Transcript

General O'Shaughnessy, Commander of U.S. Northern Command, Press Gaggle

Oct. 30, 2018
General Terrence John O'Shaughnessy, Commander of U.S. Northern Command


STAFF:  Ladies and gentlemen, General O'Shaughnessy, commander of NORAD, NORTHCOM.  We are on the record, off camera.  And you got a busy day, sir, as I understand.  So we’ve got about 15 minutes.  So, sir, do you have any opening remarks?  

GENERAL TERRENCE O'SHAUGHNESSY:  I do.  First, I just want to say thanks for giving us an opportunity just to -- to keep a continuous dialogue with you to keep you informed of all the various activities that -- that we're doing.  This is -- I think as we looked at both the hurricanes that we've done with both Michael and Florence, now as you -- as you look at Faithful Patriot, trying to keep you informed and -- and -- and make sure that we are able to provide the information to you that you can then transmit to the American public is important to us.  

So I appreciate the opportunity to have these kind of dialogues.  I know yesterday we had an opportunity to talk with the press conference to -- to see if we can discuss some of the numbers.  And we've seen some reporting that that was different than that.  And so I just want to say the numbers that we talked about yesterday we can talk about more today, are -- are the numbers.  And -- and -- and we're trying to be -- we are consistent with that.  That's planning.  The numbers, for example, I heard -- saw 14,000 out there.  

I'm not -- I honestly don't even know where that came from.  That is not in line with what we've been planning.  And so I would just attribute that to not -- not consistent with what's actually being planned.  

Q:  General, can you answer some questions, then, about some troop numbers?  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  Absolutely.  

Q:  How many are actually there now?  And we are told there's another 2,000 to 3,000 in reserve.  What's -- what do you think is sort of the top line?  And then I -- I'd like a question on cost.  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  Sure.  So let me start with right now we have a -- a -- a little over 1,000 that are actually in place right now in Texas.  That number is -- is literally as we speak changing because we have additional forces that are moving in that -- today to -- to Texas.  That number will go to about -- in Texas, about 1,800 that'll actually be moved from seven installations in Texas.  

We also have about 870 that are part of our headquarters there that are part of the overall effort that will be engaged in this effort from a command and control, and Lieutenant General Jeff Buchanan is our field commander.  He is the Army North commander and he will be our forward commander, if you will.  

And so those installations, that movement will predominantly but not totally close today.  And you'll see over the next -- maybe Wednesday, Thursday, small -- smaller numbers coming in.  

But you'll see additional movement today and then a little bit into Wednesday to close that force movement.  

Q:  But what about this additional 2,000 to 3,000 on the prepare-to-deploy order?  Was that the max, then?  Do you see the max being like 8,000?  9,000?  What's your -- 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  No, and one of the challenges we have to answer that question is it's really undetermined at this point.  Because as we look and continue to work with DHS and CBP, we've been given clear guidance of what they need initially.  And then as we continue to refine and request for specificity of what capability and capacity we need, then that number will change.  

The example I would use is a command post.  They've asked us generically for the ability to have a command post that we can move forward, but until they better understand the overall lay down, they're unable to -- or they're continuing to work and find exactly where that would be.  Is it one command post?  Is it two command posts?  Where would they be?  How are they going to organize their CBP that we can then tie into?  

So as those answers are known, then we'll be able to answer the specificity of the exact numbers.  

And so we know we're going to have, for example -- and just sticking with command post -- we'll have that command post requirement filled.  We just don't know the specificities.  So we're not able to give you the exact numbers at this time.  

Q:  And cost?  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  Yes, so the cost is unknown at this time because as we continue to develop, it will be undoubtedly a -- a level to track that. Everything that we are moving we have a cost code associated with that.  And so it is being tracked, but that is obviously part of the ongoing as the -- as the effort comes together that we'll have to do -- put in the work to better understand -- 

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  -- border would be armed?  Some of them would be armed -- 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  You asked that question.  

Q:  I did.  Thank you for taking the questions.  How -- will there any sort of instances where troops would be coming in contact with migrants or will they always push to the CBP personnel?  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  Yes, the CBP -- CBP personnel are the -- absolutely the primary and principle members that will be handling specifically the migrants.  What we want to make sure, though, is because there could be incidental interaction between our military members and migrants or other personnel that might be in that area.  And so we are making that our -- our -- our soldiers, our Marines are going to be fully trained in how to do that interaction.  

They're going to understand the rules for that interaction and they'll be consistent with CBP.  

(CROSSTALK) 

Q: -- one follow up.  On the historical -- one of the concerns that we're hearing frequently right now is it seems a little bit unprecedented to use active duty instead of going to the National Guard that has all of the same capabilities.  And so I was wondering if you could tell us about the historical precedent for using active duty instead of National Guard.  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  Yes, well first I'll say -- and I really want to be clear on this, is that Operation Guardian Support continues on.  We know that's been very successful; 2,092 is the number of personnel that are involved in that right now.  But what is not -- maybe not known, there's 20 active duty individuals that are part of that as well -- the original request.  So it's -- it's really not -- you know, as we look at what was happening with Operation Guardian Support (OGS) and look at now Faithful Patriot, as we look at this and the capability we need to bring to bear, Secretary Mattis has looked at, where does that capability reside, how do we best get it to support DHS. 

And because we already had a complimentary effort with OGS, that was natural to go to a Title 10 response here.  And so these forces are Title 10 and -- and they will be integrated in and complimentary to the OGS effort in...

(CROSSTALK)  

Q: ... similar deployment in history of an active duty size -- of this size?  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  I don't want to comment on relative to the size and this size relative to historical precedent.  

Q:  When are we going to get a list -- sir, when are we going to get a list of how...

(CROSSTALK)  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  So I can give you the list right now if you -- 

Q:  I'd really like that list right now.  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  So Fort Knox...

Q:  But what's the -- which unit from Fort Knox?  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  Yes, I won't -- until they're actually in place, I -- I'm not going to give you the operational detail of that.  But -- but clearly they're -- they're literally -- 

QUESITON:  Can you tell us how many from each base, then?  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  Yes, sure.  421 from Fort Knox.  

Q:  OK.  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  260 from Fort Campbell.  110 from Fort Riley.  40 from Fort Carson.  12 from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  10 from Fort Bragg.  And seven from Fort Stewart.  

Q:  And when will we be able to get the list of which units?  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  Once -- once they close and we have -- you know, it's just like any ongoing operation.  I'm not going to tell you the units as -- until we -- until we allow them to -- to actually deploy.  

(CROSSTALK)  

Q:  And that's less than -- that's less than 5,200, so where -- the number you just gave is less than 5,200 so how do we get to the 5,200?  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  Yes, so everything we've just been talking about is -- is Texas, Southwest Texas, right?  What I was -- what you'll also see over the upcoming days is we're going to have similar movements to Arizona and California.  And so when you put those together, the Texas, Arizona, California, similar type movements, we're going to get to 5,200 -- 

Q:  Not New Mexico?  

Q:  And lastly, what reason was given on the order for this deployment?  What was the stated reasons for having Title troops deployed?  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  It is very specifically to support Department of Homeland Security and CBP to -- to secure our southern border.  

Q:  From what?  

Q:  Sir, not New Mexico?  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  The...

Q:  Can -- I'm sorry, can you answer Nancy's question?  Can you give him a chance to answer Nancy's question?  

Q:  You say to support DHS and to secure the border from what?  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  To secure the border.  That's the specific language...

Q:  It doesn't say -- 

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: ... of what was given to us.  

Now, clearly we -- we -- we see CBP is doing a similar operation that we're absolutely in -- in sync with.  

Q:  Now, General, last night, the president said there would be tent cities to hold the asylum seekers.  Will the military participate in building these -- these tent cities?  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  With respect to "Operation Faithful Patriot" as it sits right now, the request that we have from Department of Homeland Security and CBP is to build tents to support CBP personnel and our military personnel.  

And so, the -- the actual activity that you see ongoing now is to fulfill that requirement.  Of course, we're working with Department of Homeland Security and CBP.  As these conditions change, there very well could be further request at which we will respond to, if required, to build additional or separate facilities.  

But as -- again, as we sit right at this moment, the specific request from DHS was tents for CBP personnel or -not just tents, it's facilities to house CBP personnel. 

Q:  As far as building the tents -- as far as building the tents, only the DOD would be building the tents, not CBP by themselves?  So if there are tents, DOD will build them?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  No, I did not say that.

Q:  Is ...

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  You'd have to ask CBP that -- that question.

Q:  OK.  So they may build tents by themselves?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  Yes, you'd have to ask CBP ...

Q:  General, are the -- do the ROE allow U.S. troops to shoot migrants in certain situations?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  Yeah.  Let me be -- let me be clear here.  The U.S. military personnel that are going have very clear guidance that we've given them, it's the standard rules for the use of force.  It's similar to if we were going to any location within the United States, we have these rules in place for a reason.  

It allows us to have a very standardized set that applies to multiple situations.  Our forces are trained to that.  We are the most disciplined force in the world, from a military perspective.  And Secretary Mattis has made it very clear that we are able to train, we are able to ensure that every airman, soldier, sailor, and Marine going there fully understands the rules for the use of force.  

And we are, in fact, as an example, setting up training programs that'll be all the way from a large scale (inaudible) mass training that will then go down to unit training.  And then individual training where they'll go through vignettes and operational consideration, that they will have that level of understanding exactly what it is to be expected of them.

And then in addition that, we're working with CBP to have training venues that will work with CBP to ensure that we fully understand each other's rules for the use of force.  And no version of -- they call it ROE -- to make sure that we are compatible in our operations, together.  

STAFF:  He's got time for like one, two more at the most.

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  Well, let me just -- I'll answer your question about New Mexico, just because it's -- because it's an import to clarify.   What we're talking about for these initial deployments is we've identified BSIs, or installations that allow us to bring a large force movement in, bed them down, from that location they are going to then go out to different ports of entry across the entire southwest border.  So yes, New Mexico will likely be part of the overall piece...

Q:  Can you step back to -- or --  we've got over 1,000 in place in Texas.  Where exactly?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  The main location that we're putting to, initially, and again, this is just going on with what I just mentioned is we have identified bases that are able to receive these forces where we can do that training.  It's Lackland (Joint Base San Antonio), which is in south Texas, San Antonio area.

Q:  Are any at the border yet?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  None of the Patriot -- Faithful Patriot personnel have further deployed to the border at this time.

Q:  When you do expect that?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  That will be in coordination -- done with in coordination with CBP.  

Q:  Are any terrorists in the caravan?  

Q:  Have you done a threat assessment ...

Q:  Oh, let him answer the question. 

Q:  Are there any terrorists in the caravan?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  I'm not going to answer those specific question with respect to the intel of that.  I will say that we are working closely with CBP to understand the nature and the makeup of this caravan.

And I will say this caravan, and especially in our coordination with CBP, we understand this caravan is different than what we've seen in the past.  And that is one of the things that as we work and train together with CBP to understand the true nature of this caravan and the ultimate effect of that makeup of the caravan.

Q:  How are they different?  Are they armed?

Q:  Wait, different in what way?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  I think what we have seen is we've seen clearly an organization at a higher level than we've seen before.  We've seen violence coming out of the caravan and we've seen as they've passed other international borders, we've seen them behave in a nature that has not been what we've seen in the past.  So I think we'll see further understanding and -- and discussion of this from CBP.

Q:  Just one last clarifier on the numbers from your earlier statement.  So 5,200 is the top line?  

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  No -- no, no.

QUESTION :  Is there any chance it's going to grow beyond...

(CROSSTALK)

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  I can tell you 5,239 is not the top line.  

Q:  So how many forces, ultimately, are we looking at?  If you say 14,000 isn't right, is it somewhere in between?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  Yes.  I say anyone who gives you a number right now is -- is -- is uninformed because we don't have that number.  And when I say we don't have the number is because this -- as this mission continues to develop, all the force we have on PTPO (prepare to deploy order), all the forces that we know as a refined requirements come in from DHS will drive a change in the number.

We do know that the 5,239 is -- is going forward and I will -- what I can confirm is that there will be additional force over and above the 5,239.  The magnitude of that difference I don't have an answer for now because we don't know what that answer is.

Q:  But you think hundreds or thousands over it?  I mean are you talking at the hundreds or dozens?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  I will -- what I will commit to you as we further develop that, we'll continue the dialogue with you and make sure that you have ...

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  You know a lot of critics this morning are saying this is -- that the military is being put into a political stunt out of the elections.  You know as the -- as the NORTHCOM Commander, how would you respond to that?  I mean is this a political stunt that's using the military or?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY:  What I will say to this is as the NORTHCOM Commander focused on homeland defense, I work very closely with Secretary Nielsen and she works homeland security.

We find ourselves working together on a multitude of things; from the hurricane to our critical infrastructure protection to cyber protection, and this is yet another example where homeland defense, homeland security are inextricably linked.  

And so with that I would say that I firmly believe that border security is national security.  And with that in mind that we are in support of Secretary Nielsen in her efforts to secure the border.

(CROSSTALK)

STAFF:  Thank you all.