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Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) Victoria Clarke
Lee Evey, Manager of Pentagon Renovation Program
The Pentagon
Washington D.C.
October 2, 2001
1:30 P.M. EDT

CLARKE: Good afternoon. It is a busy day, and it's getting busier, so I would just like to touch on a few issues, take some questions, and then turn it over to Lee Evey, who is the Pentagon Renovation Program manager, because I know we've had a lot of questions and a lot of interest on the status of the building. He's got an update, so we'll turn to that pretty quickly.

As you've probably heard, the secretary of Defense is going to leave Andrews Air Force Base this evening for a visit to the Middle East. He'll meet with ministers of defense and some other leaders in the region. We don't have details; we don't have countries yet. As the itinerary gets worked out this afternoon, we'll supply that to you. He is traveling at the request of the president, and, obviously, it is to talk about the campaign against terrorism and have significant consultations over there. [ Press advisory ]

We have received tremendous international support for the effort against terrorism, and a very welcome part of that support has come from India. The Indian Minister of External Affairs and Defense, Jaswant Singh, will visit Secretary Rumsfeld here at the Pentagon this afternoon. We'll have an honor cordon at 4:30. And following the meeting, at about 5:00, both the minister and Secretary Rumsfeld will hold a media availability out at the River Entrance. [ Transcript ]

Update --

QUESTION: Torie? Torie, just very briefly.

CLARKE: Yes, sir. Sure?

QUESTION: Will this Middle East -- can we assume that the Middle East trip will include the Gulf? And is this in any way because of any fears of non-cooperation or recalcitrance of the leaders --

CLARKE: I wouldn't assume what countries are in at all, Charlie. We're working on the countries as we speak right now. And the support from countries around the world has been very, very good. This is to continue the consultations that have already started, and it is to show our appreciation for the cooperation that has been given and our commitment to the region.

Okay?

On Enduring Freedom, the Defense Department, as you know, is engaging and positioning its forces in various places to conduct whatever operations the president decides to direct. Yesterday, the White House did release some approximate numbers about who we have headed into the region, in theater. [ White House release ] And I want to underscore, these numbers are approximate, they are flexible, and they will change. As we can give you information, as we can put out information that in no way compromises the operations, we'll do that. But I just want to underscore the flexibility and the changing status of those numbers.

As a part of Operation Noble Eagle, the military is performing a variety of missions as part of homeland defense, including the patrols, remote sensing, transportation and advisory teams. We have approximately 20,000 members of the Reserve and National Guard who have been called to active duty, and that covers 115 units from 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Looking ahead slightly, we're having several meetings here this week, and hopefully by the end of the week, we'll submit our recommendation regarding General Dynamics/Northrop Grumman on the Newport News shipyard merger.

And in something we have not talked about too much lately, Task Force Essential Harvest has completed the weapons collection. They did so on September 25th. Approximately 3,800 pieces collected. The region is relatively calm right now. The North Atlantic Council has approved the next step, which is called Operation Amber Fox, which is a three-month mission aimed to further promote the stabilization process there. And our role in Operation Amber Fox will be essentially the same as it was for Essential Harvest, and that is to provide some enabling functions, some logistical support. And no additional U.S. troops will be submitted for that.

And with that, Barbara?

QUESTION: Can you just, from this podium, review those numbers for us as they stand today? Tell us what your latest numbers are in the region?

CLARKE: Which numbers?

QUESTION: The numbers you said the White House had offered up.

CLARKE: The White House had offered up approximately 30,000. They had --

QUESTION: In the region?

CLARKE: In the region, in the theater. They had talked about an amphibious ready group, they had talked about approximately 350 military aircraft, and two carrier battle groups currently deployed.

But I want to underscore again, these are approximate numbers, these numbers change, they are flexible. And as we can provide information that is meaningful without compromising any of the operations, we'll do it.

QUESTION: When you say these numbers change, are you indicating that it is inevitable these numbers will increase?

CLARKE: It's inevitable that the numbers will change.

(Aside) Thanks very much.

If you didn't hear it, there was an accidental, false alarm going off. They are working on the system -- in case you heard that coming down the hallway.

Pam?

QUESTION: Could you tell us the breakdown of how the $4.2 billion that DoD has gotten so far from OMB in this terrorist relief package -- how that money is being spent?

CLARKE: I can do it very roughly. It is a very elaborate process that we're working out with Congress, with the OMB (Office of Management and Budget), and with the services.

Approximately $10 billion has been made available to the -- to the president immediately, an additional $10 billion after 15 days. To date, we have allocated -- the OMB has allocated approximately $8 billion of the first $10 billion allotment. Of that, DoD gets slightly more than half -- $4.25 billion. And the groups roughly break out to intelligence, command and control, increased optempo, repairs to the Pentagon, initial response to the crisis, and some other needs. And we can give you a more specific breakdown on that if you want afterwards, Pam.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: As you know, there have been repeated comments that military action is not imminent. Is that still the case?

CLARKE: You know, the president has said it, the secretary said it, and I can only underscore what they have said -- we're not going to talk about timing. It's just not useful, and it's not helpful. Element of surprise is one of the things we want, so we're just not going to talk about the timing.

QUESTION: Except that administration officials at the highest levels have asserted, up until now, that military action is not imminent. Is that still operative?

CLARKE: Well, I don't know who the administration officials are, but from this podium we're just not going to talk about timing.

QUESTION: Why is it --

CLARKE: Yes, ma'am?

QUESTION: -- necessary for Secretary Rumsfeld to go to the region now? Is he trying to bolster the coalition? Is he trying to negotiate specific things? What --

CLARKE: Obviously, it's a very important region. Clearly, we've been very pleased with the support and the cooperation we have been getting from around the world. The world is fairly united in this effort to combat terrorism, and we want to make sure that we have the consultations at the highest levels. We want to make sure we underscore the importance we place on countries in that region.

QUESTION: And why would the secretary --

CLARKE: It's a very strong -- no, let me just follow up. It is a very strong sign from the administration -- the president has asked him to do this -- it's a very strong sign of the importance we place on the region and the importance we place on the coalitions.

As the secretary and others have said many times, this is a very different kind of war, and the coalitions will be very different. And we use coalitions, plural, for a reason.

QUESTION: Why is the secretary of Defense taking this diplomatic mission as opposed to the head diplomat?

CLARKE: Well, the head diplomat, if you're referring to the secretary of State, was just there a few weeks ago. And we do want to have consultations about the defense arrangements.

QUESTION: When exactly did the president ask the secretary to go?

CLARKE: When did he ask him?

QUESTION: Yes.

CLARKE: I don't know exactly. They've been talking about doing something like this for a few days, but I don't know exactly when the request came in. We found out about it this morning.

QUESTION: And he's meeting with military counterparts or only diplomats?

CLARKE: The agenda is really still being worked out. Exactly where we'll go and with whom we'll meet will still be worked out, and we hope to have something in the next few hours, since we're leaving this evening.

QUESTION: How long?

CLARKE: A few days.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: It's widely reported that the Kitty Hawk has sailed from Japan with a minimal air wing, less than her full complement. Can you tell us anything about who or what she might be picking up on route to the region?

CLARKE: I can tell you she's left Japan, and that's all. We're not talking about the direction, and we're not talking about the configuration.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Just administrative, on the numbers you gave us, the 350 aircraft includes or does not include the air wings on the carriers?

CLARKE: You know, I'm just not going to go any further than that. Just wanted to underscore that it's approximate and flexible. And again, I hope people understand, we're trying hard to provide some information that is helpful and useful. We are trying hard not to let those who would wish us harm paint the picture of what it is we're doing and how we're going to do it.

Yes.

QUESTION: Why would you plan a trip before you know where you're going or what the agenda is? (Laughter.)

CLARKE: I'm going to call the front office on that one. There have been discussions for some days about the importance of having a senior administration official head to the region. There is a lot going on these days, so we make the decisions as quickly and as effectively as we can. And as I said, I hope in the next couple of hours we can tell you exactly where we're going and with whom we'll be meeting.

QUESTION: Does he plan to share any evidence that he has?

CLARKE: You know, I just don't find it career-enhancing to talk about the conversations he may or may not have. (Laughter.) But there will be wide-ranging conversations largely focused on this effort to combat terrorism.

Tony.

QUESTION: Personnel question. Last week, Charles Abell, the undersecretary for force management put out a memo saying that all uniformed personnel injured or killed in the attack of September 11th would be eligible for hostile fire pay.

CLARKE: Mmm hmm. (Affirmative)

QUESTION: I got a number of civilians here who were involved in it asking why can't civilians have the equivalent of hostile fire pay? Since this is a new war and those terrorists who -- the attack didn't distinguish between civilian or military, what's the rationale for keeping this just to military personnel?

CLARKE: Well, you're right, Charlie did sign -- Charlie Abell did sign on the 25th that members of the military can receive hostile pay. They are looking at the issue of civilians, but it's still at the staff level, and I don't know how it's working through.

QUESTION: Could you keep us informed, then?

CLARKE: Sure.

QUESTION: Because it seems like a basic issue here.

CLARKE: Be happy to keep you informed.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Without going to what Secretary Rumsfeld may or may not do as far as the evidence, where does the administration's or DoD's indication that it will show the world the evidence of Osama bin Laden's link to this -- where does that stand now?

CLARKE: Well, I think if you look at what the world has been doing and saying, their expressions of support for this effort, I think they believe there is a fair amount of evidence there. You look at what Tony Blair said, you look at what NATO has done, you look at what the EU has done.

And I'd underscore two things. One, this is not just about Osama bin Laden and one network. It is about terrorists and the networks and the people and the entities and the organizations and the banks and the corporations that sponsor and foster them. So it's not just about Osama bin Laden.

And in terms of the evidence, in this town it has become code word for classified information. We're just not going to be in the business of talking about it, from this podium or other places. And we're not going to be in the business of what the actual conversations and the details of information we're sharing with our friends and allies on this matter.

QUESTION: Well, where does the idea stand now of showing the Taliban that there is some kind of link that we know of? Have we decided we're not going to do that in any way, or we are?

CLARKE: I'm sorry, I don't -- what's your question?

QUESTION: Are we going to provide any kind of evidence at all to Afghanistan of why they should give him up, or we just say it's obvious?

CLARKE: Well again, I'd push back on your question a little bit. This is not about Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, we have a great deal of sympathy for the people of Afghanistan, who are terribly repressed and starving and fleeing for the borders. And one of the reasons we have made it such a large recipient of humanitarian aid in the past and will in the future is for exactly those reasons. We have made very clear to the Taliban what we expect of them, and so far, the response has been next to nothing.

Charlie?

QUESTION: Torie, Tony Blair said today that the Taliban either are going to have to give up Osama bin Laden or lose power. Is the U.S. military capable of or in a position to take away the power of the Taliban, using force? I mean, aside from direct opposition, aside from -- the secretary himself has said there are not a lot of hard targets in Afghanistan. Is the U.S. military able to do that, take away the power of the Taliban?

CLARKE: Well, I want to push you off again -- I just repeat what I say earlier there, is push you off again from focusing just on Osama bin Laden or just on that network. And this is not about centers of power. This is about draining a swamp. This is about eliminating the support, getting rid of all those entities that support terrorism and allow it to continue. So it is not about their control per se.

QUESTION: I'm talking about the Taliban on that and military structure -- (inaudible). Is the U.S. military in a position to rob them of their military structure and thereby take away their power?

CLARKE: Well, that gets very close to talking about what we might or might not do, so I'll stay away from that.

I would echo the secretary's comments that there are a lot of people in Afghanistan -- there are -- there's the Northern Alliance, there are tribes from the south, there are a lot of people in the country itself who are not happy with the Taliban. And whatever we can do to show our support for democratization in that area, we will do. But we're not going to get into particulars of what we might or might not do, especially what we might or might not do with the military.

Yeah?

QUESTION: The secretary, and others in the administration, have spoken increasingly in recent days about the need for a humanitarian program to sort of run parallel to the military, especially in Afghanistan. What kind of planning is going on in this building for --

CLARKE: There's -- well, there's intensive planning going on in this building, and with the interagency team, if you will, to determine what the humanitarian aid will be, both content and size, for Afghanistan and the entire region. As I said, I think Afghanistan this year alone has been the recipient of about $170 million worth of aid. We will certainly be continuing that. And humanitarian aid going forward is certainly something that the administration puts a lot of value on, because we want to emphasize, this is not about the people of Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Well, there have been reports that it would include air drops of food and that sort of thing. Are you actually planning the logistics of that kind of thing already? You're not that far along, or --

CLARKE: Well, beyond going -- beyond saying that we're working closely with the interagency colleagues to figure out what we'll do and when we'll do it and how we will do it -- and they're pretty intensive conversations and consultations -- I just don't feel that I should go past that right now.

QUESTION: A quick question on the airplanes. You mentioned 315. What's the base? Was it about 200 --

CLARKE: I'm going to quit mentioning. I'm going to underscore one more time, "approximate," and stick with that.

QUESTION: Approximate means, though -- there was something already there. I just want to get a sense of how we increased what was already there.

CLARKE: You know, Tony, I'm just not going to go there this afternoon. Just going to say those are approximate numbers, and you guys know this is something we're working on, is what kind of information can we share that will be useful to you-all without giving away too much for those who would wish us harm.

QUESTION: It's useful to know what the build-up is, though.

CLARKE: We'll keep working on it.

QUESTION: Torie --

CLARKE: Yeah. Wait, how about -- Charlie, let me go here.

QUESTION: Sorry.

QUESTION: Thanks.

Could you tell us the practical significance of NATO invoking Article V, because it's my understanding that that doesn't exactly compel them to do anything militarily.

CLARKE: Well, I think you look at what NATO is doing, you look what the EU is doing, you look at what friends and allies around the world are doing, and the expression of support the Indians are showing by sending their leading official here today, it is another sign that most of the people in this world are united behind the war against terrorism. And if you take, you know, each of these things in and of themselves, I can see where you're headed. But if you look at the overwhelming amount of support that has been shown around the world, it's very, very significant.

QUESTION: Torie --

CLARKE: Let me go in the back here, Charlie, for a second, and come back.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

CLARKE: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: You said -- I mean, you said on the second point, you said earlier that the world is "fairly" united. But can you identify those --

CLARKE: I think I meant to say "very," but -- (laughter). Okay.

QUESTION: Can you identify those parts that perhaps aren't as united as the Pentagon would --

CLARKE: Not -- you know, you've heard the secretary talk about this before. The support around the world has been truly remarkable and very positive -- V-E-R-Y. What individual countries decide to do or not do and what they decide to talk about and not talk about is up to them. You all know better than I do just how sensitive some of these situations are. So beyond saying we're very, very pleased with the response, we're not going to start lining up country by country.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: During Secretary Rumsfeld's trip to the Middle East will he outline the proof the United States has to those countries?

CLARKE: Well, we're still putting the trip together. And as I said before, they'll have a series of meetings and consultations on these efforts, on the defense-related efforts on the war of terrorism. Beyond that, we're probably not going to characterize it too much. At least for the next few hours.

Yes, sir.

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