Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–January 30, 2015.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: Secretary Hagel is on travel next week on Wednesday. He will embark on his 19th and final international trip, traveling to Brussels to participate in his fifth and final NATO Defense Ministers meeting, or the sixth if you count the NATO summit in Wales. The secretary views this as an important meeting, coming as NATO confronts violent extremism on its southern borders and of course the continuing Russian provocation in the east.
At the NATO ministerial, Secretary Hagel will consult with fellow defense ministers on the alliance’s progress toward its readiness action plan, which allied leaders agreed to in Wales, and address a variety of other subjects related to NATO defense planning.
He will also have the opportunity to meet bilaterally with some of his European counterparts.
And this ministerial will be an opportunity for the secretary to offer parting thoughts on the evolution of the alliance over the course of his career as a United States senator serving on the foreign relations committee as the former chairman of the Atlantic Council, and of course, as secretary of defense.
On a personal note, I would like to just say today, as you may all know, Petty Officer Juan Cisneros, my writer and assistant, he is — today’s his last day. He’ll be heading off to another job in the Navy, and I just want to take this opportunity publicly to thank him for all his support, his loyalty, his assistance. He basically has been my brain for two and a half years, and has done a superb job at it. And he’s going to be sorely, sorely missed, but he’s off to a better job, a job that will help him keep advancing in the Navy.
Q: John, can you bring us up to date a little bit on the shooting in Afghanistan? The Taliban, I believe, is taking credit for it. Do we know yet if this was indeed any sort of insider attack? And any other details about it that you can provide? And since we’re on Afghanistan, is there any update to the number of U.S. troops there? We are remaining at a sort of higher level until there’s — some reinforcements came in from some of the partner nations. Has that happened, or where are we in that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, let me get you on the numbers. U.S. forces in Afghanistan are right now at 10,600. And there are approximately 7,850 non-U.S. coalition forces here in Afghanistan. Since we didn’t go over the numbers last week, I don’t know how that trends over the last few days, but that’s where we are right now.
On the shooting, first of all, our thoughts and prayers of course go out to the families of the victims: a tragic and grim reminder that Afghanistan still remains a dangerous place in many ways.
It’s under investigation, as you might imagine, so I’m really not at liberty to discuss much in terms of detail, either to the motivation or identification of — of the shooter. It’s our understanding though, that the assailant was killed in the midst of the attack. We’ve got two U.S. contractors killed, as you know, and one wounded.
Q: Was the assailant a member of the Afghan Security Forces?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: What I can tell you is the assailant was in an Afghan uniform, and since we can no longer talk to him, it’s going to be a little difficult, maybe not impossible, but investigators are working through that right now, and I just wouldn’t want to get ahead of that.
Q: Do you believe or disbelieve the Taliban assertion that he was planted?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We don’t have any information to confirm or deny ultimate organizational responsibility for this.
Again, the investigation just got underway, and we’re going to need to let it play out.
Q: Yeah, regarding this question, yesterday, the day before yesterday, I think White House statements show that they say that the Taliban, they are not terrorists. That’s why Afghan people — (inaudible) — this morning they contacted me that —
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t think the White House said they’re not terrorists. In fact, I think my colleague at the White House made it clear that they use terror tactics to some degree to exert their influence. They are not designated a foreign terrorist organization. And for purposes of U.S. — the U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan, they’re considered an armed insurgency.
But nobody is discounting the kind of violence that they’re capable of and remain capable of. And that’s one of the reasons, quite frankly, that this resolute support mission, this mission to train, advise, and assist Afghan National Security Forces remains so — remains so important.
Q: On China. It was reported by Wall Street Journal a couple days ago that the Pentagon has paused the military exchange with China before the two countries reach the agreement on the air encounter. So, do you have — do you want to confirm that? Because the spokesman of Chinese defense department said this report sounds unthinkable. Do you have any comments on that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: He said what?
Q: Unthinkable, this report.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: He said the report is unthinkable? I often say that about Julian Barnes’ writing.
No, listen, in this case I would agree with my Chinese counterpart. There’s been no pause or disruption to military-to- military engagements between us and China. This is something we want to see continue. There’s obviously issues to work out, here. But there’s been no pause or disruption.
Q: Admiral Kirby, follow up?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah sure, go ahead.
Q: Yeah, because I know that next week, there will be a advanced policy consultation in Pentagon.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes. That’s right.
Q: So, what will be on the agenda of their consultation?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I don’t have the specific agenda in front of me. You could imagine that we’re going to be discussing a full range of defense relationship issues with our Chinese counterparts, as we often do. We want to continue to improve and increase transparency between us and China and the — the Chinese military as much as possible, so that we can pare down the level of misunderstanding and improve trust and avoid what could be potentially dangerous incidents, as have occurred in the past, and more broadly, work towards a better, more collaborative relationship in China in the Asia-Pacific region.
But I — I don’t have the full agenda with me, and you know, we could see if we could flesh that out for you early next week. Okay.
Q: About the — commission on the military compensation and the benefits. I saw that the secretary welcomed their work. But is this going to be another one of these blue ribbon commissions in Washington that produces a big report and then just goes on the shelf and nothing happens with it?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I think it’s a little early right now to say one way or another what’s going to become of these recommendations. I would just pair it again, with what the secretary said, we are appreciative of the work that they did, and it took them a long time, and it was all very thoughtful work that they produced, some very deep ideas.
But they now are being analyzed by the Pentagon and — and as you know, we’re getting ready to submit the budget for FY ’16, and we’ll have to move on from there.
Q: But why is this — can you help us understand why this is such a big issue for the Pentagon in terms of going forward and facing the kind of physical challenges that the Pentagon has in funding all the things it wants to do?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, because the — the — the cost of people, recruiting, retention, training, medical care, the simple cost of manpower cost for the Pentagon eats up more than 50 percent of our — of our dollars. And those costs are rising every year. And people are our most expensive, rightly so, most important asset.
But if we don’t — and the secretary said this himself, if we don’t do something to stem some of those costs, to try to get ahead of that wave, in 10, 20 years, it will be unsustainable. And there — there could be dramatic ramifications for the all-volunteer force as a result. So now’s the time to do this. And that’s why he’s so grateful for the work that the commission did and why he wants and has ordered the staff to take a long, hard look and analyze their recommendations.
It’s that important. I mean, it’s — it’s not the kind of thing that gets a lot of headlines, but some day it will if we don’t take care of it now.
Q: But are you going to have a problem with recruiting in the future for the — sustaining the all-volunteer force if you start cutting the kind of benefits that people in the military now enjoy?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, let’s not speculate about what we will or won’t do. Obviously, with an all-volunteer force of the quality that we have now that we want to be able to maintain and retain by the way, it’s not just future recruits, it’s retaining quality talent that we have in the ranks right now, we obviously have to take a smart look at pay and benefits and compensation issues, because that is a significant — in many ways a significant driver, incentive for people to join the military and to stay.
So we’re mindful that this is a sensitive balance that has to be struck. But we’re also, as I said, increasingly mindful that if we don’t get our hands around this now, we will find ourselves in a very, very precarious situation 10, 20 years from now where we won’t be able to afford and therefore won’t be able to recruit the kind of talent that we have in the ranks right now.
It’s a serious — it’s a serious, serious issue.
Q: Admiral, going back to the Taliban, yesterday the Department of Defense released a statement concerning the Taliban Five in Qatar, and you said that you will be able to mitigate the danger of the released Taliban Five. Can you share with us how the Defense Department plans to mitigate the danger that these gentlemen pose? And also, does — do you plan to go back to the nation of Qatar, and extend the time that they’re supposed to be under surveillance?
It’s my understanding they’re supposed to be under surveillance for one year by the Qataris.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m really not at liberty to discuss the security assurances and the security partnership that we have with Qatar with respect to these particular detainee — or former detainees.
So, I’m really not at liberty to talk about or speculate about the nature of that relationship and the nature of those assurances. What I can tell you is that we’re — we remain confident, as we were when we sent them there, that the assurances we received are sufficient enough to help us mitigate any future threat that these individuals might pose.
And I would hasten to remind that it was because of the process we have in place and the strong relationship that we have with the governor — government of Qatar, that we were able to identify this particular activity. And I can assure you that steps are being taken to mitigate any activity in the future.
Q: And any plan to ask Qataris to hold them for longer than one year?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I won’t get into, again, the specifics of the agreements between us and the government of Qatar.
Q: One on Boko Haram, sir.
At the AU summit in Ethiopia, the assistant secretary of state said that the DOD will be providing technical support, training, and equipment to fight Boko Haram. Can you give us an update about what the Defense Department is doing to go after Boko Haram?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, we can try to get back to you with a more detailed answer. What I can tell you now is, you know, we have strong relationships there on the continent of Africa. Certainly, we’re mindful of the threat that Boko Haram presents and the challenges it presents to local governments, particularly there in Nigeria.
The relationship with Nigeria is an important one. It’s a complicated one. We’ve talked about that.
There are issues, institutional issues inside that government and inside their security forces that we’re — we’re trying to help them work through. I can’t detail for you now every step that we’re going to take, but I can tell you that it’ll be very much akin to the kinds of counterterrorism support that we offer other nations in Africa on the continent.
Q: And lastly, as of right now, there is no plans to change the training with the Nigerians? Because I know they canceled some exercises and training.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I wouldn’t talk about it in terms of changes. We still would like to pursue those training opportunities. It’s a complicated relationship. And I don’t have any announcements today about the beginning or cessation of any future training evolutions. But I can assure you that we still want to pursue a more healthy, more robust, military-to-military relationship with Nigeria than we have right now.
Q: And I just want to clarify something you said earlier when you were talking about the Taliban detainees in Qatar. You talked about — you made reference to engaging in some activities, and you talked about the ability to mitigate that or in the future. What activities are you talking about?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Again, without getting into too much detail here, we had reason to believe that there was — that there was some — some activities, by at least one, centered around potential reengagement. And we communicated with the government of Qatar over that activity, and again, proper steps are being put in place to — to further limit it.
Q: Just to clarify, Senator Lindsey Graham characterized this as communications that one — at least one of these detainees was having with someone within Afghanistan. Are the detainees who are in Qatar, are they prohibited from communicating with certain people? Are they under some communications ban?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes, Jamie. Right to the specifics of the security assurances that we have with Qatar, and I’m just not able to talk about those publicly, I’m afraid. Sorry.
Phil, you had a question?
Q: Admiral, a couple of months ago, you came out and described something Secretary Hagel requested in terms of a recounting or a report on the DOD’s relationship with the NFL. And with the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, I wanted to ask you about what that ever yielded, whether there’s any changes to the relationship between this department and the NFL, and what kind of support, you know, it might have led to for the game this weekend, in terms of flyovers or security or other —
REAR ADM. KIRBY: He did ask to better understand our relationship not just with the NFL, but with sports organizations in general. And we walked him through the wide scope of types of support that we sometimes offer to professional sports and collegiate sports organizations from time to time.
No changes were — were made. He did not ask for any changes. He simply was — and as I said back then, it wasn’t a review, it was, he just simply was asking a question, what’s the nature of these relationships?
So, he was so advised, but no changes were made. We continue to support, as appropriate, for community relations purposes, some sports activities. There will be some support to the Super Bowl. Do you want me to go through that with you?
Q: That would be helpful, yes please.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I can tell you we will not be measuring the inflation of footballs. (Laughter.)
So, as we have in the past, we’ll be ready to assist, lead federal and local agencies if needed to help ensure a safe and enjoyable event, and — and we’re going to be able to showcase some of our capabilities. It’ll be a flyover at the beginning of the game by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. There will be some military personnel on the field prior to the game, in uniform, as well.
And — and again, there’ll be, as I said at the outset, some security assistance can be provided and will be provided by military assets. I’m not really at liberty to go into all of the details of that, but I think you can imagine that for an event of this size, 60 some-odd thousand people there, we can perhaps help a little bit, you know, with security.
Q: Did the NFL make any changes to preserve its good relationship with the Defense Department? In other words, you said DOD is not going to do anything different. Is the NFL doing anything different? Did it change any of its policies or activities in response to the concerns?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We did not ask them to change any organizational behavior, and I’m not aware that anything they’ve done differently since the issues that they’ve been dealing with had to do with further ensuring military support.
Q: Is there any additional cost to the taxpayers for this flyover by the Thunderbirds?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: There is a minimal expense involved with the flyover. I think it’s to the — I think the whole thing, soup to nuts for the flyover, will cost something in the neighborhood of $80,000.
But you have to understand that the Thunderbirds are based in Nellis, out at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. This isn’t a — this isn’t a very far flight for them. They don’t have to move the aircraft or maintenance personnel to the site of the game. There’ll be a small contingent of Thunderbird personnel that will actually go on-site to the stadium for air spotting. That’s typical for flight demonstrations teams.
It’s not — it’s not an exorbitant cost, and I would, you know, obviously remind you that you know, we stand to gain the benefit. And there’s an exposure benefit from having the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over, a well-known, famous team, and that certainly helps us in terms of keeping our exposure out there for the American people.
And I think they’re very popular, these flyovers. Obviously people — people like that, too.
Q: The Kurdish prime minister told Reuters in an interview that he did not expect a battle to retake Mosul until the fall. He said late September, early October. That’s a different timeline. I mean, what is — is the thinking that the thing could —
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It’s a different timeline from what, Phil?
Q: A lot of speculation centered on the spring or — or maybe the summer for most.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, lots of speculation. Yep.
Q: But this seems to be, it is an on-the-record comment from an ally in this fight, an important one.
I’m just curious, you know, if you could just give us a sense of whether or not there is a real need for many, many more months of work to get Iraqi forces to the point where they’re actually able to go into Mosul?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think it’s incredibly premature and probably not helpful for anybody to try to guess on the calendar when a campaign against Mosul is going to begin, proceed, or succeed.
As I said last week, we aren’t there yet. There’s a lot of work that has to be done. Everybody recognizes Mosul is key terrain. Everybody knows that — that retaking it has to be done and will be done.
We’re not going to go any faster than our Iraqi partners are able and willing to go. I can assure you of that. So there’s no — there’s no rush from a planning perspective here at the Pentagon or down in Tampa, and I think estimating when it would happen on the calendar is — is a futile effort right now.
We’ll do it. They’ll do it when we as a team are ready to do it and capable of it.
Q: Sir, the DIA chief, retired Lieutenant General Mike Flynn said in comments earlier this week that he thought the campaign against ISIS and Al Qaida needed to be retooled, turning it into a multigenerational campaign, like the fight against the Soviets. He also said it was more important to address the enemy as Islamic militants, not criminal extremists, because that better enables you to choose the tools to fight against it.
Do you have any reaction to that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, obviously everyone has great respect for General Flynn, no question about that.
I — I think the way I would react to it is to say that we have been very honest from the very beginning about who these people are and about how hard and how long it’s going to take to degrade and destroy their capabilities, to remove them as a threat in Iraq and in the region.
We’ve said it’s going to take several years. I think we stand by that. I mean, just last week, you know, we got into this discussion here in the briefing room about square kilometers — kilometers, I remembered to say it this time, square kilometers possessed by ISIL and government forces and was very open and honest. I was very open and honest about the fact that the net changes have not been, you know, of great magnitude.
It just shows you, this is going to take awhile. We were seven months into this. And people are asking why it’s not over. It’s going to take awhile. Now, I — I can’t predict, and I — I don’t pretend to be smart enough to predict, you know, exactly how long, you know, on the calendar it’s going to take. We’ve said it’s probably going to take three to five years.
What makes this difficult, Kim, is that — that what really has to happen here is the defeat of the ideology. And that’s not going to be done at the barrel of a gun. It can’t be done at the barrel of a gun. It’s going to have to take place over time, with good governance in both Iraq and Syria, political stability, to answer some of the needs, the requirements, the desires, the inclusive desires of the people that live in that region. And it’s just going to — it’s going to take awhile.
And we’ve — and as for, you know, what you call these guys, we’ve been nothing but honest about who they are and the brutal ideology that they’re espousing. I mean I — I don’t have any qualm at all with the way that we here in the Pentagon talk about ISIL and who they are, what their goals are.
Does that answer your question?
Q: Just to follow up on that earlier question about Afghanistan, is there anything additional at this point that you can say about the circumstances under which the attack occurred, other — or the location other than it being at the Kabul International Airport? Just a clarification.
And then the question would be about Iraq and the reports of another massacre or killing that is alleged to have been carried out by Shi’ite militias and elements of the Iraqi Security Forces. There’s an investigation now in the Iraqi parliament about this recent attack in Diyala province.
Has the Pentagon or the Joint Task Force or CENTCOM gotten any clarification from the Iraqi government about whether Iraqi Security Forces were involved in the reported execution of civilians in Diyala, or do you have any comment on that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m afraid I don’t. I don’t have any additional information, certainly nothing to announce today on that. I would point you to CENTCOM, but obviously since it’s an Iraqi investigation, I’m not even so sure how much they’re going to be able to provide.
I just don’t have anything.
On the — on the shooting, I know almost just as much as you. It did happen at the airport, Kabul International Airport. These individuals were contractors, mechanics, aircraft mechanics. But I don’t know the — I don’t know the specific circumstances of — of how the assailant was able to perpetrate the attack, what the motivations were, or anything more specific about the — the location and the — you know, the timeline of it. I just don’t have that.
Q: Did they have a DOD contract, or who were they working for?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I — I don’t know. You’ll have to let us get back to you on that. I know they were contractors, but I don’t know with what agency they were — the contract was let.
Q: Thank you, admiral.
Following up on ISIS, there was a surprise attack overnight in Kirkuk by militants associated with ISIS against a Pershmerga police station. I’m just curious what the concerns are of the United States government of the strength of ISIS at this point to be able to mount surprise attacks like this in areas that — where they don’t control, that are under Peshmerga control, and that sort of thing going forward.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We’re not surprised. I mean, these — we’ve been saying all along, they remain a potent, determined enemy. Now, they have not been going out and trying to grab territory much. So, in that regard, this minor, and I want to stress minor attempt by them is noteworthy for that — for that aspect alone.
But it’s no surprise to us that they contain or can demonstrate the ability to continue to — to wreak violence. But I would say more broadly, I mean, they still remain on the defensive pretty much everywhere else, and they have been devoting most of their time and energy and resources into protecting what we would consider lines of communication, supply routes, and trying to — to hold on to what they have.
So, it — it didn’t come as a surprise or shock to anybody here at the Pentagon that they have that capability and that they would try it again in some other places.
Back to my answer to Kim, this is going to take a long time. This is a determined enemy that — that has roots now in particularly in Northern Iraq, and they’re not going to give those roots up very, very easily or quickly.
Q: And if I may, just on Ukraine, if you could just update us on what the understanding is of current Russian involvement in — in Eastern Ukraine, presence there, support for rebels, that sort of thing?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We continue to see support, organized and effective support, to the separatists in terms of — in terms of heavy equipment and — and materiel. That support continues virtually unabated. We’ve made clear our concerns about that, and — and about our call that it’s not — Moscow now has an opportunity, yet another opportunity to stop isolating itself and to stop destabilizing the situation inside Ukraine.
But we — you know, this is a continued concern, and what we’ve seen in recent days is simply yet more examples of the exact same behavior.
Q: Going to try the China question again, about the agenda. To what do you attribute the relative calm between the U.S. military and the Chinese military over the last year after the Cowpens incident in late 2013, and then the famous barrel roll over the P-8 last year? Things seem to be much calmer. What do you attribute that to?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It’s hard to — I mean, how do you — I mean, I’m not sure how you could do that.
What we would like to believe here in the Pentagon, that is that the relationship continues to march forward in a productive way, and there’s been a lot of energy applied to that.
And obviously, it’s hard to predict what the future’s going to look like, but clearly what we seek with China is a — is a productive, constructive defense relationship in the Asia-Pacific region.
There’s no reason why that shouldn’t be a goal for both countries. It has to start with trust and transparency. And we believe that we’re making some inroads in that regard, and we look forward to this meeting next week, and we hope that that continues to contribute to that.
Q: Got to ask you, will some of the hacking allegations that came out in some recent Snowden documents be discussed at all?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t know, Tony. As I said, I don’t have the specific agenda items, and we’ll see what we can do to — to get you a better idea of that.
Q: Since you addressed the Super Bowl, I have a follow up. Are any senior leaders going to the Super Bowl as guests of the NFL? I remember a couple of years ago, when the 49ers were playing, Panetta conveniently had a trip down there and attended. (Laughter.)
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Secretary Hagel is not planning to attend the — the Super Bowl and neither am I, in case you were curious.
But I don’t know what other senior leaders in the — in the Pentagon may be going. We can try to find out for you.
Yeah. Yes sir?
Q: In response to 7th Fleet Commander Admiral Thomas comment about welcoming Japanese air patrol in the South China Sea, the Chinese foreign ministry said one should focus on stability in the region, and not to increase tension.
So, what’s your comment on that, and does the Pentagon welcome air patrol by Japanese military in the region?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We would agree with Admiral Thomas that those kinds of patrols and that activity is welcome and will help contribute to stability in the region. And there’s no reason for China or any other nation to look at it any differently.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yep?
Q: Thank you, admiral.
I just wanted to clarify a comment that you made about the potential re-engagement that the Taliban, one of the Taliban Five was — (inaudible). This is reengagement with the Taliban, or is it reengagement in terrorist activities?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, I’m not at liberty to discuss the specifics. I think you can understand why. I guess we’ll leave it, my comments the way I did. Joe?
Q: Admiral Kirby, could you give us an update about Iran’s military activities in Iraq? If you have seen any airstrikes, Iranian airstrikes lately.
And also, I don’t know if you have seen the video that shows militants with the Hezbollah brigades in Iraq driving an M1A — Abrams tank?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I haven’t seen the video, no. And I don’t have anything to update with you. I mean, as I’ve said before, you want to talk about Iranian military activities, you should direct those questions to Tehran.
We know that they — they are still supporting the Shia — Shi’ite militias and I haven’t — I don’t have any — I don’t have any updates on strikes they’ve conducted or activities that they’ve been involved with. They — they have made plain their interest in what’s going on inside Iraq, and made obvious their support for these militia members.
We aren’t coordinating, I think it’s important to remind, in any way whatsoever militarily, with Tehran.
Q: Talking about Iraq — Iran, have you seen lately any Iranian support to the Houthis in Yemen?
Any proof of Iranian support?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’ve seen no indications, no.
Q: So, I understand you deny all the reports saying that the Iranians —
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I didn’t say that, Joe. I said I’ve seen no indications of — I’m trying to answer it. I’ve seen no indications of — of that kind of communication or collusion.
I’ve got time for one more. I think somebody had a hand up over here.
No? All right.
Yeah, go ahead.
Q: Quick follow up, then. You mentioned that ISIS won’t be defeated at the barrel of a gun, an ideology has to be defeated. Who’s in charge of that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The — there’s a coalition of 60 some-odd countries, Kim. And you don’t defeat an ideology with a single individual, and I think we’re confident and comfortable that the international community, including partners in the region, understand the threat that these guys pose, long-term, to the stability and security there in Iraq and in Syria.
And I think everybody understands the seriousness of the threat.
And I think also, and if you look at the kind of contributions that countries are making, some are financial, some are, you know, kinetic in terms of you know, actual strikes on the enemy.
Everybody’s bringing to this what they can, what they’re willing to, what their — what their populations are willing to support, and everybody has been nothing but supportive of supporting this over the long — over the long haul.