Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—August 19, 2014.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: Afternoon, everybody. I do not have anything to open with today, so we’ll just go to questions.
Q: Can you talk about why the secretary is now asking for more information about the Pentagon program to transfer military equipment to local law enforcement jurisdictions when the other day you said it was all going to be up to local law enforcement to even, you know, talk about it? What’s changed? Why is he now, you know, getting involved in this program?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, it still is up to local law enforcement to determine how and when and where and under what circumstances they use excess military equipment, but the secretary has been mindful of the public debate and discussion about this issue and asked his staff this morning for some additional information about the program. He has been given an information paper that provides some more detail to it, and he’s consuming that now.
Q: So the president yesterday said he wanted a review of it, and one can only assume if the president wants a review of a military program, so does the secretary. So what’s the next step here? What happens next? And what concerns does he and the military and General Dempsey have about military — you know, the term now is militarization of this country’s police departments?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t think the — I don’t think the president’s demanded a review. I think what he said was he’s open to taking a look at it and, if it needs to be reviewed, reviewing it. Secretary Hagel has not ordered a review of this program. He’s simply asked for some more information so that he can have a more informed opinion about it.
But, look, it’s important to understand this is a — this is a program legislated by Congress which allows the secretary to transfer some excess military property to local law enforcement. This has been on the books since 1991. And many, many law enforcement agencies have benefited from it. In fact, many citizens of many towns and cities all over the country have benefited from it. But it — but how, as I said before, how and where and under what circumstances the equipment actually gets used is up to the local law enforcement agencies to determine.
Q: Two quick follow-ups. My question still is, you know, why not take the next step and review it? And, secondly, can you tell us what the Defense Department has given to Ferguson?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Your question — your first question presumes that there will be a review or a decision to review. The secretary is simply digesting some information that he got just this morning in more detail about it. And I’m not going to get ahead of any decisions that he may or may not make with respect to this.
And as for Ferguson, the Ferguson Police Department since 2007 has — we — the Defense Logistics Agency has transferred to them — this is excess property — two humvees, one generator, and one cargo trailer to the Ferguson Police Department. Now, in all of St. Louis County, over that same period of time, which includes Ferguson, six pistols, 12 rifles, 15 weapon sites, an EOD robot, three helicopters, seven humvees, as I said, two of which are being used by Ferguson, and two night-vision devices. That’s what they got.
Q: Were those — were those humvees sent directly to Ferguson or through St. Louis County or through the state? Do you know that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’ll have to get back to you, Mick. I don’t know exactly the chain of custody here. All that equipment went to St. Louis County Police Department, and then how they apportion it is up to them, again, to speak to, not the Pentagon.
Q: Does anybody in this building think that somehow the Ferguson Police Department misused or abused the right to use these humvees in any form or fashion?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We don’t take a position on the way the equipment is being used. That is up to local law enforcement to determine. I will tell you, though, that we have rigorous compliance and accountability standards, and biannually, the Defense Logistics Agency spot-checks many of these local law enforcement agencies in the states to make sure that they’re keeping proper accountability inventorying — keeping an inventory of the equipment. But we do not legislate, we don’t dictate, we don’t — we don’t mandate any kind of certain use. That is up to local law enforcement.
And many of the equipment is — many of the equipment finds use in counterdrug and counterterrorism-type activities that, of course, get right to the protection of the homeland. So we’re not — the — as I said at the outset, how and when and where and under what circumstances the equipment gets used is up to local law enforcement agencies to speak to.
Q: Can you just go back — to say it transferred to St. Louis County. Was there a separate transfer to Ferguson? Or are you…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: My same answer to Mick I’ll give to you. I don’t know. I don’t know — I don’t have the chain of custody. The stuff that’s transferred from the Defense Logistics Agency to…
Q: But somehow you know this material is in Ferguson.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I do know what Ferguson got. I don’t — I won’t speak for St. Louis County. I can’t do that.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, I won’t do that. I won’t do that.
Q: (OFF-MIC) last time the Defense Department did an accountability review on St. Louis County or Ferguson?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t know.
Q: Will you take that question?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We’ll have to take it.
Q: Thanks. On Iraq, it may be propaganda. There was reports that ISIS — ISIS may be reporting and jihadi websites are saying that they shot down a U.S. plane and may have taken some troops hostage. Is that completely false?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: As of two minutes when I walked out here, I have no reports of any U.S. plane being shot down in Iraq.
Q: Great, thank you. And then, there’s a report that the U.S. Army and the Pentagon is seeking contracts for security advisers to assist OSCI in Baghdad and Iraq. Are — is the Pentagon looking to put security advisers, contractors on the ground in Iraq?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not aware…
Q: (OFF-MIKE) program (OFF-MIC)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not aware of that. I’m not aware of that at all. I’m happy to take the question for the record for you, but I’m not aware of any such request or intent.
Q: The president said arms are being sent to the Kurds and Iraqis. What kind of arms are we talking about? And the Kurds, of course, have asked for mortars, artillery, and armor vehicles. What’s the status of that request? And also on Tikrit, the Kurds and Iraqis seem to be having a hard time taking back Tikrit. Is it unlikely we’ll see U.S. airstrikes because there’s no humanitarian crisis here or an issue with U.S. personnel or facilities?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I won’t speculate about future operations, Tom, so we can just take that one right off the table. On the…
Q: It’s been narrowed to humanitarian crisis, U.S. personnel, facilities?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We have two missions by which airstrikes are authorized. One is in humanitarian assistance operations and one is to protect U.S. personnel and facilities. That’s the two — those are the two guidelines. That’s how decisions are made with respect to airstrikes. And again, I’m just not going to speculate about future operations.
On your other question about arming Iraqis and Kurds, we continue to — we have a very robust arms program with Iraq, one of the most robust in the world. And as we’ve talked about, we’ve accelerated things like Hellfire missiles to the Iraqi government. That aid and assistance continues, not to mention all the other stuff that we’ve done, intensifying intelligence and surveillance and reconnaissance flights over the country. Now they’re up to over 70 per day recently. And, of course, the strikes that we’ve been taking, the assets we put in the region…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m getting there. I’m getting there. We have — the secretary ordered a task force to be stood up here in DOD to look at options for resupplying the Kurds in a more direct fashion. Right now, the — most of the military assistance that’s going to the Kurds is being done through partner nations, and I know that there have been some recent deliveries from partner nations to the Kurds. And also, the Iraqi government, which has been resupplying the Kurds with our help. We’ve been helping them palletize, organize, and ship some equipment and assistance to Kurdish forces.
That’s the focus right now. But, again, the secretary’s got this task force set up. They’re looking at options. And when we have decisions to announce, we’ll announce them.
Q: Around Mosul, what’s the status there right now in terms of whether the — any operations are ongoing, and specifically in regard to mines and IEDs that ISIS has reportedly laid in the area, is there any supply being given or, perhaps, already have been given by the U.S. to help remove some of that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not aware of any particular supplies or equipment with respect to counter-IED missions. The Iraqis and the Kurds, they have some capabilities to do that, and we certainly heard reports about IEDs being laid in and around the facility. We — as the president said yesterday, we assess that — continue to assess that the Mosul dam has been retaken. Obviously, our airstrikes helped with that.
There are — I’m not aware as we stand here of any specific ongoing operations that we’re participating in at the dam. I think I put out a statement last night that kind of capped off the number of airstrikes and the number of targets, that there were — there were a few more strikes overnight in and around the dam, but not many. Just a handful. So I’m not aware of any ongoing operations as we speak here today. We assess that the dam continues to be held by Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
Q: About 35.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Right. Right. Yeah.
Q: Do you know how much these airstrikes are costing yet? And are they coming from the OCO budget or the base budget?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: You’ll have to go to CENTCOM for that. I don’t have a budget figure. The operations budget that — that Central Command and the services have are funding this. There’s not a request in for extra funding or anything like that for this operation. I just — I’d refer you to CENTCOM, though, for more details on that.
Q: Where do the missions — the airstrikes for Mosul, where do they fit into the two — the missions the president delineated, protecting humanitarian issues and then protecting U.S. personnel? Because this seems like a classic softening up the opposition, close-air support for invading — a counter-invading force. Where do — where do the missions fit? And wasn’t that — this an example of mission creep, albeit maybe accidental?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, let’s take the second part first. Mission creep — you know, this is a phrase that gets bandied about quite a bit, but let’s just kind of talk about it for a second. Mission creep refers to the growth or expansion of the goals and objectives of a military operation, that the goals and objectives change, morph into something bigger than they were at the outset.
It doesn’t talk about — mission creep doesn’t refer to numbers of sorties, numbers of troops, numbers of anything. It doesn’t refer to timelines. It doesn’t even refer to intensity. It’s about the mission itself. Nothing has changed about the mission, missions that we’re conducting inside Iraq. As I said before, airstrikes are authorized under two mission areas — humanitarian assistance and the protection of U.S. personnel and facilities.
The airstrikes that we conducted in and around Mosul dam over the last 72 hours or so fit into both those categories, both helping prevent what could be a huge humanitarian problem should the dam be blown or the gates — they’re just allowed to flood, and also to protect U.S. personnel and facilities. So there’s been no — well, I’m not going to — I’m not going to say a negative. What I’ll just tell you is, the missions are clear. The operations that we’re conducting are inside the authorizations for those missions. And we’re going to continue to be vigilant going forward. And if there is a need for more airstrikes in conjunction with either of those two mission areas, those two authorizations, we’ll conduct them.
Q: How effective, how crucial were the strikes to retaking the dam? Do you have a sense of that? What — you know, without those airstrikes, would the Iraqis and Peshmerga have been able to have retaken the dam?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It’s hard to, you know, arm-chair quarterback here a military operation that just wound up. We believe they were critical to assisting in that — in the retaking of the dam. But I also would — at the same time — point to the courage, the bravery, the skill of both the Kurdish forces and Iraqi forces and their extensive cooperation with one another in conducting this operation. Yes, we were a critical part of it, but it was a team effort.
Q: Did the Iraqis call — help call on airstrikes through, you know, use of laser designators or command-and-control with the airplanes?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t have that kind of tactical-level information, Tony. I mean, this was done in partnership with those troops on the ground, and I — I can’t tell you exactly, like, how many of them, you know, we needed, you know, ground air controller support. I just don’t know.
Q: Can I follow up on that? Because there are reports that there were U.S. military on the ground doing that targeting for aircraft above.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, those reports are wrong. There were no U.S. troops on the ground in conjunction with the operations around Mosul dam.
Q: And to what extent did — was the U.S. involved, U.S. military involved in actually planning that mission? Did they sit down with the Kurds? Did they sit down with Iraqi special forces and go over the plan? Or did they just say, don’t worry, go ahead, we’ll be in the skies above to protect you?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Look, without getting into a lot of specific details, of course there was a level of coordination and communication between the U.S. forces conducting these strikes and Kurdish and Iraqi forces on the ground taking — taking the dam back. Of course there was communication and planning coordination prior to and during the operation.
One of the benefits of having a joint operations center out there in Erbil is that you can facilitate that kind of dialogue and cooperation. I just don’t have — you know, I’d refer you to CENTCOM for any specifics on that. I just don’t have all the exact details of each and every plan.
Q: But I guess, was this a U.S. operation that the Kurds and the Iraqis took part in? Or was this an Iraqi — in other words, who’s running the show here?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: This was an Iraqi — this was an Iraqi and Kurdish operation that the U.S. supported through airstrikes.
Q: And why does this not fight the president’s vow that the U.S. would not become Iraqis or the Kurdish air force?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Because the Iraqis already have an air force. We — we…
Q: … to what extent did they take part in this? And how critical were they in this?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We conducted airstrikes to support this particular mission, because it was authorized under the two areas in which we’re allowed — we’re authorized to conduct airstrikes, to Tony’s question, humanitarian assistance and the protection of U.S. personnel and facilities.
Q: Can I follow up on that, John?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Sure.
Q: Because that sounds like an unlimited, limited mission, because if you do anything to help an humanitarian crisis and protect Americans in Iraq, that would seem to cover almost anything, if you’re — if one of the missions is protect a dam that’s 200 miles away from Americans in Baghdad.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, look, the goals and objectives that we’ve been given are limited. They’re limited in just the way that I found them.
Q: So what does that exclude?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not — look, I’m not going to get into a laundry list of things we won’t do. I think you can understand that that’s probably not a useful exercise from a podium for me to get into that.
Q: You could use anything to say we need to protect Americans. I could — you could go to Anbar province…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Look, I’m not going to speculate about operations we haven’t even decided to conduct or not conduct right now. What I’m telling you is, the goals and objectives have not changed. And they are limited. And we are authorized a very discrete set of operations that we can conduct, and we’re — we are in keeping with those authorities. And we’re going to continue to stay on those authorities.
Q: Can I follow up on that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah.
Q: I mean, how do you determine whether — who determines and how do you determine whether something fits within those two guidelines? I mean, is it just for General Austin to say, yes, that fits in the guideline? Do you — is there any specific legal requirement you have to show that it, in fact, saves U.S. lives?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: There’s a robust — there’s a robust process by which decisions are made that don’t just end. The water’s edge isn’t just in Tampa.
Q: What’s the process?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It’s an interagency discussion through normal — the normal interagency processes…
Q: For each strike?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Huh?
Q: For each strike?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, not for each strike.
Q: For a determination that U.S. airstrikes will be used around Mosul dam?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Let’s just talk about the Mosul dam. That — okay, the decision to assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces, that was made by senior leaders all up and down the chain of command and authorized through a robust interagency decision-making process. It’s a decision that the secretary supported; it’s a decision that the chairman supported. Clearly, it’s a decision that General Austin supported.
That said, I mean, once — once that decision was made, that we’re going to — that we’re going to conduct airstrikes in support of this Kurdish and Iraqi effort on the ground to retake this dam, because it met the authorities that we’ve been given, the actual strike decisions — because there were, as I said in my statement last night, more than 30 — actually, it ended up being just slightly more than 40 over last night — more than 90 targets hit — I mean, those decisions are made in theater by — by the officer in charge of the air assets there, in terms of what specific target’s going to get hit and when and with what asset.
I mean, that doesn’t bubble all the way up to the Pentagon, nor would you want it to. I mean, this is what we call time-sensitive targeting. I mean, a lot of these — a lot of these targets are — they’re mobile. They move. And you want to be able to hit them when you can, and certainly with a mind towards avoiding civilian casualties and making sure that you’re being precise. And so for each strike, it doesn’t come up to this level.
Q: And how — how does the attack — the U.S. airstrikes on Mosul dam, how do — how do those protect American lives? I’m just not clear on that.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We believed that, should the dam remain in control of ISIL, whose intentions are obviously not perfectly clear, and certainly not in the best interests of the people of Iraq, if that dam were to blow or they were to open and flood the gates, that it could have an effect as far south as Baghdad. That’s where we have people. We have U.S. facilities and personnel in Baghdad.
Q: So those lives would be — would be, in fact, in danger by flooding…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We believe there was an — there would be an impact to U.S. personnel and facilities.
Q: What was the danger of that actually happened. Let’s ask the question a different way. What information was there that there was ever any danger to the integrity of the dam?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Do you — first, I’m not going to talk about specific intelligence, but if you need reminders of how barbaric this people are, I’m happy to go back to my office and show you some of the stuff that they’ve been doing in Iraq. I mean, if you really need that reminder, I’m happy to do that. But, I mean, let’s be…
Q: We’re all on the same page there. The question is, there’s a dam in Iraq. The question is, is the dam safe? And the danger of that dam offers the authorization that you’ve described to take these activities in support of the Iraqis. It’s one thing to say, well, maybe if they decided to someday open the spillway and cause a flood, that would…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: So the alternative is — your argument — the counterargument is, we should have just let them have it.
Q: I’m not arguing. I’m asking, was there intelligence — was there an indication that they had the intention to blow up the dam or that it was in such bad shape that…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not going to talk about specific intelligence from the podium. I never do that, Phil. What I’m telling you is that there was reason enough to believe that their possession of the dam was inimical to the interests of the people of Iraq, to their safety, and to the safety of U.S. personnel and facilities, and under — under that conclusion, and under the authorities that we’d been given to conduct strikes, we did conduct strikes.
Q: Does the DOD or the military have a scientific model that would prove that Americans at the embassy in Baghdad would somehow be danger…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We had reason to believe that there would be a danger.
Q: Was there some kind of scientific basis for that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Mick, we had reason to believe that there was a reasonable danger. I think I’ve answered this question.
Q: On — yeah, on — on ISIL, based on the FAA decision to ban all U.S. commercial planes to fly over Syria, does the Pentagon know if ISIL militants have surface-to-air missiles that they could target any commercial airplane over Syria? Or why…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We’ve dealt with this before. I’m not going to get into inventorying what we think they have or they don’t have. And I won’t speak for the FAA, either, about decisions they’ve made. ISIL remains a dangerous, potent, well-resourced force — wait a minute, let me finish — and it’s in Iraq and it’s in Syria, and they pose not just a threat inside Iraq, but to the region. And, again, I won’t speak for the FAA, and I certainly am not going to speculate about what assets or capabilities they may have.
Q: All right. Today, the Iraqi army has tried to retake Tikrit. Could you evaluate — are you in a position to evaluate the Iraqi forces capabilities versus ISIL capabilities? What do you think — who is stronger here? Who has more capabilities?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The Iraqi security forces, particularly those in and around Baghdad, we believe are competent and capable. And as you pointed out, some of them are still fighting over Tikrit, but not — it’s not a homogenous story inside the Iraqi security forces, and some of them are being bolstered and supported by Shia militia.
Like any armed force anywhere in the world, they have vulnerabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. ISIL also has strengths and weaknesses. They are — as I said, they’re potent. They’re well-resourced. They’re pretty well-organized for the terrorist network that they are. But they’re not 10 feet tall, either, as we’ve seen. And we’ve begun to see that through the use of these strikes, their morale is suffering, their competency and capacity has been damaged, and so they’re not — you know, they’re not invincible, either.
This is not going to be — this is, as I said before, a fight that the Iraqi government and the Iraqi armed forces, the Iraqi people have to fight. We can help and assist where we can, but this is ultimately for them to fight. And they’re going to have to also step up and prove capable of defeating them.
Q: So will the U.S. be flying air support over Tikrit? Or is that the Iraqi air force?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not going to speculate about future operations.
Q: Admiral, a few weeks ago, when we talked about the military advisers on the ground in Iraq, you indicated that they were strictly there to assess the situation and provide intelligence.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: That’s right.
Q: It sounds like there’s been some assistance, actual like tactical advice provided over the past week or so. I mean, can you tell us what’s the nature and extent of the coordination between U.S. Iraqi forces? And are they — have they moved beyond just assessing for — on a regular basis now?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: They’re still assessing. They’re still providing us insights and observations. The bulk of the coordination, communication between us and Iraqi security forces is being done through those joint operations centers, the one in Baghdad and the one in Erbil. We have not moved to what we would consider an advisory capacity in terms of these assessment teams, you know, becoming advisory teams, and we’re placing them in headquarters or in higher-level units throughout Iraq. That has not happened.
Q: Are they — is there a conversation going on where American military professionals say we think that you should approach Tikrit from the north and the west, not the south and the east.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Look, I’m not going to talk about tactical conversations that we’re having, but we continue to coordinate…
Q: (OFF-MIC) advice, though (OFF-MIC)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We — through the joint operations centers, we are providing a measure of advice and assistance to the Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Of course. But I’m not going to talk about the tactical-level details of that and how it’s all done, you know, each and every day.
Q: I may be wrong, but I thought last week there was a third mission area to assist the Iraqi and Kurdish forces in their fight against ISIL. Does that mission area authorize airstrikes? Or was that specific to what happened in Erbil? I’m not clear what happened to that piece of it.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: That’s, I think, a broader strategic goal here, is to — is to work where we can, as we’ve said from the very outset, to examine where we can advise and assist the Iraqi security forces in this fight, which is their fight. The authorities to conduct airstrikes were under those two mission areas that I talked about.
Q: Okay, it does not include that third definition of assisting Iraqi forces.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The authority to conduct airstrikes are in those two areas I talked about.
Q: Just to elaborate on Joe’s question, do you think the fact that the Iraqi security forces have been unable several times now to retake Tikrit is an indication that the problems that they were having initially related to discipline and morale, that the problems are persisting?
And, secondly, in Syria, in eastern Syria, in Raqqah, there’s been a renewed, intensified air campaign that the Assad government has launched against ISIL targets in eastern Syria. Are there any indications that the intensified push against ISIL in Syria is affecting its ability to fight in Iraq in terms of supply lines, reinforcements, anything like that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I haven’t seen an assessment about the effects of the strikes that the Syrian government have been conducting, so I wouldn’t know the answer to that.
On your other question about Tikrit, as I said before, the Iraqi security forces are not a homogenous organization. There are some units that are better than others. Tikrit remains contested. But they are fighting for it. And, you know, again, this is a battle they’ve got to fight. And we haven’t made — there have been no decisions about involving U.S. forces with respect to that.
And your question about whether the problems have persisted inside, I think a fair answer is probably yes. I mean, one of the things we’ve talked about is that, since 2011, the Iraqi government didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity they’d been given when United States forces left to keep their security forces well-manned, trained, led, and capable. So I think — I think probably yes, but I don’t — I don’t have the order of battle on every unit that’s there and how well-led they are.
Q: Can you go back for a minute? What threats do you think are posed by ISIS’s continued possession of Haditha dam? Are there humanitarian or U.S. personnel concerns about them still having Haditha? And you mentioned ISIS atrocities a couple of minutes ago. I didn’t know, is it — have you seen any new updated information about some of their most recent atrocities? There’s been a lot of fairly gruesome information out there.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We know that they continue — are continuing to butcher and slaughter on a large scale. I don’t have graphic evidence for you today, but we do have information that they continue these kind of depredations and crimes against humanity. There’s no question about that. You had another question. What was it?
Q: Well, I just wanted to ask you. Do you think some — that there have been a lot — there’s been a lot of information out there that some of their violence and executions are against children, as well? I didn’t know if you’d seen anything to support that yet.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Look, we think they certainly have been — the barbarism doesn’t seem to know any limits here. And while I can’t point to a specific child, we do have information that would lead us to believe that they have conducted atrocities, killed women, children, male alike. It doesn’t seem to matter to them. If you don’t believe in their twisted view of reality, and their extreme barbaric version of Islam, you appear to be fair game to them.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Our assessment is that the Haditha dam is still maintained by — still controlled by the Iraqi security forces.
Q: You said that U.S. military personnel are still assessing the Iraqi forces. Do you have any sense when a decision will be made, now that there’s a new Iraqi government, about a more formal train and assist or advise role for the U.S. military?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: There’s been no decisions about moving towards a more formal advisory role, no.
Q: Have there been indications that once there is a new Iraq government in place, there would be a sense of working more closely with…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think we would be open to considering that. As Secretary Hagel has said, you know, we need to make sure that whatever partner we have in Iraq, it’s a reliable partner. And now they’re forming this government, so we’ll see when we get there, but there’s been no decisions to move beyond the assessing role right now, other than the advice and assistance that we’re offering through these joint operations centers.
Q: Libya, there were reports the other day that there were airstrikes happening over Tripoli, and I was unclear who was conducting them. Khalifa Haftar said that he has been conducting those. Is that the information that this building has? And if so, where did he get the capability to conduct such airstrikes?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m not going to speak about intelligence matters. What I can tell you is that we didn’t.
Q: You don’t — but can you give any insight in terms of who would have been…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I cannot offer you any insight, to answer your question, no.
Q: I wanted to go back to the 1033 program and how it relates to Ferguson. So you had said that it was up to local law officials on how that excess equipment is used, but my understanding is that this is still DOD equipment that has been leased temporarily to these police officers and these — and that once they done with the equipment, it goes back to the DOD for disposal.
So in — with that in mind, how responsible is DOD for this equipment? And if there are any abuses found of the equipment, what actions can you take to…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The secretary has the authority to rescind and take back equipment that is transferred to local law enforcement agencies if he deems fit. He has that authority. And as I said at the outset, there’s also a compliance review biannually done by the Defense Logistics Agency for inventory and accountability of the equipment. They still do have to prove to us that — that they have the material that they have — that had been transferred to them — and wait, I’m getting there, just let me finish here — and that they’re — and that they’re properly managing it.
And you’re right. Some of it — not all of it, because some of it — some of it, after a while, you know, becomes useless — but some of the material will at the end of its use come back to Defense Logistics Agency to be demilitarized and disposed of appropriately, not all of it. Some of it does.
But there are accountability measures here that we do hold people to account. And there have been states in just the last couple of years who we have suspended transfers to for — for failing to properly inventory and account for it. But the use of it on a daily basis is up for local law enforcement agencies to decide, not the Defense Department.
Q: Just a quick follow-up. When you say management, are you talking about the actual ability…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m talking about the proper accountability. I gave you this, and you can tell me a year later that you still have it on your shelf and it’s got the right serial number and we know that you still have it.
Q: But it excludes how it’s used?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: As I said from the outset, how, where, when, and under what circumstances this equipment is used is for law enforcement agencies to speak to, not the Pentagon.
Q: … what circumstances — under what circumstances would the Pentagon…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Hang on a second. Just one question at a time. Mick?
Q: Under what circumstances then would the Pentagon or the secretary rescind the equipment that was provided? You just said he has the authority to rescind.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: He — he has the authority to not transfer. And as I said, there have been — there have been some — some states that have — they’ve had that authority suspended because of accountability issues. I don’t — I’m not going to get into hypotheticals under…
Q: (OFF-MIC) inventory accountability or accountability…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Inventory accountability, Mick. Inventory accountability.
Q: Admiral Kirby, I just want to clarify something really quickly. Are you saying that the secretary has the authority to order that supplies that have been given to local law enforcement be given back to DOD? Or are you saying he can just rescind local…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: He can suspend further transfers.
Q: Okay, but…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The material itself comes back to us at the end of its use — not all of it, but some of it comes back at the end after its use.
Q: Okay, but…
Q: So you can’t get anything back? Is that what you’re…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We’ve not — we’ve not faced a situation where we had to ask for anything back that I’m aware of.
Q: Can you give us a list of what — what has been — what authorities and which states and jurisdictions have been rescinded…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We’ll see if we can do that. We’ll see if we can do that.
Q: How much training, if any, goes into the delivery of these weapons systems or…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: This is a transfer of equipment and property…
Q: You’re not just handing over the keys to an MRAP and saying, you know, “Figure it out”?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t — I’ll have to get back to you on the training, Justin. Look, I want to make one point on this, because I understand this is — you know, an issue of — of concern now out there. This — this program is not — we don’t push equipment on anybody, okay? This is excess equipment the taxpayers have paid for and we’re not using anymore. And it is made available to law enforcement agencies, if they want it and if they qualify for it.
In other words, we — there’s a lot of due diligence here. We’re not going to give more equipment or equipment that’s inappropriate for use by a law enforcement agency that’s small and doesn’t need it, you know? Just because they ask for a helicopter doesn’t mean they get a helicopter. There is a due process here. There’s a lot of thought that goes into this. We’re not militarizing law enforcement; we’re not pushing things out. It’s a process by which this equipment is available, should they deem that they need it and they want it.
I won’t speak for law enforcement. But my hunch is that many of these agencies out there would tell you that some of this equipment saves lives and protects citizens. And so while we’re all focused on what’s going on in Ferguson — as we should be, and I understand that — let’s be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. And it’s a congressionally mandated program, a program that has provided a good measure of support to not just law enforcement, but to citizens all over the country.
And I would remind you, there — you know, back in the summertime — and you may have seen press coverage on this — that the DLA, because of concerns about EPA requirements, halted the delivery and transfer of some MRAP vehicles. And we were inundated by letters from Congress who said restart that delivery. And that was just this summer.
So it’s a useful program. It serves a purpose. We all recognize the concerns that are out there. So does the secretary, which is why he wanted more information on this. But I want to — I want to make sure that it’s clear that this isn’t some program run amok here or that there isn’t proper accountability. There is. And it’s well-thought-out.
Now, look, if after the secretary dives into this more, if he deems it appropriate to conduct a review, a study, or, you know, he wants to potentially change it, then we’ll certainly come up and talk to you about that. But right now, we’re simply trying to get a little bit more detail about it.
I’ll take one more. Jon?
Q: Admiral Kirby, maybe you answered this and I just didn’t understand it, but if DOD gives local law enforcement, for example, an MRAP, and the secretary decides or the president decides that he doesn’t like the way it’s being used, can DOD say, “You have to give that back to us”?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: You know what, Jon, I don’t know the answer to that question. So why don’t you let me take that? What I can tell you is that they do have to give equipment back when it’s done its use. And there is an accountability review process where we make sure that the proper inventory is kept of the equipment that’s — that’s provided to law enforcement.
And by and large — and I’m speaking like any American citizen, and I’m sure you guys would agree with me — that law enforcement all over the country has a hard job to do. And 99 percent of them all do it very well. And some of the equipment that they get through this program helps them do that job.
So, again, while I understand the concern over Ferguson, and we all understand that — and if this thing needs to be reviewed, we’ll review it — but it’s important that we understand the purpose of the program and how well it’s administered. Thanks, everybody. Appreciate it.
Q: Thank you.