Secretary General Javier Solana to the Pentagon.]
Secretary White: Good afternoon. Let me take this opportunity to greet Secretary General Solana back into the Pentagon and fortunately a frequent visitor and we're pleased to have him back and we continue our discussions about very important NATO issues.
I'd be happy if you want to make a comment or accept questions.
Secretary General Solana: Always a great pleasure to be here again. As you know I come very frequently. We are in a very, very important moment facing the big summit that will take place in July about the NATO that is going though the process of transformation. I want to get with my old friend to try to keep in touch.
Q: Dr. White, Congressman Spence on Capitol Hill today released a report suggesting that four years of cuts in Defense budgets by the Administration and increased responsibilities for the military had resulted in reduced readiness. Have you seen the report? Have you had a chance to...
A: I've seen the report. I was very surprised by it. Readiness is our number one priority. It has been for years. It's the Secretary's number one priority. We have an extraordinarily ready force. We have a force deployed around the world -- in Bosnia, in Korea, many other places. We took 889 people out of Albania last month without any injuries or any difficulties, because that force was ready to do that. We're in Zaire prepared to do the same thing if necessary. Or any place else in the world if they're called upon.
I think this is clearly a very ready force. I chair, every month, a committee in the building of senior people in the Pentagon including all senior people from the services. We go over every issue with respect to readiness. We get good reports. We work on serious problems, but the force is exceptionally ready.
Q: Do you think that troops are being overtaxed with the number of missions that they're being asked to perform?
A: I don't think so. We always have the concern at the edges in terms of specialty troops and whether or not we're asking them to do to much. But that we monitor and that we measure each month. I just came back from the Middle East, six countries, visiting our troops. As you know the Secretary has been in Japan and in Korea, again visiting out troops to make sure that they're ready, that the quality of life is right. The reports we get back are very positive.
Q: Do you think it's appropriate for Congressman Spence to raise this red flag at this point in time?
A: Chairman Spence can raise these issues. These are important issues and obviously he has that prerogative to do that. I just want to emphasize how ready are our forces.
Q: Do you believe that the cuts in the Defense budget have hindered readiness?
A: No, I do not because readiness, as I say, has been our number one priority.
Press: Thank you sir.