secretary said about -- there are some things we would have done whether or not we were faced with the Budget Control Act and this thing called sequestration, and the four he mentioned are worth noting again, and those are the size of our headquarters. So just as he's directed the Office of the Secretary of Defense to make these changes, so, too, will the Joint Staff, the combatant commanders, the service chiefs, as well as three-star headquarters and above throughout the world.

Second, pay compensation and health care. We have said for some time that we need to adjust or slow the rate of growth in those activities in order to ensure that the all-volunteer force remains sustainable, as well as allows us to balance the force across modernization, training, readiness, and manpower.

Third, excess infrastructure. We have it, and we need to begin to consolidate infrastructure, close certain parts of our infrastructure.

And, fourth, of course, is acquisition reform, where the goal is to make ourselves -- to get out of this pattern where things are acquired and delivered too slowly and too expensively. We can't do that ourselves. We're going to need help across virtually each one of these areas. And we'll be looking to gain support for that over time.

It's worth noting that last week we entered our 13th year of combat in Afghanistan, while simultaneously delivering much-needed relief supplies in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, and while maintaining a steady state of presence in the Arabian Gulf, in the Eastern Mediterranean, and in the Pacific as a backstop to our important diplomatic endeavors as a nation.

So as we consider how to maintain our military strength, we must always remember our real strategic advantage, and that, of course, are the men and women who serve in uniform. And so the purpose of all of the reform efforts that we've been describing here is aimed at ensuring that we preserve and actually enhance the leadership, training and equipping of our forces, because in so doing -- and only in so doing -- will we be sure to keep our nation immune from coercion.

Thank you very much.

SEC. HAGEL: Bob?

Q: Thanks. A question for both of you on China. Excuse me. With regard to this new air defense identification zone [ADIZ], Mr. Secretary, you've called it destabilizing. I'm wondering whether you've talked to your Chinese counterpart about this. Do you think they should roll it back? And if I could ask both of you more broadly, what do you -- what do you see is the big picture significance of this? Are the Chinese responding to the U.S. talking about pivoting to the Pacific? Or how do you read this move?

SEC. HAGEL: As to your first question, Bob, I have not spoken to my Chinese counterpart. I've spoken to our allies about the Chinese ADIZ.

As to your question, the bigger picture, what may be behind this, first, I don't know. But I would focus on one particular area here that General Dempsey and the chiefs have put a lot of effort into, and it was very much a centerpiece of the conversation between President Xi and President Obama a few months ago, and that is developing a stronger military-to-military relationship between the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] and the United States. We have been working at that -- both sides, actually -- and you might recall that my counterpart, the Chinese defense minister, General Chang, was here in August, and I hosted him here. And I've seen him two other times in the Asia Pacific, and some were with me during those occasions.

We are working toward a stronger relationship to build some mechanisms to address some of these tension issues, which probably are not going to get any less complicated in the East and South China Sea. It's important for China, Japan, South Korea, all the nations in this area to stay calm and responsible. These are combustible issues. That's been a role that we have tried to play, the United States, in -- in the influence that we have in that area and with our allies.

But this is a time when we need to carefully, all of us, work through some of these differences. And that's the position that we've taken. It is important that in an international community that's getting more and more crowded, that we all understand and have common interest in the preservation of open, free sea lanes and what's in the interests of our countries, our economies, our security, and we're going to have to work on mechanisms that help accommodate that rules of conduct in other areas. And that's an area where we can continue to play a role, and will.

Q: Do you think they ought to roll it back?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, I think that we've made it pretty clear what our position is, the United States, on -- on this. And it's not that the ADIZ itself is new or unique. The biggest concern that we have is how it was done so unilaterally and so immediately without any consultation or international consultation. That's not a wise course of action to take for any country.

GEN. DEMPSEY: I have actually reached out to the schedulers to connect me with my Chinese counterpart. I suspect that will occur following the vice president's visit.

I think it's probably worth noting that the -- we're not talking about sovereign airspace. We're talking about international airspace adjacent to sovereign airspace. And as you know, the international norm -- I think as you know, the international norm is that entering an ADIZ, you would only report if you intended to enter the sovereign airspace of the country that declared the ADIZ.

So it wasn't the declaration of the ADIZ that actually was destabilizing. It was their assertion that they would cause all aircraft entering the ADIZ to report regardless of whether they were intending to enter into the sovereign airspace of China. And that is destabilizing.

Q: I have a question on Syria. Mr. Secretary and Chairman Dempsey, you have both expressed concerns in the past about the rise of extremist groups in the Middle East and mainly in Syria, where we see now militants aligned with Al Qaida, and some of them supported by Saudi Arabia are capable of threatening regional security. My question is, how do you see the way out of this crisis? And do you agree with what Ambassador (inaudible) said today, that the United States has to start talking with President Assad?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, first, it's been the position of the United States that a political settlement is the appropriate and responsible way out of this. And as you know, there is a Geneva II conference scheduled now in late January that will continue to pursue that path and that effort.

Also, as you all are well aware, the chemical weapons piece of this issue is on track. That's not insignificant. The United States has been working closely with our international partners on this with the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons]. We have, as you know, offered technical support, technology to assist in the destruction of the precursors in the chemical weapons themselves, so that's another dimension of this.

I think that we continue, and will continue, must continue, to find a diplomatic solution to this huge humanitarian catastrophe. It's dangerous. It presents new dimensions to an already unstable Middle East on all of Syria's borders. So I think we are taking the responsible approach and pursuing the right actions.

General?

GEN. DEMPSEY: If I could add, Joe, the -- my orders from the president have not changed, and that is to say, we are maintaining our presence and our readiness, our deterrence and our capabilities at -- at heightened levels in support of the other efforts that the secretary just mentioned.

Secondly, you ask, how do we see our way through this? I think we see our way through this by recognizing this as a regional issue, not an individual -- this is not an individual country issue or an individual group issue. It's -- it's a network of challenges. And I think seeing it regionally and seeing how each group, some of which aspire to global influence, some of which aspire to regional influence, some of which aspire to local influence, and each of those requires a different -- a different approach, because they present a different threat.

And so seeing it as a region and then working it through our partners is clearly the path that will allow us to solve this very complex issue, whether it runs from, as I've said before, Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad or from Afghanistan down into northern Africa. And the last thing is, I'll leave the diplomacy to the diplomats.

Q: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, the Wall Street Journal reported that the administration is now reaching out to some of the Islamist groups inside Syria. Is this an acknowledgment that Al Qaida is getting the upper hand there and there is concern that if you don't reach out to these groups, you won't have any influence in Syria? Can you comment on that, both of you, actually?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, that's not my area that I deal with, the diplomatic track every day on this. I would just say that if, in fact, there's going to be a diplomatic resolution, if -- if that is the responsible approach -- and we are taking that, as I have noted, as you all know -- and the January Geneva II meeting is on track to occur, if -- if this is all going to come to some kind of a diplomatic solution, then all parties involved are going to have to be represented some way. I'll leave that up to Secretary Kerry and the administration to sort that out.

But I think if -- if that is the goal, that's the objective, to try to contain this, and I think General Dempsey's comment about a regional issue is exactly right, then this can't be achieved by just narrow strips of interests in this. But, again, I'll leave that up to Secretary Kerry.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, if I could add, Jennifer, I think it's worth knowing whether these groups have any intent whatsoever to be moderate and inclusive or whether they are, from the start, intend to be radical and [exclusive]. So I think finding out -- finding that out, however we do so, is worth the effort.

Q: Are you seeing a rise in Al Qaida influence there?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, remember, I've said for some time, it's -- there -- there are more groups that brand themselves as Al Qaida. Now, whether they actually align himself with Al Qaida's global terrorist ideology is another issue. I mean, we're still learning about some of these groups.

SEC. HAGEL: This is very complicated, as you all know, just sorting out whose interests are whose interests and who represents whom. And so it takes some time to do this, and I think the path we're on, as I said, is responsible.

Yes?

Q: (OFF-MIC) Mr. Secretary. In the new policy organization, how will you ensure that homeland defense and Western Hemisphere security affairs still get the attention needed? And also, in the QDR, there's a perception in Washington that the QDR hasn't accomplished that much. Can you -- thus far. Can you offer any new, clear evidence to the contrary?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, I don't know whose observations those are, because I haven't seen the QDR results yet, because they're not in yet. So there's I suspect great speculation what may come out of that, but the results of the QDR are not in yet, and I've not seen a draft of it. Maybe someone else has; I doubt it.

But the QDR is an important mechanism that -- as you know, that is put together by very knowledgeable, experienced individuals that help guide, through recommendations, the decision-makers, the policymakers on what our interests are and how we achieve those interests. So we look forward -- I know the president does, I do, Secretary Kerry, Ambassador Rice, in particular -- to looking at that.

And it's also an effort and enterprise right now that comes at a very important time, which I've noted in my remarks. It comes at a budget time. It comes at a sequestration time. It comes at a reorganization, restructuring, institutional reform time. So it will -- it will be helpful, and I don't have really much to say beyond that, because we've not seen the report yet.

Q: And on the first question...

GEN. DEMPSEY: Could I -- yeah, could I comment on that, actually? I mean, one of the things that is coming out of the QDR that began to be illuminated by some strategic seminars that we ran about a year ago is that the homeland is no longer a sanctuary. If we're engaged in a conflict virtually anywhere in the globe, there is likely to be some effect in the homeland. Whether it's potentially ballistic missiles or cyber, something could potentially affect the homeland in a way that it hasn't heretofore. So the homeland is actually achieving much greater prominence in our discussions of our future strategy than at any time in my 40 years, as it should.

As to the QDR, I have to first point out how difficult it is doing a QDR right now in this environment of budget uncertainty, because any strategy worth anything has to balance ends, ways and means, the objectives, the way you operate, and the resources available. So what you're seeing is we're actually having to manage -- to look at it through several different alternative futures. That may be what you're hearing reflected, but we will eventually land at alternative futures.

Q: And the first question on homeland is because you're merging homeland with another position, so you're not going to have a sole homeland defense guy...

SEC. HAGEL: No, we're actually upgrading it -- yes, because of the same points that General Dempsey just made. I spent two hours yesterday with General Jacoby going through with him some of his new planning that General Dempsey has spent a lot of time on for NORTHCOM and for the homeland. And it's critically important, and it's going to continue to be critically important, just as General Dempsey said.

So, no, we're actually going to give more attention to that office as we streamline the process so that the secretary of defense has more access, more direct access as it works through the policy people, so I don't -- or whoever the secretary of defense is -- have two or three other layers in between. So that was very much part of the focus on that particular issue when we -- when we made these decisions and when Donley's report came back.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

SEC. HAGEL: Yes.

Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you. Margaret Brennan from CBS.

SEC. HAGEL: Yes.

Q: On Afghanistan, Secretary Kerry suggested today that the security agreement hanging in the balance, that it's actually your counterpart, the defense minister in Afghanistan, who might have the authority to -- to finalize the BSA [Bilateral Security Agreement]. I'm wondering if that's an avenue you are actually pursuing.

And, General, if you could comment, given the uncertainty here, all the options you are planning for, do they now include, in fact, a zero option, given where we are on the schedule?

SEC. HAGEL: I've not talked to Secretary Kerry about those comments. I saw the comments. Well, I would answer the question this way. Secretary Kerry and President Karzai reached an agreement, which we, the president, his National Security Council signed off on. That agreement was the text that was presented to the loya jirga, which President Karzai impaneled. The loya jirga enthusiastically, strongly endorsed that text, that agreement, and strongly recommended to President Karzai to sign it. Every public official we've heard from in Afghanistan has strongly supported the signing of that agreement.

Now, the issue of who has the authority to speak for the sovereign nation of Afghanistan, I suppose the lawyers can figure that out. What we would be interested in, certainly as secretary of defense, is whatever document is agreed to. And as you know, it has to go to their parliament for ratification not unlike our Senate in the treaty, and if it's ratified by their parliament, then whether it's the minister of defense or the president, someone who has the authority to sign on behalf of Afghanistan, I suspect -- I suspect that would fulfill the kind of commitment we need. But I don't want to veer too much further into legal territory until I have a further understanding of what exactly the authorities are.

General?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yes, sir, thank you. So, you know, from our perspective, as we look at the BSA, what we need to account for is the freedom of movement for our military personnel. We'll have to be able to move freely in order to accomplish the train, advise and assist task.

Secondly, the legal protections for those who serve against an Afghan legal system that is at best described as nascent and will take some time to mature.

And then, finally, force protection. And as long as the document is considered legally binding by both parties and credible internationally, then I think, you know, it'll be a matter of who they decide signs it.

But on your point about options, we've provided -- have planned options that allow us to continue to engage regionally and then other excursions where we might move closer and closer into becoming somewhat institutional-based and Kabul-centric. We've got all those options. I have not been told to plan for a zero option, but clearly, I understand that it is a possibility, given the current impasse.

Q: And just to follow up, Mr. Secretary, please?

SEC. HAGEL: I'll come back.

Tony?

Q: Budget (inaudible) you were both talking about sequestration several times. And we're in early December. A budget for 2015 has to be put to bed by -- at some point by the end of the month. How likely is it now that the Pentagon, the military services will have to adopt those more draconian alternate budgets that portend major cuts? Or are you expecting a congressional rescue over the next couple weeks?

SEC. HAGEL: I don't expect any kind of rescue. That's why we underwent a very thorough Strategic Choice and Management Review process beginning last spring to look at alternatives, as you note, that we may have to face. Full sequestration played out. The president's budget -- we have not seen the president's budget yet. We are working with OMB on this. And as you all know, we work through OMB, and OMB gives all departments those numbers.

But what the strategic review was about was planning for all those alternatives in the event -- we knew we're going to have to pick one of them or somewhere in between, and that has informed us, as well, as we've gone forward into institutional reform, what the QDR will inform us on and the president's strategic strategies that he will evolve and -- as he does every year, and all the pieces that go into our strategies, protecting our country with the resources we have, matching those resources with mission, and the planning.

As to do we expect rescues, I know there are conversations that have been going on, which I understand have been optimistic about maybe the Congress reaching an agreement next week -- you all know about those -- or before Christmas. I don't know. Everything is still rather uncertain, and that's what has been the most difficult part of all of this for the Department of Defense, the uncertainty. As you know, we don't have a budget. We are living with a continuing resolution [CR] until January 15th, so it's still uncertain what happens. Will we continue that or a three-month CR or a budget deal?

So we have to plan for all possibilities, and this -- we'll get to an intersection here where we're going have to make some decisions. When OMB then gives us a number, if something happens with the Congress, where there's a two-year agreement that buys back some of that sequestration, I know those are some of the conversations going on, but I would hope that the Congress would take some action before they go home for Christmas and not let us continue to dangle out there.

You also know the issue, the National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA]. I mean, there's a possibility we could see for the first time in 51 years that the Congress doesn't pass an NDAA. That further complicates what we're trying to do here for our planning.

Q: General Dempsey, if, in fact (inaudible) are adopted, what are the implications for modernization programs and for the Asia Pacific pivot? Will those -- will those both be cut back severely, both modernization and the pivot?

GEN. DEMPSEY: No, not initially, because -- you know, what -- what we've said, Tony, is we're going to make sure our "fight tonight" forces are ready to deploy and to maintain our forward presence and our deterrent. And that -- that will remain true. It's what sits beneath it, though, behind it that's beginning to erode.

And I -- you know, the way I look at full sequestration -- and I've said this -- is for about three or four years, it creates a huge readiness problem, because you can't shed force structure, close infrastructure, you know, reduce weapons systems early in that period, so the only place you can go to get the money is in readiness, training and maintenance. And then at the backend of it, because it's -- of the depth of -- of the cut, we begin to lose depth.

So to use a basketball analogy, if I may, we still have 12 men on the team, but only about 8 of them are actually trained to the level you'd like them to be trained to in order to -- to be competitive. On the back end of it, we're only going to have 8 players. We won't have 12.

CARL WOOG: We have time for two more.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: One more Afghanistan question. You know, the U.S. has been encouraging the Afghans, President Karzai specifically, to sign the BSA by the end of the year, but what -- what is the actual, no-turning-back time that you need, assuming that the U.S. has to withdraw all troops by the end of 2014? What is the actual amount of time that you would need to logistically get that done? I think you're already supposed to be down to like 34,000 in February anyway.

GEN. DEMPSEY: That's right.

Q: What's the -- what's your no-turning-back timeline that you would need to...

(CROSSTALK)

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, we're not the limiting factor. I mean, we wouldn't be to a level where it would be -- well, first of all, nothing is irreversible, but we wouldn't be to a level where we'd begin to affect the options until probably early summer. So that's not the limiting factor.

But, you know, don't forget that we're not in this alone. We've got 44, I think, contributing nations who have a different set of requirements to make their decisions. And so we will see an erosion of the coalition.

And, by the way, the other thing we'll see is an erosion of confidence by the Afghan security forces, you know, as they begin to be anxious, literally, about whether we're going to be there to support them. So it really needs to be done now, mostly because what's hanging in the balance in Afghanistan is confidence. The Afghan security forces are very capable, but they're not confident.

Q: (OFF-MIC) the situation in (inaudible) quickly inside (inaudible) Africa. Like many in the fight against terrorism, would the United States offer to the French technical assistance and support?

SEC. HAGEL: Your question is, will we continue to...

Q: No, will you -- will you give to the French military assistance in Africa, due to what's happening at this moment in the central republic of Africa? You did that in Mali. Will you do that now?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, we have been helping our -- our allies in -- in Africa, particularly specifically the French in their efforts. And we'll continue that relationship.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, I mean, look, we've been very supportive of the French efforts in Mali up until now. We're in contact with our French counterparts. They have not made a formal request for us for additional assistance, but, of course, you know, we -- as close partners, bilaterally but also through NATO, we would do whatever we could, you know, within our means and capabilities.

MR. WOOG: Thank you very much.

To view the documents provided at this briefing click here:
Secretary of Defense Memorandum: Results of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Organizational Review
DoD Fact Sheet: OSD Organizational Review