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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell September 20, 2007

DoD News Briefing with Press Secretary Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon, Arlington, Va.

MR. MORRELL: Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming today.

Secretary Gates spent the morning up on Capitol Hill, meeting with a group of House Republicans led by Congressman Roy Blunt, the minority whip. He will sit down with a similar group of Democratic House members sometime next week.

These meetings are the latest in a series of engagements the secretary has had with members of Congress ever since President Bush announced the way forward in Iraq a week ago tonight. They have been discussing the situation in Iraq and the president's plan to gradually draw down forces in Iraq and adjust the mission of those forces who remain.

Of course, all that is predicated on conditions continuing to improve in Iraq, and lately we have seen more signs of progress. General Odierno noted recently that total attacks have declined 10 out of the past 13 weeks. They are now at their lowest level since February 2006. That, as you recall, is the month the Samarra mosque was first bombed. And General Petraeus was pleased to report that last week power output in Iraq hit a high of 5,595 megawatts, a record even under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

But there is, of course, still much work to be done. So Secretary Gates is reaching out to members on both sides of the aisle, hoping that by working together they can make the war a less contentious political crisis and more of a manageable long-term commitment to the region.

To that end, the secretary spent much of the week explaining to senators that the Webb amendment would have either accelerated troop drawdowns at a pace far faster than General Petraeus thinks advisable or required the Defense Department to implement force management measures that would put more stress on and increase the risk to U.S. forces in Iraq. He very much appreciates lawmakers' careful consideration of his advice, and he looks forward to working closely with them in the coming weeks to ensure passage of our latest budget request to fund the global war on terror.

And with that, I'll take your questions.


Q The other day, you mentioned that the secretary had requested and received a briefing on some basic information about the Defense Department's reliance on contractors in Iraq. I'm wondering whether, having received that information, has he ordered any kind of action, such as any kind of a review of the matter? And can you characterize his level of concern about constraints under which these security contractors in particular are operating on behalf of the Defense Department?

MR. MORRELL: I've seen reports suggesting he had ordered a, quote-unquote, "comprehensive review." I'm here to tell you that no such review is underway. The secretary had some questions that came out of the incident which you all have been asking a lot of questions about, with regards to a State Department security contract with the Blackwater security company.

So the secretary had some fundamental questions he wanted to ask about how we do business in Iraq. To what extent do we rely on security -- private security contractors? How many? Who are they? He was also curious to know the rules of engagement for their work in Iraq on our behalf and the command and control structure over them.

He has gotten some preliminary answers to those questions, but there is more to bring him up to date on, so he's awaiting some more answers. But I think it would be a mischaracterization to describe this as a comprehensive review.

And I would also just make one final point on this, and that is -- and I don't mean to belabor this and I know we've done this away from the podium as well, but let's remember, this is not an issue that involves the Department of Defense. The question involves a State Department contractor, and I just want to make sure these two do not get bled together.

Q Can I follow off that real quickly?


Q Just, do you know whether in fact the Defense Department or the U.S. military in Iraq has any active investigations underway related to work by Blackwater in Iraq?

MR. MORRELL: We do not have Blackwater as a company that does work on our behalf in Iraq. We do -- the military, I believe, does have contracts with Blackwater, but not in Iraq. So I don't know the role that DOD would play in investigating problems with Blackwater.

Are they participating in the investigations --

Q (Off mike) -- I mean, some other, any incidents or any matters whatsoever of --

MR. MORRELL: No, to my knowledge, Blackwater is not a current contractor with the Department of Defense in Iraq.

Q Could I just follow up?

The -- a lot of people are having, are asking the question in light of the recent events about why it is the U.S. military doesn't provide the security for the U.S. embassy, diplomatic staff in Iraq, considering it's essentially a warzone, and considering that the number of security personnel we're talking about, I guess, is less than 1,000? Would that be too much of a strain on the U.S. military? Why is it that the U.S. military doesn't or can't provide that security?

MR. MORRELL: Jamie, I'm not privy to the discussions that took place leading up to the decision to how we secure the IZ, the International Zone, the embassy in Baghdad. Clearly we believe that there is a role for contractors in Iraq. We have 137,000 of them under contract with the Department of Defense, performing a variety of occupations that we think are better filled with non-military personnel -- cooks, cleaning crews and so forth. We have roughly 7,000 security contractors, private security contractors, working for the Department of Defense.

In an ideal world, would you have military personnel performing the role that private security personnel are now performing in Iraq? I don't know the answer to that. I think that there are certainly some in this building who would argue for that. There are probably also some in this building who believe that combat-trained forces should be doing what they have been trained to do, which is going out there and going after al Qaeda and others who are being disruptive in Iraq.

Q Well, I guess that's what I'm getting at. Is the policy not to have U.S. military provide that personnel based on the idea that you think that it's better suited to private contractors and that there can be a better use for U.S. military elsewhere? Or is it, as some people have suggested, because there just aren't enough troops and the Army's stretched too thin and they can't provide the security?

MR. MORRELL: My estimation of that would be that we believe there are certain functions which can be managed by private security contractors, freeing up our forces to take on more of a combat role.

For example, do we think it is necessary to have U.S. forces watching a warehouse 24/7, or can that be contracted out to a private security force, so that our forces can be out going after the enemy? Do they need to have convoy escort to ensure safe passage of materials? Do they need to be forming personal security detail functions? I think the decision has been made that our forces, at this time, are better used going after the enemy than performing the role that we now clearly have a great many people professionally out there who are able to do.

Q Geoff?


Q Have you seen any evidence -- any credible evidence lately that Syria is developing chemical weapons? And what would be your reaction if Syria is doing such a thing?

MR. MORRELL: I have not. I'm not privy to those things, nor do we speak, I think, of intelligence from this podium. So I'm not able to help you with that.

Yup, Peter?

Q Geoff, there was a bit of back-and-forth this morning at the White House about the interview that the secretary had with David Brooks of The New York Times. The president said that he had been told by Secretary Gates that he supported the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

MR. MORRELL: I don't think that's what the president said. I think he was convinced that the secretary believed that. He said they hadn't had a discussion about it, but --

(Cross talk.)

Q I actually have the quote. He said --

MR. MORRELL: It's Peter's question. Why don't you finish?

Q I wanted for the record --

MR. MORRELL: You can --

(Cross talk.)

Q (Off mike) -- Jamie. (Laughs.)

Q I wasn't going to ask. I was just going to read the quote --

Q Okay.

Q -- so we had it to operate on.

Q Well, that is actually my question, because I don't recall the secretary ever saying that publicly, that he supported the ouster of Saddam Hussein. He's actually been pretty circumspect in talking about -- looking backwards, about what happened before he became secretary. Well, can you shed some light on his views as to whether he supported the takedown of Saddam Hussein in 2003?

MR. MORRELL: Well, I think if you go back and look at his speeches prior to taking office, he did express just that sentiment. I mean, he was a -- he strongly believed that at the time it was indeed a worthwhile venture, that ousting Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do.

Q So his answer to David Brooks in which he said, when he was asked does the he think the Iraq invasion was a good idea, and he said, "I don't know," that is a 20/20 hindsight type of thing --

MR. MORRELL: Let me just -- just because I think there's some confusion what he actually did say -- Brooks asked the question -- this is Monday at the Williamsburg speech, afterwards, during a lengthy interview he had with David Brooks. And at one point Brooks asked him, "So now do you think in retrospect, knowing what we know about WMDs, it was worth doing?"

To which the secretary then went on to sort of rephrase the question to a point where he was comfortable with it and he thought it was relevant and he could answer it. And he said, "If I had known then what I know now, would I have done the same? And I think the answer is, I don't know."

And I went up and spoke with him about this just a few moments ago, and he tells me he deliberately rephrased the question to get it to a point where he was comfortable answering it. And what he was basically saying -- if I (sic) had known then what he knows now, would he have done the same things? Would he have done it the same way? And his answer to "would I have done the same things or would I have done it the same way" is, "I don't know."

That does not in any way, I think, take away from his belief that he believes ousting Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do. And you saw in his confirmation hearings where he offered a litany of things he thought had not gone well post-invasion. And so I think that's what his reference is to "Would I have done the same things?"

Q So it's your understanding is that he still believes it was a good thing to get rid of Saddam Hussein.

MR. MORRELL: It is -- I've just reassured myself of this, and he assured me that in fact that his statements, prior to him taking this office, in which he advocated the ouster of Saddam Hussein still stand. Now, keep in mind that the secretary believed that the ouster of Saddam Hussein -- that the goal here was not to necessarily -- liberating Iraq was a by-product of the goal.

The secretary believed that Saddam Hussein was a destabilizing influence in the region who was intent, if he didn't them already, on developing weapons of mass destruction. He was convinced, the secretary was, that the sanctions were crumbling and that it was only a matter of time before -- if he didn't have them already, he would develop a weapons of mass destruction program. In light of that, he believed and still does believe that the right course of action was to topple Saddam Hussein.

(Cross talk.)

Q Can you just clarify exactly how the secretary answered the question? Because you said it twice, and it sounded like you inserted some parenthetical reference or something else.

MR. MORRELL: The answer is a lengthy preamble, but the final line in the answer is: "If I had known then what I know now, would I have done the same? And I think the answer is, I don't know."

Now, what he tells me is that "would I have done the same" is a reference to: "Would I have done the same things? Would I have handled it the same way?" He is not referring to the initial decision to invade Iraq.

Q Will you release the transcript?

MR. MORRELL: I think -- we can release the answer to this portion of Q&A. I think --

Q Can we see the whole transcript? I mean, the Pentagon policy --

MR. MORRELL: The interview is a wide-ranging interview. And we'll have to have a discussion whether we want to release -- this is an interview done with one particular journalist, and I will release -- I think, after discussing it, I think it's probably okay to release that particular Q&A.

But beyond that, I think that's a discussion we're going to have to have. But I don't think it's necessary, because I don't think it adds any insight to this particular question.

Q No, but the Pentagon has had a policy for years now of releasing every transcript.


Well, let's take it up afterwards.

Q (Off mike) -- change in policy.

MR. MORRELL: Jamie, as you know, I'm new to this job. I don't know the ancient policies of this building, but it seems to me that it may be reasonable to release this particular Q&A. Okay?

Q (What do you know of ?) ancient things?

MR. MORRELL: That's right. (Chuckles.)

Q Geoff, the last time you were up here, you -- we were asking about the B-52 flight. You said that the secretary was going to have a report from the Air Force by the end of what was then next week, which was the 14th or the 15th of the month. Where does that stand? Have you received the report? What happened?

MR. MORRELL: Yeah, and perhaps I -- I don't think I misspoke, but maybe I mischaracterized it a little bit. He has been getting regular updates on the progress of the investigation. I think what I led you to believe was that there would be a definitive answer, a definitive, codified report by -- within that two-week period. And he has certainly gotten reports, but I think the investigation is still under way.

And as I understand it, General Raaberg is heading it up for the Air Force. He has some -- I think the inspector general is aiding him or participating in it, but it is very much an Air Force-led investigation, and the secretary of Defense is confident that the Air Force can and is handling this properly.

Additionally, the secretary has asked Retired General Larry Welch to sort of conduct an independent outside assessment of this munitions transfer incident. So you have General Raaberg on behalf of the Air Force, you've got General Welch on behalf of the Secretary's Office both simultaneously conducting an assessment of what happened.

I should also note, if you don't know already, that Secretary Wynne, the Air Force secretary, went to Minot and Barksdale I believe last week to sort of see firsthand for himself -- I think one of the visits was -- had been planned before the incident but went to see for himself how things are going out there.

As for when General Raaberg or Welch, for that matter, are planning on completing their investigation, I think you'd have to take that up with the Air Force. I'm just not privy to that right now.

Q (Off mike) -- he's been getting daily or -- well --

MR. MORRELL: I wouldn't say daily.

Q -- regular -- he's been getting regular updates. Can you give us an idea about what they've found so far or what --

MR. MORRELL: I can't, I can't. I'm sorry.

Q Geoff, October 1st is approaching, and it doesn't look like there's going to be a Defense funding bill passed or a bill passed by that point, something agreed upon. What's the Defense Department's plans for continuing to fund the Iraq war after October 1st?

MR. MORRELL: I'm confident that we will have the means to fund the Iraq war after Iraq -- after October 1st. I know that our Legislative Affairs people are working hard, are working with the Congress to get the funding necessary to make it happen. It may not happen -- it may have to happen with a continuing resolution of some sort, but I'm confident that our men and women in uniform will be funded, as they fight on the global war on terror, on October 1st.

Q But what if nothing gets passed by October 1st?

MR. MORRELL: I'm confident that things will get passed by October 1st, and we're working hard to ensure that.

Q Do you have any concerns that you're going to have enough money --

MR. MORRELL: At this point -- in this point, I'm -- if there are concerns, they haven't been expressed to me.

Yes, Jeff.

Q Speaking of funding, we've heard the Defense Department plans to ask Congress later this week for funding for up to 10,000 MRAPs for the Army. Can you confirm this?

MR. MORRELL: I can confirm the -- I'm not going to get into funding, because I think it's premature to talk about funding before we provide the Hill with what we're asking for. And just so you have a better sense of the timing there, I think, as of last -- by the end of last week, this building had provided OMB with all of our funding requests. It wasn't done in one handover. I think we had done it piecemeal.

But certainly by the end of last week, they had what we desired for the GWOT supplemental for '08. So we're now waiting for the OMB to sort of complete their evaluation of it and hopefully bless it and then pass it up to the Hill. And then you will see, as I think we've alluded to, mid-next-week, the secretary will indeed be on the Hill to talk to the Senate Appropriations Committee about our budget request for next year.

With regards to the MRAPs, I can tell you that there is, and I know you'll appreciate this, Jeff, a man who is interested in MRAPs, that the JROC, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, has now certified a new requirement for MRAPs, which now totals 15,274. So the new desired number of MRAPs for the Department of Defense now exceeds 15,000. Of those, 10,000 have been requested by the Army. The United States Marine Corps has requested another 37 -- or 3,700, not another 37. These are totals I'm giving you. And then the Navy, 544; the Air Force, 697, and SOCOM has requested 333 -- Special Operations.

Q How much did Air Force?

MR. MORRELL: Air Force was 697.

Q (Cross talk.)

MR. MORRELL: I'm not going to -- but the larger point is, that's the new requirement. And as you know, that is up from our last requirement of 7,774, I believe, so a significant increase. I know there was originally some talk, although it was never certified, out of the JROC of a request of 17,000-plus.

I think that was -- originally the sense -- the original gauge of how many we needed, I think, was based upon a hasty sort of conversation about, okay, how many do I need? If we're going to switch out one for one, swap one for one with up-armored humvees, every one of them, that would get you over 17,000. We've done a closer evaluation -- the Joint Chiefs have. And the evaluation has now suggested that we need about 15,000.

That number could still change, because the idea here is that we think it's best to ask for as many as we may need. And if events on the ground change such that we need fewer of them, we can always offramp this and end up buying fewer.

But we want to make sure we have enough to meet the needs of the force to best protect them, and this is the number they think now can do that.

Q In laymen's terms, the Defense officials have authorized a new number of MRAPs for all the services. It is now 15,274, correct?

MR. MORRELL: Well, listen, this number has to be -- keep in mind how this process works. The number has to be signed off by the secretary. But I can tell you, without getting into -- I don't want to get into the budget request, which has gone up to the Hill, that the budget request will reflect buying many more MRAPs. So in that sense, it has been blessed.

Q Is the plan still to have 1,500 in Iraq by the end of the year?

MR. MORRELL: I have heard of nothing which would lead us away from that goal.

Yeah? Go ahead, yeah.

Q The president said today that the ad about General Petraeus was an attack on the U.S. military and that Democrats are failing to condemn that ad, said they were more interested in not irritating than they were in not irritating the military. Does Secretary Gates agree with that?

MR. MORRELL: I think Secretary Gates spoke very well on behalf of himself on the Sunday morning talk shows. I think it was on Fox News Sunday when he told Chris Wallace in answer to a similar question that he thought the ad was despicable.

Q Does he think it was an attack on the military?

MR. MORRELL: I think he thought the ad was despicable, and I'll leave it at that.


Q Just to go back to the Webb amendment for a minute, Senator Warner said yesterday that in briefings with senior uniformed officers he'd been told that the department -- to implement the Webb amendment, the department would need until October 2008, I believe. Given what the secretary and what Admiral Mullen, among others, have said about the desirability of providing more dwell time, longer breaks between deployments, is the department working toward that goal on its own? And if not, why not?

MR. MORRELL: I think it is the desire of the department to get that to a regular and a more manageable dwell time period for our forces, and that is the goal every day. But right now, the situation is such that it requires, as the secretary announced shortly after he took office, that at least the active-duty component of the Army has got to serve right now up to 15 months boots on the ground in Iraq, and they'll get 12 months dwell time. But it is the goal of this secretary and I think everybody in this building to get it where there's a more manageable balance between the two, but operationally now it requires that we do the 15-12.

I just want -- you noted, and I just want to pick up on this, Senator Warner talking about briefing some uniformed members up on the Hill, and I want to just point out so there's no misunderstanding here, indeed, in response to specific questions, some uniformed personnel did go up to the Hill to brief members on their specific questions about the Webb amendment and the impact it would have on how we manage forces here in Iraq. But in no way, as I think some have suggested, was it in any way a lobbying effort. It was simply to answer specific questions which some members had about the amendment.

Q Well, if I could just follow up for a moment, I mean, given what you've just said about the desirability of more dwell time and the secretary's interest in it -- and apparently, Senator Warner was briefed that a one-to-one ratio is doable by October 2008 -- why doesn't the president adopt that as a policy?

MR. MORRELL: I'm not aware that a one-to-one ratio is aware -- is possible. That has not been shared with me if indeed that's the case.

Right now the belief is -- and I don't want to rehash the Webb amendment, because the Webb amendment was defeated by the same margin it was defeated by before and it's now history. But it would have severely, as I mentioned in my opening statement, impacted our ability to manage forces in Iraq, to the detriment of those forces. It would have made their tours unpredictable, their dwell time unpredictable; would have created gaps between forces that would have jeopardized their safety. It would have forced us to cobble together forces from different units; unit cohesion would have been lost because we would have managed it not on a unit basis but an individual basis. It would have been a bureaucratic nightmare that would have been a danger to the troops.

Q Do you have anything more on the Iranian Qods Force operative who was detained in Iraq, as to what he was up to? Do you know if he was operating under Iranian government orders? And whether he was or he wasn't, what does his arrest, the fact that he was in Iraq, say about Iran's attitude towards this kind of activity?

MR. MORRELL: All I have, (Al ?), is the MMF-I release. I don't know if you've been provided that, but it mentions indeed that an individual has been involved -- that the individual they've apprehended has been involved in transporting improvised explosive devices and explosively formed penetrators into Iraq. And intelligence reports also indicate he was involved in the infiltration and training of foreign terrorists in Iraq.

As for what his arrest suggests, well, I think it's clear that it's another example of how Iran is not at all playing a helpful role in the stabilization and the prosperity of Iraq. They continue, it is clear, to funnel weapons illegally into Iraq, whether it be EFPs or IEDs or, as we've seen with this recent attack on Camp Victory, even rockets. We've seen mortars from them, but we're seeing more sophisticated rockets, as well. So Iran remains a dangerous, meddling influence in Iraq.

Q Do you have any indication with regard to this guy or any of the others as to whether they were actually working under government orders or only, you know, sort of with a blind eye turned?

MR. MORRELL: Well, I think he's been identified as a member of the Qods Force. I mean, the Qods Force is a tightly controlled paramilitary force for the government of Iran. So I think -- it seems to us as though indeed he is -- he's not operating as a lone ranger in Iraq, but he has been presumably ordered to be there.

Q Geoff, going back to the contractors. What are the command-and-control arrangements for supervising security contractors who work for DOD who maybe get involved in use-of-force incidents?

What happens? How is that tracked? How is that controlled?

MR. MORRELL: Jim, I'm not so sure that I'm best equipped to answer how -- the command-and-control measures. I mean, I know that they are very strict rules of engagement, which, if we haven't articulated them to you before, I'm happy to do so. I mean, these private security contractors do not operate in any offensive manner on our behalf. They are strictly operating, from a use-of-force perspective, as self-defense. So if they feel -- if they feel, though, their life or limb is threatened, they can respond. If they feel as though the people they're protecting, their lives or limbs are threatened, they can respond. If they feel as though the installations that they're protecting are similarly under threat of attack, they can respond.

The Joint Contracting Command in Iraq, I believe, has authority over these -- the various contractors there, so I think that they would sort of be the entity which would sort of watch over these groups to make sure they are meeting the letter of their contracts, and, if they are not, take the proper action.

Q Are there any reporting requirements? Is there any tracking of these incidents or any automatic investigations that are tripped when civilians are killed?

MR. MORRELL: Two-fold. I think you should first of all try to reach out to MNF-I and get a better sense from the Joint Contracting Command. Number two, I think if there are incidents where civilians were killed and -- you know, you've seen how high-profile this incident is. If it had happened with regards to DOD contractors in Iraq, I would guess that you-all would know about it and would know the actions we're taking as a result of it.

This isn't -- we don't want to leave the impression that the people who work for us are not at all held accountable if they are to do something outside the scope of their contract. As you know, based upon the CPA rules that are still in effect, or that have been adopted, at least, blessed by the Iraqi government, these contractors have immunity from prosecution in -- from Iraqi law.

That's not to say they are -- have immunity from U.S. law. If they do something wrong, they can refer -- be referred to the Department of Justice, and if they do something wrong, they can even be referred to the -- for Military Justice, to the UMCJ (sic/UCMJ), the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So there are means by which to handle defense contractors who break the law.

Q But, Geoff, who gave Blackwater permission to fly these little birds in airspace over areas that the U.S. military controls? Wouldn't it be the U.S. military? And if so, why did they give them permission? There have been reports that they --

MR. MORRELL: I have no idea who gave Blackwater permission to fly their helicopters where. Is the battlespace ours? The battlespace is the military's. There's no question about that. As for what kind of arrangement has been worked out between the State Department security and the military -- I'm sure they've come to some agreement; I just don't know the modalities of that agreement.

Q Geoff, could I ask you a quick follow-up on a previous question --

MR. MORRELL: Yes, if there's no objection from your colleagues. Yes.

Q -- before you leave that --

Q No objection.

Q The B-52 -- sorry. The B-52 answer you gave, you mentioned Larry Welch being asked to do. Why does the secretary feel it is necessary to have someone from the outside look at that incident, if it's being looked at by the Air Force already?

MR. MORRELL: I -- you know, I don't want to leave the impression that he's at all dissatisfied with how the Air Force has handled this, because, you know, he has the discretion to hand this investigation over to the inspector general; he does not feel it's necessary to do so and has appreciated the work of the Air Force inspectors. But I think he believes that an incident of this nature -- it's important to get to the bottom of it, and he believes an outside set of eyes may be additionally helpful to sort of get a better sense of what went wrong and how to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

Yeah, Anne.

Q You mentioned General Odierno talking about the violence trends for 10 of the last 13 weeks. Could you provide us with absolute numbers and what weeks you're talking about?

MR. MORRELL: Yeah. I think -- well, I'm speaking of the last 13 weeks, so the those are the weeks I'm speaking of. And I am -- as I mentioned in my opening statement, I'm quoting General Odierno, so I would urge you, Anne, to talk to MNF-I and -- or the Multinational Corps at least and find out if they want to provide you with more specific numbers. I am, from this podium, just quoting him.

Peter, and then I have one last announcement, and then I got to go.

Q Putting aside the recent incident with Blackwater, one of the things this incident has raised up is the issue that the Iraqis are just not pleased in general to have private security contractors wandering around with arms. I'm wondering if the secretary is at all concerned that as there are these efforts to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqis, that these private security contractors are just counterproductive.

And is he at all -- is part of his asking for information, part of it, the rethinking about what we can do to deal with this issue?

MR. MORRELL: I've discussed this issue with him, but only -- I have not gone in that deeply with him on this. I've discussed what he was interested in finding out and what particularly he's asked for. I do not know if he feels that way.

I can imagine that indeed, if indeed contractors are behaving in a rogue, uncivil, heavy-handed way that is not helpful towards our overall goal that our men and women in uniform are risking their lives for every day of achieving greater reconciliation among Iraqis, and any way that that undermines their effort is unhelpful, and I don't think the secretary would appreciate it. But I think if that were the case, at least with regards to DOD contractors in Iraq, action would be taken that dealt with it appropriately.

Q (Off mike) -- State Department yesterday announced this joint commission to rethink policy.


Q Do you know, is DOD going to be --

MR. MORRELL: I don't know that, Pete. I just don't.

This woman, yes, I'm sorry.

Q Do you have any information about the possibility of nuclear connection between North Korea and Syria?

MR. MORRELL: I think I'm going to let the president of the United States answer this question for me. I don't know if you saw his press conference before mine, but he said emphatically no comment. And I -- far be it from me to elaborate on the commander in chief's answer, so I'm going to leave it at no comment.

Thank you all.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. MORRELL: Oh, you're right, thank -- see, that's why I said it, because I knew you'd remind me, Jamie. Thank you.

I'm told that Dr. Trip Casscells, the, I think, the assistant secretary for Health Affairs, will be -- let me just read it, because I don't quite know.

I want to remind you that our Health Affairs office will conduct a demonstration showcasing equipment and technology to assist wounded servicemembers and federal employees with disabilities in the workplace at 2:00 in Room 2A259. The technology makes the electronic environment accessible to and useable to individuals with hearing, visual, cognitive and communications disabilities, if you're interested in that. Thank you all.

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