Secretary Mattis Press Gaggle in Colorado Springs

Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis


SEC. MATTIS:  Yes.  But, yes, it's good to see you.  So you're staying out here in God's country though?

 

Q:  Absolutely.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Anywhere west of the 100th meridian (inaudible) --

 

Q:  You will not get me within the Beltway willingly, I'm good.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Yes, wisdom.  But coming out here, Secretary of the Air Force Wilson, General Goldfein, and the Air Force Academy's class graduation 1,000, just sitting up there and looking at 1,000 brand new officers ready to go.

 

Obviously just in the moments when I got to shake their hand and have a word or two, literally not much more than that, but just the eagerness with which they have embraced serving the country at a time when a lot of people say, "Well, that's for other people.  I don't do that, you know, that stuff is dangerous.  That stuff is -- is, you know, it -- it can cause you to have problems and everything."  And there they are, just high-quality -- eye watering quality of these -- these young volunteers who look right past all the hot political rhetoric and sign up.

 

But they're -- they're certainly going to make a mark on the Air Force, when you think of 1,000 people coming out of there.  And there were two Air Force Academy grads sitting next to me, one on the left, one on the right who basically rose to the highest levels of the civilian leadership and the military leadership of the Air Force.  So it's a great school.  It was a real pleasure, plus an honor to come out and pay my respects to all the families and those young -- young lieutenants.

 

Tomorrow, I'm going to be over at NORTHCOM and NORAD.  Those two commands are commanded by the same officer, U.S. Northern Command includes the Bahamas, and Mexico, Canada, the United States.  And NORAD, of course, is the Canadian-American quote combined command.

 

But General Robinson, who has been there for these last years, will transfer command over to General O'Shaughnessy.  And she's done a great job, at a time when there were a lot of responsibilities, from storms -- significant storms, one after another.  But at the same time, she was expected to keep her eyes and the eyes of our radar operating and all peeled on the -- on the Northwestern Pacific and the DPRK Korea situation.

 

It's NORAD's 60th anniversary this year.  And it's interesting, I'll also be my counterparts -- and there's two in Mexico, the way their government's organized.  But my counterparts from Mexico will be there as well as my counterpart from -- from Canada.

 

And what we're really seeing is a North American powerhouse developing, one where the economies, the fact that they're both -- they're all democracies.  The fact that on the military to military side, we have very warm, very trusted relations between our militaries, and all of us there tomorrow to -- to be there as the command is transferred from one officer to another.

 

The deputy at NORAD is a Canadian three-star.  And this is where much of what we do in space and what of -- much of what we do in cyberspace comes in, as we defend basically the North American continent is what's going on there against air-breathing and non-air-breathing threats.

 

Minister Sajjan, he is the -- and his chief of defense staff from Canada -- he is a, of course, someone I know very well from being a NATO ally.  We see each other often.  We talk even more often.  And then, we have very close relations in NORAD with Canada.

 

But under Northern Command, we have the same with Mexico and Canada.  And General Cienfuegos and Admiral Soberon will be here.  They're organized with the military department and a navy department, and that's why they're both here.  But they're -- they're very much honored guests and we continue to strengthen the ties between our militaries.

 

The -- until two weeks ago, the only full honors parade I have held in Washington, D.C. in my first year was with Mexico and Canada.  And then, we just did one here about 10 days ago with Sweden and Finland.  But it shows the priority that we place on them inside the U.S. military, and the trusted relation that we've maintained.

 

But as the threats to North America evolve, we'll have to evolve the command too.  It will continue to adapt from what it does, incorporating cyber defenses, outer space priorities and -- and, of course, the -- the air-breathing threats that we'll have to stay alert to.

 

You're -- you're aware, I think, that we have just turned out here in the last months -- well, actually now it's a little while -- January, the National Defense Strategy.  It is the first National Defense Strategy in over 10 years.  So what we inherited was -- was a strategy-free defense effort.

 

And you'll see symptoms of this, hopefully, in our rearview mirror because the lack of predictable funding -- because funding 9 of the last 10 years was under C.R.s, or what we called continuing resolutions.  And what that meant was, if there were evolving threat or a thing we needed to adapt to, number one, we didn't have a strategic framework within which you'd go, for example, to the Congress and say here's why we want additional money here.

 

You don't get additional money when you're under C.R.  That's one of the penalties of being under one.  But also, without the steady budget, we could not do new starts.  So things from the Army's modernization program, to cyber efforts, to outer space efforts were either stillborn or just put in a dormant status.

 

And so, as we look at this now, we have to look at what do we have to do in order to make up for lost time.  And we are doing that with the bipartisan support of the Congress to pass the two-year authorization bill and the -- excuse me, the Omnibus bill.  And so, now we have a strategic framework.

 

Now we have the Congress back in -- no longer in a spectator role, but actually saying where they want money put.  There will be arguments, and -- and good arguments, about where the priorities should be.  And that's up to us to make certain we can bring the -- the analysis that we have in of defining problems and what solutions we want to bring forward.  At the same time, we have to recognize that -- that the changes that we're making have got to, in many cases, be things that bring allies onboard.  So the changes that we want to create are, we want to make the military more lethal in outer space and cyberspace, at sea, on land, and in the air.  And we want to do so as much as possible by strengthening our partners and our allies.

 

But we're going to have to do it with business reforms inside the Pentagon, and the reason for this is, we are not right now adopting best practices of American industry, the Congress has actually had to step in and reorganize our acquisition, technology and logistics oversight into research and engineering for the future, and then acquisition sustainment.  And the two people I have there, the former head of NASA for one, and Ellen Lord, who is risen to the top of an American industry in a corporation.

 

Those two, as one congressman put it to me, you are in danger of creating sustainable reform in the Pentagon.  But one of the points I would make to you is, I cannot right now, look you in the eye and say that we can tell you that every penny in the past has been spent in a strategically sound and auditable manner.  And so this year, for the first time in 70 years, the Pentagon will perform an audit.

 

We'll have an audit done of itself and I look forward to every problem we find, because we're going to fix every one of them.  So I can look you people in the eye and say I'm getting your money and here's what I'm doing with it.  Number one, know exactly where it's going, but number two, breed your trust that the money that's coming to us is adapting to the changing character of war.

 

Right now, we're not looking at any fundamental changes in the nature of war; well that too, but the changing character of war and things like artificial intelligence or hypersonics, outer space activities, both offense and defense.  These have all got to be looked at, because as we say in the U.S. Department of Defense, our adversaries get a vote and you have to deal with that if we're going to keep this -- keep this experiment of All-America alive.

 

So I just want to touch on why we have some of the problems we have right now.  I think there's a bipartisan way forward with this strategy and the budget as long as I can how an audit and have their confidence.  And we'll have to be very careful as we look at past problems or problems that we are dealing with today to make certain we define what was the source of the problem, so we don't take off and start solving problems that don't need to be solved or we solve the wrong problems.

 

We do everything -- somebody said, this is the way we're going to do it and then we find we never agreed on what the problem was.  So like Einstein said when he was asked what would you do if you had one hour to save the world, and he said something along the lines of, I'd spend 55 minutes defining the problem and then save the world in 5 minutes.

 

So in a democracy -- in a democracy where we have civilian control of the military and a democracy where the Constitution says the Congress is actually the people who raise armies and sustain navies and this sort of thing, we're going to have to have a shared understanding and appreciation of the problems that we'll have to solve.

 

So there's enough, I hope that gives you at least something to understand the framework that I addressed, the duties that I have.  And obviously I can go on in some length as far as details down below.  Why don't we switch over to your Q&A now, because pretty soon, I'm going to get told I have to go get ready for something else.

 

Q:   Mr. Secretary, I'd like to as you about something very current that's happening today.  China was disinvited to RIMPAC, and I'm wondering if you can say what the message is there and if there's a danger or ratcheting up of tensions.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Yeah, we are not ratcheting up anything.  In fact, we believe firmly on a stable a Pacific -- we're a Pacific island nation -- excuse me -- a Pacific Ocean nation.  Five of our states have coastlines along the Pacific, plus Guam and other American territories.  What we are doing is, we are cooperating with China wherever we can, and we are going to have to also confront them when we believe that the rule of law or that matters that can destabilize the region are being pursued.

 

We maintain open communications with China, our military operations are transparent up there.  But so long as China continues to militarize features in the South China Sea and what is traditionally, historically, international waters, and militarizing them with weapons that, just a few years ago, they said they would not be putting there, then we have to acknowledge that reality.

 

Q:  You talked about outer space quite a bit.  And the elephant in the room around here has been the idea of a space force.  Last time I caught up with you, was kind of the last time this went through the cycle, you were on the Mike Rogers push.  Where are you at now?

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Yeah, if -- if we dropped back, one of the challenges right now, and it frankly, I like having congressmen not just involved but digging into issues.  That is in my best interest, and go back to what I said about Einstein.  We need to define the problem.  Right now, no matter what the U.S. Air Force did or tried to do over the last 10 years was C.R.s as the -- the -- as the representative budgetary mechanism we have dealt with for 10 years, in the absence of a strategy that does what this strategy does, talking about great power competition for example.

 

The Air Force somehow, and I don't even know how they did it, managed to maintain America's primacy in space and do it right now, and then at this point, to the X-37.  I mean, they managed to put something up that -- with the lack of budgetary and strategic frameworks, support, somehow they were able to do it.

 

But to look now at the problem, means we have to look afresh at it.  And where are the specific problems, break them down, and if an organizational construct has to change, then I'm wide open to it.  My deputy is a man with great background in air, space -- his corporation that I joined from has a great background.  This is not someone who looks at these issues through talking points or briefing points on a power point slide.

 

Further, I've got someone in there from NASA who has -- has dealt with this.  And I'm -- again, talking points, not putting forward agendas, but looking at the science.  So what we are going to have to do is define -- continue to define, probably have some studies coming out, there have been some very good work done on them -- and when we see what the studies bring forward as the problem statement, then we'll solve it.

 

OK?  You break the problem down into bite-sized pieces, because you understand we've got to solve space.  You know, that -- that provides zero fidelity for what we have to do, but you have to do it, break down everything from what is our -- what is our strategy for space?  What are our arms control of it -- almost call it initiatives for space?  What are we doing to set the strategic framework there?

 

And we've got a lot of work done on it, and as we go forward on this, as we define those problems specifically, then we'll find is that an acquisition system has to change.  And right now, I've got a innovation board, and I'm amazed that I bring in from Silicon Valley and everywhere else, and -- or, on the business board, policy board, these boards have really capable people.

 

And the acquisition system keeps coming up as an emblem of why the Army's had problems with its modernization.  Why space has had problems.  Why the Navy?  After a while, you know, even I can figure out we've got a problem at acquisition.  So to say we're going to solve that problem may be both distinct but -- from but integral to the space issue.

 

And why am I giving you such a long answer?  Because if we don't define the problems right, we're going to solve the wrong problems.  Or...

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

Q:  What my question is -- are we reinventing the wheel here?  Because we had a solution for that.  It was a command here in town.  Last commander was...

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Yes.

 

Q:  ...Ed Eberhart.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Yes.

 

Q:  And we had -- U.S. Space Commander was in charge of strategy in acquisitions, planning...

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Right.

 

Q:  And -- and it was all in one house.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Yes.

 

Q:  Did we have a solution of losing it?

 

SEC. MATTIS:  I'm not willing to say that yet, because I -- even there, I've got to know what are the specific problems that, when you transition -- when we transitioned as a department from what you're defining to what it is today, it would -- did that bring the problems?  Or were there other problems that evolved from simply our adversaries' approach to space?

 

So most of the time, I find the simple answers are -- are glaringly incomplete.  So we -- I think when we get the two space studies done that are underway now, and -- and they probably would be even melded, because they're feeding each other -- we'll have the problem straightened out.

 

So I'm just real reluctant to go, for example, after the Army's modernization program, but it may well be that 10 years of CRs -- we may actually have the solution waiting for us, but I'm also eager just to go in and grab an old solution.  That's why I go back to defining the problem, whether it be for the Army or outer space or wherever.

 

Go ahead.

 

Q:  I wanted to talk a little bit more about the space, because there's so much aerospace in (inaudible)...

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Sure.

 

Q:  And are you using, like -- you talked a little bit about civilian partners to figure out, like, what you need and?

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Well, I mean, we're in (inaudible) with NASA space -- I mean, we're -- we're looking at all people who have equities there or who have, you know, especially ideas to offer.  That sort of thing.

 

So it is -- I would say it's open, but we have a rigor, inside our own system that makes certain that what we're getting are disciplined ideas brought forward for back briefing Congress, for example.  There's some congressmen that are very involved in this.  They're -- they're being kept up to date, but most of all, I'd say it's the labs and the -- the government agencies.  But we've also got a lot of interaction going on with the private industry folks.

 

Q:  OK.  And what are the two studies that you've ordered and authorized...

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Well, no, the Congress has ordered up studies.

 

Q:  OK.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  One of them has to do with the organization of how we're integrating space more broadly, OK?  And that -- that is -- it's not a space specific, but space has become so critical that I'm -- I know we're going to get more on that.  One is the ballistic missile defense review -- excuse me, the missile defense review.  It also takes care of cruise missiles, that sort of thing under -- you know, inside it.

 

And then the other one is the - the study that we have going on right now on space that we owe to Congress.

 

Q:  You focused on -- you focused on space and also on spending taxpayer money wisely.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Yes.

 

Q:  Both of those things -- on both of those areas, Congress seems to want to push forward.  They're looking at laying the groundwork for space corps on this year's NDAA.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Some people are.

 

Q:  Some people are.  Chairman Thornberry is looking at cuts to the Fourth Estate across the board.  Do you feel like Congress -- it's a little premature, to, like, more forward on those things?  It sounds like the Pentagon is...

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Well I don't they're moving forward too fast.  I think they're bringing legitimate issues up.  Both of the ones you brought up.  There's others as well.  But frankly, I -- the -- you know, national defense is not a partisan issue.  So I can move forward in concert with them, and the -- the -- we enjoy and the authorization or appropriations committees, the HASC and the SASC?  We enjoy wide bipartisan support.

 

Again, this is why I want to make certain we define the problem, and if we can come to an agreement on the problem, the solution will probably be more easily acceptable by everyone.

 

For example, when in -- the last administration, there was a sense that the Pentagon was consumed with the current wars and not paying attention to the future wars.  Eventually, the Congress, frankly, got fed up with just being given the stiff arm, and so they directed the change in the Office of Secretary of Defense, I came in, generally speaking, I think executive branches ought to organize as best they can on their own.

 

But after examining, getting ready for my confirmation hearing, after looking at what they had done -- which I did not fully understand, because those -- again, we -- we had a -- we had an organization that was doing both those things before.  Then I went back and read the problem statement.  The Congress was right.  They were 100 percent right.

 

So we embraced the bottom line, went out and found the best people we could get, Ellen Lord and Mike Griffin and -- and we're going to use that.  And some of you are going to say, well you've got to -- you know, you've got a separate thing going on.  Yes we do.

 

But it -- they are sufficiently different in an age of this kind of dynamic technological change that you need someone who's working only on that.  Not trying to also acquire and sustain the force that's currently fighting in Syria, and we're trying to get more shipped into the Pacific Fleet.  That's a here and now issue.  We need somebody looking at hypersonics, artificial intelligence, directed energy, big data, you know, all these things that will change the character of combat in the future.

 

So you see where Congress -- that they'll work with us.  I am -- I have very candid discussions with Congress, and I have yet to find one of -- any congressman that wakes up in the morning with the idea of weakening America's defense.  Not running into them

 

Q:  The reason I ask is because just the timing for this fiscal year -- it doesn't seem like it would match up, because the space study, I guess, would be turned over to Congress in December.  The audit is going to be fall timeframe, but you're going to have -- the NDAA's probably going to be mostly crafted by then.  So if Congress has an appetite to renew one of those issues, it's going to come before...

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Oh, no, no, I -- I think -- I think as long as we maintain a good -- I mean, it's not like nothing happened until December 3 on the war on deceits.  So we'll continue to work in collaborating very closely.  We have yet to have my Secretary of the Air Force, Secretary of the Navy, Chief of Staff of the Army, myself, my Deputy Secretary, shut out of something up on the Hill.

 

They're eager -- both parties -- both sides are eager to work with us.  We have not felt any reticence on that -- on that aspect.

 

Q:  I love journalism conversations of the press, because they-- often they focus on things.  So I'm going to take you to a different spot, talk about people.  There are issues the DOD has been trying to solve for the past 20 years.  Sexual assault, (inaudible) discipline in the ranks, having people who are healthy enough to deploy.

 

How are you putting your stamp on...?

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

SEC. MATTIS:  What was the second one?  In the ranks?

 

Q:  Good order and discipline.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Oh, the -- more broadly.

 

Q:  Yes.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  OK, I see.  OK, yes.

 

Q:  How are you putting your stamp on that, and how are James Mattis' morals getting pushed down to that private in a foxhole in Afghanistan?  How are you making sure that these units are -- you know, because we just kicked two brigades out the door to Afghanistan on Fort Carson, and they went -- they're leaving large for your detachments from people who are too broken to get home.

 

How are you fixing that?  Some of these people issues that are...

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Yes.

 

Q:  ...pretty much Jim Mattis problems.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Well, I mean they're -- they're our country's problems, to a degree.  I -- I don't think it's possible for anyone to look at what's going on in this society in terms of sexual assault with anything other than sadness and a conviction that this has to cease.

 

The military brings in somewhere around a quarter of a million, mostly very young people, every year.  Think about it.  A quarter of a million.  We have a societal problem, and in the military -- OK, and in the military, we expect that people will conduct themselves in a disciplined manner.

 

So if you look at it more broadly, you cannot have an effective fighting force is it's riven with -- I don't care what the tension is, if it's something that distracts from the unity of the force, what we call unit cohesion, then it is something that is undercutting the lethality of the military.  And the lethality of the military, the increasing is my number one priority.

 

Now I accept that when we send these young volunteers into wars, the matter of war is that there's going to be some of them who are going to be casualties.  That is the reality, and every one of them who comes in knows what they're getting into.  I do not accept a single casualty of sexual assault of one of us on our -- on someone serving alongside us.  So part of this is making certain, not only that the troops know what I stand for, it's making very clear what I, and the Department of Defense and their leadership, will not stand for.

 

Now, when you bring in a quarter-million people a year, let me just say, I spent a lot of time on college campuses in my three and a half years out of the Marines.  There is behavior on college campuses, routinely, that would never be tolerated in the U.S. Military.  It would earn them immediate censure.

 

So long as we recruit from that society, and that -- we have to recognize that a progressive American society, a classically liberal society in which human dignity and freedom is prioritized, may need a U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, that has rather quaint or old fashioned values about discipline, self-discipline being primary, unit discipline, chivalry, the controlled use of violence, that sort of thing.

 

And as we look at some of the issues in society, clearly we have work to do when we bring them in.  That's why you put everyone through a socialization process; you and I know it as basic training.  And that basic training will often change people forever.

 

But I will remind you that we are the good guys, we're not the perfect guys.  So we are also going to have to maintain a disciplinary code that holds people accountable.  And on that score, we do that.

 

And I would just tell you that we're committed to the ethical midfield.  We want people staying in the ethical midfield.  That way, if they make a minor mistake, they're still not out of bounds.

 

They're still on the playing field.  And that's when the first sergeant gets his arm around his shoulder and says, "Let's have a little talk there, son."  The way a first sergeant or a master chief petty officer can do that, which is rather compelling.

 

But if they're running the ethical sidelines and they make a mistake, now they're out of bounds.  Now you got a problem.  And at that point, investigators are there and the unit now is oftentimes broken apart into who said what and who did what.  And so, this is a -- this is a military discipline, military effectiveness issue.

 

Q:  At a time...

 

SEC. MATTIS:  This is not to be dismissed as some politically correct approach to life.

 

Q:  ... At a time when truth is becoming kind of relative, according to -- at least, what I watch on FOX and CNN.  When some of the normal morals seem to be kind of out the window on how we communicate with each other, does that make your job harder to find that ethical midfield?

 

SEC. MATTIS:  I just take it as my job.  I don't think of it as harder or easier, Tom.  I guess, I -- the way I'd say it is that the military is going to remain a standards-based organization.  What would be -- what -- what -- how can I explain that, 70 percent -- actually, it's more than 70 percent of 18 to 24-year-old males and females cannot qualify to be a private in the Army.

 

So when someone calls it 70 -- well, I'm told it's 72 percent, it's unfortunately going up.  This is combination of illicit drug abuse, illicit drug use, obesity is probably the biggest one, morals, you know, just arrests, that sort of thing and -- and there are other reasons.  You know, that -- you know, they can't pass the academics, that sort of thing.

 

So, in -- in the midst of that, we -- we try to screen certain people.  But we also accept the military have been hand-up for people who come from rough backgrounds.  So we don't want to get to the point where we're refusing anyone a chance to get -- everyone a chance to get -- get back on their feet.  But we are no longer receiving people from the society who are as much in step with the qualities that our institution must have for success on the battlefield.

 

And any institution gets the behavior rewards.  So part of what we do, after we make clear the standards -- excuse me, I've been talking too much...

 

Q:  Oh, good heavens.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  ... The last couple of weeks.

 

Q:  (inaudible).

 

SEC. MATTIS:  But what we've got to do is we've got to have reward systems that reward people for the right behavior, sometimes nothing more than just calling them out and saying, "You did the right thing." you know, promotes the right people.

 

We need physically fit, mentally sharp, and morally strong people.  And so, we have to reward that.  And if someone doesn't measure up, we either don't let them in or, if they don't measure up while they're in, they're going to be held accountable.  And the behavior will not be tolerated.

 

You're -- you know, it's an interesting question though because eventually any military does represent, you know, does reflect a society.  And so far, in many cases, we're having to push people outside their comfort zone for the kinds of behavior that we'll accept or not accept.

 

STAFF:  Anything else?

 

Q:  Sure.  I'd like to ask you about Muqtada Al-Sadr.  You were asked about this, I think, a week or so ago.  And the election results of Iraq were still out and you said let's wait and see what the results are.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Yes.

 

Q:  And it looks like now that his coalition did win.  And, you know, some people who have served in -- in the Iraq war have had mixed feeling, and maybe even some kind of confusion about how something like this could happen.

 

I want to specifically how you feel about Muqtada Al-Sadr, but I'm interested in the -- the larger issue here and what guidance you would give them.  Is it possible to work with -- become allies or, you know, work with old battlefield adversaries?  How -- how do you look...

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Right, yes.

 

Q:  ... At a situation like that in Iraq?

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Well first, all wars eventually come to an end.  I mean, by 1948, '49, after the vicious World War II, the Pacific Island Campaign was as vicious a fighting between two nations that's ever been in history.  We all know what Germany did during World War II with death camps, with invasions across Europe.

 

And yet, by 1948, '49, we were standing up NATO to defend Western Europe and we were working with Germany.  The Marshall Plan was underway.  We were working with Japan.  Japan and Germany today, Germany under the NATO Treaty, Japan under a treaty -- our treaty allies.

 

So, of course -- I mean, history tells us that all wars eventually end and the decisions you take following a war, comparing the United States leadership after World War II versus what came out of Versailles after World War One, can set the conditions for the future.  In this particular case first we'll have to see who is going to be the prime minister, because no party -- no coalition won enough to govern on its own.

 

But it was interesting, wasn't it, that in the midst of everything going on next door in Syria, having recently destroyed ISIS strongholds in Iraq -- they're still isolated cells of them of course.  After all that's going on with the Iranians exporting terror from Yemen to Bahrain, from Lebanon to their attempt to murder the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C. years ago -- a few years ago, in the midst of all that's happening there, none of us know who is going to win a Democratic election.  Low turnout unfortunately.  But not too low.  Sunnis combined with others to try to put together some kind of political position that would represent their interest.  Kurds doing the same up north.

 

We'll have to see where it comes out, and see if this becomes a responsive government.  People in 1944 were told basically in five years we'll be serving alongside German troops and sending locomotives and railroad tracks to Germany, we would have laughed in your face, said that's not going to happen; this is a war to the death.  Damn near lost.  But that's exactly what we did.

 

So wars rub the veneer off all of us and leave the passions really exposed, and now it's time for strategic thinking, for looking to the future, and determining how the Iraqi people can dictate their future, not external threats from Iran, not money from Iran, not internal threats from ISIS or other terrorists.

 

Q:  Could this election have consequences for the U.S. presidency in Iraq? Is that something that you're concerned about, something that...

 

SEC. MATTIS:  No, I mean it's not something I'm concerned with.  We're there at the invitation of the Iraqi government.  I didn't see the U.S. troop presence as being a political issue.  Didn't seem to even get much attention.  A lot of attention on a lot of issues, but that one didn't seem to rise to the level of public interest.

 

But at the same time, this is between our two governments and we'll see what government they end up with.  So we'll play that forward.  It's too early to tell.

 

Q:  Do you have time for -- to talk a little bit about North Korea?

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Well, yes.

 

Q:  And what you're talking to the president about and whether or not this is actually going to happen with the goals...

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Yeah, no -- on that one, you know, my job is to make certain there's options there, and I keep a high degree of confidentiality is what I advise the president with.

 

But I would say that this has been diplomatically led, as we said.  I first said that in February of last year, 2017.  It's been diplomatically led, and you can see where it led us to.

 

There were a lot of people doubted it and all, but like when we had the sending states get together in Vancouver, British Columbia -- those were the states that in 1950 sent troops under the U.N. mandate to the first Korean War.  Plus other nations there besides -- besides U.K., and France, and Colombia, and Thailand.  Also India and Italy were there. They were not U.N. members in 1950.  Obviously the Republic of Korea, South Korea, and Japan were there, were not there in 1950.  They all met in British Columbia the cohosted by the U.S secretary of state and the minister of foreign affairs in Canada.  And it was instant to listen to the diplomats.  It was all ministered in foreign affairs, not ministers of defense.

 

And just to give you a flavor of it, for example after I brief on the (inaudible) situation, I was just there for the dinner, and then I left, and they were going to have a day-long conference the next day.  One of the European ministers said my country's capital is closer to Pyongyang than Seattle or Washington D.C.  That's why I'm here.

 

So when you look at now for just then during our administration three unanimous security -- U.N. Security Council resolutions, how many times do you see China and Russia and France and U.S and Britain all voting on the same side, on the same issue?  Not often.  So if it diplomatically led effort.  I don't think there would have been anything that has come up that has surprised us.  Certainly not our intelligence community.  And so we’ll watch the diplomats, and our hopes will be with them.

 

Q:  I just got a follow up.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  This has got to probably be the last question.  I've got to go back to work here.

 

Q:  (Inaudible), your counterpart in Japan, you've been meeting with him (inaudible).  You have some meetings coming up with him.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  We meet often.  We talk often.

 

Q:  What is your message to him with this potential upcoming summit between North Korea and the president?  Where (inaudible) orders to allies in the Pacific.  We have more forces there than we do in South Korea.  But the summit is coming up, and there could be a kernel or a potentially deal there, and they won't have a seat at the table.  What are you telling your counterpart?

 

SEC. MATTIS:  A very close collaboration diplomatically, militarily.  We're in very close contact.  He comes to Washington, I -- as a matter of fact, my first trip actually before his time, but with his predecessor, my first trip after I came into the job in January, and February I was out into Korea, Seoul and Tokyo.  We keep very close collaboration with Tokyo, very close.

 

And that's not just me.  That's also State Department.  That's our civic command.  But it took -- like you said, it's one of our oldest allies in the Pacific.  And it's a very close relationship on both current events and longer term events.

 

Well thanks for making time for this.  I guess you missed the air show because of me.

 

Q:  We still have a lot of driving out (inaudible).

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Yeah.

 

Q:  Well yeah that's fine.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  You locals, you get to see it.  You're not like some of us, you know.

 

Q:  Yeah.

 

STAFF:  That's nice.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Yeah, that's nice. It's good to do that down here.  You know anywhere west of the 100th meridian is heaven on Earth for me.  So I admire you all for being out here and for coming in to see me, and we'll see you probably again in Washington D.C.

 

Q:  You will yes.  Thank you so much for making times for these (inaudible).

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Oh sure, yeah no problem.

 

Q:  Yeah, thanks for that.

 

Q: Well congratulation on being the Tri Citian of the year.  That's quite awesome.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Oh no, no. I wasn't, I was there to recognize.

 

Q:  Oh.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  I know -- because, yeah, this is aggravating.  I know and but the guy who did, I mean just wonderful, I mean build house -- Habitat for Humanity.  He's doing all this other stuff, and he just one of these hardworking blue collar guys.  He didn't even know what to say, because there was 900 people in the room. (Laughter.)

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

Q:  That's huge.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  And but he's just -- he's and a LDS guy, he's everything you want in just a man who just you know, what do you mean.  You know the old folks at the home don't have a bench to sit on while they're waiting for the bus, go out and build a bench themselves.  OK.  The guy -- guy who's just -- you know, one of those things that remind you who you're fighting for, you know?

 

Q:  All right, well come back out September 1st.  Wazoo's playing Wyoming.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Is that right?

 

Q:  It should be a good game.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  I was born at Wazoo.

 

Q:  Nice.

 

Q:  Yes.

 

SEC. MATTIS:  Thanks for coming out (inaudible).  I appreciate it.  We'll see you guys real soon.

 

Q:  Right.

 

Q:  All right.