Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.
Let me just start by welcoming 13 public affairs officers who are here for our Joint Public Affairs Orientation Course which will take place over the next couple of weeks. This is a course that we started about four or five years ago, and many of you who are in the media will have an opportunity to meet with some of these officers over the course of their stay here in Washington, D.C. I'd just like to point out that the group comes from as far away as Hawaii, Japan, Europe. In fact it is, this time, there is at least one alumni of OSD Public Affairs who is adding a certain flavor to the course that perhaps in the past was missing. So with that, welcome.
I'm ready to take your questions.
Q: Do you have any comment on the committee action on the Super Hornet?
A: I don't really have any comment on the action. I just would like to point out that of course this is a process that goes on for some time. I think at this point we are heartened to see that the committee has provided funding for the program.
We had initially asked for funding for 20 aircraft for the budget under consideration, and we still would like to see that level of funding. But certainly this is a step in the right direction. I'd just like to point out that this step is just the very beginning of a long budget process, and we still have to go through conference and a great many other steps. We are hopeful that the funding will be at the level that the Department originally requested.
This was an aircraft which, of course, was part of the TACAIR review that was done in connection with the Quadrennial Defense Review. This aircraft is a significant improvement over its predecessor in terms of capability with range, with capacity, with survivability. All of these are important components to our overall philosophy with regard to our defense strategy which is that we are not looking for a fair fight. We're looking for a very unfair fight. This is one component that adds to that equation.
Q: Can you give an update on the situation in Brazzaville?
A: Actually, the situation in Brazzaville, I would ask that you check with the folks over at State since the ambassador there is really in the best position to give you an update. We still do have our survey and assessment team there. This is a group from the European command that numbers about 12. The aircraft that took them into the city took out a total of 56 civilians when it left two days ago. That aircraft has not gone back. The French at this point have been very active and very successful in evacuating those who have been able to get to the airport. There are some number of Americans at the airport right now under the protection of the French who will, hopefully, get out on one of their aircraft in the near future.
Q: Have there been problems getting them out from the airport?
A: I think it best that you check with them. So far, I would say that from our perspective, we are unaware of any injuries to those who have left on the U.S. aircraft, left two days ago. I will point out, though, that the situation in the city itself is still chaotic. That the embassy compound itself has evidently been hit by gunfire from time to time, just stray bullets. And that it is certainly not a safe situation.
Q: Is that special tailored team still sitting on the ground in Libreville awaiting instructions, or...
A: That was just an aircraft. The team that was actually brought in is at the embassy in Libreville. The purpose of that team, of course, was to provide support to the ambassador, communications, and also to survey and be in a position to assist as necessary if we take any further steps. But at this point, we have not been called upon to do anything further.
Q: Does the U.S. have a carrier in that area that... The Kearsarge has left, but is there a plan to bring a carrier in so it could assist in an evac? What's the situation?
A: Anything is possible, but at this point the Kearsarge is still in a port visit, much deserved after its support earlier last month. Kearsarge is in port, I believe up in the Canary Islands. The intention is to have it move into the Mediterranean for the remainder of its activities which are part of its deployment.
If there is a requirement to do something, as Ken indicated last Tuesday, I believe, it would probably be done with other forces.
Q: So you're saying that no other forces are currently heading...
A: No other forces are heading in that direction, that's correct.
Q: If there are U.S. citizens trapped at the airport, why not send the aircraft, the C-1B and the C-130 in and get them out?
A: The French actually have been very successful and are very capable of moving those that need to leave, so we're supporting their continued assistance in that regard. At this point, the ambassador has not asked for any additional assistance. Until he does, we'll just...
Q: They're at the airport waiting to get out...?
A: Well, it may be a situation that will clarify later. If you recall the conversation that took place with a representative from Stuttgart yesterday, there was a period of time that the U.S. aircraft had to circle before it could land. And given the situation there, that is not all that unexpected. As I say, the aircraft is standing by and if the ambassador asks for additional assistance, we'll provide it. But right now it appears the French can handle the situation.
Q: How many Americans are at the airport?
A: I can't give you a number. You might want to check with the State Department and see.
Q: Do you know if there's a schedule to name the replacements for Dr. White and Dr. Kaminski?
A: I would anticipate that you would hear some announcements from the White House on that in the not too distant future, but I can't give you an exact time table on that. I'm not aware that the White House and the President have come to any final decision on that.
Q: Another question. Do you know if Dr. Hamre has had a chance to meet with Senator Grassley, and the two of them to iron out their...
A: I don't know. We'll see if we can find out if they've had conversations.
Q: On the same topic, Dr. White, I believe, said he was going to step down July 1.
A: He was, my recollection is he was non-specific as to the exact date of his departure. In fact I'm not sure that we've actually pinpointed the date, but it will be some time during the month of July. When we get it, we'll be glad to share it with you, but I'm just not certain at this point it's been established.
Q: Korea. It's been reported that a Korean legislative delegation, South Korean, is in Washington, has been, in fact, at the CSIS facility today talking privately with them. Is this delegation going to come up here to the Pentagon and speak with anybody official?
A: Bill, I'm not aware of that delegation. I'll tell you what, we'll take a look at that and see if there's anything we can find. We'll give you a call if there is anything.
Q: Thanks, Mike. Finally, Stingers. This announcement of the Stinger sale. Why does it come now? Didn't the U.S. have great air superiority over the North? Why would the South need Stingers?
A: The Stinger announcement that was made?
Q: The Stinger missile sale to South Korea.
A: I think the announcement was made because we were preparing to go to Congress and there is a required announcement to be given when that occurs. It's a notification thing.
Q: But there was no need for the Koreans to have Stingers up to the point of...
A: Obviously they feel a need or we wouldn't have agreed to sell it to them. And they would not have asked for them.
Press: Thank you.