SEN. LEVIN: Good morning, everybody. This morning is the firstcommittee hearing since new committee assignments were approved. SoI'd like to recognize our new committee members: Senator Mark Begich,Senator Richard Burr, Senator Roland Burris, Senator Kay Hagan,Senator Mark Udall and Senator David Vitter.A warm welcome to youall. You'll enjoy your work on this committee for many reasons, butone surely is its history of a bipartisan approach to our nationalsecurity.We also want to welcome Secretary Gates, who will testify on thechallenges facing the Department of Defense. As we can, I'm sure,notice, the secretary's got one arm a little bit immobile thismorning. I guess the snow this morning reminds him of his losingcombat with a snowplow a week or so ago. We wish you well, Secretary.We know you're on the mend, and this is not the first time we've seenthe one-armed secretary before us.We welcome you. When you previously testified in September, Isuggested that this -- that it would be likely your last appearancebefore this committee. I'm glad to say I was wrong. I commendSenator Obama's decision to ask you to stay on as secretary ofDefense. We all appreciate your dedication, your willingness tocontinue to serve. And we appreciate your family's support for thatdecision of yours.Given your unique position as the only Cabinet member to serveacross the Bush and Obama administrations, the continuity andexperience that you provide will be of great value to our nation.While this is not a nomination hearing today, since you do not needone as a carryover, it is an opportunity to ask you how you plan totransition to the policies and priorities of the new administration.The challenges facing the department at home and abroad areextraordinary. Foremost will be shifting the emphasis and the balancebetween two ongoing wars, drawing down in Iraq as we build up inAfghanistan. Secretary Gates, you have called for deployingadditional combat brigades and support units to Afghanistan,potentially doubling the current 31,000 U.S. troops deployed there.But making these additional forces available as currently scheduled isslow, slower than the commanding general of the NATO internationalsecurity assistance force, U.S. General David McKiernan, said lastOctober was needed.The past year has seen increasing violence in Afghanistan, withroadside bombs reaching an all-time high and spreading insecurityamong the Afghan people. Secretary Gates's opening statement tells usthis morning that there is, quote, "little doubt our greatest militarychallenge right now is Afghanistan," close quote, where, again, wehave 31,000 troops.President Obama has called Afghanistan and Pakistan the centralfront in America's war against terrorism. Admiral Mullen saidrecently that, quote, "the availability of troops for Afghanistan istied to the drawdown of our 140,000 troops from Iraq." Add to thatthe fact that Iraq now has 265,000 of its own trained Iraqi troops and310,000 trained police personnel. Hopefully, the secretary thismorning will address these disparities, which have existed for many,many months.The security challenges in Afghanistan require that the UnitedStates and its coalition allies not only provide additional combatforces but also increased capacity and capabilities. We need todeploy key enablers that serve as force multipliers. In particular,we need more trainers more quickly for the Afghan national army, whichis a highly motivated and effective fighting force. We also need moreintelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in Afghanistan,including unmanned aerial vehicles that are tailored to the uniquerequirements that the situation in Afghanistan presents.Secretary Gates has said that in the long run this conflict mustbe Afghanistan's war, and I agree. We should be doing all we can toenable Afghan security forces to take responsibility for theircountry's security. Hopefully Pakistan will find a way to slow theactivities of terrorists using their border lands as safe havens andbases for attacks on Afghanistan, but I'm afraid we can't count onthat to stop cross-border incursions. We not only need toaggressively increase the number of trainers and mentors for buildingthe capacity of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police;we need to actively seek to get the best Afghan security forcesdeployed where the greatest threat is coming from.And that's why I've urged Secretary Gates, as well as GeneralMcKiernan, former President Bush, his National Security AdviserStephen Hadley to seek the deployment of the Afghan National Armyalong the Afghan-Pakistan border to counter the threat of incursionscoming across that border. Brigadier General John Nicholson, thedeputy commanding general of Regional Command South, says that, quote,"We're not there. The borders are wide open," close quote.The challenges in Afghanistan also require that we mobilize thefull range of U.S. power, not just our military power, but ourcivilian institutions for diplomacy and development. Secretary Gateshas spoken and written with great persuasiveness that, quote,"Military success is not sufficient to win" and that the ingredientsfor success in the long term include economic development, rule oflaw, good governance, training and equipping internal security forces,and public diplomacy. Yet the chronic under-resourcing of the StateDepartment and the U.S. Agency for International Development has leftour military and civilian instruments of U.S. power, quote, "out ofbalance."The challenges facing the department are not confined to Iraq andAfghanistan. Iran continues to be a destabilizing force throughoutthe Middle East because of uncertainty as to Iran's nuclear weaponsgoal and its support of insurgent and terrorist groups in the region.In Europe, the United States will hopefully work with our NATOallies in efforts to improve our relationship with Russia. Thatrelationship has become strained over a proposed missile defensedeployment in Europe and further NATO enlargement. We should seekcommon ground with Russia where it is in our mutual interests,including fighting terrorism, preventing the proliferation of weaponsof mass destruction, reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons, andpossibly even missile defense.For instance if we could work out a joint program with Russia, onmissile defense against Iranian missiles, it would change the entiredynamic of regional power and put major pressure on Iran to drop anyplans for nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to carry them.We need to remain vigilant in the Asia Pacific region, whereNorth Korea remains a threat to regional stability and China'sstrategic influence continues to grow.The challenges confronting U.S. Africa Command are vast andcomplex: ungoverned or undergoverned areas that offer potential havensand recruiting grounds for terrorist extremists; nations emerging fromconflict, where peace is fragile and international forces provide muchof the security and stability.In the coming months, the secretary of defense will have to makesome tough decisions. The committee is interested in any insightsthat you may have, Mr. Secretary, into changes the new administrationmay be planning -- to major weapons systems, priorities and funding --to strike a better balance between the needs of our deployed forcestoday and the requirements for meeting the emerging threats oftomorrow.Of particular interest would be: plans for the Air Force's F-22fighter; the C-17 cargo aircraft; combat, search and rescue helicopterprogram; the next generation aerial refueling tanker; the Navy'slittoral combat ship; the DDG-1000 and DDG-51 and the Army's FutureCombat System and missile defense systems.These programs require tough choices, which will be all the moredifficult due to the current economic crisis. A top priority for theDepartment of Defense and Congress must be the reform of theacquisition system.Each year, hundreds of billions of dollars of products andservices are purchased. Last year, the committee received testimonythat cost overruns on the department's 95 largest acquisition programsnow total almost $300 billion over the original program estimates.Even though the department has cut unit quantities and reducedperformance expectations on many programs, to reduce costs,acquisition reform will be a top priority for this committee, thisCongress.Care for our wounded warriors must remain a priority. The Departmentof Defense needs to continue to work closely with the Department ofVeterans Affairs in crafting and implementing policies and processesto ensure seamless care and transition for our wounded warriors andtheir families.It is also essential that the department continue to focus onsupporting all of our service members, not only those who are injuredor ill, but also their families, as they face the numerous challengesthat lengthy and frequent deployment present.In the area of personnel, the department will hopefully continueto address and evaluate the appropriate active-duty and reserve endstrengths for all the services. The Army and Marine Corps continue togrow the active force. While the committee has supported growth inthe active ground forces, we must remain vigilant that we do notsacrifice quality to enhance quantity. We must ensure that recruitingstandards are high and waivers are limited.The Air Force and the Navy have, in recent years, reduced thesize of their active-duty end strengths, in part to pay for equipment.Recently, both services halted the decline. The department must workwith Congress to determine the appropriate active and reserve endstrengths for all the military services, as measured against currentand future missions and requirements. We expect the department tocomprehensively address end-strength levels in the upcomingquadrennial defense review.Some of the department's choices may become clear when the secondemergency supplemental '09 appropriations request is submitted in thecoming weeks. The department has indicated it will provide apreliminary 2010 defense authorization budget request, as required bylaw, on the first Monday in February. But the more meaningfulsubmission this year will be the amended budget request reflecting thepriorities of the new administration, which are expected in the middleof April.Before I turn to Senator McCain for any opening remarks, Ibelieve we have a quorum. And we will take advantage of that quorumto ask the committee to consider a list of 654 pending militarynominations.(Moved.)They've been before the committee the required length of time.It's been moved and seconded that they be approved. All in favor sayaye.(Chorus of ayes.)And nays?(No audible response.)The motion carries.And one other personnel note. The nomination of Bill Lynn isbefore the committee, and a number of additional questions have beenasked relative to any service by Mr. Lynn.Those are appropriate questions, and we will attempt to act on thatnomination as soon as we can after the answers to those questions arereceived.Senator McCain.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. AndI again look forward to working with you and all the members of thecommittee has we begin the 111th Congress. And I join you inwelcoming all the new members of the committee. It's been a privilegeto sit on this committee for years, and I've always appreciated itsbipartisan tradition. And I'm certain that the new members of ourcommittee will find their participation very rewarding.I'd also like to welcome Secretary Gates back to the ArmedServices Committee. Mr. Secretary, you have been a tireless championof our men and women in uniform, and I cannot think of a morequalified person to serve as our country's secretary of Defense. Weall owe you a debt of gratitude for your outstanding service, yourwillingness to continue to serve in one of the most difficult jobs inAmerica, and I'm confident that you will continue to serve in anexemplary fashion.Secretary Gates, you know well the challenges that our countryfaces in the areas of national security, Afghanistan, the drawdown oftroops in Iraq, dwell times, closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay,ensuring the readiness of our combat units and achieving meaningfulacquisition reform. In all these areas and more, we face enormous anddifficult decisions. I look forward to working with you and the newadministration as we pursue the foremost responsibility of theAmerican government -- to secure the security of the American people.Obviously, Afghanistan must be at or near the top of any prioritylist. The situation there is increasingly challenging, and we need todevelop and articulate a clear strategy with measurable performancegoals in order to prevail there. I'm pleased that the administrationis moving in the right direction by increasing the number of U.S.troops on the ground, particularly in the south of Afghanistan.But more troops are just a piece of what is required, as you wellknow. We need to put into place a comprehensive civil-military plan,ensure unity of command among those fighting in Afghanistan, increasedramatically the size of the Afghan National Army, improve the policeforces and address the corruption, governance and narcotics problemsmuch more forthrightly than we have so far.Last year, Mr. Secretary, you testified before this committeethat you worried that NATO would become a two-tiered alliance of thosewilling to die to protect people's security and those who were not.We must convince our NATO allies and their citizens that a stable andprosperous Afghanistan is in all of our interests and therefore worthyof a greater contribution from each member state. I look forward toyour thoughts in this regard.Undergirding the efforts of all NATO members in Afghanistan mustbe an absolute commitment to success in that country. We cannot allowAfghanistan to revert to a safe haven for terrorists who would plotattacks against the American people or our friends around the world.I'll do all I can to convince our allies that while this war will behard, it is necessary.I look forward to hearing your assessment of the NATO mission inAfghanistan, the viability of the Afghan government, the relationshipand necessity of a better interaction with the Pakistan government andhow best to develop a comprehensive civil military strategy.Also, Mr. Secretary, I think it's important -- the most importantthing that I have to say to you today -- the American people mustunderstand this is a long, hard slog we're in in Afghanistan. It iscomplex. It is difficult. It's challenging. And I don't see,frankly, an Anbar Awakening, a game-changing event in Afghanistan suchas we were able to see in Iraq. So I think the American people needto understand what's at stake and they need to understand that this isgoing to take a long time to bring America's national securityinterests in -- to secure America's national -- vital nationalsecurity interests in the region.In Iraq, obviously, we continue to worry about too rapid adrawdown. And I'm convinced that leaving a larger force in place inthe short run will permit us to make greater reductions later.Critical elections are coming up in Iraq. The status of forcesagreement will be up for some kind of referendum.So we are by no means finished with the situation in Iraq, but wecan be proud of the enormous success, at great sacrifice, of the menand women who have served so nobly and so courageously.I'm encouraged by Vice President Biden's plan -- pledge that thenew administration will not withdraw troops in a manner that willthreaten Iraqi security. And I look forward to hearing specificallywhat such a commitment means.Mr. Secretary, I just want to mention, on the issue of GuantanamoBay, I am one who said that Guantanamo Bay needed to be closed. But Ithink that we should have made the tough decisions along with it.What do we do with those people who are in our custody who have nocountry to send them back to? What do we do with the people in ourcustody that we know, if they are returned to the countries -- in somecases, failed states, like Yemen -- that they won't be right back inthe battle, such as we have found out about former prisoners who havebeen released who are now leading members of al Qaeda? And also Ithink that decisions have to be made as to where these inmates aregoing to be located.I believe the military commissions, after long and difficult,arduous process, were starting to function effectively. I'mdisappointed that they have been suspended.And finally, we all know that there will be more prisoners thatwill be kept at Bagram. So maybe we should anticipate the way we dealwith that situation, rather than be faced with one which may cause usmore difficulties if we don't fully anticipate that there's going tobe a situation that has to be addressed at Bagram in Afghanistan.I share the chairman's commitment to acquisition reform. Toughchoices are going to have to be made quickly on the F-22, the C-17sand others.But true acquisition reform is long overdue.Finally, Mr. Secretary, I'm pleased that the information thatI've been receiving lately about the improvements that have been made,both in recruiting and retention in the military -- and I'm surethere's a number of factors, and I hope you'll cover some of those, asto why we are improving significantly both retention and recruiting.I'd like to -- hopefully the -- some of the actions of Congress wouldbe helpful there. I also think that it's very good for morale whenyou win a conflict and don't lose one.But I'd be interested in -- very much in your views about howwe've been able to basically dramatically improve recruiting andretention, and what we need to do to continue that as we face thechallenges of a continued conflict in Afghanistan as well as,possibly, other parts of the world.Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator McCain.And Secretary Gates, again, our warm welcome, and we turn it overto you for your statement.
SEC. GATES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator McCain, members ofthe committee. Thank you for the opportunity to provide an overviewof the challenges facing the Department of Defense and some of mypriorities for the coming year.In so doing, I am most mindful that the new administration hasonly been in place for a few days, and new or changing policies willlikely arise in the weeks and months ahead. Later this spring, I willpresent President Obama's defense budget and, at that time, will bebetter equipped to discuss the details of his vision for thedepartment.On a personal note, I want to thank many of you for your verykind farewell remarks at my last hearing. I assure you you are nomore surprised to see me back than I am. In the months ahead, I mayneed to re-read some of those kind comments to remind myself of thewarm atmosphere up here as I was departing. Seriously, I am humbledby President Obama's faith in me, and deeply honored to continue tolead the United States military. I thank the committee for yourconfidence in my leadership and your enduring, steadfast support ofour military.My submitted testimony covers a range of challenges facing thedepartment: North Korea, Iran, proliferation, Russia, China, wounded-warrior care, ground-force expansion and stress on the force, NationalGuard, nuclear stewardship, defending space and cyberspace, andwartime procurement.But for the next few minutes, I'd like to focus on Afghanistan, Iraqand Defense acquisition.There is little doubt that our greatest military challenge rightnow is Afghanistan. As you know, the United States has focused moreon Central Asia in recent months. President Obama has made it clearthat the Afghanistan theater should be our top overseas militarypriority.There are more than 40 nations, hundreds of NGOs, universities,development banks, the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, andmore, all involved in Afghanistan -- all working to help a nationbeset by crushing poverty, a thriving drug trade fueling corruption, aruthless and resilient insurgency, and violent extremists of manystripes, not the least of which is al Qaeda. Coordination of theseinternational efforts has been difficult, to say the last.Based on our experience -- our past experience in Afghanistan andapplicable lessons from Iraq, there are assessments under way thatshould provide an integrated way forward to achieve our goals.As in Iraq, there is no purely military solution in Afghanistan.But it is also clear that we have not had enough troops to provide abaseline level of security in some of the most dangerous areas -- avacuum that increasingly has been filled by the Taliban. And that iswhy the United States is considering an increase in our militarypresence, in conjunction with a dramatic increase in the size of theAfghan security forces and also pressing forward on issues likeimproving civil-military coordination and focusing efforts on thedistrict level.While this will undoubtedly be a long and difficult fight, we canattain what I believe should be among our strategic objectives: aboveall, an Afghan people who do not provide a safe haven for al Qaeda,who reject the rule of the Taliban, and support the legitimategovernment they have elected and in which they have a stake.Of course, it is impossible to disaggregate Afghanistan andPakistan, given the porous border between them. Pakistan is a friendand partner, and it is necessary for us to stay engaged and helpwherever we can. I can assure you that I continue to watch thesituation in Pakistan closely.As you know, the Status of Forces Agreement between the UnitedStates and Iraq went into effect on January 1st. The agreement callsfor U.S. combat troops to be out of the Iraqi cities by the end ofJune and all troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011 at the latest. Itbalances the interests of both countries as we see the emergence of asovereign Iraq in full control of its territory. Provincial electionsin just a few days are another sign of progress.The SOFA marks an important step forward in the orderly drawdownof the American presence.It is a watershed, a firm indication that American militaryinvolvement in Iraq is winding down.Even so, I would offer a few words of caution. Though theviolence has remained low, there is still the potential for setbacks.And there may be hard days ahead for our troops.As our military presence decreases over time, we should stillexpect to be involved in Iraq, on some level, for many years to come,assuming a sovereign Iraq continues to seek our partnership.The stability of Iraq remains crucial to the future of the MiddleEast, a region that multiple presidents of both political parties haveconsidered vital to the national security of the United States.As I focused on the wars these past two years, I ended up towardthe end of last year punting a number procurement decisions that, Ibelieved, would be more appropriately handled by my successor and anew administration. As luck would have it, I am now the receiver ofthose punts. And in this game, there are no fair catches.Chief among the institutional challenges facing the Department isacquisitions: broadly speaking, how we acquire goods and services andmanage the taxpayers' money.There are a host of issues that have led us to where we are,starting with long-standing systemic problems -- entrenched attitudesthroughout the government are particularly pronounced in the area ofacquisition -- a risk-averse culture, a litigious process, parochialinterests, excessive and changing requirements, budget churn andinstability and sometimes adversarial relationships within theDepartment of Defense and between Defense and other parts of thegovernment.At the same time, acquisition priorities have changed fromDefense secretary to Defense secretary, administration toadministration and Congress to Congress, making any sort of long-termprocurement strategy, on which we can accurately base costs, next toimpossible.Add to all of this the difficulty in bringing in qualified senioracquisition officials. Over the past eight years for example, theDepartment of Defense has operated with an average percentage ofvacancies, in key acquisition positions, ranging from 13 percent inthe Army to 43 percent in the Air Force.Thus the situation we face today, where a small set of expensiveweapons programs has had repeated and unacceptable problems withrequirements, schedule, cost and performance. The list spans theservices.Since the end of World War II, there have been nearly 130 studieson these problems, to little avail. While there is a silver bullet, Ido believe we can make headway. And we have already begun addressingthese issues.First, I believe that the FY 2010 budget must make hard choices.Any necessary changes should avoid across-the-board adjustments, whichinefficiently extend all programs. We must have the courage to makehard choices.We have begun to purchase systems at more efficient rates for theproduction lines.I believe we can combine budget stability and order rates that takeadvantage of economies of scale to lower costs. We will pursuegreater quantities of systems that represent the 75 percent solutioninstead of smaller quantities of 99 percent exquisite systems.While the military's operations have become very joint, andimpressively so, budget and procurement decisions remainoverwhelmingly service-centric. To address a given risk, we may haveto invest more in the future-oriented program of one service and lessin that of another, particularly when both programs were conceivedwith the same threat in mind.We must freeze requirements on programs at contract award andwrite contracts that incentivize proper behavior. I feel that manyprograms that cost more than anticipated are built on an inadequateinitial foundation. I believe the department should seek increasedcompetition, use of prototypes, including competitive prototyping, andensure technology maturity so that our programs are ready for the nextphases of development.And finally, we must restore the department's acquisition team.I look forward to working with you and the rest of Congress toestablish a necessary consensus on the need to have adequate personnelcapacity in all elements of the acquisition process. This is no smalltask and will require much work in the months ahead, which brings meto a few final thoughts.I've spent the better part of the last two years focused on thewars we are fighting today, and making sure that the Pentagon is doingeverything possible to ensure that America's fighting men and womenare supported in battle and properly cared for when they come home.Efforts to put the bureaucracy on a war footing have, in my view,revealed underlying flaws in the institutional priorities, culturalpreferences and reward structures of America's defense establishment,a set of institutions largely arranged to plan for future wars, toprepare for a short war, but not to wage a protracted war. Thechallenge we face is how well we can institutionalize the irregularcapabilities gained and means to support troops in the theater thathave been, for the most part, developed ad hoc and funded outside thebase budget.This requires that we close the yawning gap between the way thedefense establishment supports current operations and the way itprepares for future conventional threats. Our wartime needs must havea home and enthusiastic constituencies in the regular budgeting andprocurement process. Our procurement and preparation for conventionalscenarios must, in turn, be driven more by the actual capabilities ofpotential adversaries, and less by what is technologically feasiblegiven unlimited time and resources.As I mentioned, President Obama will present his budget laterthis spring. One thing we have known for many months is that thespigot of defense spending that opened on 9/11 is closing. With twomajor campaigns ongoing, the economic crisis and resulting budgetpressures will force hard choices on this department.But for all the difficulties we face, I believe this moment alsopresents an opportunity, one of those rare chances to match virtue tonecessity; to critically and ruthlessly separate appetites from realrequirements, those things that are desirable in a perfect world fromthose things that are truly needed in light of the threats Americafaces and the missions we are likely to undertake in the years ahead.As I've said before, we will not be able to do everything, buyeverything. And while we have all spoken at length about theseissues, I believe now is the time to take action. I promise you thatas long as I remain in this post, I will focus on creating a unifieddefense strategy that determines our budget priorities. This, afterall, is about more than just dollars; it goes to the heart of ournational security.I will need help from the other stakeholders -- from industry,and from you, the members of Congress. It is one thing to speakbroadly about the need for budget discipline and acquisition reform.It is quite another to make tough choices about specific weaponssystems and defense priorities based solely on national interests, andthen to stick to those decisions over time. The president and I needyour help as all of us together do what is best for America as a wholein making those decisions.I have no illusions that all of this will be solved while I am atthe Pentagon. Indeed, even if I am somewhat successful on theinstitutional side, the benefits of these changes may not be visiblefor years. My hope, however, is to draw a line and from here forwardmake systemic progress to put the department on a glide path forfuture success.I look forward to working with each of you to gain your insightand your recommendations along the way. Once again, I thank you forall you've done to support the Department of Defense and the men andwomen wearing our nation's uniform.I look forward to your questions.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. We're going to have asix-minute round of questions. We have a lot of members here. Idon't know that we'll be able to get to a second round; that's goingto depend on how quickly the first round goes. But we'll have tolimit the first round to six minutes.Mr. Secretary, what is the relationship between the speed of ourforce draw-down in Iraq and the speed of our force increase inAfghanistan? Let me put it another way, more specifically. What isthe earliest that a first, second, third and fourth additional combatbrigade can deploy to Afghanistan, and why is this driven by our forcerotation strategy in Iraq?
SEC. GATES: Mr. Chairman, at this point, I think that we areactually in a position to address most of General McKiernan'srequirements in the relatively near future. Should the president makethe decision to -- the final decision to deploy additional brigades toAfghanistan, we could have two of those brigades there probably bylate spring, and potentially a third by mid-summer.Quite honestly, in terms of the remaining requests that he has,the infrastructure requirements that are needed in Afghanistan to beable to support and sustain a force that size would probably make itnot possible for us to deploy them before they would be ready in anyevent later this year.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you. The SOFA with Iraq requires that U.S.forces withdraw from Iraqi cities and towns by the end of June.Approximately how many of the 140,000 troops that we have in Iraq areaffected by that repositioning requirement?
SEC. GATES: I don't know the answer to that, Mr. Chairman. I'llget it for you.
SEN. LEVIN: Mr. Secretary, last month, December 9th, I sent youtwo letters regarding proposed contracts that seemed to pave the wayfor a significant increase in the use of private security contractorsin Afghanistan. I expressed concern in those letters about thesesteps, and I laid out a number of those concerns: the extent to whichthe use of deadly force to protect government facilities and personnelshould be an inherently governmental function that should not beperformed by contractors; the requirement for proper oversight,supervision of private security contractors; what are the rulesapplicable under the law of war to private security contractors whoexercise deadly force?And I urged you not to enter those contracts until thosequestions and other questions had been resolved. I haven't receivedan answer yet to those letters, but let me ask some of the questionshere this morning.Do you intend to conduct the requested review of the appropriateuse of private security contractors in a battlefield situation beforethose contracts are entered into?
SEC. GATES: We will probably be doing them simultaneously, Mr.Chairman.We have the need for these protective capabilities inAfghanistan. They guard convoys; they guard some of our facilities.The -- and frankly, until we can get additional U.S. troops intoAfghanistan, these capabilities are necessary.We are creating the supervisory structure in Iraq that wedeveloped over the course of the last year -- I'm sorry, inAfghanistan that we developed over the course of the last year or soin Iraq to ensure that the commander on the field sets the guidelinesand the rules for the employment of these security forces.I would say that of all the security forces -- contract securityforces in Afghanistan at this point, I think only nine are U.S.citizens. The rest -- almost all the rest are Afghan.
SEN. LEVIN: Okay. If we could get quick answers to thoseletters of mine, I'd appreciate it.The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that the U.S.military has come into conflict with private security companies inAfghanistan, Afghan-hired companies, on a number of occasions.According to the article, these private security companies havegenerally been hired either by Afghan authorities or by privatecompanies, and that some of the employees may actually be takingorders from Taliban forces. How serious a problem do you think thisis?
SEC. GATES: This is the first I've heard of, Mr. Chairman. Letme check into it.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you.Last week, the Pakistan foreign ministry issued a statementcalling U.S. missile strikes on Pakistan territory counterproductiveand requesting they be discontinued. What's your reaction to that?
SEC. GATES: I think that the strikes that are being undertakenare -- well, let me just say, both President Bush and President Obamahave made clear that we will go after al Qaeda wherever al Qaeda is.And we will continue to pursue that.
SEN. LEVIN: Has that decision been transmitted to the Pakistangovernment?
SEC. GATES: Yes, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Secretary Gates, some time ago -- I think it was endof '07 -- you had this -- discussions with your Russian counterpart onproposals for missile-defense cooperation, at least the possibilitiesof that cooperation. And certain proposals were formulated with theassistance of your department that were then presented to Russia.Would you support further exploration with the Russians of a possiblecooperative arrangement in the area of missile defense?
SEC. GATES: Sure. I think that there's real potential there.I've outlined it to -- first to President Putin and subsequently toPresident Medvedev.I think there's some real opportunities here.Russia is clearly not the target of our missile defense endeavors;Iran is. We have a mutual concern there.I think the Russians have an unrealistic view of the timelinewhen an Iranian missile with the range to attack much of Russia andmuch of Europe will be available. But I am very open to the idea ofpursuing further cooperation on missile defense with Russia.
SEN. LEVIN: And is that also the position of the Obamaadministration, as far as you know?
SEC. GATES: Frankly, the subject has not been discussed, as faras I know. I expect it will be on the agenda here pretty soon.
SEN. LEVIN: I had a very brief discussion with the secretary --new secretary of State on this subject, and I think her thoughts arevery similar to yours. And I think that's good news.We -- Senator McCain?
SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.Mr. Secretary, how large do you believe the Afghan National Armyshould be?
SEC. GATES: Well, we have -- working with the Afghans, have justagreed to an increase in the size of the Afghan army from a nominal80,000 to 134,000. I'm not sure that even that number will be largeenough, but I believe that our highest priority needs to be increasingthe size of that army and training -- and training that army. And Ithink we have money in the budget -- in the budget submissions that wehave made that would help us accelerate that growth.
SEN. MCCAIN: That's a vital ingredient in any comprehensivestrategy for success in Afghanistan, to dramatically increase theAfghan army.
SEC. GATES: I couldn't agree more, Senator McCain. I thinkthat, as I've told our European allies, ultimately a strong AfghanNational Army and a capable, reasonably honest Afghan National Policeis -- represents the exit ticket for all of us.
SEN. MCCAIN: Do you agree with the facts on the ground that inHelmand province and Kandahar, the Taliban basically operates fairlyfreely?
SEC. GATES: I must confess, Senator, that I get differentreadings on the freedom of action that they have and the success thatthey have between analysts here in Washington and what I hear when Igo into the field. When I visited Kandahar late last year, all of thecommanders in RC South told me, the situation here is no worse; it'sjust different.And I'm not quite sure entirely what that means. But I believethat the relatively open border that the chairman talked about and theability of not just the Taliban but other insurgent groups, to crossthat border easily, have created an environment in which the Talibanhave greater freedom of action than they've had in the last couple ofyears.
SEN. MCCAIN: I think it's indicated by the charts that map outthe increases in attacks. Particularly along the ring road, theTaliban attacks have been significantly increased, particularly overthe last two or three years.Do you have any evidence that there are more or fewer Iranian-made weapons or EFP components going into Iraq?
SEC. GATES: My impression from the intelligence that I've seenis that there is some modest increase. But overall the number ofIranian weapons going into Afghanistan remains at a relatively smalllevel.
SEN. MCCAIN: What can you tell us about Iranian involvement inAfghanistan?
SEC. GATES: I think the Iranians are trying to have it bothways: cultivate a close relationship with Afghanistan and the Afghangovernment, for both political and economic reasons, and at the sametime impose the highest possible costs on ourselves and on ourcoalition partners.
SEN. MCCAIN: How serious is the issue of corruption in theAfghan government and society?
SEC. GATES: It is a very serious problem.
SEN. MCCAIN: Reaches the highest levels of government.
SEC. GATES: I don't know about the highest levels of government.But it certainly reaches into high levels of government.
SEN. MCCAIN: We won't be able --
SEC. GATES: But it's actually as much the pervasiveness as it isthe level of officials that are involved, in the corruption, that Ithink is a concern.
SEN. MCCAIN: We agree we won't be able to achieve our goals inAfghanistan without addressing the drug problem.
SEC. GATES: I think that's right. And I think that that was oneof the reasons why, at the defense ministerial last December, MinisterWardak, on behalf of the Afghan government, requested NATO's help ingoing after the drug lords. And the rules of engagement, for thoseNATO nations willing to participate, said that where there is a linkbetween drug lords and drug labs and support for the Taliban, thattheir troops were authorized to go after them both.
SEN. MCCAIN: Do you think -- do you have all the legislativeauthorities you require to go after the drug labs and the drug lordsin Afghanistan.
SEC. GATES: We have changed our own rule of engagement, just inrecent weeks, to try and make sure that our commanders have thatauthority. I think we ought to let it play out for a few months. Andif we find that we need legislative help, we'll be right up hereasking for it.
SEN. MCCAIN: Do you believe we can count on the Afghan centralgovernment to seriously address the drug problem during the upcomingelection period?
SEC. GATES: Probably not.
SEN. MCCAIN: Is it going to take some pretty careful balancingof withdrawals from Iraq and, at the same time, buildup in Afghanistanto prevent a very difficult stress on our combat troops?
SEC. GATES: It does require careful balancing, but I think weare on the right path. The estimates that I've been given are that bythe end of fiscal year '09, we should be in a position where ourbrigade combat teams have a year deployed and 15 months at home; in FY'10, a year deployed, two years at home; and by FY '11, a yeardeployed, 30 months at home. So I think we're on the right track.The next few months will continue to be hard. The last unitsthat have the 15-month deployments will be coming home, I think, bylate spring or early summer.
SEN. MCCAIN: I thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, and thankyou, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator McCain.Senator Lieberman.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (ID-CT): Thanks, Mr. Chairman.Thank you, Secretary Gates. Welcome back. Thanks for comingback.I'd like to begin with a few questions about Iraq. I appreciatewhat you said in your opening statement -- that we've taken importantsteps forward in the orderly drawdown of the American presence, thatAmerican military involvement is winding down.Even so, words of caution -- there's still the potential forsetbacks. This is not an irreversible situation.I know that last week President Obama convened national securityadvisers, and there was discussion about the pace of withdrawal. AndI gather that you have been charged -- and our military leaders -- toconsider various options for withdrawal from Iraq. Could you describethose to the committee?
SEC. GATES: Well, I would just say that there is a -- we areworking on a range of options for the president that range from awithdrawal of -- essentially a completion of the work of the brigadecombat teams and a transition to assist -- an advisory role, beginningin 16 months and then at various intervals proceeding further forwardfrom that. And we're drawing those out for -- along with the risksattendant to each.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: So I would -- my interpretation of that is thatthe plans would go from the 16 months, where there would be no combatforces left in Iraq, and that the outer point would be the end of2011, which was the end of the SOFA.
SEC. GATES: Yes. We're looking at all of those.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Earlier on, a lot of us on this committee urgedyou and your -- and others to give a lot of attention and respect tothe -- with regard to decisions of action in Iraq, to the commanderson the ground.I assume, but I wanted to ask you, that General Odierno will have asignificant part in the discussions of the various options forwithdrawal from Iraq?
SEC. GATES: Senator, it's been my approach since I took this jobthat on all these major decisions, I believe it is important for thepresident to hear directly from his senior military commanders.Andso in every one of these decisions, I have structured a process sothat the president hears from the ground commander -- who would beGeneral Odierno; the CENTCOM commander -- General Petraeus in thiscase; and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then from the chairman andmyself.President Obama has agreed to that same kind of approach.Ithink you've read in the newspapers he's coming over to the Pentagontomorrow to meet with the chiefs. So I believe the president willhave had every opportunity to hear quite directly from his commandersabout what they can accomplish and what the attendant risks are underdifferent options.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: That's very reassuring. I thank you for that.Let me ask you a quick question or two about Afghanistan.Clearly, one of the lessons we all learned, as your testimonyindicates this morning, is that there's no purely military solution tothese kinds of conflicts, Iraq or Afghanistan. And one of the greatprefaces to our success in Iraq was the development of a nationwidecivil-military plan. It's my impression last time -- I was toAfghanistan twice last year -- that there still is no nationwide jointcivil-military plan in Afghanistan. Am I right about that? And ifso, why? And when can we expect one?
SEC. GATES: Well, I think that part of the problem that we facein Afghanistan is also a reflection of our success, and that is, thenumber of partners that we have. And as I mentioned in my testimony,we have 40-some countries, the U.N., the EU, NATO, hundreds of NGOs.So there are a lot of people trying to help Afghanistan come outright, but figuring out how to coordinate all of that and then how tocoordinate it with the military operations is a very complex business.And I think a lot of the reviews that have been going on from towardthe end of the last administration and now under this administrationis to figure out how do we get at that problem.Our hope had been that -- and I must say still has to be that -- theU.N. senior special representative, Ambassador Kai Eide, is perhaps inthe best position to do this. And finally, after long delays, he hasbegun to get both the financial and human resources from the U.N. thatwould enable him to do this.We're also trying an experiment in RC South where all of thenations who are participating in the security operations in RC Southhave committed to build a civil military cell in the headquarters ofRC South that would have civilian representatives from each of ourgovernments, where there could be better coordination of the civilian-military operations.So I think we're going to have to experiment with some of thesethings. But unlike in Iraq, where we basically -- Ambassador Crockerand General Petraeus were essentially able to put together anintegrated strategy because we were basically doing most of the work,the situation is much more complex in Afghanistan.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: But you would say that ideally we should bemoving toward a unified and joint civil-military plan for the wholecountry in Afghanistan?
SEC. GATES: Absolutely.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Final question; very different. We're obviouslyfocused very much on an economic stimulus program here in Congressnow. We're looking directly at infrastructure spending around thecountry because it's so-called shovel ready and creates jobs and movesthroughout the economy. There has some discussion about whether somedefense projects might also fit into that -- the standard thatPresident Obama -- standards that (he ?) has laid out.create jobs,and have a -- and be quick to go into the economy, and be consistentwith national goals. And I'm thinking -- I'm wondering how you feelabout that. I'm not thinking about getting into controversialprograms, but things we're going to have to spend money on anyway overthe next five, six, seven years. Should we be thinking aboutaccelerating investments in those programs now?
SEC. GATES: We were asked to make a submission to the WhiteHouse of programs that fell within the guideline of being able to bestarted within a matter of months. We have given them somesuggestions in terms of military hospitals, clinics, barracks, somechild-care centers and things like that, where we think the work couldbegin right away or is already underway and could be accelerated.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I appreciate that. I hope that we on theSenate side -- I know in the House, the number of military projects inthe stimulus is small relative to the size of the package. And I hopewe'll take another look at your list and see if we can add some more.Thank you very much.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Lieberman.Senator Inhofe.
SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R-OK): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.To maximize my time, let me just ask unanimous consent that thevery kind remarks I made about Secretary Gates at the time of hisdeparture be made a part of the record today.
SEN. LEVIN: Without objection.
SEN. INHOFE: Secretary Gates, last July you had something -- Inever quite understood the positions you were taking relative toincreasing the State Department's authority and perhaps their budgetin terms of things that are quasi-military. I'm not -- do you haveany thoughts on that that you'd like to share with us, orclarification?And the reason I ask that, there are some programs I feel verystrong about -- strongly about, such as the IMET program which was, atone time, a program that we -- had certain requirements, and the ideawas we're doing these countries a favor by training their people,which -- I think they're doing us a favor -- and then the expansion ofthe 1206, 1207, 1208 Train and Equip, that these should remain as DOD-run programs.
SEC. GATES: I continue to agree with that. I think that those-- I think they should be funded through the Department of Defense.Twelve-oh-six is basically -- well, is basically a dual-keyprogram where nothing goes forward without the support of theDepartment of State, the secretary of State. We've done a lot of goodthings with that program in Lebanon, Malaysia, Indonesia, thePhilippines and elsewhere. Twelve-oh-seven is more an initiative forthe State Department but where the funding is in the DefenseDepartment and we work cooperatively with the State Department inimplementing those programs. And, of course, 1208 has to do withspecial forces and training.So I think these are all very important programs and I think thatthe approach that has been taken heretofore in the way they've beenmanaged is the way they ought to continue to be managed.
SEN. INHOFE: That's good.I've been concerned, as all of us have been up here, with some ofour ground capabilities. We have the Abrams and we have the BradleyVehicle, the Paladin, the Stryker, all on different chassis and allthat. Then along came FCS. And I think that there is a -- there'sbeen a lot of discussion. It is on track right now, where we'll haveall these systems with the same common chassis. It seems to beworking pretty well right now. Are you -- do you maintain yourcommitment? I know tough decisions have to be made, but I'd like toknow where you would rank the Future Combat System in your priorities.
SEC. GATES: Well, one of the useful things that I think the Armydid last summer or fall was to reexamine the Future Combat Systems andsee what capabilities being developed in FCS could be accelerated andspun out for the use of forces in the field today.And I've seen some of those capabilities down at Fort Bliss.I think that in terms of the longer lead-time items, along with-- along with many other large-scale weapons systems, we're going tohave to take a close look at it and take a look at the other elementsof FCS, as we do the major programs of the other services, see whatcan be made available, what is useful in this spectrum of conflict,from what I would call hybrid complex wars to those ofcounterinsurgency, where you may encounter high-end capabilities thathave been sold to some of our adversaries, by near peers, but they arein use in a conflict, such as we face in Afghanistan or in Iraq orperhaps elsewhere.So I think all these things are going to have to be looked at. Idon't think anything is off the table at this point.
SEN. INHOFE: I've appreciated some of the comments that GeneralChiarelli has made concerning this.An area that has not been brought up yet, that I have aparticular interest in, is AFRICOM. Of course, we went throughseveral years of the continent of Africa being under the PacificCommand, the Central Command and EUROCOM.Now we have our own AFRICOM, which I think is long overdo, butI'm glad we do. However I'm concerned, with all the problems that arethere, that with the squeeze of terrorism, in the Middle East, and alot of it going down through Djibouti and the Horn of Africa, thatthere are serious problems there.Everyone talks about the Sudan. They're familiar with that. Butthere are other problems, like Joseph Kony and the LRA and what'shappening with Mugabe down there. My concern with AFRICOM is, itdoesn't seem as if they have the resources that they need. And I knowthere's a lot of competition for these resources.General Ward is doing a great job, as General Wald before himwas. And of course Admiral Moeller is right in the middle of this. Iwould like to ask you to maybe have your people evaluate the potentialthere, in AFRICOM, and then see what kind of resources they need.Right now I know that they don't even have an airplane down thereto get back and forth. A lot of us had thought that the headquartersshould have been in Ethiopia or someplace on the continent. Howeverthere's resistance down there for that.So do you have any thoughts about AFRICOM and about their lack ofresources and how we might address that?
SEC. GATES: Well, it's a reality that we're having to deal with.I would say this though.As we have tried to help African countries understand what wehave in mind, with AFRICOM, and the role that we would like for it toplay, in terms of helping them create more democratically oriented,better trained internal security and military forces and train themfor peacekeeping, train them to deal with humanitarian missions and soforth, clearly our eagerness to present a military face, in terms ofcivil conflicts or conflicts between states down there, has beenimportant.Now, when it comes to al Qaeda, I think General Ward does havethe resources that he needs in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere, butthis is something that we will have to continue to look at.I would say, with respect to the headquarters, I made thedecision to leave the headquarters in Europe for the time -- for athree-year period, because it seems to me what's key for AFRICOM nowis building relationships in Africa. And in three years, we may havea better idea or the kind of relationship with other countries thatwill allow us to move the headquarters of AFRICOM to Africa, to be onthe continent. I don't think that's possible right now, and so Ididn't want to make a permanent decision about moving the headquartersback to the United --
SEN. INHOFE: No, I think you did the right thing, and Iappreciate that. Frankly, when you talk to Kikwete and Museveni andsome of the presidents of these countries, they think it would be abetter function down there, but they can't sell it to their ownpeople. So that is where we are now.And my time has expired, but I hope you got the message I left atyour office that while there are a lot of us on this panel and thepresident has talked about the closing of Gitmo, some of us don'tthink that's a good idea, and we want to at least be heard as well asthe other side.Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Inhofe.Senator Reed?
SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.First, Mr. Secretary, let me join my colleagues in thanking youfor your continued selfless service to the nation and the men andwomen who wear the uniform of the United States, and to extend thatappreciation to your family who in a very real sense are with you.This is a singular act of patriotism.We have many challenges, and you have many challenges. Withrespect to the transfer of resources from Iraq to Afghanistan, itseems that it's not just a question of numbers of troops, but it'salso a question of the types of forces, engineers, civil affairs,military police -- those enablers that really increase youreffectiveness on the ground; and particularly, equipment like UAVs,which might in fact go a long way to help the situation there, rotarywing -- rotary aircraft.Is there any sort of not just sheer numbers, but increasingspecialized units, increasing the number of UAVs, the special requestsfor that?
SEC. GATES: We have pretty dramatically increased the number ofISR platforms -- intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissanceplatforms -- in Afghanistan over the past six or eight months. We arenow in the process of standing up an Afghan equivalent to Task ForceODIN, that in Iraq was -- enjoyed considerable success in locatingIEDs and people planting IEDs. We're establishing that kind ofcapability. It began last month to stand up in Afghanistan,particularly focusing on the Ring Road.The question you raised really is the more difficult questionraised by the chairman in his question, in terms of the trade-offs.The trade-off difficulty has been less, actually, the brigade combatteams or the Marine regiments than it has been the enablers: therotary lift capability, ISR, engineers and so on. And that's wherewe've been working very hard in terms of what can we afford to movefrom Iraq to Afghanistan, or re-mission, instead of going to Iraq, togo to Afghanistan. And frankly, I think this is -- for the jointforces command and the folks on the joint staff -- this has been thebiggest challenge about strengthening our forces in Afghanistan, isreally where to get these enablers to ensure that the troops have whatthey need.An aspect of this, for example, that I'm wrestling with rightnow: Philosophically, or in terms of the regulations or however youwant to put it, we have a different standard for MedEvac inAfghanistan than we do in Iraq. In Iraq, our goal is to have awounded soldier in a hospital in an hour. It's closer to two hours inAfghanistan. And so what we've been working on the last few weeks ishow do we get that MedEvac standard in Afghanistan down to where -- tothat golden hour in Afghanistan? Where our forces are thicker, in RCSouth and RC East, that's probably more manageable than in the morescattered areas of the north and west. But it's an example of thekind of enablers and the kinds of support capabilities where we'rehaving to make some tough choices.
SEN. REED: There's another aspect. There are so many withrespect to Afghanistan. But when there are incidents in combatactions of collateral casualties, disputes about whether they arecivilians or whether they are just combatants, I think having more ofthese types of enablers, particularly the intelligence platforms,UAVs, might miniize that. Is that something that you consider as -- ?
SEC. GATES: I think it would help. The truth of the matter is,I think 40 percent of the air missions that are called in are calledin by our allies because they don't have enough forces there. So thisis not strictly an American problem, if you will.But I will tell you that I believe that the civilian casualtiesare doing us enormous harm in Afghanistan and we have got to do betterin terms of avoiding casualties. And I say that knowing full well theTaliban mingle among the people, use them as barriers; but when we goahead and attack, we play right into their hands. And we have got tofigure out a better way to do these things or to have the Afghans inthe lead, because my worry is that the Afghans come to see us as partof their problem rather than part of their solution; and then we arelost.
SEN. REED: Mr. Secretary, you've stressed continuously that thisis an interagncy effort; that military action will buy time, butwithout effective economic development, political institution,capacity building, all of these factors, it will be a very difficultchallenge ahead. Can we expect legislative proposals and budgetproposals to truly energize other federal agencies -- Department ofJustice, Department of Agriculture, et cetera? Are you and yourcolleagues in the Cabinet working on that?
SEC. GATES: I have not yet had the opportunity to sit down withSecretary Clinton and the others, but my impression is that theDepartment of State is, in fact, going to have some proposals thatwill be made a part of the -- the remaining part of the FY '09supplemental.
SEN. REED: Again, thank you for your service, Mr. Secretary.Thank you.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Reed.Senator Chambliss.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.Secretary Gates, I was participating in one of my favoritepastimes the other day, which is watching college basketball. And Ihappened to be watching Texas and Texas A&M, and you flashed throughmy mind, in that you could have been sitting there watching thatbasketball game instead of coming out of the private sector andserving your country again.And for that, we are all grateful.
SEC. GATES: Probably a lot less stress here, Senator.(Laughter.)
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Well, they were wearing you out pretty good.(Laughter.) Your Aggies were struggling. (Laughter.)I could spend all my time talking to you about the F-22, but youand I have been down this road over the last couple of years, and Iknow these hard choices that you're talking about directly implicatethat program as well as the C-17, the tanker program and others.And I know also that senior Air Force officials are going to bebriefing you on their -- these programs and their recommendations overthe next couple of weeks.So I'm not going to dwell on that, except to say, along the linesof what Senator Lieberman alluded to, and that is, from a stimulusstandpoint, we are wrestling with an issue that's entirely outside thePentagon, relative to stimulating this economy. But if you take anyone of these programs -- and I just cite the F-22 program as anexample -- if we shut down that line, we're talking about the loss of95,000 jobs on top of the other woes that we are looking at in theeconomy right now.And while there were a number of folks during the campaign whotalked about reduction in the Defense budget, I would argue verystrongly for the opposite; that if we truly want to stimulate theeconomy, there's no better place to do it than in Defense spending.And when you look at the specific programs that are in place, you'retalking about not only maintaining jobs but increasing jobs.And as we look at whether it's 16 months, 22 months or whatevercoming out of Iraq, there are going to be issues there relative towhat sort of equipment you leave there versus what you bring back.You got reset cost versus acquisition cost.So I think there are any number of factors that I hope you willdiscuss in great detail with the president as you talk about not onlywhat we're going to do from acquisition standpoint but from a stimulusstandpoint when it comes to truly stimulating our economy.I want to go back to something else, though, that Senator McCainmentioned, and that is the Guantanamo issue.I am very skeptical of what's going to happen down there. I don'thave a lot of confidence that the Europeans and the other countriesare going to step up and take these hardened killers that we know thatare there.In addition to that, there's a whole separate issue that healluded to somewhat, and that's the issue relative to Bagram and -- Idon't know whether we have any prisoners still at Baqubah or not. Butwe've got thousands of prisoners in Iraq today that are not inGuantanamo that something has got to be done with. What is thethinking of this administration, entirely separate from Guantanamo asto what we intend to do with those prisoners?
SEC. GATES: Well, to take Iraq as an example, we have releasedprobably on the order of 16(,000) or 17,000 detainees over the courseof the past year or so. And, of course, those detainees under theSOFA -- those that remain will fall under the jurisdiction of theIraqi government here pretty shortly. And we're working outprocedures to do that.I'm heartened in terms of the Afghan experience. We've returnedprobably 500 prisoners overall to Afghanistan from Guantanamo. TheAfghans have put, I think, 200 of those on trial and have a convictionrate of about 80 percent. So I think that we will continue to workwith the Afghan government in this respect, but we certainly continueto hold detainees at Bagram. We have about 615 there, I think,something on that ballpark.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: How many of those that have been either turnedback to Afghanistan and not tried or have been found not guilty, thatwe know, have returned to the battlefield?
SEC. GATES: I don't know the number for Afghanistan. Therecidivism numbers that I've been told until recently at -- fromGuantanamo have been on the order of about 4 or 5 percent, but there'sbeen an uptick in that just over the last few months.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Let me ask you about Afghanistan. It's really atwo-part question. I have real concerns about Afghanistan from adifferent perspective than Iraq.In Iraq, at least we've got the potential for their economy to berejuvenated. And I think it is being rejuvenated, primarily becauseof the natural resources that they have -- versus Afghanistan, wherewe don't have anything like that.But unless we get their economy going again, essentially it'sgoing to take a much longer period of time to ever hopefully see somesort of peaceful Afghanistan. What is your thought relative to theU.S. participation in stimulating that economy?And secondly, there was a quote made by John Hutton, Britain'sdefense secretary, the other day, where he criticized members of NATO.And I quote: He said, "They were freeloading on the back of U.S.military security," close quote. Do you think our NATO allies aredoing enough? And, if not, what do we need to be pushing them on?
SEC. GATES: I think that there are three areas where our alliesneed to do more. I think that there is a need for them to providemore caveat-free forces. I think that there is a need for them toprovide more civilian support in terms of training and civil society.And I also think they need to step up to the plate in helping todefray the cost of expanding the Afghan army. That cost is going tobe probably (here ?) $4 billion in the first year or two; steady statesomewhere around $2-1/2 billion; total Afghan national governmentincome this past year, probably $800 million. So this country's goingto -- as Senator McCain said, this is a -- going to be a long slog,and frankly, my view is that we need to be very careful about thenature of our -- of the goals we set for ourselves in Afghanistan.My own personal view is that our primary goal is to preventAfghanistan from being used as a base for terrorists and extremists toattack the United States and our allies. And whatever else we need todo flows from that objective.Afghanistan is the fourth- or fifth-poorest country in the world,and if we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of centralAsian Valhalla over there, we will lose, because nobody in the worldhas that kind of time, patience and money, to be honest.Now, we can help the Afghans. They are good farmers. They doneed a lot of technical help to modernize the way they go aboutthings. They have some minerals. So there is an economy there to bedeveloped. But it seems to me that we need to keep our objectivesrealistic and limited in Afghanistan; otherwise, we will set ourselvesup for failure.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Chambliss.Senator Akaka.
SEN. DANIEL AKAKA (D-HI): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.Mr. Secretary, I want to add my welcome and gratitude to you foryour leadership of our armed services, and look forward to workingwith you.My questions are not about Iraq and Afghanistan, but more aboutthe troops. As a strong advocate for the readiness and quality oflife for troops and their families, I recognize that the ability ofarmed forces to attract and retain quality personnel into the futuredepends on how we meet the needs of those serving today. In 2008,Congress approved the Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008,which is known as the 21st Century GI Bill. This bill providesenhanced educational benefits for veterans and service members whohave served in the armed forces after September 11, 2001.Secretary Gates, the 21st Century GI Bill grants authority forservice members who meet certain criteria to transfer unusededucational benefits to family members. What progress has DOD madewith Department of Veterans Affairs in establishing policy toimplement this critical part of this bill across the services?
SEC. GATES: First of all, Senator Akaka, let me say, and with anod to Senator Webb, I think that the bill as it finally was passedreally hit the sweet spot. Obviously, the economy is helping us inrecruitment over the last number of months, but the surveys we'vetaken indicate that the enhanced educational benefits have contributedto a greater willingness to enlist and to enter the armed forces, butthe transferability provision that you just cited is also an incentivein terms of retention, in terms of people seeing this as anopportunity for their spouses or their children.My -- I'm not exactly familiar, and we can get you a preciseanswer, but my understanding is that the provisions -- that thetransferability provisions are set to be put into practice this fall;that the procedures are being worked out right now and that the firstavailability of that transferability provision would be this fall.
SEN. AKAKA: Yes. And we're looking forward to that taking placein August.Secretary, in May 2007, as a result of the problems identified atWalter Reed Army Medical Center, you and the secretary of VeteransAffairs established the Senior Oversight Committee to address theconcerns of the treatment of wounded and ill and injured members ofthe armed services. Based on -- upon concerns about sustaining theseefforts, the 2009 Defense Authorization Act directed the departmentsto continue the SOC's activities until December 2009.I'm concerned that in the waning days of the Bush administration,the effort to achieve a united effort on behalf of the woundedwarriors became fragmented due to interdepartmental differences on howbest to organize the SOC. As a result of DOD's reorganization, VA nowhas to coordinate its efforts to multiple offices within DOD.I greatly value the efforts of SOC. Secretary Gates, do I haveyour commitment to work with Secretary Shinseki to get things back ontrack?
SEC. GATES: Yes, sir, Senator. I -- in fact, I attendedSecretary Shinseki's swearing-in, and it was the first time we'd had achance to talk since he had been nominated and confirmed. And I toldhim at his swearing-in that we needed to get the SOC back up, running.One of my -- and I told him that one of my worries, as is oftenthe case with the bureaucracy -- this thing has been going now for ayear, a year and a half, and it's done some amazing things. But ifyou take away the energy and the pressure from the top, these thingstend to get bureaucratic and institutionalized again, and the energygoes out of continuing to make changes.So we've just expanded the pilot program in terms of trying tocut the time down in the disability evaluation system. That's nowexpanded out of this metropolitan area into a number of other areas.So I think it's important to keep the energy going and thecreativity in addressing the recommendations with respect to woundedwarriors.And Secretary Shinseki and I are in total agreement that this specialoperation committee be continued.
SEN. AKAKA: I would like to ask you, Mr. Secretary, if you wouldget back to me in 30 days to let me know how you are proceeding onthat policy.
SEC. GATES: Sure.
SEN. AKAKA: Secretary, our military has experienced strainsafter nearly seven years of warfare. It is imperative that we supportour forward-deployed forces engaged in current operations, but we mustnot overlook other important developments in the international system.In your opening statement, you addressed China's militarymodernization. China's continued investment in its militarytransformation has grown and the balance of power in Asia and thePacific region has changed. And in March 2007, Beijing announced a19.47 percent increase in its military budget.In light of China's continued military modernization efforts, doyou believe that the U.S. forces in the Pacific Command are properlyequipped to address any possible future threats related to China'smodernization, particularly with regards to Pacific Command's forwardbasing strategic needs?
SEC. GATES: Yes, sir. I think that -- I think that we need tocomplete the relocation programs with respect to Guam and Okinawa, aswell as in South Korea. But I think with those, with the forwarddeployment of the George Washington to Japan, I think they are -- Ithink that the U.S. forces, both Navy and Air Force in particular, arewell positioned. We have a number of programs under way indevelopment that are intended to counter some of the Chinesetechnological advances that have the potential to put our carriers atrisk. And I think we're making good progress on those. And I thinkwe have capability in place to be able to deal with any foreseeableChinese threat for some time to come.
SEN. AKAKA: Thank you very much, Secretary.Thank you, Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Akaka.Senator Thune.
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.And thank you, Mr. Secretary for your willingness to continue onand to serve in this very important role. Many of us, I think, whenthe president was filling out his Cabinet were very pleased when heannounced that he was going to ask you to continue and even morepleased to hear that you had agreed to do that. So I thank, as myother colleagues have said, your family, as well, for their continuedsacrifice and service to our country.I wanted to address briefly an issue which is of great concern tome and I think should be an issue of concern to all Americans, andthat is the very dangerous overdependence that we have on foreignenergy. In my view, that is a national security issue. We transferover half a trillion dollars a year to foreign countries to purchaseoil.And, of course, the military is one of the biggest purchasers offuel. The Air Force alone in 2007 spent $5.6 billion for aviationfuel.And as you well know, increased oil prices in the past couple of yearshas had a directly very -- a very negative effect on Air Forcereadiness.And one of the things that the Air Force is doing, last month AirForce Secretary Donnelly had signed an Air Force energy program policymemorandum establishing the goals of certifying the entire Air Forcefleet to use a synthetic fuel blend by the year 2011, and to require50 percent of the Air Force's domestic aviation fuel requirement be analternative fuel blend by the year 2016.And I guess my question is, do you think that the Air Force'senergy initiative regarding synthetic and alternative fuels issomething that should be considered for department-wideimplementation?
SEC. GATES: Yes, and in fact, there -- one of the transitionpapers that was prepared for my successor had to do with aconsolidation of oversight within the Department of Defense on energy-related issues that would enable it -- we have many individualprograms in the Department of Defense oriented toward energyconservation and toward alternative fuels, but there is no one placewhere it all comes together for oversight or where -- the sharing ofideas and the sharing of technologies and so on.I think that, if I'm not mistaken, there is a position providedfor in the department at a fairly senior level to do this. And itwould be my intention to fill that position, to accomplish what youjust suggested, but with a broader mandate than that.
SEN. THUNE: One of the things that I think would help achievethat objective, and something that I've supported and tried to getincluded in the Defense Authorization Bill up here, is an initiativethat would allow for greater private-sector investment in syntheticfuel production, which would increase multi-year procurement authorityfor the department.One of the things that we believe would incentivize private-sector development, production of synthetic fuels, is knowing thatthey would have a multi-year authority through the department toactually enter into contracts that would give them some certaintyabout the future.And I guess my question is, is that something that you could seethe department supporting?
SEC. GATES: I think that there are some real opportunities forpartnerships with the private sector. What you've mentioned is one.Another that I encountered at the Red River Depot is one -- most ofthe vehicles that come back from Iraq come back with their petroleumsupply -- the petroleum already still in them -- the oil, diesel andso on.That material used to be -- we had to pay to have that materialdiscarded. We entered into a contract with a private company, and wenow sell that material to a private country -- company that re-refinesthat material and sells it on the open market. So all of this -- inthe past -- waste POL is now being converted back to useful fuels, andat the same time we get paid for providing it. So I think there are alot of opportunities like this.
SEN. THUNE: I think the multi-year procurement authority is oneinitiative that would help accomplish some of the things you'retalking about doing. And we would like to work with you toward that.Mr. Secretary, you mentioned in a recent article that our abilityto strike from over the horizon will be at a premium and will requirea shift, and I quote, "from short-range to longer-range systems, suchas the next-generation bomber," end quote. And, in your opinion, howwill the next-generation bomber fit into our national defensestrategy? And what steps do you see the department taking to ensurethat that next-generation bomber achieves initial operationalcapability by the stated goal of 2018?
SEC. GATES: Well, first of all, I would say that I think that Imade that speech at a time when the economic outlook was ratherdifferent than it is now, and the prospects for the defense budget,perhaps, differ accordingly.I think we have to look at all of the aspects of our strategicposture. I think the role of the new -- of the next -- of a next-generation bomber, along with some of the other systems that we'vebeen talking about, clearly have to be a focus of the quadrennialdefense review. It is my intent to launch that next month, and to doso in an accelerated way, so that it can, if not shape the FY '10budget, have a dramatic impact on the FY '11 budget. And the bomberwould be looked at in that context.
SEN. THUNE: Is -- I want to follow up on a question that SenatorLieberman asked you earlier about the stimulus and ask you if you haveany unfunded requirements related to reset that should be included inthe pending economic recovery package.
SEC. GATES: I would say that I think we do not. If the requeststhat we have put in in the context of the remaining FY '09 budgetsupplemental are attended to, I think that the reset requirements thatwe have currently are taken care of.
SEN. THUNE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Thune.Senator Webb.
SENATOR JIM WEBB (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.And Secretary Gates, I want to say how great it has been, overthe last year or two, to hear and read so much that you have said andso many of your thoughts about where we need to proceed forward, as anation, in terms of our foreign policy.I think your sensible and informed views have really helped calmdown a lot of the debate here in this country. And I think again yourstatement today, your realistic views of how we need to proceedforward, with Russia, I think, are very welcome in this debate.I'm not quite as optimistic as you are about China. I'm probablyas hopeful as you are about China. But having watched that situationfor many years and just having returned from a fairly extensive tripto East Asia, I hope we can have a discussion on that at some point.With respect to Afghanistan, I'm looking forward to hearing theviews of the special emissary that the president just created. Forthe purposes of the DOD, I certainly would hope that we don't at thispoint let our operational policy get ahead of a clearly enunciatedstrategy, which I think was one of the big pratfalls of going intoIraq.But principally today, I would like to comment on the lastportion of your statement, which I haven't heard anybody mention. AndI think it was a mightily important commitment that you have justmade, that you're going to get into the procurement side of theDepartment of Defense and the management side.I spent, as you know, five years in the Pentagon, four of themworking under the leadership and with Cap Weinberger. I think the jobthat you have is beyond cavil the hardest job in the executive branch,except for the president himself; every day working on three differentbudgets, implementing one, arguing one, developing one.And the Pentagon is in my view really in need of that kind oftightening of the process that, I think, pretty much got out ofcontrol after 9/11.We need to see more discipline and more leadership and more -- andclearer articulation of the priorities of where this money is goingand why.And you can look at the Department of the Navy as, I think, aclassic example of how these problems have evolved. You'll recalllast year you and I exchanged correspondence about this question I hadwith the Blackwater contract out in San Diego. And in that process Idiscovered that a relatively low-level official at the Department ofthe Navy had the authority to let a $78 million contract -- contractsof $78 million or below -- without even having the review at thesecretary of the Navy level, much less the DOD level.And we had the Navy coming over here telling us in the '09 budgetthat they have a $4.6 billion decrement in unfunded requirements --requirements, not priorities. They're trying to build their fleet upto 313 ships. They're now at 282, which is half, almost exactly halfthe size of the Navy when I was secretary of the Navy.The procurement programs in naval air are in total disarray, asare the shipbuilding programs. They have $450 million in criticalmaintenance that's unfunded. And then they turn around and say theywant to spend a billion dollars putting a nuclear aircraft carrierdown in Mayport, Florida. We haven't needed that since 1961. Noone's asked about that since 1961.We got a commitment from the individual who, if confirmed, willbe your deputy that this will be reviewed at the OSD level. But it'sjust a classic example to me of how this process has gotten so out ofcontrol that we're not focusing on the areas that can truly help thecountry, like rebuilding the fleet and putting aircraft out there intothe squadrons, and getting sidetracked.I would also like your thoughts on reviewing the notion ofcivilian contractors. Years ago when I was in the Pentagon we used totalk about civilian contacting as kind of a default position, long-term civilian contracting. You know, we had the total force, whichwas the active, Guard and Reserve and career civilian force, and thenwhen things went wrong, we'd go into civilian contracting.And now I keep hearing this phraseology that civilian contractors area part of the total force. I would hope, with the growth of this areaand the difficulties that we've had in terms of legal issues and thesesorts of things, that you would put that on your plate as well.
SEC. GATES: Well, I think that -- I think that it has to be -- Ithink one of the things that's useful that's under way right now is astudy on the use of civilian contractors in contingency operations.You know, I think that the use of contractors in many respects grewwilly-nilly in Iraq after 2003, and all of a sudden we had a verylarge number of people over there and, as became clear, inadequatecapacity to monitor them.One of the benefits of the exchange you and I had, the exchangesyou and I had last year, was really in a way bringing to ourattention, through the Blackwater contract, the way that elements oftraining had been contracted out. And there are parts of the trainingthat legitimately and properly and probably less expensively can bedone by private contractors. But again, it had grown without anysupervision or without any coherent strategy on how we were going todo it and without conscious decisions about what we will allowcontractors to do and what we won't allow contractors to do.So I think we have not thought holistically or coherently aboutour use of contractors, particularly when it comes to combatenvironments or combat training. And those are the areas, especially,that I think we need to focus on first.
SEN. WEBB: Thank you. Thank you very much.Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Webb.Senator Martinez.
SEN. MEL MARTINEZ (R-FL): Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.And Mr. Secretary, I want to add my word of thanks to you andyour family for continuing to serve our country so capably and tothank you for the continuing sacrifice that you're making in thisservice. And so I add to the chorus of thanks and continued bestwishes for all that you're doing for our country.The issue of NATO and its participation in Afghanistan -- and Iwas very taken about your comment some months ago about a two-tieredalliance, and, in fact, I continue to be concerned about that -- and Iknow my colleague Senator Chambliss discussed this with you.I want to just ask if this administration has a strategy on howto obtain the troop participation without the caveats of our NATOallies in the fight in Afghanistan. I recognize a need for us to haveadditional troops. I also recognize what you mention as a need, whichis to build the Afghan army. There's going to be a need for there tobe serious commitment. What is the strategy to get that to take placefor this administration?
SEC. GATES: Well, I think, with all fairness to the newadministration, they've been in office six days.
SEN. MARTINEZ: Actually, (yesterday ?), but --
SEC. GATES: And -- or seven. And -- but I think that thisclearly is going to be an issue that we will have to address verysoon. I know it's an issue that Secretary Clinton has thought about.It is an issue that the president clearly has thought about.But there are three forcing events, I think. One is, I have adefense ministerial -- NATO defense ministerial meeting in mid-February. Secretary Clinton will have a foreign ministers'ministerial -- NATO ministerial a couple of weeks after that. Andthen, of course, there's the 60th anniversary of the alliance inApril. And these three will, I think, require us to develop astrategy on how we approach our European allies, and at what level, interms of asking them to do more, and, I think, do more in each of theareas that I've talked about.My sense is, from some of the information and diplomatic comments-- and public comments -- that some leaders have made in Europe, thatthey are prepared to be asked and that they are prepared to dosomething. And, in fact, there are some indications that a few of ourallies have been sitting on a capability so that they could give thenew president something when he asks.And so I think there are opportunities not only in terms ofcaveat-free troops or additional military capability but, again, thecivilian enablers, if you will, and also, perhaps, better -- biggercontributions in terms of defraying the cost of the growth of both thepolice and the army in Afghanistan. All three areas seem to me to beareas where our allies can and should do more.
SEN. MARTINEZ: I want to thank your department for the, I think,very far-sighted decision (to ?) strategic dispersal of our nuclearfleet on the East Coast of the United States. And I applaud thedecision to make Mayport the nuclear-ready home port for our nuclearfleet. I think that it's a matter of national security and understandthe need for there to be more than one strategically situated base onthe East Coast. So I applaud the decision and look forward to workingwith you and others in the department on the funding priorities forthat to take place.Want to ask your thoughts on the LCS program. And I recognizethat perhaps this may be too much in the (total weeds ?). But I dothink that the LCS is an integral part of the future of our fleet.And I believe that getting our fleet back to that 313-ship Navy isessential, and the LCS is a big part of that.Wondering whether any movement forward has been made in terms ofdeciding on which of the two prototypes to pursue, whether theLockheed or the General Dynamic(s) version of this particular vessel.
SEC. GATES: I don't know the answer to that, Senator, but I willtell you that I think the LCS or LCS-like ship is really needed forus. In the kinds of conflicts, as I look around the world, that we'relikely to face -- as I look at the Persian Gulf, as I look at variousother places -- I think it is a capability that we need.
SEN. MARTINEZ: The strategic situation on the East Coast, ofcourse, also impacts our 4th Fleet and the issue -- in the area ofLatin America, which we often don't talk about, which I thinkincreasingly becomes a security concern. We know that Venezuela didsome naval exercises with Russia in recent days, and also thecontinuing involvement of Iran with Cuba and Venezuela raises concernsfor many. What are your thoughts on the potential threats emanatingfrom our southern border?
SEC. GATES: I'm concerned about the level of, frankly,subversive activity that the Iranians are carrying on in a number ofplaces in Latin America, particularly South America and CentralAmerica. They're opening a lot of offices and a lot of fronts, behindwhich they interfere in what is going on in some of these countries.To be honest, I'm more concerned about Iranian meddling in theregion than I am the Russians. I felt that our best response to theRussian ship visits to Venezuela was nonchalance. And in fact, if ithadn't been for the events in Georgia in August, I probably would havetried to persuade the president to invite the Russian ships to pay a-- pay a port call in Miami, because I think they'd have had a lotbetter time than they did in Caracas.But basically, I think, at $40 oil the Russian navy does notbother me very much. They clearly have some capabilities. This isthe first time they've had an out-of-area exercise in a decade or so.It's important for us to keep perspective about their capabilities.When they complained about our escorting their Blackjack bombersto Venezuela, I wanted to say that we just wanted to be along therefor search and rescue if they needed it. (Laughter.) So, I, you know-- they -- these deployments by the Russians I think should not be ofparticular concern to us. On the other hand, Iranian meddling is aconcern.
SEN. MARTINEZ: I love the idea of promoting Florida tourism. Wecould work together on that. (Laughter.)And I do concur with your assessment of the Iranian situation,and I think it's something that we need to keep a close eye on becauseI think it's going to be a potential future threat. Thank you verymuch.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Martinez.Senator McCaskill.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.Mr. Secretary, I'm also thrilled that you're here today. And Iwill tell you that I fully appreciate the knife fight that you'regoing to be in as it relates to procurement, particularly as itrelates to the competition between the different services and thecompetitions between the various members of Congress to take care ofthe folks at home.Please consider me a partner in that alley, in your knife fight.And I think more of us need to get our knives out for the good of thewhole, as opposed to looking after some of the parochial intereststhat occurs around here.I want to start with substance abuse in the military. As I'msure you're aware, we've had a 25-percent increase in soldiers seekinghelp for substance abuse. I'm sure you're also aware that we had ascandal of sorts at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where we discoveredthat over 150 soldiers who had wanted help had not been given help,some of them waiting for as long as nine months for substance abusetreatment. We have more than a fourth of the slots, military-wide,are open for substance abuse counselors.And most important, and my question to you today, is the culture.Is this a command notification issue; or is this an issue where weshould be more supportive of the soldiers that come forward,particularly in light of the pain medication addictions that we'reseeing more frequently as it relates to those who have been injured,and obviously the alcohol and other -- and illegal drug problems?This has always been a, "Notify the commander," and so theculture has been, "Don't come forward and ask for help." And as welook at all of the mental health issues, domestic issues, as the up-tempo of deployment in Iraq, of dwell time, I think that that'ssomething that we need to get figured out at the very top. Are wegoing to change the culture of command notification for those who areseeking substance abuse help in the military?
SEC. GATES: This is something that -- that I'm happy to lookinto. I think that one of the things that I've seen just in thereporting that I receive is the concern that in more than -- in asignificant number of cases where we have substance abuse, it beganwith prescribed medication for wounds or for psychological wounds.And in that respect, it seems to me we have an obligation to thesefolks, to try and help them get past this substance abuse. Theobjective is not to end their career, but to cure them and get themback to work.
SEN. MCCASKILL: Well, I look forward to -- I know that SecretaryGeren is looking at all the issues surrounding these, in response to aletter I wrote him at the end of last year. And I look forward tocontinuing information about how we're going to change the ability ofthese folks to get help when they need it.As we talk about drawing down in Iraq and to follow up on SenatorWebb's question, who is the person that I can hold accountable for thedrawing down of the contract forces? Is that -- the CRS said inDecember that we had 200,000 contractors on the ground in Iraq. I --as we pull out our active military, who's in charge of winding upthese contracts?And what step have you taken to make sure that the lessons thatwe learned, in Bosnia, which it was admitted to me that we didn'tfollow, in Iraq, in terms of contracting; what are we doing to makesure that these incredible mistakes -- I think willy-nilly by the wayis kind as to what happened with contracting in Iraq.What are we doing to make sure that we don't repeat these samemistakes in Afghanistan?
SEC. GATES: Well, the commander in Afghanistan is in the processof setting up the same kind of oversight monitoring group, forcontracting, that was established by the MNF-I commander in Iraq lastyear. So we're trying to take the lessons learned out of Iraq, overthe last couple of years, in terms of the lack of oversight, andtransfer that to Afghanistan.Overall the responsibility for certainly DOD contracting, inIraq, is in the hands of MNF-I and the people who work for him. Andwe -- this is one of the issues frankly, as we withdraw, that is goingto be a challenge for us.And that is first of all, we have been rotating troops intoequipment that was already in Iraq. The contractors in Iraq are usinga lot of equipment that belongs to the United States government.The question: As we draw down in significant numbers, over thenext 18 months or whatever the period of time is, 16 months, thequestion is, we are going to have to bring the equipment that belongsto us back. But we have to decide, what of the equipment that belongsto us, that the contractors are using, are we going to bring back?So I think all of this is going to require a high level ofsupervision. And I think we need to think pretty quickly and withsome agility in the Department of Defense to make sure that we getthis right.
SEN. MCCASKILL: I'm worried we're going to have 30,000 troops inIraq and 100,000 contractors. And I think if we're not careful, thatcould happen if we don't pay attention to that side of it.Finally, Mr. Secretary, I wanted to bring your attention to asituation that I think is deserving of your attention, and that is thescandal at the Defense Contracting Audit Agency as it relates to theincredibly negative essentially peer review they got from the GAO,their failure to abide by the appropriate government auditingstandards and how that kind of shakes the timbers. If we don't havethe Defense Contracting Audit Agency with a clean report from a fellowauditing agency, we've got serious problems.More importantly, when the whistle-blower wanted to provideinformation as it related to the problems internally at DCAA, shereceived an incredibly threatening letter that was signed by an auditsupervisor but in fact, I found out, was drafted by a lawyer at DODunder the general counsel.I want to make sure that I bring this letter to your attention.Nothing strikes more fear in the heart of, I hope, everybody in thisroom and everybody in America than the idea that someone who is tryingto fix a problem in government is threatened with criminal prosecutionif they pursue the information that they need to document the claimthey're making in terms of inappropriate auditing standards at theagency.And I would ask you to look into that. I believe that lawyer isstill there, and I don't believe anything has happened to that lawyerthat wrote that letter. And the fact that his name wasn't on theletter doesn't change anything. There needs to be some accountabilityin that regard. And I will forward a copy of the letter to you andask for your follow-up on that situation.
SEC. GATES: Okay. I have the -- I agree it's important. Andsome while ago I asked the Defense Department inspector general tolook into these abuses at DCAA, and particularly the allegation of theabusive treatment of one of the auditors.
SEN. MCCASKILL: Thank you very much.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator McCaskill.Senator Wicker.
SEN. ROGER WICKER (R-MS): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.Mr. Secretary, thank you for your service and for your straightanswers (to that ?). I think it's just remarkable that someone likeyou could serve in the previous administration and be asked to stayover in the new administration.So thank you for your willingness to do that.Our chairman mentioned in his opening remarks hope -- his hopethat we might move toward a possible joint missile defense programwith Russia against a potential strike from Iran. And I think it'syour testimony today that you think that it indeed is important topursue such a idea and that Secretary Clinton shares this goal.Do we have any indication at all that the Russian government isinterested in talking with us meaningfully about moving to somethinglike this?
SEC. GATES: I think that I had the distinct impression, when Ipresented a range of opportunities for cooperation and transparency toPresident -- then-President Putin, that he was actually taken by someof the ideas; that there were some opportunities for cooperation.And I think, being an old Kremlinologist, what got my attentionwas the fact that when Secretary Rice and I first sat down to meetwith Putin and they brought in all the press, Putin basically justbeat the tar out of the United States on every conceivable subject.And once the press left, we then had a nice civil conversation and --but after our meeting, it was clear he had talked to -- his commentsto the press were very positive, that he'd heard some very interestingideas.And equally important, when we began our two-plus-two meetingwith Foreign Minister Lavrov and my Russian counterpart, Lavrov,instead of opening with the same kind of screed against the UnitedStates, started off by talking about how there had been someinteresting exchanges of ideas, interesting possibilities forcooperation, and that they look forward to pursuing that subsequently.We've also heard informally from some of their military thatthere was interest in pursuing some of these possibilities. They wereintrigued by the possibility of working together on some of this and-- for example, a joint data center in Moscow, and sharing the radarcapability and so on.And so I think, you know, they're -- in writing? No. But insome of the things that have been said, some of the inferences, Ithink if we were able to get some of the political baggage out of theway, that there is actually some potential for cooperation.
SEN. WICKER: Is it your view that, in any event, it's essentialthat the United States continue its current plans for missile defensedeployment in Eastern Europe?
SEC. GATES: Well, as I said earlier, we have not had theopportunity to pursue this in the new administration and to discussthe administration's policy on it.I will say this: All of the NATO heads of government unanimouslylast April in Bucharest endorsed the importance of a NATO-wide,European-wide missile defense capability. So this is a -- this is acommitment that has been made by the alliance. And so I think we atleast need to take it very seriously.
SEN. WICKER: Thank you. I note in your prepared testimony, youmention working closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs tobetter share electronic health data and track patients' long-termrecovery process. And I understand you and Senator Akaka had aconversation about the Senior Oversight Committee and the fact thatyou attended General Shinseki's swearing-in ceremony and that you'redetermined to work together to oversee joint activities of the twodepartments.A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate inGeneral Shinseki's confirmation hearing, and I asked him about theongoing effort to create a joint electronic medical record between DODand VA.In my judgment, our ultimate goal, Mr. Secretary, should be anindeed joint electronic medical record, a common record shared by bothdepartments to allow this seamless transition that we all talk about.On the other hand, there are those people in the government who saythat it will suffice to have an information interoperability plan,IIP, which would simply give us the ability to share information.When I asked General Shinseki about this, he expressed theopinion that the primary barrier to implementing a joint record wasnot technical but a question of leadership. And I just wondered ifyou've had a chance to think about this issue and if you'd care torespond to us about that.
SEC. GATES: Well, I think that -- I actually think it's both.There are some technical challenges in terms of building the kind ofjoint capability that you describe. But I think that those challengescan be overcome with leadership. And frankly I look forward toworking with Secretary Shinseki to seeing if we can't make somesignificant progress on this.I think this is an area where we probably, instead of trying toeat the whole pizza in one bit, we probably need to take several stepsto get us to the joint capability. I don't want to wait severalyears, while we've got a massive new kind of program coming intoplace, and not do anything in terms of sharing and havinginteroperable information.So I'd rather get to the first and then move on to the second,rather than wait several years and put all our chips on a newtechnology or a new capability. But I think we can get there. Andwhat's more, I think, with our leadership, talking about leadership, Ithink, if we can get this done in the very near term, if we can getthis done in the next year or two, what we achieve may in somerespects serve as a model for what, I think, is the president'sdesire: to look at doing this more broadly for the national -- interms of the civilian health care system.
SEN. WICKER: Thank you, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Wicker.Senator Udall.
SENATOR MARK UDALL (D-CO): Welcome, Secretary Gates. You and Ihave had a chance to interact and work together on the House side. Idon't know whether I followed you over here or you followed me overhere. But it's excellent to see you here today.I share the sentiments and praise of my colleagues here today, onboth sides of the aisle, for your service. Looking forward to workingwith you as we face these big challenges but, I think, significantopportunities.If I might, I'd like to turn to a couple of Colorado-specificsituations and do that quickly and turn back to some of the broader-scale opportunities we have.You're familiar with the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, I believe,in Southern Colorado. And it's been the focus of some controversy,given the Army's interest in expanding that facility.The GAO has conducted a study of the Army's report on thosetraining needs. And I wanted to urge you today to work, with the GAO,to answer fully all the questions that the Army posed, for itself, butthat the GAO and its follow-on report suggested hadn't been fullyanswered.Can you commit to me that the Army will work to answer fullythose questions that the GAO has posed?
SEC. GATES: Sure.
SEN. UDALL: I appreciate that.Secondly in regards to the site as well, the Army has made itclear, and you and I have exchanged correspondence, as to the use ofcondemnation. And the indications we've received is that the Armywon't pursue condemnation authority -- today, tomorrow or ever -- whenit comes to those Pinon Canyon expansion plans.Can you continue that commitment?
SEC. GATES: I'm not familiar with the details, Senator, but ifthe Army has made that commitment to you, then I would stand behindthem.
SEN. UDALL: I appreciate that, and it's, I believe, anopportunity here for this to be worked out to the satisfaction of allthe parties involved. But there are many ranchers and farmers whofear for their way of life, who, ironically or interestingly enough,are also many of our veterans, and they're patriots. But they want tohave a clear and transparent process under way.In that spirit, let me turn more broadly -- I was pleased to hearyou talk about the importance of consolidating energy issues at theDOD and the position that was established in the Defense AuthorizationAct to do this. And I hear you plan to fill the position quickly. Ilook forward to working with you in any way possible, as in many waysthe military is leading in this cause of energy independence. The menand women in uniform know more than almost any Americans the price ofhaving to defend oil supply lines and our dependence on regimes thatdon't particularly like us. So I commend you for this effort, again,look forward to working with you.Let me turn to the recent article that you wrote in ForeignAffairs, where you said, "we must not be so preoccupied with preparingfor future conventional strategic conflicts that we neglect to provideall the capabilities necessary to fight and win conflicts such asthose the United States is in today."How do you envision institutionalizing a counterinsurgency focusin the DOD and what can we do in the Senate and in the House tosupport you in those efforts?
SEC. GATES: I think that there are two broad approaches,Senator.One is to institutionalize the thinking aboutcounterinsurgency, particularly in the Army. And it's one of thereasons why I've worked with the chairman and also with General Casey,quite frankly, to put the people in the proper places to make surethat the Army does institutionalize what it's learned, both for goodand ill, in Iraq and Afghanistan. And so putting General Dempsey inat the Train/Doctrine Command, putting General Petraeus at CentralCommand, General Chiarelli as the vice chief of staff of the Army,General Odierno at MNF-I, General Austin -- I mean, all of thesepeople really get it, in terms of what needs to be done.I'm also long-time enough in the bureaucracy to know that aninstitution can always beat one or two people, but it's tough to beatfour or five. That's a long time to wait in your career, to wait forall those guys to retire. So I think that institutionalizing thethinking is the first thing.The second is to figure out a way better to institutionalizesupport for the war-fighter in terms of the regular procurement andacquisition process -- development, acquisition and procurementprocess in the Department of Defense that we use for the longer-termkinds of equipment.The question I keep coming back to is, why did I have to gooutside the regular Pentagon bureaucracy in order to build MRAPs andto get additional ISR? We need to figure out a way where that happenswithin the institution and where there are institutional supporters ofgetting that kind of thing done in a prompt and timely way.The problem is there are two different mentalities involved. Theone is the typical culture in the Defense Department, which is 99-percent, exquisite solutions over a five- or six- or 10-year period,and the other is a 75-percent solution in weeks or months. And peopleapproach problem solving in very different ways when they have thatdifferent kind of experience. We've got to figure out how to be ableto walk and chew gum at the same time.
SEN. UDALL: Thank you for that outline. Let me end on thisnote. I commend you for your willingness to wade into procurementreform. And count on me as an ally, as I think there are many memberson this committee. Your statement was compelling in the need to moveforward in that direction. So thank you again for being here.
SEC. GATES: Thank you.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Udall.Senator Sessions.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thankyou, Secretary Gates, for serving longer. I know we appreciate that.I think not only does it speak well of you and the success ofyour tenure, but of President Obama in selecting you. I can't thinkof a single thing he's done that's been a more comforting andbipartisan act of leadership than retaining you as secretary ofDefense. He's seen in you some fine qualities that I think thisentire committee has seen over the years. And I do think that youhave accomplished quite a lot, and I look forward to working with youin the future.I really appreciated your thought -- and we briefly discussedthis earlier -- about Afghanistan and what our goals should be there.The Afghani (sic) people that I've seen when I'm there are wonderfulpeople, but they're not prepared to want to be like us now. RoryStewart, who walked across Iraq (sic\Afghanistan) and wrote the book"(The) Places in Between," and now has a foundation there, you know,talks about respecting the people of Iraq (sic\Afghanistan), acceptingthem pretty much as they are and helping them develop and become moreprosperous and more educated, but to be patient and a bit humble aboutthat process.How do you see us there at this point? Is there -- and I wouldask, fundamentally, where are we going with more troops? How far dowe see that happening? And don't, in some ways, we just have to bemore patient about what we can expect this country to achieve in theyears to come?
SEC. GATES: Well, Senator, I'm perhaps more mindful of some ofthe lessons in Afghanistan than some others would be, both as ahistorian but also as somebody who 23 years ago was on the other sideof that border, trying to deal with the Soviets. And the Sovietscouldn't win that war with 120,000 troops and a completely ruthlessapproach to killing innocent civilians. They had the wrong strategy,and they were regarded, properly, as an invader and an occupier. It'snot for nothing Afghanistan's known as the graveyard of empires.I am prepared to support the requirements that General McKiernanhas put forward in terms of being able to work with more additionalU.S. troops, many of whom will serve as trainers, as well as beingdeployed in combat. I'm willing to support that. I think it'snecessary. But I would be very skeptical of any additional forcelevels -- American force levels beyond what General McKiernan hasalready asked for. A secret to success from a security standpoint isthe Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, and, I mightadd, a more effective border control police.So I think that we need -- as has been discussed here before --we need a fully integrated civilian military strategy. We need to, Ithink, have modest, realistic goals.And I think we need to, above all -- above all, there must be anAfghan face on this war. The Afghan people must believe this is theirwar and we are there to help them, because if they think we are therefor our own purposes, then we will go the way of every other foreignarmy that has been in Afghanistan.So one of the things that I've been focused on, in addition totrying to see what more we could do to reduce civilian casualties, is:How do we get more of an Afghan face on every single one of ouroperations? How do we get them out in front so that the villagers seethat it's their army that we're helping? It's not us kicking downtheir door; it's an Afghan who's kicking down their door to try andfind a bad guy.I think that this Afghan aspect of this has to be at the absoluteforefront of any strategy going forward in that country for any of usto be successful over the long term. And that's one of the reasonswhy I would be deeply skeptical about additional U.S. forces beyondthose that General McKiernan has already asked for.
SEN. SESSIONS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I think you should asktough questions of that. It's easy to feel you need more troops andwe may well, and I'll defer to your decision. But I do think thatthis country ultimately will have to make it on its own. It will haveto be true to its own history and its own culture. And it's going tobe a slow thing to see one of the poorest nations in the world, mostremote nations in the world develop. And we can't be too optimisticabout our abilities to snap our fingers and make that change occur.Mr. Secretary, you are really focusing on Defense acquisition. Ithink that's important. Senator McCain, who was here earlier, raiseda question some time ago about the -- basically a sole-source leasearrangement to purchase the Air Force's number one priority, which isa refueling aircraft tanker. And this committee, Senator Levin andeverybody on the committee, supported a bid process.I think at that time I referred to Senator McCain as the $7 billionman. I think it was more than that by GAO standards -- accountingreview -- how much it saved the government to bid this contract.So we've had some difficulties in moving forward. You punted it,I was disappointed to see. And now I guess you'll have to catch yourown punt and move forward with selecting this aircraft.First, don't you think we should not depart from our fundamentalacquisition strategy to get the best-value product for the Americanwarfighter in a fair and competitive basis? Because that's whatCongress has directed, explicitly, the Defense Department to do: tobid this contract. And secondly, what are your plans to move forward?
SEC. GATES: Well, I'm firmly committed to a competitive process.My plan, frankly, is if -- when a new deputy gets confirmed and when anew undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics isconfirmed, then I would sit down with the two of them and with thesecretary of the Air Force and chief of staff of the Air Force anddetermine the best way forward.It seems to me that -- I mean, this is an issue that obviouslyarouses strong feelings around the country, and -- but it seems to methat the key is a competitive bid, meeting technical requirements, andthe best deal for the taxpayer. And -- but I certainly intend toproceed with a competitive process.
SEN. SESSIONS: Thank you. And I will take that as a commitmentthat you will work to ensure we get the best product for the taxpayerand the warfighter. Thank you.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Sessions. Senator Hagan?
SEN. KAY HAGAN (D-NC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.And thank you, Secretary Gates. I'm pleased that President Obamahas asked you to remain in this position and that you've accepted itand that you're willing to forgo witnessing firsthand the stress ofwatching those college basketball games.A lot of what the discussion around here today -- is concerningprocurement and acquisitions. And in some of the prepared remarksthat you put together, you said that the Department of Defense hasdifficulty in bringing in qualified senior acquisition officials andthat, in the past eight years, the average percentage of vacancies inkey acquisition positions has been 13 percent in the Army to 43percent in the Air Force.And when you're talking about the number of contracts, the number ofcost overruns, et cetera, what's the problem here?
SEC. GATES: Well, I think that there are a couple of problems.The first is that there was a dramatic reduction in the number ofpeople involved in the acquisition and procurement process in theDepartment of Defense following the end of the Cold War. The DefenseContract Management Agency, for example, fell from 27,000 people toaround 8(,000) or 9,000. The number of people involved in procurementin the department overall fell from about 500(,000) to 600,000 toabout half that number.So part of the problem is just plain numbers. And we've beenworking with the committee. DCMA plans to hire 2,300 additionalpeople over the course of the next 18 months or so. The Army isadding a thousand civilians and 400 military in this area. The -- Ithink the -- either the Air Force or the Navy are adding a thousand.So I think the services and OSD are beginning to address this problem,but it is -- it will take us some period of time to get back.The other I would -- the other factor I would tell you, Senator-- and I take a back seat to no one in terms of the ethics -- in termsof the importance of ethical behavior, ethical standards and theimportance of integrity in office. But in a way, over a period oftime -- and I would say going back 20 years -- in some respects wehave worked ourselves into a box canyon because we have created asituation in which it is harder and harder for people who have servedin industry, who understand the acquisition business, who understandsystems management, to come into the public service, and particularlywhen they are not coming in as career people, but perhaps at moresenior levels to serve for a few years and then go out.Last thing I would do is criticize the ethics executive orderthat the new president has just signed. This is a cumulative problemthat has taken place over many, many years. My own view is, on a lotof these issues, transparency is the answer. And the recusalapproaches that we have -- the president recognized the need for someof these -- to be able to get some of these people, he would need toexercise a waiver, and he'd provided for that in -- I think wisely, inthe executive order.But there is a reason we have those kinds of vacancies and thatthey endure year after year after year. And I think all of us -- theCongress, the executive branch -- together need to look at this andsee whether we're cutting off our nose to spite our face; that if wehaven't made it so tough to get people who have the kind of industryexperience that allows them to know how to manage an acquisitionprocess to come into government, do public service, and then return totheir careers -- and I can't pretend I have an answer to it, but Iwill tell you that's a part of the problem.
SEN. HAGAN: Well, it certainly seems like something that we needto work together on, because with these huge numbers of vacancies, itwould certainly, I would think, be posing problems and risks in thisarea.
SEC. GATES: You know, it's not a problem when we hire anaccounting major or a business major out of a university, and theydecide to make a career at the Department of Defense. It's not aproblem when we try to create a -- recreate a contract -- contractingcareer field in the Army, which had basically disappeared.When we're dealing with career people, it's not really an issue.But it's when you're trying to go after more senior officials, likethe senior acquisition executives, in each of the services. Thesepeople manage billions of dollars, and you need somebody who has real-world experience to be able to make those decisions and thoserecommendations. And getting people at that level and more seniorlevels who have the credentials to be able to do the job is verytough.
SEN. HAGAN: Thank you. I also wanted to ask a question ondrawing down the troops in Iraq, as President Obama has stated, andyou've discussed that too, about drawing down the troops. Thequestion I've got is, how secure will the remaining troops be? I getthat question all the time. And do you believe that we're doing allwe need to do to -- in order to ensure that the remaining troops aresecure? And do you foresee any situation where we would have to putmore people, more troops in Iraq in a situation? And do you havecontingency plans that you're preparing for the -- for that?
SEC. GATES: No, I don't see a circumstance in which we wouldhave to put more people into Iraq. I think that the plans thatGeneral Odierno has drawn up for consolidating our forces -- and theidea would be that there would be several sites in Iraq that would notonly have our military forces, remaining military forces consolidated,but that's where our civilian capacity would be concentrated as well,so we can provide protection for the civilians who are out working inthe communities and out doing that part of the job in Iraq as well.And I've seen General Odierno's plans and have -- to move to thisadvisory and assistance role for the United States, both civilian andmilitary. And I have great confidence in the plans that he has drawnup.
SEN. HAGAN: Thanks, Secretary Gates. I look forward to workingwith you.
SEC. GATES: Thank you.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Hagan.Senator Graham.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.Mr. Secretary, thanks for staying on. I was delighted when Iheard it -- a bit surprised. But America wins when you stay so --really appreciate that.From Iraq's point of view, let's look down the road at the end ofthe SOFA. Do you think it's in our national security interests longterm to have a sustained relationship with the people of Iraq, if theyare willing to do that?
SEC. GATES: Yes, sir, I do.
SEN. GRAHAM: It would be a stabilizing force in the Mideast notknown today. Would that be true?
SEC. GATES: Yes, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: They're right between Syria and Iran, and thatwould be good to have a friend in that neighborhood.
SEC. GATES: And there are a lot of our friends and partners inthat region that I think would welcome it a lot.
SEN. GRAHAM: Right. Now, we have about 15,000 prisoners stillat Camp Bucca, I believe. Are you confident that the Iraqi penalsystem -- prison system and legal system can accommodate all thesepeople in the next year, two years?
SEC. GATES: Well, my hope is that the transition plans that arebeing put in place by General Odierno and with the Iraqis will besatisfactory. As I mentioned earlier, we have over the last year orso released probably 16,000 people from Camp Bucca.And I must say that beginning about two or three years ago, theleadership that we had, beginning with General, I think, Stone -- theleadership we've had at Camp Bucca has been absolutely extraordinaryin sort of separating the wheat from the chaff and getting some rehabprograms going and reconciliation programs. So I think thoseprograms, combined with the transition, should give us some heart thatthis will work out okay.
SEN. GRAHAM: I couldn't agree with you more. I think one of theunsung heroes of the war would be General Stone and the process he'sput in place at Camp Bucca.But I'm fairly familiar with the prison population. There aregoing to be hundreds, if not thousands, that are going to be hard toreconcile, that are foreign fighters. And I just encourage you towork with the Iraqi government to make sure that we are thinking longand hard about when to let these people go and where to let them go.Now let's go to Afghanistan. You said something I think Americaneeds to understand, that we need to have realistic goals, and thatis, to make sure that Afghanistan is not a safe haven forinternational terrorism, the Taliban and al Qaeda like it was on 9/11.I understand that. I think people need to know that. But we cannotwin in Afghanistan without Pakistan's help. Do you agree with that?
SEC. GATES: Absolutely.
SEN. GRAHAM: Do you believe the Biden-Lugar legislation would bebeneficial to the relationship between our country and Pakistan?
SEC. GATES: Absolutely. And the amount of money is important,but just as important is the fact that it is a multi-year commitment.One of the problems that we have with Pakistan is that more than oncein he past, we have turned our backs on Pakistan, and so they don'thave confidence they can count on us over the long term. So themulti-year aspect of it is really important.
SEN. GRAHAM: And I think the American people need to understandthat our economy is on its knees at home and there's no end in sight,but the money that would be spent under Biden-Lugar, and the sustainedrelationship that that would envision between us and Pakistan, isworth its weight in gold, literally. I mean, we cannot win inAfghanistan unless Pakistan is on board.And is it fair to say that casualties in Afghanistan are likelyto go up?
SEC. GATES: I think that's likely.
SEN. GRAHAM: And the amount of money we spend is likely to go upin the short term, maybe foreseeable future?
SEC. GATES: Yes, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: Now, when you said the goal was a place that didnot harbor terrorists, one of the ways to achieve that goal is to makesure the Taliban does not fill in the vacuum, right? So that meansyou've got to have a legal system the people can trust and not aShari'a court run by the Taliban.
SEC. GATES: (Inaudible.)
SEN. GRAHAM: It means an economy that people can make a livingwithout turning to drugs, right? It means governance where people buyinto the idea that their government represents their interests.All those things are essential to not provide a safe haven forthe Taliban or any other group. Do you agree with that?
SEC. GATES: That's correct.
SEN. GRAHAM: When we say don't have unreasonable expectations, Iagree, but the basic elements to keep the country from becoming a safehaven requires institutions to be built that don't exist today. So onbehalf of, you know, my view of this and the new administration, Ithink the time and the money and the casualties we're going to sustainin Afghanistan are necessary and important to make sure thatAfghanistan does not become in the future a safe haven for terrorismto strike this country again.Bottom line is, it's going to be tough, it's going to bedifficult, in many ways harder than Iraq. Do you agree with that?
SEC. GATES: Yes.
SEN. GRAHAM: Now, when it comes to civilian casualties inAfghanistan, are you spending a lot of time to minimize that?
SEC. GATES: Yes, sir. I have taken a lot of time with thismyself. It was the primary subject of my conversations with bothPresident Karzai and with General McKiernan and his staff when I lastvisited Kabul. I think we have -- I think we have, particularly interms of how we respond when there are civilian casualties, I thinkwe've been too bureaucratic about it.Our approach has been, in a way, classically American, which is,"Let's find out all the facts and then we'll decide what to do." Butin the meantime, we have lost the strategic communications war.And so the guidance that I provided is that our first step shouldbe, "If civilian casualties were incurred in this operation, we deeplyregret it and you have our apologies." And if appropriate, we willmake amends. Then we will go investigate and then we will figure outwhether we need to do more or, frankly, if we paid somebody weshouldn't have -- frankly, I think that that's an acceptable cost.But we need to get the balance right in this in terms of how weinteract with the Afghan people or we will lose.
SEN. GRAHAM: I would not agree with you more. Instead ofsaying, "There were 14, not 16," we need to say, "We're sorry if therewas one," and move forward.And I just want to end on this note: There's two sides to thisstory. The Afghan government -- army doesn't have an air force. Anddo you believe that the rhetoric of President Karzai when it comes tocivilian casualties has been helpful or hurtful?Quite frankly, I am very displeased with the rhetoric coming fromthe president.We're trying very hard to minimize civiliancasualties. The enemy integrates itself among the civilian populationon purpose. And I would love an Afghan to go through every door inAfghanistan, not an American soldier, but they don't have thecapacity. And I would argue that our Air Force and our Navy isprobably the best people in town to have the minimized casualties.Do you believe that his rhetoric has been helpful or hurtful whenit comes to dealing with this issue?
SEC. GATES: I don't believe that his rhetoric has been helpful.And I must tell you that when I was last there and visited Bagram, Igot a briefing on the procedures that our pilots go through to try andavoid civilian casualties and how -- with film clips of how they abortmissions at the last minute if a truck drives into a village andthings like that. And I took a significant element of the Afghanpress with me, with their cameras so that they could see that briefingand see just how hard we do work at trying to avoid civiliancasualties.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Graham.Senator Begich.
SEN. MARK BEGICH (D-AK): Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.And congratulations, I guess, again that you're going to continue onto serve.After Senator McCaskill mentioned that she wanted to be in the alleywith you, with the knife, I'm not sure I want to do my two parochialthings here at this moment. But I will. And then I have a broadercouple questions.This one here, I just want a quick, short -- I guess, comment onhow you feel. I know you're aware of the Midcourse Defense system wehave in Alaska and Fort Greely, the GMD, and -- the Ground-basedMidcourse Defense system. I'm just curious of what your comments areon that and what -- how you feel that fits into the strategic needs ofthe military.
SEC. GATES: Well, I think that -- I think that we have arudimentary -- we have a missile-defense capability that is able totake on a rudimentary threat. It is clearly not aimed at dealing witha large-scale threat, for example from either Russia or from China. Ihappen to think it's important. I think that having a layered defensesuch as we are building, that includes the ground-based interceptors,is very important.
SEN. BEGICH: Okay. Thank you very much. The second one is avery, very small item, just more to make you aware of it. Thedelegation -- Congressman Young, Senator Murkowski and I -- sent you aletter regarding an issue with some of our folks, our TerritorialGuard. These are 26 folks that are probably in their mid-80s now.They had been receiving military retirement for about seven, eightyears. And they were just notified as of February 1 they will nolonger receive it because of some glitch in the law.We are working on a piece of legislation to solve that problem,but the reality is this is in the middle of winter in Alaska. It isfolks who have served our country as Territorial Guard. They areAlaska Native community, and they are subsistence livers. So the cashthat they receive in retirement is their only lifeblood to casheconomy.And so there's a letter that's been sent to you, and I hope youwould take a note of it. It is a small group, but a significantimpact to us. And so I just wanted to bring that to your attention,if I could, while you were here.
SEC. GATES: Okay. And I -- my understanding is that SecretaryGeren is working on this issue.
SEN. BEGICH: He is. And he's been very supportive on the newlegislation. Our concern is, February 1 is around the corner. Sowe're concerned, and we're trying to figure out how to ensure thatthey continue to receive payments.I am very happy that you're looking at the procurement process,the purchasing process. As a former mayor, I had to deal with thismore than I probably ever thought I would as an executive.But I do want to just give you a couple comments. And that is, Iagree with your comments on how you deal with recruitment of thosesenior members, and I guess I'd be very anxious to help in any way Ican. I know as a mayor, we had to do that on a regular basis. Theywere high-priced folks. Sometimes they had worked in the privatesector, people who'd bid on city stuff in the past. But they had theexperience we needed, so we had to really recruit aggressively inorder to get them and maintain them in our workforce.So I recognize the struggle. I would be anxious to work with youon that. Is there also a pay issue or not with these senior levels?To have this kind of vacancy factor of 43 percent, that's verysignificant.
SEC. GATES: I don't think it's a -- I don't think the pay aspectis a significant one.
SEN. BEGICH: (Okay ?).
SEC. GATES: That is not something that has been brought to myattention as an issue.
SEN. BEGICH: Okay. Well, I would be very anxious to work withyou on that.Also, a technique we implemented in our city when people docapital projects, especially private contractors -- and we did ahundred and plus million-dollar building. And what we did with themthis time -- first time in the city's history -- we required theproprietor -- the owners of the company to personally guarantee anycost overruns, which has never been done, because usually they justcome in with, you know, an order to up the amount and get their check.We made them personally guarantee it. And lo and behold, the projectcame in a month early. It came in 6 million (dollars) under budget.But we also made an incentive that we would split the differencewith them. They save it, we split it. And it was a design-buildproject.So on smaller projects, it's amazing how quickly they becomeresponsive when they have to sign personally. And in that project, wehad four owners, and they were required to pay $8 million personallyif they did not meet the guarantees that they committed to in theircontracts -- first time the city of Anchorage had ever done that, andit worked.And so I just -- it's small. The bigger ones are much moredifficult. But it sure did get them responsive.The other thing I'll just mention -- you had -- in your writtentestimony you had talked about PTSD and some of the issues surroundingthat. And your comment here was, "I believe we have yet to muster andcoordinate the various legal, policies, medical and budget resourcesacross the department to address these types of injuries." Are youworking -- or is your intent to work on a plan that we could see whatkind of resources you need? This is of strong interest to me, and Iwould be very anxious to see how you proceed on that.
SEC. GATES: Sure. The Congress actually, Senator, has been verygenerous to us in terms of money for dealing with both PTS (sic) andTBI. I think the issue is more making sure that the money gets spentin the right way and is targeted properly.
SEN. BEGICH: Okay. Is that something that -- as you commenthere indicates, will you then at some point report back to us on howyou're achieving -- and what other areas you need assistance in?
SEC. GATES: Sure.
SEN. BEGICH: Last two quick ones. One is, you'll hear from meon probably a regular basis of the status of the military family andhow -- that we need to do additional work and additional services.Are you willing to -- and maybe you have already done that; I'm justnot familiar with it -- but kind of a report to Congress in regards tothe status of the military family and the needs they have as themilitary has changed dramatically over the last 30, 40 years?
SEC. GATES: I think we've done a lot of that over the lastcouple of years and perhaps even before, Senator. We'd be happy tosend some folks up to brief you, then. The services all haveextremely ambitious family support programs, and I can assure you thatthe leadership, both civilian and military, of the services, as wellas the department, take this extremely seriously.You know, the saying is, you enlist the soldier and you reenlistthe family. And I think it's one of the -- this is the longest war wehave fought with an all-volunteer Army since the Revolution.And we have learned a lot in terms of the stresses on the families inan all-volunteer force and particularly with repeated deployments ofthe servicemembers and so on.And so you know, along with the lessons we've learned aboutcounterinsurgency and so on, it seems to me, one of the importantlessons we need to absorb and institutionalize is the importance oftaking care of our military families and that the range of resourcesare out there for them to provide support, both when the soldier is athome and deployed.
SEN. BEGICH: Thank you very much.My time is up. The last comment I'll just make; no answer atthis point. But if you ever get an opportunity to move to a two-yearbudgeting cycle, I would be a big, big supporter, so you can managepeople rather than paper. We did that in the city, and it made a hugedifference. So anything I can do to help you, in that endeavor, Iwill be there.
SEC. GATES: Thank you.
SEN. BEGICH: Thank you.
SEN. LEVIN: First thing I would hope you would do is touch basewith our appropriators. (Laughter.) You'll see the kind of strugglethat the secretary has. Just a few loose ends I want to pull togetherhere.One, I want to commend you on the Afghan policy which you'veenunciated: the wisdom of it, the strength of it, the passion you'veput into it; that this war has got to be a war of the Afghan peopleagainst those who would try to destroy their country and their hopesand dreams. And minimizing civilian casualties is part of that.But the economic picture is part of that as well. And I wouldjust bring to your attention, in terms of the economic hopes, oneprogram, which is called the national solidarity program. I don'tknow if you're familiar with it. But it's a program where our agency-- I think it's USAID -- just gives a few tens of thousands of dollarsdirectly to villages, without anything skimmed off by the centralgovernment.I visited near Bagram three villages that have come together tobuild a school with a few tens of thousands of dollars. And thefeeling of possessive feeling that they had, about that school finallyin their area, something like "Three Cups of Tea" on the Pakistanside, that book that was written.And these villagers, their leaders came together just to greet meand to tell me that the Taliban would never dare touch that school;they will protect that school with their lives. And I'd like you tobecome familiar with that national solidarity program, because it fitsindirectly with what you have talked about.Secondly in terms of the comments about trying to explore thepossibilities of doing some things jointly with Russia, on missiledefense, and the importance of exploring that and what it could meanstrategically in terms of kind of reducing the Iranian threat, if theysaw us and the Russians working together.And you mentioned that you do think it's worthy of continuingthose explorations. And you pointed out that NATO has been supportiveof exploring. NATO has been supportive of what we've been doing, upto now, with Poland and the Czech Republic.Would NATO, in your judgment, likely support those kind ofexplorations between us and the Russians, if we undertook them?
SEC. GATES: I think they'd welcome it.
SEN. LEVIN: And finally, a number us have raised the question ofthe use of contractors in Iraq, including security contractors, andthat we need to look at that, particularly for lessons-learnedpurposes, as it might affect what we do in Afghanistan. You're in themiddle of looking at that and reviewing that, which is more thanwelcome. Again, and I would in that line request that you promptlyrespond to the December 9th letter, because that's really what thatletter from me to you is all about.We thank you again, obviously. I think every member of thiscommittee thanks you for continuing your service to this country. Andthat consensus is -- I hope, gives you a real boost. I know you'restruggling with the arm wrestling that you undertook, but we hope thatyou're given a real boost by the support that you got from everymember of this committee for your -- and the gratitude that weexpressed for your continued service. If you'll pass that along toyour family, as well.And with that, we will stand adjourned.
SEC. GATES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.