Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—March 7, 2014.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: Good afternoon everybody. Just a couple of comments here at the top and we’ll get right to your questions.
First, I wanted to let you know that secretary — Secretary Hagel reached out by phone this morning with his Ukrainian counterpart, Minister of Defense Ihor Tenyukh. This was the first time that the two had chatted, and Secretary Hagel congratulated Minister Tenyukh on assuming his new post. The secretary also stressed the firm commitment of the United States to support the Ukrainian people and to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. He praised the performance and the restraint of the Ukrainian armed forces, who have not allowed the situation to escalate. Finally, he committed himself to keeping the dialogue open with Minister Tenyukh throughout these difficult times.
For our part, here in the Defense Department, again, I’d just remind you that our efforts are focused on demonstrating our commitment to our collective defense responsibilities under the North Atlantic treaty, and as Secretary Hagel said yesterday, we will pursue measures that reinforce those commitments to include the provision of additional support to NATO’s Baltic air policing mission, and to our aviation detachment in Poland.
And with that, I’ll take your questions. Bob.
Q: Two follow up questions to that, the second one being the aviation detachment in Poland. Can you clarify the numbers of aircraft and personnel who are going to be sent there, and then to your previous point about the secretary’s phone call: did his Ukrainian counterpart make any requests for any type of U.S. security or defense assistance.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Okay. To your first one, we’re still working our way through this with the — with Polish authorities, Bob. I know I’ve seen press reporting out there on — speculating on numbers of aircraft and that kind of thing, and I don’t have anything to announce today. We’re still in discussions with them about what the plus up is going to look like, but clearly we’re committed to that. We know that the Poles are, as well, very interested in having us to add to the — to the det. As you note, 10 people right now in a support aircraft coming in on a rotational basis right now.
So, we’re still working our way through that, and as soon as we have something to announce, we’ll do that.
Q: Considering making it a permanent rotation, or still…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The parameters are all still under discussion right now. I mean, I think it’s — it’s — we’re — we’re taking a look at all the various options and ways that we can plus up this det, make it more robust, but no decisions have been made yet, and soon as we have a mutual decision between us and Polish authorities, we will — of course, we’ll make that public.
On your second question, it was — it was a good discussion. There — it was a — and it was a — sort of a broad-based discussion on — on terms of making sure that the — that we can keep the dialogue and the level of cooperation, and the mil-to-mil relationship with Ukraine as strong as possible now and well into the future.
The — the minister did ask, you know, for — he asked the secretary to consider providing some advice and counsel to his troops with respect to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts. He made — he said that — that he knows the United States military is really good at that and that that’s the kind of advice and counsel that they could use. And so it was — it was a broad-based discussion about — about sort of the advice and counsel that might be able to give them over the long term. And I think I’d leave it at that for…
Q: Just telephonically or sending some people over there…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, they didn’t get into that level of detail. He just said, look, you’re very good at this. And there was — you know — you know, technical assistance issues that — that he raised, and I don’t want to get into all the details right now, but, again, you know, we’ll keep you posted if there’s something to let you know.
Q: Can I just follow up on that? So he asked for these things, and you — if I understood you right, there’s the discussion about doing it over the long term. But does — when Secretary Hagel speaks about doing it in the long term, does this current crisis have to be resolved before you can do this with the Ukraine military? Why long term? If they need humanitarian…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, the — the — the specific issue on humanitarian assistance support was something that — I mean, he just — and I won’t — I won’t speak for the minister. Just he believed that this is an expertise that they could — they could benefit from and so asked for — asked for, you know, some counsel on that.
Q: But is that for now? Is he asking for it in the near term?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: They didn’t get into dates and specifics. It was — again, it was sort of a broad discussion of assistance and things that the United States military could provide. Again, I don’t — I’m not going to get into the details of the — of everything they talked about. And the secretary said that he would — you know, that he appreciated the interest and that — that he would — that he would take their requests under consideration.
Q: Can I just ask you then, does this phone call become the, if you will, formal U.S. military endorsement — you said mil-to-mil — the formal — formal U.S. military endorsement of the Ukraine military as it exists today after the — now that the interim government and all of these issues are now in play? Is this now the endorsement of this Ukraine military with this government?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t know that I’d characterize that. I mean, we — we’ve had a longstanding relationship with the Ukrainian military. That has continued throughout this crisis and — and to today. I think that would be putting too fine a point on the conversation that they had today. We remain interested in maintaining a close relationship with the Ukrainian military, and I suspect that that will continue. Did that answer your question? Okay.
Q: Admiral, when the secretary was on the Hill this week, he was talking about the compensation reform components of the budget proposal, and he talked about leaving the potential for retirement — retirement reform until next year, when the commission on compensation completes its work.
But then yesterday, the deputy secretary sent a pretty detailed report to Capitol Hill and to the commission outlining some very specific proposals for retirement reform. Can you tell me what — what are the secretary’s views on that? Would he — would he like to see that conversation expedited in some way, even though it wasn’t specifically in the budget?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, great question. And you’ve hit a lot there. So you’re right. There are no retirement options or recommendations proposed in the fiscal year ’15 budget. The secretary made it clear on the Hill, has been consistently clear that he wants to work this through the commission, and he — and he meant that. That’s what he — that’s the forum he believes is the appropriate one to deal with these issues.
The letter that you’re speaking of by Deputy Secretary Fox was — was options that — that we agreed to and the commission wanted to consider for different ways of getting at the retirement benefit, and that’s all they were. They were not proposals. They were not recommendations. We didn’t — we didn’t side with one over the other. But we — we provided them — and as I understand it, they wanted our input, so we provided — we provided some input for them to consider. I think if you haven’t seen the — the specifics of the options, we can certainly provide those to you. But that’s what they were. They were — they were options provided to the commission for them to consider. The secretary continues to believe that that’s the forum to have this discussion and to — and to tee up — eventually to tee up recommendations. But you’re right. They were not put into the — into the budget submission.
Q: Admiral, another topic that came up this week a lot was BRAC, and there were a lot of members up there who, again, don’t seem to accept the idea of starting to close bases any time soon. The secretary and others in this department have suggested that there are things it can do without Congress to move units or start to look at bases and facilities. At what point do you reach the point where you start to do that? And what are some of the things the secretary believes he can do or the Pentagon can do without Congress to close or consolidate military bases?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I’m not an expert on the — on the law, and I can get you a better answer, but he does have some authorities to — to restructure and reorganize his base infrastructure on his own authority.
But — but let’s get beyond that. I mean, clearly what we’d like and what we asked for was — was another round of BRAC to deal with infrastructure we no longer need, particularly here in the continental United States. And — and the secretary and the chairman were clear in asking for the support of Congress to support another BRAC. I mean, that’s obviously the preferred method, and that’s the — that’s the method that the department would — you know, would support.
But he does have some authorities in the law to allow him to do some restructuring on his own. Again, our preference is another round of BRAC.
Q: The comptroller I think yesterday put it in very clear terms. He said the department is basically wasting money right now on all this excess infrastructure. Will there come a time where you’re looking for savings, you’re looking for dollars, and you need to start to execute some of that authority to recover what he says is money that’s just being left on the table right now?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Now, I suspect — I suspect there will come a time for that. I couldn’t put a date certain on the calendar for you. Again, we really — I think the preferred method is to work with the Congress and to get another round of BRAC. And — and I think we need to let the — you know, we’ve now delivered the budget. They’ve testified to two committees. They’ve got other hearings coming up, so it’s time now to have that debate, have that discussion, that conversation with the Congress, which is the way the secretary wants to pursue it.
Q: To follow on Andy’s question on retirement, so Assistant Secretary Fox has sent options to the commission.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Right.
Q: But does Secretary Hagel believe that retirement has to be changed, reined in, in the same way that he believes that compensation and benefits have to be reined in to bring things in line if sequester continues? Does — is he looking for major changes in retirement to rein in costs?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The secretary believes that we’ve got to get a handle on — on compensation, pay and benefits for the military soon. He’s been very clear that the longer we wait, the harder this gets going forward, and the — and the — the larger the crash is going to be 10 or 20 years from now when it becomes unsustainable.
So better to take measured, deliberate, discrete action now while we have the ability and the time to do it than — than to just put our head in the sand and wait, you know, for another decade to go, and then — and then it gets really, really difficult.
And he wants all options considered, to include retirement benefits. And that is why he worked so hard on developing these options and why we’re grateful for the work the commission’s doing. We look forward to having the discussion with them moving forward.
But as I said to Andrew’s question, no one of these options is a favorite. No one is preferred right now. These are simply options that we’ve teed up to be considered.
Did that answer your question, Richard? Yeah. Yes, sir?
Q: Admiral, do you have any comments in regards with the interview of General Michael Flynn with NPR, where he was talking about the (inaudible) in regards with the movement of Russian troops?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I did not see or hear his interview, so, I mean, I — I’d be loathe to speculate on an interview I didn’t hear. But I think to your question, this came up on the Hill today [sic Tuesday, March 4], and Secretary Hagel was very clear in questioning with senators that — that there was nothing sudden or new about Russian activity in Crimea or near the border of Ukraine. We were monitoring it. We were aware of it. We were tracking that.
Q: Are you still monitoring the situation in…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The best we can, yes. We’re still watching the situation very closely, of course.
Q: And something in regards to, the — the destroyer that went to the Black Sea?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The Truxton. Yeah, she’s, as you’ve probably seen live footage of her transiting into — into the Black Sea. U.S.S. Truxton’s a guided missile destroyer. She’s part of the strike group of the carrier U.S.S. George H.W. Bush. She’s right now planned to be in the Black Sea for about a week or so, to conduct port visits and routine exercises with — with partner nations there, and I think we’ve been very clear that this was — this was an excursion for her that was planned well before her departure from the United States.
Q: Admiral, is the Bush in the Med?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes. The Bush is in the Mediterranean. The Bush is on a regularly scheduled deployment to the Middle East, and since she’s out of Norfolk, she went through the Med to get there.
Q: Kirby. So, the secretary also heard on the Hill yesterday that this additional monies are not likely to be approved, the $115 billion to $26 billion. So, does that mean that the numbers that he cited for, you know, 2016 and beyond, that 420,000 for the Army, are those likely to be then, the more realistic numbers going forward, and is there enough money this year to fund everything that — that you had planned, and is there — or is some of that $26 billion likely to migrate to the — to the OCO budget, when we see it?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: There’s a lot there, Dave. Let me try to tackle that. So, the end strength for the Army of 440,000 to 450,000, the 11 carrier fleet, all that is fully funded in FY ’15, and I’d remind you that the top line for FY ’15 is in keeping with the — with the bipartisan budget act, $496 billion, so we’re complying with the law for what the Defense Department’s asking for in fiscal year ’15.
And you’re right, over the out years, what we call the five year — the future year’s defense plan, the — the four years after ’15, I mean, we’re asking for $115 billion for those years above the sequestration level. And whether it’s approved or not is — is up to the Congress. I think both the secretary and the chairman made a pretty compelling argument both in — at the Senate and at the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, that this is the right budget to meet our defense strategy.
It is still — it still carries risk with it because of the reduced funding at the — at the BBA level, but — but we believe it’s — we believe it’s the right budget for what we — for what we need to do right now and into the — into the future.
Q: And this extra $26 billion for this year?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Oh yeah, sorry. Well, I mean, that’s a — that’s a fully paid for additional fund out of a larger inter-agency initiative that the administration is putting forward. That money, I think, as Mr. Hale told y’all, about half of it would go to repairing some of the readiness discrepancies that we faced in ’13 thanks to sequestration. Some of it would go to modernization, about half of it or so. And then — and then a smaller percentage to some additional procurement. It is — it is not the same as the unfunded list that — that you know that the Congress has asked for the services.
We know how we would break that money down, should we get that extra $26 billion, and as the secretary made clear, it would — it would help mitigate some of the risk that we talked about with the — with the $496 billion. It would help mitigate some of the risk that we know we’re going to face with that level of funding. Does that answer your question?
Q: Yeah. If you don’t get that, will some of that migrate to the other…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Some of it migrate to?
Q: To the OCO budget, once we see that one. Might be taken up there?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t think so. I’m going get you a better answer, but I don’t think so, that’s not the — I mean, that is not intended for OCO purposes. As you know, there’s an OCO request of around $80 billion, $79 billion. That’s a place holder because we don’t know what the future in Afghanistan’s going to look like, and I think that’s a completely separate issue than the $26 billion. But if I’m wrong on that, I’ll get back to you, but I’m pretty sure that’s right.
Q: I want to make sure you understood, you said the $26 billion is fully funded? I don’t think that’s what you meant to say, but you did. That’s part of a $58 billion…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It will be fully paid for through — through some tax reforms and other initiatives and discretionary spending.
Q: So I mean, that’s not money you have?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It’s — no, it’s not money I had. But it will be paid for. It’s not — it’s not — it’s not an additional request for free cash.
Q: Here’s my question. Christine Fox…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Thanks for clarifying me, though.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I appreciate it.
Q: Okay. Christine Fox and others have written this week and said we’re going to look for a signal from Congress in terms of whether sequestration will continue in 2016. Here’s my question. What kind of signal will you be looking for, Tea Party advocates saying, we agree that sequestration should be rolled back? House and Budget Committee — Budget Committee leaders saying, we agree on legislation? What kind of signals? And timing-wise, can you get signals, like, in mid-November, after the election, and still execute a 2016 budget with the lower numbers or higher numbers?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, the form that the signal or the indicator takes is a lot less important to us than the timing of it. I’ll leave the form of it to the Congress. But the timing’s important. And because we’re already putting pen to paper on FY ’16 budget planning, the sooner we can get a firm indication that sequestration will no longer remain the law of the land, the better.
But I can’t sit here and put you — put a date on the calendar and say, we have to have it by April 1st or May 15th. We’d like to get that signal as soon as possible. But, again, the form and the timing is up to the Congress.
Q: But is that — I need to push a little bit — the signal, that’s a pretty elliptical term. Are you going to be looking for verbal commitments or legislation that gets introduced?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think — the secretary used the word indication. I don’t know whether there’s a big difference between signal and indication. But…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Because of the form that it would take would have to be determined by the Congress. And, again, I think we’re less concerned about whether it’s an e-mail, a phone call, or, you know, a formal letter, as to getting it as soon as possible, a credible indication that we can use to plan to, because we’re already starting to build ’16. And right now, in ’16, as you know, Tony, sequestration is the law of the land. We go right back to sequestration-level cuts in ’16.
Q: Okay, one other budget question. China announced this week a 12 percent increase to their budget, one of the largest in the last three years, I guess. What’s the Pentagon’s reaction to that, to the increase — are there concerns that China’s beefing up its capabilities in cyber or anti-ship capabilities?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, not — not a real surprise. I did — we did see the reports of 12.2 percent raise over last year. In terms of their defense spending, I think it went from $114 billion to something like $138 billion. Not a surprise. They’ve been doing this the last decade. The increase in defense spending on average over the last decade has been around the 10 percent mark every year for the last 10 years.
I think what’s — what’s — it’s not — so it’s not the — it’s not the — it’s not the how much that’s of concern to us. It’s the transparency with which they’re doing it, and we’ve said this for many years now, that — that we believe that it — a power like China, a rising power like China, it behooves everybody in the region, and certainly in the world, to have a better sense of transparency about how they’re spending this money and what they’re spending it on, not so much how much.
I mean, we — we understand, their economy is getting — has — it’s gotten stronger, and so they’re — for a rise in defense spending for a nation whose economy is getting stronger, and who is — is growing and becoming a larger regional power, certainly there’s logic there. It’s the transparency with which they’re doing it. And we’ve long said that it’s certainly no — that it appears as if the kinds of capabilities that they’re trying to develop are capabilities that are aimed at, in many ways, the air and maritime power of the United States.
And so I think — look, we want to have a close military-to-military relationship with China, a better, more transparent, more cooperative relationship, and that’s what we’re really seeking here.
Q: Has it gotten more transparent over the last year or two? You’ve been following this when you were at Admiral Mullen — this is a recurring theme for the last seven or eight years. Have they become a little bit more transparent in the last couple years from where you sit?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think — I think the military-to-military dialogue and cooperation has definitely improved. There’s no question about that. But to say that we’ve reached sort of a level of full transparency — or transparency that — that makes us — that makes us comfortable, no, we’re not there.
Q: Budget transparency?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Budget transparency, absolutely. I don’t think we’re there yet. So I — I mean, again, I think it’s — it’s less an issue for us what — how much money they’re spending. It’s how transparently they’re spending it.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yep.
Q: Can I just go back? Secretary Hagel announced several weeks ago he wanted an ethics adviser. Any progress on that? Kind of where does he stand in looking for somebody to do it? And has his — any refinement in his thinking about what he wants to do about this problem? We haven’t heard from him in a while on it.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, thanks for the question. No change in his focus on what he’s looking for here. Again, and to remind you, this is a — this would be an officer at the flag or general officer level rank to report directly to him and on his staff to help coordinate and facilitate issues of military professionalism and conduct across the services and the force. He has not lost focus on that at all. In fact, he is interviewing now. In fact, he’s interviewing a candidate today for that job and has several more interviews lined up over the next few days. So I suspect that he’ll be able to make a decision here pretty soon.
Q: When you said before you’re closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine, have you seen the continued influx of Russian troops into Crimea? And what’s the range of estimates of how big of the force actually is there right now?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’d — I don’t know that I’d characterize a continued flow. I mean, they have added forces over the last week or so. We don’t have perfect visibility into the rate of change there, but — and — and our ability to provide an estimate is — is somewhat limited, just based on our knowledge of the situation — the situation on the ground.
But clearly, they have thousands of soldiers in the Crimea. Some estimates are up to near 20,000 of them. Again, we don’t have perfect — I can’t give you a perfect number on that, but that’s the — that’s the range at which we — we believe they’re at.
It’s less important the number than it is what they’re doing. It’s — it’s a clear violation of lots of international obligations Russia has, not to mention the 1997 basing agreement with Ukraine, which prohibits them from the kind of activities they’re doing.
So we’re much more concerned about the activities, you know, blocking off Ukrainian naval bases by sinking patrol boats into the waterways and essentially establishing operational control of the Crimea.
Q: So the 20,000 (OFF-MIC there right now, including the…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’d say that’s a — that’s a good estimate right now, but it’s just an estimate. And as I said, we don’t have perfect visibility on the numbers.
Q: There’s another report out that the Pentagon commissioned a study of Vladimir Putin, his body language a couple of years ago. Can you verify that? And has that report been used in — because of the recent crisis?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, the answer to your second part is no. This isn’t — we did not commission a study to study Vladimir Putin’s body language. What you’re referring to is a — is a program that is resourced through the Office of Net Assessments here in the Pentagon that — it’s a research program by a body language expert to — to study the body language and movements of various world figures.
The — the individual — the researcher that determines this — determines the identity of the individuals that she wants to look at on her own, there’s no guidance from DOD to — you know, to tell her to go look at a certain person. As I understand it, they reviewed Mr. Putin back in ’08, along with Russian President Medvedev, and again in 2012, but there’s been no study of Vladimir Putin with respect to the recent crisis in Ukraine.
Q: There was a subsequent study in 2012…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: 2012, yeah.
Q: And you’re saying that as of right now that no one has even looked at these — at these studies?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I have not seen it. I don’t know who else has seen it. The reports are given right to the Office of Net Assessment. As I understand it, that is where they — that is where they stayed.
Q: And what is the point of this study again (OFF-MIC)
Q: Can we release it?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It’s a — it’s a research program that examines the — the researcher examines the body movements and body language of various world figures to determine, you know, a better understanding of their decision-making process, as I understand it.
Q: For use in — in what — for the secretary to read and analyze…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The secretary has not read these reports. And I don’t believe that they’ve — I can tell you for sure that they have not informed any policy decisions by the Department of Defense. They go right to the Office of Net Assessment, as I understand it, and they have not been used to inform any policy or program decisions here at the Department of Defense.
Q: Have you shared it with other departments or the White House, for instance?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t — I don’t know, but I don’t believe they have been shared outside the Pentagon.
Q: Can you find out how much money we spent on this before Senator Grassley or Coburn write a letter to you about this? What a waste of money, this sounds like. Can you find out how much that’s been spent in the last five years on this?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: My understanding is it’s in the neighborhood of $300,000 a year.
Q: Jesus. Really?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: They’re not classified. We don’t release them.
Q: You don’t?
Q: That’s what — I just want to follow up on all of this. They’re — they’re not classified?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: They’re not classified.
Q: Why can you not release them?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I didn’t say I couldn’t release them, I said we do not release them.
Q: Will you explain why you do not release them?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: They — they are — the — the Office of Net Assessment procures, has many research projects that go on. This is just one of them. Mr. — Mr. Marshall is an out of the box thinker who likes to study all kinds of issues, and many of them never go beyond his office. This is one of them.
Q: Can you — so we will have to FOIA it, then?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We don’t have any intention of — of actively making them public.
Q: But why? Is there a reason? If it’s not classified…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: There’s plenty of things we do in the Pentagon that’s not classified that we don’t hang on our website and publicly release.
Q: What if we ask for it?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, we’ll certainly take the request under consideration.
Q: Can you add to that, can we get a list of who has been studied under this program?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’ll see if we can get you a list.
Q: And is the secretary going to let this program continue? Does he think it has value?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The secretary was interested in the press coverage of it. Asked some questions about it this morning. And I suspect he’ll be asking more questions about it.
Q: Is he indicating he is thinking about stopping it?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I’m going to leave it where I — where I just said. He’s — he’s saw the press report of it. He asked for some — he asked for some more information about it, and I think he’ll continue to ask for some more information about it.
Q: Can I just ask you to explain your other remark on Ukraine, if I might, about the Russian troops, just for clarity.
You said they’ve added forces in the last week or so. Is that, when you say “added forces,” is that different than the roughly 5,000 to 6,000, which was…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I just meant that over the last, as we’ve all been watching this crisis unfold, you’ve seen it, you’ve reported it, they have continued to add troops into the Crimea.
Q: It’s not beyond that.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Not that I’m aware of.
Q: Okay. Thank you.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: OK. Louie.
Q: Just a clarification. $300,000 is spent since 2009?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, since 2009. Thank you for the clarification.
Q: Is that a total Admiral, or $300,000 per year?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Per year is what I understand.
Q: Since when did it begin? ’08 or ’09?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: This — this — actually, the program has its roots back in the mid-’90s. It was run under the auspices of the State Department, and the Pentagon took it over in the early 2000s, around 2003 or so.
Q: But since ’09, it’s been $300,000 a year?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: That’s my understanding.
Q: On ONA, the secretary has talked about moving it around in the OSD organizational chart. Is that — has that happened? Can you give us an update about where it is organizationally?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It does — it does now report through the undersecretary of defense for policy.
Q: So, he’s pushed it away from himself, effectively, in the OSD org chart. Is he going to take…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don’t think it was his intention — it wasn’t his intention to push it away from himself. He values the work that Mr. Marshall and his team do. But — but I think it was — it was a way of, you know, just part of his reorganization of the headquarters staffing at OSD, and that was one of the recommendations made to him and he accepted it.
Q: Has that move meant he has less visibility about the work it does, given that he is just learning from the USA Today story about this…
REAR ADM. KIRBY: As I said, there’s — there’s lots of things that Mr. Marshall and his team do that never bubble up to the secretary’s level, nor are they intended to, but he certainly, you know, has Mr. Marshall’s work available to him should he want it, and there’s never been a problem, you know, getting eyes on, if there’s something Mr. Marshall’s doing that he wants to — to know more about. That’s not going to change just because Mr. Marshall’s now reporting up through the director of policy. Not going to change at all.
Q: Is it possible to know how many leaders were part of this study?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: That’s Barb’s question, we’ll get you — we’ll try to get you a better answer on that. I’ll do the best I can. Yep.
Q: On Ukraine, I want to ask you, besides the F-15 and the F-16 movements to Poland and Lithuania, does the United States — is the Pentagon planning anything else in the next three or four days, symbolic moves of aircraft or vessels?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, first of all, I wouldn’t characterize it as symbolic. These are — these are real missions here, the aviation det in Poland and the Baltic air policing mission. Those are the only two that we have to announce right now.
Q: Are there others in the works, though?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: None that I’m aware of, but I think we’re going to continue to look for ways to demonstrate our commitment to NATO, so I’m not — I’m not aware of any new ones now. Those are the two that we’re focused on right now.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yep.
Q: The — just one quick one on the call this morning or this afternoon. When was it?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It was this morning.
Q: And how long? This morning. And do you know roughly how long it lasted?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: About — I’d say probably 20 minutes or so, with translation.
Q: And Secretary Hagel initiated, right?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I — the — the physical connection is — is established by both staffs, so I — you mean who asked for the call?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes, Secretary Hagel asked — asked for the call, yeah.
Q: And then on a totally other subject, do you have any updates on the Cape Ray, what’s going on with the Cape Ray?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: As far as I know, she’s still in Port Rota. There’s been no change to her status. Right now, it appears the latest — in fact, I think OPCW came out with this. Roughly a quarter of the total material has now been taken out of Syria and loaded onto one or both of the — of the ships, the commercial ships. So there’s progress. It’s still behind schedule. But there’s progress. And that’s encouraging.
But there’s been no mission — there’s a mission for the Cape Ray. There’s been no activity aboard Cape Ray, because they just don’t have enough to warrant making her leave Rota and — and go pick it up.
Q: And is there any change in the — in the threshold that that’s going to take? Or is it still 100 percent?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, as I understand it, it’s still — we need to have all the material to begin the destruction. And that’s — we’re a quarter of the way there, so there’s a lot more work to do to get it out of Syria, before the Cape Ray can go pick it up.
Okay, thanks, everybody.