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Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Good afternoon. I brought one of our junior officers with me, young, handsome, vibrant. You all know the chairman, General Dempsey.
Let me begin with a couple of comments, and first is reading a statement. I’ll hit a couple of points here that may be of some interest to all of you and then open it up, talk about whatever you want to talk about.
I just came from a lunch that I’m going to now hold on a monthly basis with enlisted men and women from across our services, men and women who are serving in the lower enlisted ranks, who are stationed in various locations in the continental United States, but also some who have recently come back from Afghanistan and other overseas assignments.
The reason that I’ve asked to meet with them — and this was the first meeting today — was just me and the junior enlisted talk about whatever is on their minds, ask me questions, but that’s reciprocal. I get to ask them questions, what they think. What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? What are their concerns? What about their family? Are they going to stay in the military? How’d they get here? What do they think? Is it — is it better than they expected? What are their concerns?
It’s — it’s a tremendous way to humanize a relationship, but particularly important for me, as I am new here, and I think we all understand — certainly General Dempsey does — you can have all the technology and the advanced weapons and plans and strategies, but if you don’t have the right people, it won’t work. And that’s not unique to the Pentagon. People are your most important asset.
And you take care of those people, and you protect them. And you try to stay ahead of what they’re thinking. And at a time that’s very uncertain with budget issues and what’s going on in the world, it isn’t just a matter of reassuring our people — which is one thing, and that’s important, as well — but getting their feedback. And I know Marty does this a lot, did it just recently last week when he was spending some time at different bases.
So that’s — that’s what I did here for the last hour-and-a-half. And if you want to talk about any of that, I’d be glad to respond.
Prior to that, I met with the leaders of three African nations. The president is meeting with them this afternoon. I think you all know about that. That was a good opportunity certainly for me on behalf of our military institution to thank them. These are the presidents of Malawi and Sierra Leone. The president of Senegal’s plane didn’t get here until later, but he will be in the meeting with the president and I think Secretary Kerry this afternoon, as well as the prime minister of Cape Verde.
Those countries were picked by the president for recognition for what they’re doing on their economic development, their democracy, and their leadership in a — in a tough area, tough region, and their cooperation with the United States on the number of things that we have working together. And if you want to talk about that in any particular way, be glad to do it.
One thing — and Marty may want to comment on here, too — is the president is nominating Air Force General Philip Breedlove to serve as the new commander of our European Command and supreme allied commander of NATO. I met with General Breedlove on my way back from Afghanistan, spent some time with him, and, again, Marty may want to talk a little more detail about that.
But we need to get that position filled. And I would say, too, that not only is he particularly well qualified, but the job that Admiral Stavridis has done over there has been significant, and I think you’ve extended him a few times, so he needs a little — little relief one of these days. And I wanted to particularly recognize him. And it will — it will be more appropriate, and — and we will all recognize him in more detail as — as this unfolds.
Last night, I spent some time on the phone with the South Korean defense minister, Minister Kim, just getting connected. As you I think all know, I’ve been connecting with a number of ministers of defense since I’ve been here, and this relationship, as you all know, between the United States and South Korea is particularly important at a particularly important time. So I had known him, not well, but had a good opportunity to discuss a number of issues and go into some detail. So if you all want to talk about any of that, we can.
Last major topic I would mention before we get to your questions is the budget. I know — I know you’re not interested in that, but in particular to confirm a story that’s already out there, that’s been out there, that — on the furloughs. We are going to be able to reduce and delay these furloughs, but not eliminate furloughs, and that right now looks as though we’ll be able to go from an original estimate of 22 days to 14. That, we think, will save the department anywhere from — I think the original estimates were around $4 billion, and we can probably plan on about $2.5 billion.
And these numbers are floating, as — as you all know, but this is good news. It’s good news from where we were two weeks ago. The comptroller and the chiefs and others are still working these numbers. And I understand that there’s going to be a more in-depth briefing after we’re finished here on that.
Let me also kind of just hit the — hit the current budget situation in a little bit of detail. And then Marty may have thoughts on this, as well. What the continuing resolution has done for us, it did fix some of our urgent problems. In particular, it put some of the dollars back in the right accounts. We still don’t have the flexibility that we had hoped to get, but having money in the right accounts is — is particularly important.
What that does, too, is it reduces a shortfall at least in the operations budget. You also know that we came out better than we went in under the sequester, where it looks like our number is $41 billion now versus the $46 billion. It gives us program authorities to start new programs, which — and military construction, which is significant.
Some of the things that we’re still looking at and we’re still working through — and we’ll continue to work through — as I said, $41 billion is the number that we’ve — that we’re having to adjust to. The overseas contingency operations, the OCO budget, is — that in itself is about $7 billion higher than we had estimated, a lot of costs in that, more expensive to bring — start bringing troops and equipment out of Afghanistan and the — and their other contingencies, as well.
In the operation and maintenance account, we’re — we’re going to be short at least $22 billion for FY ’13. We’re going to have to deal with that reality, and — and that means we’re going to have to prioritize and make some cuts and do what we’ve got to do. Let me list some of the specific things that we’re going to have to do and are in the process of doing and we anticipated we would have to do, cutting back in sharply our base operating support, reducing training for non-deployed units. I’ve already mentioned the furloughs. It’s better news, but we’re not going to be able to eliminate furloughs.
I suspect, overall, the biggest issue that we’re going to be dealing with in concern is the department’s people and its mission, how these numbers are going to affect all that. And that’s partly why I directed the chairman and the deputy secretary of defense to begin a review on our — our entire framework of — first, of strategic interests using the baseline, the starting point, the president’s defense strategic guidance. How do we protect that? How do we implement that? We’re going to be doing that with less.
Where do we and how do we prioritize the threats and then the capabilities required to deal with threats and anticipated — unanticipated threats? We’ll continue to do everything possible. I think Deputy Secretary Carter has noted this, the chairman has, not to harm, reduce in any way our force structure, and that will be a baseline force. There will be changes, some significant changes. There’s no way around it.
I would say, also, this is an imperfect process. And any decisions we make — and we’ll have to make some and will make some — will be within the context of that imperfection, but we don’t have any choices but to get through a very significant analysis back to why I ask the chairman and the deputy to lead a review — on — on intensifying a review on everything. I mean, what do we really need?
How do we protect those strategic interests? There are some opportunities in that, I think. I think everyone would agree we would just as soon not have to find the high ground of opportunities this way, but we are where we are, so that’s what we’re going to do.
I think I’d stop with that, because we could be at this all day on the budget. And I would now withhold any further comments I have until your questions. But let me ask the chairman to see whatever he wants to…
GENERAL MARTIN E. DEMPSEY: Thanks, Mr. Secretary.
First, let me — allow me to offer my full support for the nomination of General Phil Breedlove for European Command. He is an extraordinary leader with the moral character to match. And he is worthy of the confidence that he has already earned among our allies in Europe.
Second, I would like to add my own perspective on the budget challenges that the secretary mentioned. The uncomfortable truth is that we’re — on Monday, we’ll be halfway through the fiscal year, and we’ll be 80 percent spent in our operating funds. We don’t yet have a satisfactory solution to that shortfall, and we’re doing everything we can to stretch our readiness out.
To do this, we will have to trade at some level and to some degree our future readiness for current operations. It will cost us more eventually in both money and time to recover in the years to come. We’ll be trying to recover loss readiness at the time that we’re trying to reshape the force.
We can do it. But that’s the uncomfortable truth. We simply can’t do this, though, without additional budget certainty in the out- years, time to absorb the reductions, and flexibility. And by the way, you’ve heard me say that before, but I want to make special mention of the word flexibility. To us, that just doesn’t mean transfer authority and reprogramming. Those are necessary, but insufficient. I mean what I would describe as full flexibility. I’m talking about the unpopular, but unavoidable institutional reforms that will be necessary.
We can’t afford excess equipment. We can’t afford excess facilities. We have to reform how we buy weapons and services. We have to reduce redundancy. And we’ve got to change at some level our compensation structure. Without that kind of reform, we will lose the human capital, the important talented young men and women, and we’ll lose combat capability. But with that kind of reform, we have it within us to stay strong, despite declining dollars and increasing risk. If our elected leaders can help us with full flexibility, our people will do the rest.
Last week, I met with some Marines at Parris Island and at Marine Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina. And there, not to my surprise, sergeants were leading and lance corporals were teaching and privates were learning. And they’re still getting it done. But dysfunction back here is a distraction to them. Nearly every question I fielded in my town hall meeting with military members and their families was about the protracted budget uncertainty.
And that’s a shame. They’re worried about their families and, frankly, they’re concerned that they’re going to be idle. They don’t join the military to be idle. They’re looking for us to think beyond a sufficient presence to a more sustainable future. And if we can do that, I know that we’ll be okay.
I look forward to your questions.
SEC. HAGEL: Thank you. Lita?
Q: Mr. Secretary, regarding North Korea, would you say that — is North Korea more dangerous now than you think it was six months or a year ago? And could you talk both about the decision to send the B-2s to South Korea for this exercise? Was that not more of a provocative move by the United States? Does that risk provocating North Korea to do something more so than they might have already been?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, first, we, the United States and South Korea, have not been involved in provocating anything. We, over the years, have been engaged with South Korea on joint exercises. The B-2 flight was part of that.
I made an announcement a couple of weeks ago regarding new missile defense capabilities, which cuts to your question about, is North Korea more dangerous today? I think their very provocative actions and belligerent tone, it has ratcheted up the danger, and we have to understand that reality.
We — the United States, South Koreans, all of the nations in — in that region of the world — are committed to a pathway to peace. And the North Koreans seem to be headed in a different direction here. So we will unequivocally defend and we are unequivocally committed to that alliance with South Korea, as well as our other allies in that region of the world. And we will be prepared — we have to be prepared to deal with any eventuality there.
Q: Mr. Secretary — Mr. Secretary, along those lines, last week General Thurman, the commander, U.S. commander there, signed with his South Korean counterpart something called a combined counter- provocation plan. It talks about consultations with the South in light any of, you know, North Korean provocations. We’ve been told this is an effort to kind of put a brake on things, to prevent things from escalating, to have a calming effect. Would you agree with that? And if not, what’s the point of having this plan?
GEN. DEMPSEY: I can actually help you with that, sir, because this has been about a two-year process. And I wouldn’t describe it as all as trying to put a brake on our very close South Korean allies. I think…
Q: Well, a break on escalation, is what…
GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, I mean, look, you know that General Thurman wears three hats. One of them is a U.N. hat. And he’s responsible for sustaining the armistice, and then he has his combined forces command hat and his U.S. Forces Korea hat. So he has to have not only visibility and transparency, but — but he has to have influence in the process of managing the potential for conflict on the peninsula. So this is just essentially allowing him and my South Korean counterpart, General Jeong, to come to agreement about how that influence will be — will be handled.
Q: So why now?
GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, we…
Q: … alliance has been going on for 60 years, and presumably you’ve had consultations going back that far.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Sure. I think the answer to that question is — is that this has been an ongoing effort to have a counter-provocation plan over the last two years in recognition of the stated position of the South Korean government that they no longer are willing to be provoked. And so we wanted to make sure we understood what that meant.
Q: Mr. Secretary…
SEC. HAGEL: Jim?
Q: … when Kim Jong-un took power, he was somewhat of an unknown quantity. But with the more aggressive weapons development by North Korea over the past couple of years, missile development, another underground nuclear test, and certainly an escalation in the rhetoric, if not outright threats to attack the United States, what’s the take on him now? Is — is he — is he attempting to bargain his way to — to the bargaining table, to give aid and — and money? Or is he a more serious threat than first imagined or a more serious threat than his father?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, as you note, Jim, there are a lot of unknowns here. But we have to take seriously every provocative, bellicose word and action that this new, young leader has taken so far since he’s come to power. We’ve seen some historical trajectory here on where North Korea occasionally will go to try to get the attention of the United States, to try to maneuver us into some position favorably to them, whether it’s more assistance or bilateral engagement.
But the fact is that this is the wrong way to go. The action that he’s taken and the actions they’ve taken and the words he’s used, it is not going to project a more responsible, accountable relationship.
Q: Mr. Secretary…
Q: And is it — is it the belief that he’s in charge? Or is the North Korean military leadership in charge?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, he’s the leader. I mean, he’s the leader of North Korea.
Q: Mr. Secretary, beyond the heightened rhetoric, have you seen any moves that suggest any kind of military steps by the North Koreans that we should be concerned about?
SEC. HAGEL: Let me ask — I’m going to respond to…
GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, as you know, we’re — we’re in our annual exercise cycle. So are they. And so there have been moves in the maritime domain on each coast, as well as some of the artillery units that are across the demilitarized zone from Seoul. So, yeah, there have been movements. We haven’t seen anything that would cause us to believe there are movements other than consistent with historic patterns and training exercises.
Q: And no reaction, then, to the B-2s that you’re aware of?
GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, the reaction to the B-2 that we’re most concerned about is not necessarily the reaction it might elicit in North Korea, but rather among our Japanese and Korean allies. You know, those exercises are mostly to assure our allies that they can count on us to be prepared and to help them deter conflict.
Q: Mr. Secretary (inaudible) sequestration question — and for General Dempsey, too. Since January, the public has been hearing the military warn of a potential readiness crisis from sequestration. Sequestration is here now. You have to live with it. Are we entering a — a period of readiness crisis? Or is it more a period of adjustment, where you have to live within your means, basically?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, you’re always adjusting. And when you are dealing with $41 billion less than what was projected in a budget, you’re going to adjust. And to maintain readiness is a key part of our responsibility.
And I think, as General Dempsey has said, as I’ve said, all our leaders have said, we will work around that. I mean, we will make things work for that readiness. That’s a priority. You have to have that. It is a balancing and a rebalancing, just as we noted in some of our comments here and in others.
So we’ve got no choice. It is — it is what it is. But make no mistake, this capability of this Department of Defense to defend the interest of our country and our allies will be there.
GEN. DEMPSEY: If I could add, the answer is yes, actually. It’s both. And it’s both for this reason. This is not — you know, some of you are students of history and the expansion and contraction of defense budgets over time. This is not the deepest, but it is the steepest. It’s the steepest decline in our budget ever.
And so what we’ve got is an FY ’13 problem that will affect readiness and it will affect it into ’14. But what the secretary has challenged us to do is, first of all, lead our way through that. We’ve got to get through ’13 and ’14. And then as we look to the ’15- ’19 budget, he’s asked us to do this review to look for the kind of opportunities you’re talking about.
Q: So it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say the United States faces a major readiness crisis because of sequestration? Well, have you got enough relief right now from the budget to somewhat mitigate a full-blown readiness crisis?
GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, give us about two weeks to answer that question. We’re in the midst of trying to figure that out.
Q: How much did it cost to send the B-2 flight over to South Korea? And was that a change of strategy in any way? And is it appropriate given the budget crisis that you’re talking about?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, I don’t know the answer. Marty may know the exact cost, but I would respond this way, and then Marty may want to follow on behind what I say, is we’re undergoing joint exercises with the South Koreans. And we plan through these exercises, and deterrence is part of that, as Marty just said, the commitment to our allies, the unwavering commitment on the Korean peninsula.
So we factor in all of these different tactical moves for compliance with the larger strategic interests of an exercise with allies. So I don’t know the exact cost of what it was, but maybe Marty can help you.
GEN. DEMPSEY: No, I don’t, either. And — but what I will say, we budget for a certain number — we call them blue lightning global reach exercises, B-52 and B-2. We budget for a certain number of them annually. This was within the context of the budgeted exercise program.
But even if it wasn’t, Jennifer, in the — in light of what’s happened in North Korea and the provocation and the necessity of assuring our allies that we’re — we’re there with them, we would have found a way to do this. You know, it’s back to your point. We’ve a readiness challenge, but we’re not going to put our security at risk in managing it.
Q: Mr. Secretary, in — in light of the fact that U.S. officials have described North Korea’s regime as irrational and the fact that so little is known about the power dynamics around Kim Jong- un, why do you think it’s wise for the U.S. to respond and poke back at some of these North Korean provocations?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, I don’t think we’re poking back or responding. We’ve always had a significant presence and relationship. And I don’t think that’s new. But I think more to the question — and this would be, really, my answer to your question — is that the North Koreans have to understand that what they’re doing is very dangerous.
And they have some options. They can take another approach to a better future, but what they’re doing now is not the way to do that. And we have security issues here that we have to protect and commitments in our security interests.
So, no, I don’t think we’re doing anything extraordinary or provocative or out of the — out of the orbit of what nations do to protect their own interests and assure, as the general said, especially, not only to our South Korean ally, but to our other allies in the region, that we must make clear that these provocations by the North are taken by us very seriously and we’ll respond to that.
Q: But, I mean, do you feel like you know enough about the regime that these responses by the U.S. are taken in the way in which you intend them to be?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, you all know enough about North Korea. There is uncertainty in that government and in their leadership and intentions. But that isn’t the issue. The issue is that we have to be prepared to defend our interest and the allies’ interests, and we have to be prepared to defend that looking at any potential, any possibility. And, yes, we have other approaches that we would prefer, that we have engaged in. We would prefer that the North do that, as well.
Q: Mr. Secretary (inaudible) Syria (inaudible) the position of the administration when it comes to Syria. I mean, first, to change the calculation of Assad’s regime and to urge both sides to find a peaceful solution for a transition.
But when it comes to imminent threat, like chemical weapons in — in the regime, Admiral Stavridis testified last week in the Senate that he mentioned some contingency plans made by some European countries in NATO. How about U.S. position on this issue?
I mean, the — when it comes to defend your allies that you mentioned in the North Korea crisis, when it comes to the risk of Turkey in the region, especially concerned in these chemical weapons, about the contingency plans that you’re working on, and the second, the rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, how it will affect the calculation in the region that Mr. President also mentioned.
And the third very quickly. You are quite popular in Turkey because of your remarks about Ataturk, the founder of country. And since this is the first daily brief that you’re conducting, if I will get some comments on this issue. I appreciate it.
SEC. HAGEL: Well, I’m glad to know my standing is significant in Turkey. But — and I admire the Turks in the government, and Ataturk and I have over the years noted Ataturk in different speeches I’ve given, not just in Turkey, but the United States. He did something that was very significant that has had a very important sustaining legacy in the world. And sometimes we — we in the West don’t fully appreciate what Ataturk did.
Now, that’s the depth of my scholarly knowledge of all that. But thank you.
As to some of your other points, on Syria, first, your reference to the rapprochement that President Obama was able to lead between Turkey and Israel, critically important for both Israel and Turkey, certainly for the Middle East, and certainly in our interests. That relationship over the years has been — not the recent last couple of years, but prior to that has been building and developing and important for both countries.
So clearly, in the interest of all of us, that that relationship is being put back together. It does affect Syria. It does affect the outcome. It does affect the neighbors in developing more confidence, I would suspect, among the neighbors in that area that Turkey and Israel will once again begin working together on some of these common interests.
The chemical weapons issue — as you know, the United Nations has just chosen a former, I think, Swedish diplomat to head up the investigation of what was used and what wasn’t used over there, which is important. I don’t believe we have, as of yet, confirmed an absolute use of chemical weapons by Assad. He does possess chemical weapons. It is dangerous. It is real. And we’ve got to deal with that eventuality and how we would respond to it.
Let me stop there and see if General Dempsey has any further comments on that, because he’s, along with the chiefs, been working on some different contingencies and so on.
GEN. DEMPSEY: In particular, I think the takeaway would be that we are working this most complex challenge through our partners, so through Turkey and its NATO alliance, our NATO alliance, through Jordan, very strong regional partner, and, of course, through Israel, and have collaborative planning efforts underway with each of them, not just uniquely for the possibility of chemicals, but also for other eventualities, you know, the loss of control of heavy air defense weapons, refugee or humanitarian assistance, supportive humanitarian assistance operations, the defense of Turkey, through the ballistic missile defense shield, the defense of Jordan.
So we’ve got any number of contingency plans. And each of them — each of them at some level rely upon regional partners to help us figure this out.
Q: Just (inaudible)
Q: … two questions. One, Mr. Secretary, you come at the time of when there’s a tension going on around the world, including especially in the Middle East and also in Asia. And you have vast experience, of course, in foreign policy, being so many years on the Hill dealing with the same issues. My question is, Mr. Secretary, that U.S. budget or military is going down. China is expanding its military in the area, especially in the South Asia region, and also we’re now talking about North Korea now. How much do you think China is dangerous to the U.S. security and also to the regional issues and regional nations in the — in the South Asia and also in Asia? Especially also India, even, fear of China’s expansion, especially military expansion.
And, also, sir, as far as Afghanistan is concerned, Secretary Kerry just came back from Afghanistan, and you have been there, sir, and you have been in the region. What do you think now the people of Afghanistan are asking that what is their future after NATO or U.S. leaves the region? And what will be the future, also, the role of India in the region, sir?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, India is a very important country, will continue to be an important power, not just in the region, in the world, economically, diplomatically, in every way. So India will continue to play a very stabilizing role in that part of the world.
As to your question on Afghanistan, you know that it was always intended an orderly, responsible transition of the United States, ISAF forces out of Afghanistan. And that’s what we are building for. That’s why each of these block-by-block agreements — the Parwan detention facility turnover — all gets us to eventually where we all want to go, a peaceful transition, a transition that will hopefully put Afghanistan in a position to have a peaceful, prosperous future with our continued assistance, as you know, that the president has laid out his commitment for a post-2014 involvement, train, advise, assist.
And that essentially was agreed to, as you know, at the NATO meeting in Chicago last — early summer, with our — with our NATO partners in Afghanistan. And we’re on our way to do that. It’s jaggedy, raggedy, not easy, up and down, but we’re on track. Our force reductions are on track. But that’s just all part of it. Afghanistan’s a sovereign nation. And we want them to be a strong sovereign nation with a significant future.
China — China is a great power, will continue to be a great power. It has interests. Certainly those interests include the Pacific and Asia. We have interest, as well. I think always the key to relationships with great powers is common interest. You anchor relationships around common interests. You don’t start with your differences. And that’s what we’ll continue to do, is build onto those common interests with China, economic, diplomatic, military to military. And that’s the responsible approach.
You know, as I would make my last comment on this point, then I’m sure the chairman’s got something to say about this, but the rebalancing of our strategic interests, rebalancing in the Pacific, in Asia, also assures our allies in that area — I mean, I had 10 questions on North Korea. Well, it’s not just about North Korea. It’s about South Korea, Japan, all the neighbors in — in that area.
So these are combinations that have to be factored into long-term relationships. And I don’t think the way to solve that is going to war. We’ve got to be smart how we handle this. Its common interests, and we’re on a path to do that. Marty, do you want to add anything?
GEN. DEMPSEY: No, I’d just add that, you know, the defense strategic guidance from last year actually took a longer view. And we’ve said all along, our rebalancing and all the things that the secretary mentioned would occur over time. And you know that one of my focus areas is building a joint force for 2020. So none of this is the flip — the flip — the flip of a switch.
Q: Following on North Korea, I want to go back to the decision on GBIs last week. The criticism sense, then, is that that decision is based on long-range missile threats. And if the threat concern was either the North Koreans’ launch of something into orbit last year or images of possible mobile ICBMs, this was a billion-dollar response to a threat that doesn’t exist yet, that this — that kind of playing off what Lita said, this is an overreaction, and it is — it is a — the U.S. may have been duped here.
Can you defend exactly why such a robust response? Is there something, you know, the American people need to know more about that threat? Secondly, you both have had talks this week with the British, and I’d love to hear more about why now, what was talked about, and what’s come out of these talks?
SEC. HAGEL: All that Marty handled, specifically the British question, but I’ll…
GEN. DEMPSEY: That’d be great. You handle the other one.
SEC. HAGEL: Yeah — well, no, you didn’t let me finish. I know he’ll want to say something about your — about your question.
SEC. HAGEL: About — about our not-well-thought-out strategy on missile defense announcement. First, we don’t have any choice in defending this country but to anticipate worst-case scenarios. We do know the North Koreans have missile capability. We know that they have significant capability. And as we think through long-term threats, we have to plan, sure, for short term, but also for long term, and every decision that’s made — and the announcement that was made a couple of weeks ago wasn’t some knee-jerk reaction to the young leader’s threats in North Korea.
These are decision-making processes that evolve based on threats, potential threats. You only need to be wrong once. And I don’t know what president or what chairman or what secretary of defense wants to be wrong once when it comes to nuclear threats.
So I would take issue with your analysis of our decision and our announcement.
SEC. HAGEL: Well, there was an awful lot of thought that went into this and strategic thinking and all that goes into these kinds of decisions.
GEN. DEMPSEY: And, you know, it was — it was the specific North Korea threat that caused that thinking to occur. But you’ve heard me speak about the proliferation of technologies, whether they be ballistic missile technologies or cyber technologies.
You’ve also heard me say that the homeland shouldn’t — can’t be considered a sanctuary as it has been for generations. So this is all about us thinking again, how do we get ready for the future? We don’t want — this is like the Gretzky thing. You know, skate to where the puck’s going to be, not to where it’s been.
On the Brits, in 1942, George Marshall and his British colleague called together their — the combined chiefs, and they met over at Roosevelt Hall at Ft. McNair on the top floor. And they decided how they would make sure that their relationship would advance the cause of not only their own countries, but, truthfully, the world, out into the foreseeable future.
So my British colleague and I decided to re-create the moment, and we gathered top floor, Roosevelt Hall, Ft. McNair, re-created the picture. It did strike me how much younger we look than they did back in those years.
And — but we had some incredible conversations about their future, our future, you know, the degree to which they intend to further integrate into Europe or remain kind of a cross-Atlantic partner. Our — they were questioning us about our rebalancing to the Pacific. We’re both facing economic challenges.
And so we kind of — not kind of, we chartered a course to ensure that they remain our strongest partner. And it was very well-done. I haven’t rendered a report yet to the secretary. So you’ll excuse me if I go no further at this point.
SEC. HAGEL: I would say that he allowed me to come over, but only allowed me to spend 15 minutes.
GEORGE LITTLE: On that historical note, we’ll draw to a close.
SEC. HAGEL: All right. Thank you very much. Thank you.