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Press Briefing, May 2, 2007

Multi-National Force-Iraq

Press briefing with Rear Admiral Mark Fox, MNF-I Strategic Effects chief, and Major General Darryl A. Scott, commanding general, Joint Contracting Command Iraq/Afghanistan, May 2, 2007.


ADM. FOX: Good afternoon, and as-salaam aleikum. It's good to be with you all again.

The mission of the Multinational Force Iraq is, of course, to work together with our Iraqi partners to help improve the security conditions for all Iraqis. Improving security can only be achieved by building a loyal, capable and professional Iraqi security force. Only then can the Iraqi people achieve lasting solutions to Iraq's problems.

We are still in the relatively early stages of our new effort, about two months into it. This week the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which is a Stryker Brigade Combat Team, arrived to assist the Iraqi security force in and around Baghdad. Now four of five brigades are in Iraq, two additional Marine battalions are on the ground, and with the remainder of additional combat forces scheduled to be operating in their areas by mid-June.

Securing Baghdad is the main effort, and we continue to establish joint security stations and combat outposts in the city and in the surrounding belts. To protect the communities, we have to be in those communities. To date there are 57 joint security stations and combat outposts in Baghdad.

While the security situation remains exceedingly challenging, we've seen some encouraging signs of progress in recent months. A significant reduction in sectarian murders, increases in the number of weapon stockpiles seized and actionable tips provided by local citizens. Multinational Force Iraq remains committed to its mission of supporting Iraq's efforts to create the stability necessary to allow political and economic progress.

With me today is my good friend Major General Darryl Scott, commander of the Joint Contracting Command Iraq and Afghanistan, or JCC-I/A. JCC-I/A is responsible for managing mission-critical contracting efforts supporting coalition forces, security operations, humanitarian relief and the reconstruction efforts here in Iraq.

General Scott joins us today to give an update about the initiatives that have helped expand participation of the Iraqi business community and ultimately help stabilize and support Iraq. Darryl, welcome. I'm glad you can be with us today.

GEN. SCOTT: Thank you, Mark.

Good afternoon and as-salaam aleikum. As Mark stated, I run a command, JCC-I/A, who has a primary mission of providing effective contracting support to the U.S. mission in Iraq, Multinational Force Iraq headquarters, our coalition partners and all of MNF-I's major subordinate commands. But we have a secondary mission of supporting economic development throughout Iraq, building capacity within the government of Iraq to provide for the needs of itself and its own citizens, and to provide economic opportunity for everyday Iraqis.

We work very closely with the coalition forces and with other government agencies to have 131 contracting officers located at 13 offices throughout Iraq, from Mosul down to Basra.

Last fiscal year we awarded over $5.2 billion worth of contracts and over 1 billion (dollars) of that went to Iraqi firms. This year we are on target to spend over 6.2 billion (dollars), and we hope to award over 2 billion (dollars) to Iraqi firms.

Over the past 12 months, we've made a concerted effort to increase our contracting with Iraqi companies. We call it the Iraqi First Program. This program promotes economic development, entrepreneurship and improving of individual skills to better the lives of ordinary Iraqis and their families.

We're using the program to remove barriers that prevented Iraqi- owned businesses from competing on a level playing field with companies from outside Iraq, and to assist Iraq to transition to a vibrant, self-sustaining free-market economy.

We’re putting more Iraqis to work by procuring construction supplies, services and other commodities from local Iraqi contractors. This helps strengthen the Iraqi economy, enhances the security environment, gives local workers a vested stake in the quality of finished products in their communities, and increases local sources for future use.

This has been a true shift in thinking about reconstruction contracting in Iraq, and a movement towards developing capacity of Iraqi firms to provide for the needs of their own people. Where before we contracted primarily with large international businesses, more and more we're contracting with smaller Iraqi local firms.

And Iraqi entrepreneurs see great opportunities in Iraq. When I meet with Iraqi businessmen, they tell great stories of hope and determination. One former expatriate left Iraq as a teenager with his family, under Saddam, but he returned in 2003 to take a $3,000 government contract. Today we have over $17 million worth of construction contracts with his firm and many millions more in life support for the Iraqi security forces.

Another gentleman I met with told me how seven of his employees have been killed or kidnapped, and yet they have finished every one of the projects that they've been assigned. These men risk everything to contribute to the country they love and to a purpose they believe in. Let me share a few facts with you about Iraqi First. Last year, prior to the Iraqi First Program's beginning, about 20 percent of our contracts were awarded to Iraqi firms. Within six months after putting the program in place last May, that percentage had risen to 50 percent. So far this year, we've maintained 50 percent of our contract actions, representing over $440 million so far, to Iraqi companies.

JCC-I/A employs 42,900 Iraqis under our contracts, and that represents 86 percent of the total workforce employed in our contracts. We have over 2,000 Iraqi firms in our vendor database; 1,500 of them have been added to our rolls since the first of October. Over half of those 1,500 have been awarded contracts, and over a third, over 700 total companies, have gotten more than one contract, which is an indication of the quality of the goods and services that they've provided to the U.S. forces.

And we've done all this while at the same time maintaining quality and reducing costs and improving our oversight of contracts. We follow all the regulations that apply to any DOD contract. And we've increased our emphasis on quality assurance in the field to ensure the government gets what they ask for. But the Iraqi firms have stepped up.

Now, we've formed strong partnerships with both the companies and with other U.S. agencies that are involved in contract oversight to make sure that we get what we pay for and that any allegations of impropriety are promptly and efficiently investigated. Safeguarding against corruption, executing prudent stewardship, and building a new Iraq is paramount in our support for the war effort back home.

I thank you for the opportunity to share this story with you, and I look forward to you-all's questions.

ADM. FOX: Okay. And with that, we'd be happy to take some of your questions.

Q (Through interpreter.) Admiral Fox, I have a question. The first question is where have you reached concerning the investigations of the body of Ayyub al-Masri? Are you sure that he has been killed or not?

The second question is what are the reasons of targeting places like Baya and mosques near it by the multinational forces?

And a question for General Scott, could you clarify to us the point about the 131 contracts?

ADM. FOX: In answer to your question in regards to al-Masri, we still don't know exactly what the status is. And in fact, I've seen the same reports that you have. We hope that we have the report that we all hope that we can share. But at this point, I've seen the same reports that you have, and I don't have any additional information that's come out of the government of Iraq. And as soon as I have anything to share with you, I will.

In regards to the question that you asked about the mosque, the coalition force takes great pains, in fact, to honor any institution of worship, in particular mosques around -- and so we are very careful in terms of how we conduct operations around any mosque, and we will take great pains and great steps to avoid it -- you know, interfering or interceding with people in their place of worship.

That said, there are terrorists and people who have no regard for anyone of faith who will use structures of worship as places to engage coalition force and to try to attack. And with our rules of engagement, we will always be able to defend ourselves and also to prosecute the mission. We are very carefully coordinated with the government of Iraq when we do that, and we work very closely with the Iraqi security force as well. But we take great pains and in fact are always very cognizant of the locations of places of worship.

GEN. SCOTT: And I'll be glad to clarify the point. What I mentioned is we have 131 contracting officers. The contracting officers are the individuals who are authorized to award contracts, and many of those are -- in fact, most of them are U.S. government employees, but I have quite a few local nationals that work with us as well, and they work under two programs.

One that we have that we're quite proud of is what we call the Host Nation Business Advocate Program. The Host Nation Business Advocates are usually dual citizenship Iraqis who are familiar with the business environment in Iraq. They help us to understand the business practices that are local, and they are matched in the local areas. And they also serve as the link between the Iraqi businessmen in those areas with our contracting officers so that they understand how the United States government does business, what our expectations are in terms of quality administration, those kind of things. So we've made good use of them.

The second program we have is a program where we embed Iraqi citizens in our organization to teach them the skills that we have in contracting so that eventually they can go back to their communities, back to work for local governments, back to work for the government of Iraq awarding contracts for support of reconstruction as we transition reconstruction from primarily a U.S.-led effort to primarily a government of Iraq-led effort.

STAFF: Okay. Sir, we have a question on this side. ADM. FOX: Okay.

Q Paul Schemm from AFP. A question for Admiral Fox, just sort of a quick follow-up. The reports of the incident with -- involving supposedly Abu Ayyub al-Masri occurred in an area near Taji, where there's a fairly large coalition base. I was wondering if the coalition observed anything going on in this area, since it's been described as a two-hour long battle, and if there's since been any overflight to sort of see what's happened, because it's also described as still insurgent controlled.

And then just a quick question for the general. You described a shift in the reconstruction effort towards more -- towards Iraqi partners and Iraqi companies.

What was the thinking behind that shift? And did it have anything to do with persistently negative reports from the -- Bowen's office about reconstruction not really taking place or a lack of maintenance?

ADM. FOX: In answer to your question, I actually have seen conflicting reports about the actual location. And in fact the reports that I've seen have not been conclusive about any specific action. So as I said, all I've seen that I can share with you right now, that is no more than any of us have seen in the media. And as soon as I have anything else to give you on that, I'll share it with you.

Q (Off mike.)

ADM. FOX: No, we didn't have any reports at all. I mean, this was in an area that apparently was some sort of an intraconflict in terms of -- and then it was reported through the government of Iraq. And we didn't have forces that were specifically in that area. So at this point I don't have anything more that I can share with you than what we've seen in the open press.

GEN. SCOTT: With regard to our shift in strategy, the shift was primarily driven by the campaign plan that the Multinational Force has, which has always had an economic component in it. And it was always understood that while the fight is primarily a security fight, you're not going to win a counterinsurgency with a security line alone. So there was always a plan to move eventually towards greater Iraqi self-sufficiency, to develop their capacity to provide for the essential needs of their citizens, to rebuild their infrastructure, to provide jobs and opportunities for their citizens.

But I would like to comment in the SIGIR report. I think if you read Stuart Bowen's report, he noted December, 2005 as kind of a milestone. From December of 2005 onward, what you see is a much greater partnership and a much more aggressive stance towards effective contract administration and demanding that companies deliver on their promises in support of Iraq reconstruction. And we work very closely with Mr. Bowen's office. I have opened my files to his staff completely. We share information back and forth. Many of the vignettes that Mr. Bowen cites were in fact identified by members of MNF-I as we went more aggressively to hold contractors accountable for meeting the standards that are expected in government contracting.

Q (Through interpreter.) (Name and affiliation inaudible.) Question: You're talking about millions and billions of dollars, and there are some stations or places that are stable in Southern Iraq. I haven't witnessed any reconstruction there, so where are all these billions are being disbursed?

GEN. SCOTT: Well, they're being disbursed all throughout the country. And we do have reconstruction efforts going on in Basra, and quite a large number. One I'll call particular attention to is the Basra Children's Hospital -- a major pediatric oncological hospital, which is going to be the only pediatric oncological facility in southern Iraq. And that project is proceeding under budget and ahead of schedule. And we're working in very, very close partnership with the local government there, with national government, with non- governmental organizations such as Project Hope, to bring those projects to fruition.

So there's quite a lot going on throughout the country.

ADM. FOX: Okay. Question over here?

Q Victoria Coats (sp) with Red State. Admiral Fox, I was wondering if you had any thoughts about the incoming mortar activity over the last 72 hours, if that is a targeted offensive from a specific source or potshoting?

And, General Scott, I was wondering if you could comment a little bit on how targeted the $2 billion you were talking about in loans this year is beyond the oil industry. Are you trying to foster a specific industry that will be sort of a defining industry for the Iraqi economy, or are you blanketing those loans?

Thank you.

ADM. FOX: In answer to your question, we see varying sporadic patterns of the indirect fire against the international zone. Sometimes we'll go for weeks without anything, and then there'll be other periods of time where there's relatively frequent or intense activity. And so I wouldn't necessarily say it's potshot because there are certain patterns I think that you can discern. But in the same breath, it's a random activity that is clearly -- it's a variety of a tactic here that we know what the overall strategy is, and that's, again, to try to, you know, score a spectacular hit or to try to obtain some sort of a headline-kind-of-grabbing direct hit or something like that. So it's more than potshots, but not a campaign, I guess is how I would put it.

GEN. SCOTT: Well first of all, let me clarify, we're not making grants, we're awarding contracts. And that really is -- our focus is not on any particular targeted industry, it's in making Iraqi industry in general more competitive. All the contracts that we award to Iraqi firms under this program are competitively awarded. And what we're looking for is multiple companies that are able to do the work. And often that requires a great deal of mentoring. But we have companies doing things as diverse as building schools, clinics, down to providing boots for the Iraqi army. So it's all across all areas of industrial activity. And we're generally trying to stimulate activity that will eventually become self-sustaining throughout the economy.

ADM. FOX: Okay. Question over here.

Q Hi, General Scott. A couple questions.

You say this is a new phase, a new program since November '06. Can you distinguish it between the previous program that was in place? What are the defining/distinguishing characteristics?

Secondly, do you by chance know what the total USAID budget is for -- well, combined U.S. construction budget, USAID, DOS, for Iraq reconstruction?

GEN. SCOTT: Well, I'll start with the second first: No, I don't. I'm responsible for the MNF-I's portion of contracting, and I don't have responsibility or visibility into the parts that are run by other agencies.

And let me correct your dates a bit. What I had mentioned was a reference back in regard to the SIGIR report to December of 2005, when we all in partnership became more aggressive in contract oversight, recognizing the findings that SIGIR had brought to light and making sure that, in partnership, we were doing something about that. And I think you've seen some of the things that have come recently in the press that are a result of those more aggressive actions -- taking action against companies that do not perform: terminating their contracts, initiating proceedings that call to question whether they will receive any further government contracts.

But my real focus is on the Iraqi First Program, which really began in May of 2006. So it's -- this is just about the one-year anniversary of that program, and that's where we've seen these really wonderful results with Iraqi companies stepping up and doing jobs that international companies did before. We're doing everything -- we are buying containerized housing units now from Iraqi companies. We're getting vehicles painted by Iraqi companies. The uniforms that the Iraqi security forces now wear are provided by Iraqi companies, where before they were done by offshore companies. And all that, in combination with our program and our emphasis -- but what I'm really, really excited about is the Iraqi entrepreneurs who step up and they're able to do these things, and they're -- there's no reason why they shouldn't get a larger and larger share of the reconstruction efforts.

ADM. FOX: Back there. Q Question for Rear Admiral Fox, related to the reports of demise of al-Masri again, I'm sorry. But there was -- Sheikh Sittar of the Anbar Awakening or Salvation Conference claiming that fighters affiliated with him were involved in the fight near Taji -- three foreigners dead, four Iraqis, all al Qaeda, he claims, and then claims that American forces arrived after the battle, that the body then was handed to them -- the body they believe might have been al-Masri.

Any truth to any of this? Do you have a body? Do you have any -- where are the bodies?

ADM. FOX: I've seen the same reports that you're referring to. And I've specifically pulsed my sources and the information venues that I have, and at this point, I can't -- I haven't seen any reports that say that we have any bodies or that we have taken custody or that we had any direct participation in that.

Yes, sir?

Q (Through interpreter.) Haidar (sp) from the press office. Mr. Fox, could you tell us about the alternative security operation in case the Multinational Forces decided to pull its troops due to what's going on between the Republican and Democrats back in the U.S.?

Also, another question: Could you tell us about the missed contacts (sic) that have happened about the 12 billion that were allocated by the United States in Iraq?

ADM. FOX: The question about any alternate plans or the American political process that's ongoing -- we are focused on the mission at hand and at the mission that the president of the United States has given us, as the commander in chief. And you know, we are well aware of the fact that our political system creates a certain amount of political debate and dialogue and going back and forth. And in fact I think it's a good civics lesson for all of us who understand the fact that we have a system that there's a lot of talking back and forth and that sort of thing.

But it really doesn't directly affect our mission here today. And the way that our system works is, the president, as the commander in chief, is the one who will define that. And obviously we are over here operating in Iraq under an international mandate, under the U.N., and it was authorized by an act of Congress before we began this. And obviously there's more debate that's going on about that. But it hasn't changed our mandate, and it hasn't changed our focus.

So the plan that we're executing is the plan, I think, that has the highest requirements or in the highest priority for us to execute right now.

And as we said, it's going to take us months for us to see the results that -- all of these forces have yet to completely flow in country. As I've mentioned before, we'll see the final arrival, of the reinforcing forces that have been identified, in June. And then it will take a number of months across the summer for us to truly assess and to be able to understand the effect that those forces have had.

And I think that at that point, you know, General Petraeus has already, you know, gone on the record. And we're anticipating a return for him back to the states sometime in the latter part of this year, in the September time frame, to give his report back to the president and the Congress. And I'm not sure -- you might need to repeat the second question about the -- if you haven't --

GEN. SCOTT: (Inaudible) -- second question.

ADM. FOX: Okay.

GEN. SCOTT: The -- well, first of all, let me say that most of the reports about misconduct relate to contracts that were performed under the Coalition Provisional Authority. And that -- the CPA's mandate ended in June of 2004. That predates my command, and by that I mean my organization's existence. So I really don't have any details or detailed knowledge on those allegations.

Q (Through interpreter.) (Name and affiliation inaudible.)

Could you tell us, what are the important projects that are undergoing? And will they be executed in Iraq?

GEN. SCOTT: Yes, well, we have about 3,500 contracts with Iraqi firms going right now. And just to give you a few examples, I'm sure you all have heard of the rule of law complex that's being built over in Rusafa to allow the criminal court of Iraq to be able to prosecute terrorists and criminals without fear for the judges and their families. Well, there are four Iraqi firms participating in that construction project. In fact, that construction project is being managed by Iraqi firms -- over $95 million worth of construction being done by Iraqi firms in support of the rule of law in Iraq. So I think it's both an example of what we're trying to accomplish from the standpoint of economic development. But it also shows the patriotism and determination of these Iraqi companies, to build a better society for themselves and for all Iraqis.

ADM. FOX: Okay, we've got a question over here. Q Mike Shuster, NPR.

Admiral, a few days ago there was a report in The Washington Post citing U.S. military sources about the purge of some high-level police commanders on the Iraqi side, and that this may be the work of an office within the prime minister's office. Can you tell us anything more about the evidence that's being gathered on this? And has the U.S. military command reached a conclusion that the prime minister's office may be responsible for this kind of action?

ADM. FOX: You know, the -- I'm certainly familiar with the article. The Office of the Commander in Chief is a relatively new portion of the organization that supports the prime minister. It's, I think, about three or four months old at this point. And we have not -- we, the multinational force, have not had specific interaction or insight into the functioning of that Office of the Commander in Chief. And it doesn't really have a Western equivalent. It's not something that's part of our organizational construct, which is not necessarily a bad thing because, you know, we're organized in a different way perhaps.

But even before that article came out -- first of all, I would also remind you that we have repeatedly talked about the fact that the Iraqi security forces, the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police, are dealing with leadership, loyalty and logistics challenges. And in fact, there have been thousands of people who have been involved in both the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army who have been dismissed because of competence or loyalty or that sort of thing. So we understand that there has been an issue and that it will continue; that ultimately, that these Iraqi challenges and these Iraqi problems will have an Iraqi solution.

That said, if you look at the context of the dismissals and some of the personnel moves, there's a combination of health and competence and the allegations of sectarian activity.

Before the article that was released -- before the article came out, in fact, the high levels of leadership within the multinational force had been engaging at very high levels with the prime minister's office, in fact. So there has been a desire and an ongoing dialogue, if you will, to discuss these issues. Any time that we have these kinds of issues that bubble up, we're obviously going to engage with the government of Iraq and engage with the prime minister in a constructive way, fully appreciating the fact that there are historical pressures and that there are, you know, political and sectarian and tribal kinds of influences that have comprised the Iraqi government.

So this is one of those cases where, you know, the report was obviously written, and some of the quotes that were given by people who were on the field with the people that they're dealing with. But we are getting -- we have a high level of interaction and engagement with the highest levels of the Iraqi government on that. And, you know, Prime Minister Maliki has been very clear and unambiguous about what his expectations and his guidance is, and that is that the Iraqi security force will be a security force for all the Iraqi people, regardless of their ethnic or political background. And so we take him at his word on that and we're moving forward with it.

There's question over here.

Q Hi, Admiral. It's Chris Kraul, LA Times. This is a follow-up on the law center. Could you -- I wasn't aware of it. Sounds like an interesting project.

The $95 million law center -- could you give me a few details, General, please?

GEN. SCOTT: Well, yeah, the Rule of Law Complex is a -- it's a combination of a safe area, where we house both the judiciary part of the rule of law and also -- there'll be prisons and detention facilities. Now, I'm the contract specialist on this, and I would have to refer you -- the details on how it operates and who all is within it -- I'll have to refer that to our legal channels.

But it's really a pretty -- an exciting project, both from the standpoint of what it means to the people of Iraq in terms of establishing the rule of law and what it means for development and reconstruction.

Q (Off mike) -- housing?

GEN. SCOTT: Yeah, there'll be housing areas in there as well.

Q And the 95 million (dollars)?

GEN. SCOTT: For the total complex -- courthouses, prison expansion, housing, barracks for the security forces, for the total complex, yes.


Q (Through interpreter.) Admiral Fox, a few days ago, the parliament has confirmed or issued -- about a document that prevents the Multinational Forces from entering Kadhimiya. How did the Multinational Forces react about this?

ADM. FOX: As I understand it, the Council of Representatives' vote was kind of the equivalent of a sense of the Council of Representatives, or in our world the sense of the Senate. So it's a(n) issue that -- you know, certainly they have expressed a certain desire or a certain opinion about, but I'm not -- I'd have to defer to some of the legal experts in terms of the -- you know, the authorities associated with this vote, if you will.

All of our activities in Baghdad are in very close cooperation with the Iraqi security force, and in fact the Iraqi security force and the coalition force are partners throughout all of these different districts as we are operating in Baghdad to protect the people of Baghdad. And I would remind you that, you know, in this fight that we're engaged with right now, the big change in tactics that has taken place is the fact that the security forces are now living -- the coalition and Iraqi security forces are living and operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week in all of the different districts within Baghdad. And so that gives us the opportunity to have day-to-day contact with the people that they're protecting, which increases the level of confidence that the people in those neighborhoods have with the security force and vice versa, which has increased the level of cooperation that's gone on as well.

So this is one of those cases where we will always be very closely aligned with and in good cooperation with the Iraqi security force. And, I mean, that's the way I think it necessarily has to be. So we're going to be very closely aligned with the Iraqi security forces in all the operations.

Is there a question on this side?

Q Josh Partlow, Washington Post. I wanted to see if it's possible for you to tell us if you see any -- what the trends are in violence at this point. The last few weeks it seems to have been sectarian murders down, but bombings up. Is that still where we're at? And also, if you could say where we are in the surge; who's here now, how many do we have, and you know, how many brigades left, and that sort of thing.

ADM. FOX: Okay. Yeah, we continue to see a reduced total number of sectarian incidents in comparison to the pre-Fard al-Qanun Operations; reduction in sectarian activities, murders, kidnappings, and that sort of thing. And then we've seen upticks in the total number of car bomb attacks, which have in some cases created some very spectacular casualty figures.

We are -- basically, the fourth of the five brigades that are the reinforcing forces is on the ground now. And so we have one more brigade combat team that's yet to enter the operations. And they'll be here in the region here operating in the mid-part of June.

Q (Off mike.)

ADM. FOX: At this point, I'm not quite prepared to tell you exactly where. They are just now -- you know, they are coming in the region, but I don't have a specific area that I can tell you that they're operating in.

Did you have one? Oh, I thought I'd seen your hand up before.

Q Yes. In fact, I was looking for the microphone.

General Scott, to get back to the justice complex, I was wondering if you could comment from a contracting standpoint on whether or not it's going to be ready for the May 27th trial that Prime Minister Maliki had hoped to televise, where its physical status stands. GEN. SCOTT: Yes, it will be ready for the trial.

Q I'm sorry, just one more follow-up. Thirty-eight thousand total additional troops in the surge? I saw that figure recently. And what percentage are in Bogota -- no -- Baghdad. (Laughter.) Where are we today? (Laughter.)

No, the sum total number of troops, if you add up all of the -- it was 20,500 of the combat troops, and approximately 8,000 additional: aviation combat brigade, intelligence, military police, logistics and that sort of thing. So approximately 28,000 is the total, and we still have one brigade combat team, and some of those enablers, some of those support elements, that are still enroute.

Q (Off mike.)

ADM. FOX: Well, the -- I don't have a percentage that I can give to you. We'll -- we can probably get a breakout of exactly, you know, or an approximate thing, but I don't have that information to give specifically to you.

Okay, going once.

Q Thank you.

ADM. FOX: I appreciate the opportunity to spend the afternoon with you, and I look -- thank you very much, General Scott, for sharing the roundtable with me today. And I'll look forward to the next opportunity that we have the next time. Thanks very much.

GEN. SCOTT: Thanks for the opportunity, Mark. Thanks.


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