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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

DEFENSE SECRETARY HAGEL'S MEDIA AVAILABILITY AT FORT IRWIN, CA

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Media Availability with Secretary Hagel Conducted at Fort Irwin, California
Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
November 16, 2014

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: Okay, folks, I'm Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

The secretary is going to come on up here. He's got no opening statements. This obviously will be on the record. Only going to be able to take a few questions.
Bob, we're going to start with you, and then I'll call on a couple of -- some of the local reporters here as well.

And then I think -- where's John?

John, you had one, too.

Okay, is everybody ready?

Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: General Abrams is in the tank there. I hope that we're not in the way.

(UNKNOWN): He couldn't help himself.

SEC. HAGEL: He couldn't help himself. I'm not sure we shouldn't be off to the side, but he is a general.

So yes. All right, Bob?

Q: Mr. Secretary a question for you about the (inaudible) strategy that (inaudible) today. You said it's working and you said it's (inaudible). (inaudible) it could be accelerated (inaudible). General Dempsey had talked this weekend about (inaudible).

SEC. HAGEL: Yes, we -- at the recommendation of General Austin, have agreed with General Austin's recommendations to take some of the special operations forces that he has in Iraq and give them some early missions working with the Iraqi security forces in Anbar province just to kind of continue to mission accelerate the mission of preparing for training and equipping, and the things that we need to do to start setting that up.

Because it is a process, it has to be done right; we've got to get the right trainers in there, coalition partners. So yes, we are doing what we can with the resources we have to give some acceleration to that.

Q: Has this just begun in the last couple of days or a week?

SEC. HAGEL: Last couple of days that he has moved some of this advisers into Anbar province to work with the Iraqi security forces.

Q: (off mic) You talked a little bit about (inaudible). You know that (inaudible) on the (inaudible). (inaudible). Can you talk a little bit about how the environment here is critical to the U.S. military?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, this is really a critically important base for our training. Yes, partly because of the environment that it represents, and it does give our trainers a very realistic geography to work with, and we've invested a lot of effort here and resources, and it has really been a very smart investment, because it's paid off in the training and the capabilities that our men and women get through this training here. So it's a unique location. It's an important location.
Q: (off mic)

SEC. HAGEL: Well, first, I think everybody knew from the beginning, because this is a rotational overall mission, that we would be requiring National Guard assistance and participation. So I went ahead and authorized the beginning of that last week. Nothing is moving; it takes time to -- but you've got to notify our Guardsmen and their families and their employers.

But anticipating any further call-ups, not in our planned -- at this point.

Q: (off mic)

SEC. HAGEL: Well, it depends on how successful we all are in stopping the spread of Ebola. Working, as you know, with the USAID and CDC and the Liberian government, we're hopeful that it won't be a long mission at all.
But we're uncertain until we know that we have been able to stop it. There are positive signs, but we're planning for a six-month mission, but we'll see. It just depends on how successful we all are in stopping the spread of Ebola.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: We've got one more question.

Sir, we'll go to you.

Q: You mentioned in budget constraints that there were facilities that (inaudible). Are any of those in California? And if so, (inaudible)?

SEC. HAGEL: (Laughter.) I'm not going to get into which ones.
Q: (off mic)

SEC. HAGEL: We have a pretty clear inventory of where we have excess capacity. We've shared at least our thinking, some of our thinking, with the Congress on this, but that's the whole point behind a BRAC, a base closing commission that allows an independent look at what facilities are still being used, which facilities are important to the future of our country, our security, and which are not.

And it was setup, you'll recall, many years ago, to give not only an honest assessment of that, but also take it out of politics.

And so, what we're asking for, again, is for the Congress to authorize another base relocation closing commission to go in and take a hard look, an insightful, honest look, and evaluate where that excess capacity is. And I would hope the Congress will allow us to do that, and I would hope that they would support another round of BRAC.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Thanks, everybody. Appreciate it.

SEC. HAGEL: Thank you.