SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Good afternoon.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY: Mike?
Q: You spoke today a little bit about excess inventory. What you mean, of course, is BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure). What happens if you can't turn the Congress around on that? Right now, I haven't found a single member that's for it.
SEC. HAGEL: Well, as you know, we've asked for BRAC authority the last two budgets that we've submitted. We're going to ask for it again and try to make the case that it's not in anyone's interest to continue to have to carry overhead we don't need. We're cutting excess capacity, have been in Europe, all over the world, but we still need forward bases. And we're going to continue to need some capacity around the world, but also here in the United States.
And we'll work with the Congress. They're our partners. And we'll make the best case, and we'll see where we go from there.
Q: Sir, the administration --
Q: You're in an area here in Hampton Roads that has thousands of families. What do you have to say to them, military families that is?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, first, thank you. That's one of the reasons, as I said, I came out here today, was to thank the families and to tell them how much we appreciate it. I brought a message from President Obama and passing on his thanks and his appreciation. So I think that's first.
Second message also was to come out here and listen to our troops, which I do all over the country, all over the world, also to address this budget that we're going to submit, some of the priorities that we put in. Why did we come to the decisions that we did? So those are the three main reasons I came out here.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
SEC. HAGEL: And, again, to thank them.
ADM. KIRBY: Go ahead, Bob.
Q: Mr. Secretary -- sorry. Can I ask you a quick question about President Obama's conversation with President Karzai this morning and the statement that the president put out afterwards? When you cut to the quick, does this mean that you are moving closer toward the zero option? And what do you want the European allies to make of the president raising the zero option?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, I don't think the zero option is new. I mean, the fact is, the president has been very clear that we must have a BSA (bilateral security agreement) to go forward, and he's said that for us, certainly, speaking for the United States of America for all the obvious reasons.
But NATO nations are going to need a status-of-forces agreement. ISAF nations will need a status-of-forces agreement. So the range of options and possibilities I don't think is particularly new.
Q: But he raised it first -- for the first time publicly. Does that mean that he's thinking -- that you're moving in that direction, towards zero?
SEC. HAGEL: It means that we're giving him -- which I've told you all -- contingency plans for all options. And I think it doesn't say anything more than we're planning for all contingencies, and that's not new.
Q: But has anything changed as far as the military's concerned? I mean, what changed today for you and the Pentagon?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, the planning still continues. And that's not new. The president directed me to direct our CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command) commander, General Dunford, and all of our commanders to plan for different contingencies. We do know that we will be out by the end of 2014, out of the combat mission in Afghanistan. I think -- I haven't read all of what the report was out of that conversation, but my understanding is that this issue was discussed between President Obama and President Karzai.
And I also understand that President Obama noted that we, the United States, still believe -- and our NATO partners -- that we could continue to assist the people of Afghanistan in a post-2014 role, assist, advise, if that's what they want. But he made it very clear that if we don't have that bilateral security agreement, we won't be able to do it.
Obviously, planning -- every time a day goes by, our options narrow and narrow as to what options we have. As I have said many times, the president, I'm sure, noted to President Karzai that as these days count down, our options that the military planners, our people on the ground have to continue to plan for post-2014 presence, regardless of what it is, they narrow. And just, it's just a matter of the reality. So.
Q: Is it October by which time you have to decide?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, I'm not going to get into dates. The president's comments speak for themselves. You probably have all read the release. I have, as I said, I haven't seen the release. But I'm not going to NATO, nor going anywhere to give timelines. We've got --
Q: But at what point does ambition become unviable? How long can you wait?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, I've said that every day that goes by, it narrows our options. It narrows our contingency plan. I mean, that's just common sense.
ADM. KIRBY: Thanks, everybody. Appreciate it. We're going to have to go now. Thank you very much.
SEC. HAGEL: Thank you. Thank you very much.