June 19 Defense Department Briefing

By The Pentagon, The Pentagon - June 19, 2012

            GEORGE LITTLE:  Good afternoon. As you know from a White House announcement that came out a little while ago, Secretary Panetta will be leading a presidential delegation to Saudi Arabia to express the condolences of the United States on the passing of the crown prince. The other members of the delegation are listed in the White House announcement. 

            Before we take your questions, I'd like to provide you a very brief update on the department's ongoing efforts to improve business practices and to reduce overhead in our budget. In particular, I can report that DOD is on target to meet the aggressive efficiency goals set in the fiscal year 2012 budget. DOD components have developed implementation plans and have reported to Secretary Panetta that they are meeting their monetary targets. The FY '12 savings will total $19.8 billion, part of $150 billion in efficiencies proposed for fiscal years '12 through '16 in the FY '12 budget. As you'll recall, earlier this year the secretary announced an additional $60 billion in efficiencies between fiscal year '13 and '17. The department is currently developing implementation plans to reach those goals, and we are confident they can be realized. 

            The secretary is personally involved in the efficiencies effort. This is consistent with his focus on more discipline in business operations to include audit readiness and improved internal controls. We've made specific changes in business practices that are saving money. There are over a hundred -- excuse me, 300 separate efficiency initiatives, and let me just give you a few examples. And remember that pennies and nickels and dimes add up to a lot of money in this department. 

            First, streamlining the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the comptroller has eliminated duplicative financial reporting functions, and our CIO reduced reliance on service support contractors as part of an estimated FY '12 savings of $17 million. 

            The Air Force now uses commercial flight-planning software to make real-time flight adjustments, for an estimated FY '12 savings of $45 million. The Navy is consolidating wireless contracts to leverage buying power and make best use of minutes, for an estimated FY '12 savings of $10 million. The Army is streamlining installation management and decreasing the number of regional headquarters from six to four, for an estimated FY '12 savings of $9 million. And lastly, we have completed elimination of Joint Forces Command last September, for an estimated FY '12 savings of $292 million. 

            With that, we'll go ahead and take your questions. They all go to John today. (Laughter.)


             Q:  OK. Captain Kirby -- (laughter) -- just on some of the attacks in Afghanistan, first, have you all been able to verify whether or not the attack yesterday was indeed a green-on-blue attack? And is there any suspected connection between that one and another one where it sounded like there also were insurgents dressed in police uniforms later on -- later on in the day, earlier today? And then just sort of overall, can you address the spike in attacks in southern Afghanistan and what you think that that signals?

             CAPTAIN JOHN KIRBY:  Yeah, clearly a tough day in Kandahar, or last couple of days. There's no question about that. I don't have any more specific information about yesterday's attack. We still believe and it still appears to be what we consider a green-on-blue, an insider threat attack. And right now the number that we're dealing with is three, three attackers that were dressed in Afghan national security force uniforms.

             And I don't know any more detail than that, whether it was police uniforms or army uniforms, but ANSF uniforms. And those three are still at large.

             Then we had two others in the intervening hours between last night and now. In one of them, we do believe that it was at least facilitated -- potentially facilitated by an individual dressed in an ANP, police -- Afghan National Police uniform. But again, details are very sketchy right now. ISAF is certainly looking into this. But it's just too soon to say with any certainty the degree to which any of these are connected. They were all in the south, in Kandahar, or around Kandahar, I should say. But it's too soon to say that they were connected.

             And as for the -- as for the -- I think you described it, a spike, I mean, yesterday was -- and today, tough day. There's no question about that. And it's not uncommon that in the warm months of the year, violence will increase there in Afghanistan. Part of that is because of the weather. Part of it is because ISAF and coalition forces are being more aggressive. They're out and about much more, particularly in the south. So there -- they have occasion to be in more contact with or more of a problem for the enemy and therefore eliciting some of these attacks. But again, that's something that we take very, very seriously, and ISAF is looking into it.

             Q:  May I follow upon that?

             CAPT. KIRBY:  Sure.

             Q:  Can you tell us what you know -- two questions -- what you know specifically about the attack earlier today at FOB Frontenac and the breach on this U.S. base? And then I have a Syria question, if I might.

             CAPT. KIRBY:  OK. Well, I don't want to get into -- again, it's very early on. So I don't want to get into too much detail here. But on -- at FOB Frontenac, it does appear that some insurgents dressed in ANSF uniforms were able to breach the perimeter of the operating base and were engaged very quickly by friendly forces inside, by coalition forces.

             There was a quick response force that -- from a nearby combat outpost that responded almost immediately, and of course all the casualties were evacuated to Kandahar Airfield.

             We -- right now we believe in that particular attack that there were no U.S. forces killed, but there were several wounded -- less than 10 wounded. And we do believe that we -- that the friendly forces were able to kill seven to eight insurgents.

             So that's what I know right now. But again -- and you guys know this well -- the numbers will change, the facts may change as we gather more information. All this happened very recently.

             Q:  So when you say QRF, you brought in helicopter support?

             CAPT. KIRBY:  I don't have the level of detail. All I can tell you is that a quick reaction force did respond from a nearby outpost.

             Q:  Can I just very briefly ask about Russia and Syria? With the Russians now turning around the ship that had its insurance canceled, what is your latest assessment of what you believe Russian military intentions are with all of these ships and movements that are now being watched -- (inaudible)?

             CAPT. KIRBY:  Well, as you know, there have been reports that the Russian military is preparing to dispatch some vessels -- we think it's about three -- with supplies and perhaps personnel, to their base there at Tartus.

             We have no indication that these vessels and that material is being sent to Syria for any other purpose than that which the Russian military has acknowledged themself, that it's for resupply and to help with force protection needs they have there at that facility. It's -- Russian citizens have been threatened there in Syria, and they're in -- their stated intention is that this is for force protection reasons for -- of their own. That's what -- that's what we -- that's what we believe to be the case.

             Q:  Three ships separate from the helicopter ship?

             CAPT. KIRBY:  That's correct.

             Q:  (Inaudible) --

             CAPT. KIRBY:  That's our understanding. But, again, as I said before, I would encourage you to speak to the Russian Ministry of Defense.

             Q:  But have they left?

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