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Friday, November 16, 2007

Statements: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen

From the Defense Link, yesterday, hat tip to Weekly Standard.

(I added this as an update on a previous post, but it needs to stand alone, below the statement is a link to show how Harry Reid and the democratic politicians show their "support" to our troops.)

DoD News Briefing with Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mullen from the Pentagon Briefing Room, Arlington, Va.

SEC. GATES: Good afternoon. I have a statement, and copies of it will be available after the -- after the press briefing.

Yesterday Secretary Rice and I, General Cartwright and Deputy Treasury Secretary Kimmitt met with members of Congress to discuss ongoing operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. We reviewed the real security gains being made in Iraq as well as the political and economic situation.

I also strongly urged the Congress to pass a global war on terror funding bill that the president would sign. With the passage of the Defense Appropriations Act, there is a misperception that this department can continue funding our troops in the field for an indefinite period of time through accounting maneuvers, that we can shuffle money around the department. This is a serious misconception.

The fact is, the department has significantly less funding flexibility than it had last spring. In the fall of 2006, Congress provided us with a bridge fund of $70 billion until passage of the full war supplemental. The full supplemental did not pass Congress until late May.

This fall, the department has been operating under a continuing resolution. Now that the regular appropriations bill has been enacted, we are left with no bridge fund and only our base budget to support normal war operations. Further, Congress has provided very limited flexibility to deal with this funding shortage. We can only move a total of $3.7 billion under general transfer authority, which only amounts to a little over one week's worth of war expenses.

All this leaves the department only with undesirable options to continue operations in the absence of a bridge fund. The path we believe is least undesirable fiscally and militarily would involve the following. The military would cease operations at all Army bases by mid-February next year. This would result in the furloughing of about 100,000 government employees and a like number of contractor employees at Army bases.

These layoffs would have a cascading effect on depots and procurements. Similar actions would follow for the Marine Corps about a month later. By law, we're required to notify certain union employees 60 days in advance, so appropriate notices would have to go out starting in mid-December.

If the Congress does not provide bridge funding this week on a bill that the president will sign, and given the uncertainty of future action in December, by the end of this week, as a prudent manager, I will be obliged to take a series of anticipatory steps. First, submit an urgent reprogramming request to the Congress. And second, direct the Army and Marine Corps to develop a plan to furlough employees, terminate contracts and prepare bases for reduced operations.

These plans would begin to be implemented in mid-December. It is a fact of life that even if we received a $50 billion bridge now, and the president signs it, it will fund war operations only through about the end of February. And so we would be back in this situation immediately after the Congress reconvenes in late January.

A final point, I make these comments solely as the person charged by the president and the Congress with administering the Department of Defense. The high degree of uncertainty on funding for the war is immensely complicating this task and will have many real consequences for this department and for our men and women in uniform.


ADM. MULLEN: Good afternoon. I just returned from Brussels, which was a -- I attended my first NATO military committee meeting in this job. We discussed a significant amount of -- spent a significant amount of time on Afghanistan and the mission there, which support for it remains very strong, and we also discussed the challenges in that mission and didn't come away with all the answers to manning, resourcing and caveats, but we had some very frank discussions, which I consider to be positive.

It's also important to note the other vital missions that the NATO alliance performs both in and outside the long war. Very active in a mission called Active Endeavor and have been for several years, which has become more and more effective; the training mission in Iraq and also operations in the Balkans. We also elected the next chairman of the military committee, Admiral Di Paola of Italy, and I'd like to just extend my congratulations to him. He's a superb leader, and I've known him for several years. And I'd like to extend my thanks and appreciation to General Ray Henault from Canada for his service and leadership as current chairman.

I'd like to switch and just spend a minute on Pakistan. I know there's been lots of discussion about the security of the nuclear weapons. I'd like to be very clear. I don't see any indication right now that security of those weapons is in jeopardy, but clearly we are very watchful as we should be.

As far as operations are concerned, our military-to-military contacts and dialogue between leaders continue, and I see no disruption of that as a result of the emergency measures in place. I've also not seen and do not anticipate any interruption of the logistics through Pakistan at this point, and certainly, we are spending time watching each one of these areas, but I just wanted to bring you up to speed.

So no major changes to our military relationship with Pakistan, watching it very carefully. We'd certainly like to see the emergency measures end as soon as possible, but I believe militarily the situation is stable.

And then, lastly, I'd just like to follow up on what the secretary said in terms of executing the budget inside the current constraints.

As a former service chief and in a position to have to deal with these uncertainties and -- the secretary pointed out -- anticipatory things that leaders and managers have to do, without the kind of bridge support that's being requested, services start reacting very, very quickly inside the services, anticipating even the anticipatory measures that the secretary spoke of. And it just -- from a management standpoint and actually from an expense standpoint, you do start to draw in very quickly. And your ability to execute a budget is much less effective and much less efficient. Thank you.

Read the rest of the Question and Answer portion after the statements were given.

Following those statements, the Democrats in the Senate showed exactly how much they "support" the troops.