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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 26, 2007 12:00 PM EDT

DoD News Briefing with Press Secretary Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon

MR. MORRELL: Good afternoon. Thank you all - oh, you're right. Pardon me. (Laughter.) Let's wait one moment so I can keep with the opening line.

Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming a little earlier than usual today. We moved this up an hour, as you know, so that you all had enough time to get from here up to Capitol Hill to cover Secretary Gates' testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee just a couple hours from now.

He will be joined up there by General Peter Pace, who, incidentally, will be making his final appearance on the Hill before retiring Monday as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Also on hand will be Tina Jonas, the Defense Department's comptroller, and the deputy secretary of State, John Negroponte.

This budget hearing is occurring before President Bush has formally submitted to Congress his latest global war on terror funding request. The Office of Management and Budget is still scrubbing all the numbers. However, this morning with the blessing of the White House we sent lawmakers our latest request, and the secretary's prepared to talk about it with appropriators, as I mentioned, just a couple hours from now.

He has agreed to do so because he believes it is vitally important that Congress pass the budget as soon as possible so that our men and women in uniform have the means necessary to continue going after terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.

And with that, I will take your questions. But in honor of the fact that this is a budget day, I'm going to mix it up and call on our friend, Tony Capaccio, who loves all matters budget.


Q Of the $42.3 billion that the Pentagon's requesting, less than how much of that -- (laughter) -- (off mike)?

MR. MORRELL: $42.3 billion, you already have that number, huh? It is true; $42.3 billion is the latest addition to our global war on terror supplemental request, but you know, I'm going to refrain, Tony, from going into how it breaks down because the secretary's going to testify at length today up on the Hill. I think he's scheduled for three hours.

So I think there's ample opportunity for him to sort of delve into how that 42.3 billion (dollars) breaks down, including, as you know -- and we've made this clear for some time now -- a large chunk of that is going to go towards the procurement of MRAPs. And -- but I think he can talk a little bit more in depth about that when you hear from him in just a --

Q (Off mike) -- just the figure?

MR. MORRELL: I'm going to let him discuss the figures. I think it's fair that I defer to the secretary on such matters, because that's why he's going up to the Hill. Okay?

Q What happens --

Q Is that next week? (Cross talk.)

MR. MORRELL: Hold on one sec. Jim?

Q So what will be the total?

Q Yeah, remember --

MR. MORRELL: Well, we can -- the total -- we can add -- we can all add up the previous figures. You know, we went up there originally with $141 billion -- $141.7 billion request. We then had that amendment for additional MRAP procurement of 5.3 billion (dollars). That gets us to 147 billion (dollars). And this additional 42.3 (billion dollars) puts us at just under $190 billion for the global war on terror supplemental request for 2008, $189.3 billion.

But I'm going to stop there in terms of numbers and let the secretary delve further into it, just a little while from now.


Q Can I ask you -- putting the numbers aside, talk a bit about some of the planning assumptions that underlie those numbers. When the secretary first unveiled the estimate for FY '08, before the surge, and he -- actually, it was right around the time the surge was announced, and he said --

MR. MORRELL: February, I think they unveiled it, yeah.

Q Yeah, right after. And he said the assumption was that it was going to return to a steady state of about 15 brigades, and that's what the '08 number was going to include. Does the '08 number now get us back down to 15 brigades at the end of the year? We can talk about what troop level assumptions are being made at the end of '08 that are underneath these numbers?

MR. MORRELL: You know, Peter, I'm really -- I think he's prepared to go into the exact reasons why we're asking for this particular dollar amount when he goes up to the Hill in just a little bit. But you know, we made it clear, when we put in the initial funding request earlier this year, that it did not take into account the surge and that we were going to need to update this number to reflect that. And so you can rest assured that this number reflects the fact that the services believe they are going to need additional dollars to continue with the pace we're now going at coming into the new year. But let him get into the particulars.

Q You obviously have to make some assumptions on the way troop levels go in the course of the year. And you're saying you just can't talk to that right now, or --

MR. MORRELL: I -- let me put it this way. I believe -- and he can certainly articulate this when he gets up there -- I believe that it does not take into account anything beyond what General Petraeus has laid out. So when he was here a couple of weeks ago, when he talked about if conditions continued to improve, if the security situation continues to improve, perhaps the drawdown can continue at the pace that General Petraeus laid out, such that -- the end of the year, at the end of the presidency, essentially, we'd be down to 10 brigades.

But I do not know that these numbers reflect that. I think it reflects General Petraeus's plan to be down to 15, if things continue to go well, by July -- or into July.

Q So you don't know -- I'm sorry to press the point, but July to December --

MR. MORRELL: My belief --

Q -- is that to 10 or that's 15 or you don't know? Do you go down to 10 or --

MR. MORRELL: My belief is it's all -- it's reflected -- that General Petraeus's numbers are reflected in this budget, and that's it. Okay? But I think he can -- if there's any confusion on that matter, I think he could -- he's the best one to clear it up.

Okay. Jeff.

Q You had said a while ago that the Defense Department expects that in October, next month, that it will have enough MRAPs to transport by air and by sea. Can you say more specifically when in October you expect this to happen?

MR. MORRELL: I can't. I can't. It's still our desire. I mean, I don't want to sound like a broken record up here. It's still our desire to ramp up production to the point where we are producing them in such quantities that it soon makes sense to begin sealift to the theater, and I have no received no indication that that is in any way off target. I think we are seeing production at such a pace that we will soon be able to start sealifting MRAPs to theater.

As to when exactly we turn it on, I have not been informed of that yet, nor have I been informed that October -- October-November is off. I believe it still -- October is the date by which we hope to start that.

Q And a quick follow-up. From talking to TRANSCOM, my understanding is they are yet -- they yet to get a -- what they call a predictable and steady flow of the vehicles to justify three flights a day to Iraq. Is the challenge that industry needs to ramp up production or that SPAWAR needs to turn these out faster?

MR. MORRELL: I think there's challenges all around. I mean, industry has to ramp up production. We're seeing them do so. We're seeing them, in fact, on a month-by-month breakdown. You're seeing industry make up for some of their shortcomings in previous months, so you're seeing more and more producers get on to the target that we had projected for them.

So I think production is catching up, but obviously there's work on our end, too. And there have to be improvements at SPAWAR. I know that John Young, who's in charge of this program, is pushing SPAWAR very hard on this. And no one is satisfied yet with the amount of time it is taking to insert all the equipment that we need in these vehicles, and so they are constantly being pushed to cut down how long it takes and to do so.

But, you know, I can just keep saying that we are driving this and driving it hard. And the ultimate indicator of this is, you know, are we getting them to theater as production is ramping up? And everything I've seen thus far suggests that we are still basically on the pace we hope to be.


Q Geoff, when do you expect to be --

MR. MORRELL: I meant Bob. Sorry. I don't mean to cross the wires. I apologize.

Q All right. When do you expect to resume the military trials in Guantanamo?

MR. MORRELL: Well, I don't have a hard date on that.

Clearly, we were pleased with the ruling yesterday, which sort of made it clear, as we believe, that the judge in the Khadr case had the authority, we believe, he always had, which was to hear the evidence we were presenting as to the -- indicating that Khadr is indeed an enemy combatant, an unlawful enemy combatant; whatever he is he should be tried. And we believe that hopefully the judge will now take the -- take this and begin hearing this case. We hope also that Khadr's attorneys will see to it not to appeal this further, and we can begin this trial process.

Hopefully, also, the judge who was sort of -- looked to be sort of waiting for the Khadr ruling in the Hamdan case will also see to it to begin hearing that case, because we would very much like to get these commissions under way.

Q (Off mike) -- date?

MR. CASEY: I don't have a date. I mean, I know that -- I know that everybody in that office wants to get going on this, and this would seem to clear the way to getting on with those trials. And we very encourage them to do so.

Yeah, sorry, Bob.

Q Has the secretary looked into this Asymmetric Warfare Group program on baiting targets with drop weapons? Is he concerned about the legal issues involved? Does he have questions about it?

MR. MORRELL: Bob, I don't know that the secretary's looked into this. It's not something in my conversations with him that's come up. I don't want that to suggest to you all that he wouldn't be concerned about it, but I don't believe it's something that has risen to him as a matter that he wants to take on. I think General Sherlock addressed this pretty well yesterday, and so I'm not going to delve really too much more into it.

So no, I don't think baiting has been an issue that -- he's got some other issues that he's dealing with, but baiting doesn't seem to be one of them right now.


Q New topic?

MR. MORRELL: Kristin (sp), yeah -- (inaudible).

Q What's the Pentagon's position on the draft Iraqi law that would strip security contractors of their immunity?

MR. MORRELL: You know, I don't know. I read that today, but I'm not so sure the Pentagon has a position on it. You know, obviously this is a sovereign government, and they have -- if this is one of the laws that they wish to pass, it would be sort of ironic in the sense that it would certainly show their ability to work together and pass laws. But I'm not so sure it would be something that we necessarily want to weigh-in on.

Clearly, contractors are an important component to getting Iraq back on its feet.

Q So how would it impact your ability to function on a daily basis in places like Baghdad where they're providing a lot of the security?

MR. MORRELL: You're speaking to a proposal in Iraq that would strip contractors of their immunity?

Q (Off mike) --

MR. MORRELL: And what you think that necessarily means is that they would flee the country?

Q (Off mike.) No, I'm asking you what kind of impact that would have on their operations and, in turn, yours.

MR. MORRELL: It's not clear to me what the impact would be, but I would challenge the notion that if indeed the Iraqi government were to change the leftover law from the coalition -- from the Coalition Provisional Authority, which grants immunity to U.S. contractors working for DOD there, that that would necessarily lead towards 137,000 plus that work for DOD fleeing the country. These are very well-paid contractors who believe in the mission that they are there for, risking their lives for, and I'm not so sure that's where this would lead.

So I'm not -- I don't think that it would at this point impact our ability to do our job because we don't think it would lead towards a mass exodus of contractors. Is that -- you seem perplexed by my answer.

Q (off mike) -- a mass exodus of contractors. I would imagine that being stripped of immunity under one country's legal system would impact the security contractor's operations.

MR. MORRELL: I guess what I -- this comes -- I think comes back to this notion that people have that these contractors are running around over there with sort of no legal authority over them. Yes, it's true that they are immune from Iraqi laws. But they are very much subjected to our laws. I mean, whether it be -- and I think we've been through this last week -- whether it be through MEJA -- this Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which allows us to then go through the Department of Justice to prosecute any contractors, or whether it be through the UCMJ, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, we have the means to prosecute any contractors who do something unlawful. And, now -- yeah, go ahead.

Q Geoff, has there ever been a contractor prosecuted under any of those means?

MR. MORRELL: Has there been a DOD contractor prosecuted? One of our security contractors?

Q Yes.

MR. MORRELL: We certainly have had contractors prosecuted by this government -- by this --- for bribery and fraud. To our knowledge, as we've mentioned before, we do not believe a security contractor has been brought up on charges. I think that's accurate.

Q In Iraq.

MR. MORRELL: In Iraq, yeah.

But let me just -- I think this gets back to a larger issue, which is, you know, we mentioned -- I think I mentioned to you last week, that the secretary had some questions about -- in the wake of the Blackwater incident with regards to the Department of State, he had some questions that he wanted answered about our exposure, our reliance on contractors in Iraq. And those questions have -- they've provided some answers to those questions which have led to still more questions.

And the secretary in light of that has dispatched a small team from his office, from Policy, from AT and L, to go over to Iraq. They left on Sunday, they're due back by the end of the week. I mean -- this is not a task force. It's not a committee. These are some people that are going over to sort of delve deeper into some of the questions he had. But at this point, I really want to reiterate from our perspective, he is satisfied with what he's heard from them and others that we have the right policies, procedures and legal authorities in place to sort of deal with the contractors who are working for us.

That said, he does have some concern about accountability and oversight. And to that end, yesterday evening the deputy secretary of Defense, Gordon England, has sent out a memorandum to the Joint Chiefs, to the combatant commanders, sort of articulating for them what exactly their authorities are, providing a little more guidance from this building as to that they have the means through MEJA or the UCMJ to hold contractors accountable. So, we're just trying to make it clear to them that there are the existing authorities to sort of do this job that people are concerned about.

Q Can we go back to the immunity question under Iraqi law? Are you saying that that provision, which has been on the books since the CPA, as you pointed out, has not been important to the use of -- the DOD's use of security contractors in Iraq?

MR. MORRELL: I'm not saying that. I'm not saying that. I'm just not saying that the converse is true, that -- any suggestion that if it were not there it would sort of unravel the security operation I don't think is an accurate portrayal. I'm not saying it's not important. I'm not saying that it would undermine our efforts there either.

Q (Off mike) -- I mean, several of the companies that operate over there have said that they would not be comfortable with their employees being subjected to Iraqi justice, which they see as a system that is inept and corrupt, and that one of the key conditions of them doing these contracts is that they are subjected to the very justice system that you talked about. So I don't follow your argument that if they were to lose that that it wouldn't have an impact.

MR. MORRELL: Well, I mean, look, look -- well, I think it's premature to say whether it would or wouldn't have an impact. And I think this is a matter that clearly has to be dealt with. There are people -- I assume that Ambassador Crocker and the others who deal with the Iraqi government will be taking this up with them.

It is simply not a matter that has been dealt with yet by this department. It is not a matter that I've seen thus far that has been a cause for concern. I think it's just premature in the process to sort of gauge what the impact would be on what is -- seems to be sort of an early stage suggestion among some Iraqi legislators.


Q Geoff, when General Petraeus had his nomination hearing, whenever it was, earlier this year, he was asked about the counterinsurgency ratio in Iraq, and people said -- senators said it's out of whack; you don't have the -- enough troops. And he said: Well, we don't have enough troops, but if you include the private security contractors, then we have the right number.

As the surge winds down, are you going to see an increasing reliance on private security contractors, or is that number also going to wind down?

MR. MORRELL: I don't have anything for you, Dmitri, on whether or not there is a plan under way to draw down the number of private security contractors under our employ in coordination with the drawdown of surge forces. I've heard nothing to that effect. I don't know that they are in any way related, because they have very different functions, as we've talked about before.

I mean, the surge forces --

Q General Petraeus -- (off mike) --

MR. MORRELL: Pardon me one second. The security contractors, by and large, as I think -- we've now got a little better hold of the number; I think it's up to about 7,300 DOD-employed security contractors in Iraq. And I think just over 5,000 of those are sort of tasked with sort of protecting fixed sites. So they have a very different function than obviously what we're doing on a day-to-day basis with our troops in Iraq. These are stationary forces, guarding warehouses, buildings of significance to us and to the Iraqi government.

And so I think -- they don't serve the same function, so I don't think there would be a correlation in terms of the drawdown.

Q Well, by having them there it frees up an equivalent number of soldiers who would have to do that task if the private security contractors weren't there. So --

MR. MORRELL: So I don't see, necessarily, there would be a drawdown anticipated in security contractors.


Q Given that the secretary's going to base the coming budget on the transplant, if you will, if things go well and draw down to 15 BCTs by mid-July, and if things continue to go well, then to 10 BCTs by next December. Has there been any talk within the department of trying to deal down a point to which dwell time for army troops could get back to 15 months deployed, 12 months back home, or finally back to the Pentagon goal of one, two years back home for every year --

MR. MORRELL: Well, we're at 15-12 now. Right?

Q Well, then 1-1 is --

MR. MORRELL: We're at 15 to 12 now. I mean, clearly the desire to get to 12 to 12 as soon as possible, as soon as it makes sense security-wise, mission-wise. That's the goal. And I think, you know, that -- I think the number of brigades that's been floated out there is sort of the -- the point where the seesaw tips, I think, is around 12 brigades.

So I mean, you know, perhaps when we get down towards that stage, that's the time at which we can start looking at more of an even ratio of dwell time versus boots-on-the-ground time. And -- but you know, we're still a long way from that point. And you know, until we're in that neighborhood, you know, you're going to see 15-12 as the norm, but that is clearly where we're working.

I mean ideally we want to get back not to 12-12. We want to get back to, you know, 12-month deployments and 24 months at home. And that's the goal everybody's working toward, you know, provided that the mission is still on target.

Q (Off mike) -- foreseeable goal -- (off mike) -- in the department where you actually -- is someone actually looking at the point where 12 brigades might be reached and --

MR. MORRELL: I think it's a fair characterization that we look into the future to figure out force management issues. And I think you are safe to assume that indeed there are people in this building, and have been for some time, who look at just those very things, at, you know, how are we going to keep -- how are we going to manage the force into the future? And that point, as to when we get to a 12-12, is among the things they look at.

Q So if all goes well, that might be -- (off mike).

MR. MORRELL: You know, I don't want to get into when that will be. I think it's premature. I mean, the secretary's obviously here raised the possibility of the surge -- the drawdown, rather, continuing at the pace that General Petraeus has laid out. He's raised that possibility. But beyond that, I'm just -- I'm not comfortable getting into it, if you don't mind.

Q (Off mike) -- about the point where you get the 12 brigades -- (off mike) --

MR. MORRELL: Right, okay, yeah, I did.

Q (Cross talk.)

MR. MORRELL: Pardon one second -- I don't want to leave the impression that once you get to 12, it's 12-12 for everybody. I think that's the tipping point at which you can start to see a change in dwell time versus boots on the ground, as I understand it, okay?

Sorry, Jennifer.

Q That's okay.

There's some confusion about rules engagement for security contractors versus U.S. military, Army, Marines. Is there a difference in terms of rules of engagement? And if so, what is it?

MR. MORRELL: Well, rules of engagement are -- is really a military term. I mean, that's for our forces, that we discuss things of rules of engagement. For the security contractors, rules governing use of force would apply to them. And that is among the things sort of outlined, by the way, in this memo which was sent out by the deputy secretary last night, is an articulation of sort of the authorities that we have and with those authorities, what commanders should be doing with them. And among them is trying to get ahold of all the SOPs, the standard operating procedures, of all the security contractors, to make sure they comport with our understanding of rules governing use of force, and if they don't, to make sure that they do correlate.

Q Did they not correlate before? Is that the --

MR. MORRELL: I have no reason to believe that they haven't correlated. I'm just telling you what the desire is.

Q Do you have a copy of the memo for us?

MR. MORRELL: I don't know that I have a copy of the memo for you, no.

Q Does that reflect a concern that commanders have not been watching over this, have not been enforcing -- you know, using the authorities that they have in order to control what the contractors --

MR. MORRELL: No, I think it -- Jim, I think it reflects a desire to make it clear to everyone in the field what the authorities are and what they should be doing with them.

Now, it's one thing to have the authorities. It's another thing to have the resources to execute them. And so, you know, there will have to be a discussion and a follow-on to determine whether the resources exist in the field to manage these responsibilities. And possibly, for some commanders, they believe they have what it takes to do that job and others may not believe so, but we're going to make sure that they have what it takes to exercise proper oversight over security contractors in the battlespace.

Q Is that what the task force is doing that you're sending out?

MR. MORRELL: It's not a task force.

Q Okay. Whatever --

MR. MORRELL: It's a small group that's going over to -- yeah, small team -- thank you, Bob -- to go over to answer some questions.

Q Is that one of things -- this resource issue -- is that one of the things they'll be taking a look at?

MR. MORRELL: They've gone over to sort of talk to all the key players. They're meeting with Generals Petraeus and Odierno, and whoever else just sort of has their hands in this pot that deals with contractors, they're talking to, to sort of get the facts and then share those with the secretary and others here who are dealing with this issue.

But I think -- I wouldn't mix up those two things.

Q Can you give us a number? I mean, do you have a number of how small this -- is it five guys?

MR. MORRELL: Five guys.

Q Five guys, okay.

MR. MORRELL: Five guys.

Q On the team?

MR. MORRELL: Yes. As I mentioned, this is people from his office, from Policy, and from AT&L.

Q Do you have any names?

MR. MORRELL: I don't think names are appropriate.

Yeah, go ahead, Ken.

Q You said that the England memo asked for -- asked them get hold of the standard -- the SOP rule or memos that these contractors use. You're saying that up until this point, right now, the Pentagon does not know --

MR. MORRELL: That's not what I'm saying.

Q Okay.

MR. MORRELL: That's not what I'm saying. I'm -- it is --

Q Why you are you asking them to collect --

MR. MORRELL: -- the memo -- no, what I'm saying, as I think I've said before, Ken, is the memo articulates what the authorities are that exist and what people should do with those authorities.

For example, verify all contractors authorized -- that are authorized and trained to carry weapons, that there are no unauthorized weapons or ammo. And you know, if there were situations of wrongdoing, it would incumbent upon commanders to prevent contractors from leaving the country -- things of that nature. I think it's delineating authorities that exist, so that they have a better understanding of what they are.

Q Yeah, but you specifically raised the issue of --

MR. MORRELL: I did. That is one of the ones outlined in the memo.

Q So does that mean that the Pentagon does not at this point know what those standard rules are for its contracting?

MR. MORRELL: I don't think that's what it means. I think --

Q Then why are you asking -- then why isn't anyone asking them to get it?

MR. MORRELL: I think what -- as I just said, Ken -- the memo is designed to tell commanders in the field what their authorities are and what they are expected to do with them. That's all. It's presenting a list of things that should be done as a matter of procedure.

Q Yeah, but you said you were going to gather the SOPs to make sure they comported with your policy. So you want to check something. I presume if you --

MR. MORRELL: No, this is what should be and presumably is being done. It's just putting this in one memo so that people will have one thing to look at, one guide -- piece of guidance to refer to. I wouldn't read too much into it beyond that.

Q Well, it would seem also to be part of --

MR. MORRELL: Excuse me. Let me just -- Courtney has – has yet to go.

Q All right. I mean, will this information be gathered and then given to the Iraqi government so that they can feel as though these contractors aren't running around without any kind of guidelines? Is that one of the reasons for gathering it?

MR. MORRELL: Well, I -- don't get the impression of running around without any sort of guidelines. I mean, these have been expected of them, okay? These are not new things. This is sort of an articulation of rules that are in place, but he wants to make sure that everybody is aware of them, that's all.

Q Will commanders in the field then use it to reinforce to the Iraqi government, though, that there are guidelines?

MR. MORRELL: I don't know how they're going to use it in terms of their relations with the Iraqi government. They could presumably use that to show that indeed we're committed to oversight of security contractors in the field. It could well be used for that purpose. It's not designed to be used as a political instrument with the Iraqi government. It's designed to ensure that we have the best oversight possible over our contractors in the field.

What the secretary believes, as I said before, is that we do have the proper policies, the proper procedures, the proper legal authorities already in place to do this job. He wants to make sure that the oversight is up to those standards and that they have, the people who are responsible for oversight, have the resources to do that part of their job.

Q Will the team meet with the Iraqis?

MR. MORRELL: I don't know if they're meeting with the Iraqis. Jim, it's a good question, and I'll try to find out. As -- before they left, I saw sort of what they were -- what was on their plate, and I don't know that I saw any meeting with the Iraqis on there. But I'll try to check for you.

Is it Nancy?

Q It is.

MR. MORRELL: Why are you in the back?

Q Late.


Q I wanted to follow up with Courtney's question. If the -- General Petraeus says that he needs contractors to do the job, and if no one has been prosecuted under U.S. law or any of the courts and systems in place in this country, and they're not susceptible to Iraqi law, what is the leverage that the Pentagon has over these contractors to make sure that they comply? And what happens if they don't? Because so far, in my time there, they didn't comply to a lot of these things that you spell out, and there doesn't seem to be any leverage to sort of -- to stop them, and they don't.

MR. MORRELL: Look, Nancy, the things I've spelled out, I find it hard to believe that you would know whether they were complying or not, based upon whether they had authorized weapons or whether or not they had shared their SOPs.

But listen, this notion that there's not -- that there are not authorities in place to deal with rogue contractors or contractors who are breaking the law is nonsense. We have the means to go after them through the Department of Justice, we have the means to go after them through military courts. Just because there has not been a prosecution brought does not mean that the authority does exist to deal with people who misbehave, who break the law.

Q I'm not questioning the means. I'm asking if nobody has used those means, and it is clear that there have been instances -- I've seen them firsthand there -- where these rules weren't complied to, and there hasn't been any justice. What is the leverage? If there's nothing to suggest in the past that these means were used, what is the leverage to suggest that they'll be used in the future?

What is the leverage if there's no --

MR. MORRELL: Yeah, I -- Nancy, I can't speak to any past abuses you may or may not have witnessed. I can tell you that the authorities exist to prosecute, and I think that's a lot of leverage over contractors. The authorities exist to sort of void contracts, and that's a lot of leverage over contracts. These are -- I think the contract -- security contractors in Iraq -- the last thing I saw suggested there were over $900 billion in contracts for security contractors. That's a lot of money, and it's a lot of money that stands to be lost by contractors. So it's in their best interest to comply with the rules and regulations that we lay out.

(Cross talk.)

Q Nine hundred billion (dollars), you said?

Q One follow-up. One follow-up. Have any of those contracts -- have any contracts --

MR. MORRELL: Sorry. Did I say billion? I apologize.

Q You did.

MR. MORRELL: It's 900 million (dollars). Excuse me.

Q Have any of those contracts ever been voided, that you know of -- any of those security contracts ever been voided, or --

MR. MORRELL: Have security contracts ever been voided? I don't know that they have, but I don't know that they haven't. And that's certainly something we could probably check with you on. But I don't know that they have or don't know that they haven't.

Q Sir, is it --

MR. MORRELL: Hold on. Hold on. Let's be fair. Jamie, I think, hasn't had a chance.

Q Okay, if you want to stick on this, I have a different subject.

MR. MORRELL: Okay. (Inaudible.)

Q I mean, how -- is it fair to say that the Pentagon is not -- I mean, you seem to be saying that you're concerned at all about this Iraqi law that's up, and what I can't figure out is --

MR. MORRELL: I'm not -- okay, go --

Q I mean, it's a tremendous liability for the security contractors if they send their people over there and if they're subject to these Iraqi laws. And I don't think anyone would fault them for not sending people over, money or no money. So I mean, isn't the Pentagon concerned that this law will pass or be --

MR. MORRELL: I guess what I've tried to say is, I've seen no indication at this very early junction (sic) in this -- in the legislative process in Iraq that there is heightened concern in this building about this proposed law. There may be people who -- here who are concerned about it. It has not risen to the point where it has been brought to my attention in terms of their concern about it.

I also think it's early on in the legislative process there.

This notion, though, that it is some horrifying possibility of being subjected to Iraqi law -- this is a country that is sovereign. It is independent. They are building their government and their laws. And we are working with them to have as transparent a possible -- as possible legal and judicial processes.

And so I -- you know, I -- whether they're subjected to Iraqi laws, that's what it ends being, or to U.S. law, the point is, contractors, if they are misbehaving, will be held accountable.

But this also -- I just don't -- I don't want to leave anybody with the impression that there's a bunch of renegades running around Iraq breaking the law. I mean, by and large, these are very responsible, patriotic people who have come to Iraq not just for the economic opportunity but because they believe in the mission and believe in helping the Iraqi people build their government. And I don't think it's fair to paint this with a wide brush. There may be some -- a few bad actors involved here, and that's still to be proven on the -- with regard to the Blackwater incident, at the State Department. But this notion that there are these -- that people are running around lawlessly in Iraq with guns and -- under our authority is just not an accurate portrayal.

Anne (sp). Let me just take -- I'll take one more after Anne (sp), and I have one quick closing note, and then I got to get you off to see the secretary.

Q You mentioned the secretary's concerns about accountability and oversight. What are those concerns based on?

MR. MORRELL: Well, I think as I -- as I tried to say, it's based upon the fact that he's asked some early questions, he's received some early answers; those answers, at least when it comes to the oversight component, have not been satisfactory.

Q In what way?

MR. MORRELL: I'm not so sure that I'm prepared to sort of go into exactly what he finds not satisfactory about our oversight. I think the way I've characterized it is that he has some real concerns about oversight of contractors in Iraq and he is looking for ways to sort of make sure we do a better job on that front. And that may be -- part of the effort is to send out this memo so that the means by which we have to sort of enforce contracts and enforce the rules are abundantly clear to commanders. Another part of this will probably involve resources to get the people in the field who are in charge of governing these contracts, in charge of these security contractors in the field, get them the resources they need to make sure that they can hold people accountable for any misdeeds.

Let's be fair here.

All right, Jamie.

Q So I have a very simple one on a different subject. The president announced that 5,700 U.S. troops would be coming home before the end of the year. We were told that 2,200 of those were Marines, which leaves 3,500 other troops. When will you be able to tell us which 3,500 U.S. troops comprise the rest of that 5,700? And considering that -- I guess they're coming home in December.

MR. MORRELL: Yeah, that's a good question. I'm not so sure when it is that we're going to be able to share that. I don't know that there's any -- presumably, that's being worked on right now, and I don't know if it's at the point where I can share it with you. If I can -- I don't have it with me to share with you at this time, but --

Q Is it your understanding that it would be a brigade combat team, or are they talking about a combination of other troops that would total that number, do you know?

MR. MORRELL: I think that this involves -- I think what we talked about was this was the MEU and two additional battalions.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. MORRELL: And a BCT. And a BCT. So it is a brigade combat team.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. MORRELL: But we'll get -- we'll try get into the specifics of that.

I haven't been entirely fair. This is the last one. Right here.

Q All right. I'm going to go back to the contractors topic. One of the allegations against Blackwater is that they have been transporting weapons and other equipment to Iraq and Afghanistan without proper clearances and without the proper requirements. Is the Defense Department cooperating in that investigation?

MR. MORRELL: Well, if Blackwater were doing so -- and I don't know that they're doing so; I don't even know that that's something that's being investigated -- but I'd remind you that Blackwater in Iraq, at least, works for the State Department. I think it's something you'd want to take up with them.

All right. My closing announcement is something that I don't think comes as a great shock to you all, but I want to remind you that just as today marks the chairman's final appearance before Congress, tomorrow afternoon he will appear before you all for the first -- for the last time -- first time -- for the last time. So at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon right here in the briefing room you will have a chance to question General Peter Pace for the last time as chairman, and joining him, of course, will be Secretary Gates.

So we look forward to seeing you back here at 3:00 tomorrow.

Thank you all.

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