The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 7, 2004

Press Gaggle by Trent Duffy
En Route Marine Corps Air Station Miramar
Miramar, California

10:04 A.M. EST

MR. DUFFY: Let me go through the President's schedule. First, the President had his normal intelligence briefings on route Air Force One. When we land at Miramar, he will be greeted by Kathryn Ostapuk, who is a volunteer with, a nonprofit website launched in 2003 to provide parents and loved ones of deployed Marines a central gathering place for information and support. She will be the greeter.

After that, the President will participate in a closed press event in presenting the Presidential Unit Citation to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force SOUTH/Task Force K-BAR. This is a unit that was formed in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. They are an elite joint and combined unit of over 1,500 troops. They began ground combat operations on November of 2001 in Southern Afghanistan. They were awarded the citation on October 26, 2004, by Navy Secretary Gordon England. And at Secretary England's request, the President is going to present the citation to the unit. I'll see if I can get some more background on the unit itself, but you might want to contact DOD for this because it sounds like they've had the award for the 26th.

Q Is it closed because they do --

MR. DUFFY: It's just the decision that was made.

Then the President will go to make remarks to military personnel and their families. I expect the President will talk principally about thanking the families, as Scott said yesterday; about how during the times of holidays it's very difficult for military families who have loved ones serving overseas; and that the Commander-in-Chief is very appreciative for not only the soldier's service, but the family's service by extension.

He'll also talk about the importance of the upcoming elections in Iraq, how it's important that we continue to move forward with elections, so that the Iraqi people can continue to move forward on freedom and democracy in their country. And I think he will also make reference to the fact that this is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor 63-years-ago today.

And then he will go back to --

Q Sixty-three, you said?

MR. DUFFY: Sixty-three, yes. And I think that's what I have.

Q Trent, is there a morale issue that the President is concerned about in the military? There was, obviously, the lawsuits that were filed yesterday by people who had their deployments extended. Is the President concerned about how military and the military families are viewing their mission, as more demands fall on them?

MR. DUFFY: Well, I think as Commander-in-Chief, this visit today underscores how important the President feels his role is, and that is important to keep the spirits high of the troops and their families, and that's why he goes out of his way on a regular basis to speak publicly with troops, but also to meet privately with them, to go to visit to Walter Reed, to visit with wounded soldiers and their families. But as Commander-in-Chief, he has forged a strong bond with our military troops and their families.

Q Does that mean that, yes, there is a morale problem?

MR. DUFFY: The President views his relationship as Commander-in-Chief of the troops very importantly, and he commits -- invests a great deal of time in upholding morale. This President has been one of the strongest Presidents in history for supporting our troops. He approved three straight pay raises for them. He has increased funding for housing. He has increased support for military families back at home. He has given -- provided increases for training for facilities, for equipment, so that our troops maintain to be the best and finest fighting force in all the world. And he takes his role as Commander-in-Chief very seriously, and I think his record in support of our troops and their families speaks for itself.

Q Trent, can I ask two other things about today? Can you talk about why Camp Pendleton in particular? I mean, you said he goes out of his way. Obviously, this is going very far out of his way to go visit these troops. And then can you also talk a little bit about, perhaps, the mindset of the President as he prepares to meet with hundreds of family members this afternoon? It's going to be a very large group, obviously, since there have been such a large number of troops from Camp Pendleton that have died.

MR. DUFFY: Well, I think -- that's part of the reason he is going to Camp Pendleton, obviously. It's one of the most active -- I believe it is the most active military base in the U.S., and has heavy involvement in the war on terror. I don't think I could say much more than what I've said already, that the President feels it is a sacred duty to continue to reach out and thank military families, the troops on the ground, especially during the holidays, at this time.

And why Camp Pendleton -- he goes to military bases all over the country. He went to Baghdad last Thanksgiving to show his support for our troops. So it's part of his continued bond that I talked about, and continued relationship with the forces that are doing so well in the war on terror. And he's very proud of their service. They are fighting bravely and superior.

Q Not to take the emotion away from it, is he going to talk about an expected supplemental that's going up in January, another $70 billion for military operations?

MR. DUFFY: I wouldn't expect him to talk about that. The President has made it very clear that our troops will have what they need, when they need it, and that he relies on our commanders in the field to supply him with those requests. The administration has made it well known that our troops will get what they need when they need it. OMB Director Joshua Bolten has said that there will be another supplemental to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early part of next year.

Q We're going to be in the backyard of Congressman Duncan Hunter, who, late yesterday afternoon, said, okay, we've made some changes to the bill, I'm going to support the bill, and it looks as if they're going to vote for it this afternoon. What was promised to Congressman Hunter to get him to change his mind, if, as we're understanding it, just the language of protecting chain of command was the holdup?

MR. DUFFY: The President has always wanted a strong national intelligence director with full budget authority, while protecting the chain of command. There are a lot of stakeholders with very good, legitimate concerns about preserving that. The President was one of them. He certainly wants a bill that preserves the chain of command. And so that's why there was ongoing and good faith discussions about how best to write the language, the fine print, this piece of legislation that will reform our nation's intelligence services for generations to come. And it was good that we acted carefully and deliberately. And the President welcomes the comments by Chairman Hunter that his concerns have been addressed.

Q But this held-up passage, or expected passage of the bill, by almost two weeks. Is the President concerned that members of his own party may now be saying, well, you know what, I'm going to be looking out for my own political interests, and perhaps not for the big picture, and perhaps not pay attention to the President's agenda. This is -- especially in light of the fact that the President wants to get moving on tax reform and Social Security reform.

MR. DUFFY: I think the President's agenda is shared by the Republicans in Congress, and specifically Chairman Hunter, as I just said. The President, as well as Chairman Hunter, wanted a strong national intelligence director with full budget authority while preserving the chain of command. We shared the objective, we worked in a good-faith effort to make sure that that was preserved in the bill. This is a very important piece of legislation. It's important that we move deliberately and get it right. And the President is very optimistic that it can be done this week, as he wanted to.

Q Let me put it a little more bluntly. Was the Congressman promised anything in exchange for his support for this bill?

MR. DUFFY: The President, as well as his team, worked with Congressman Hunter, as well as all the congressional leaders, on making sure that all concerns were addressed.

Q Is this America Supports You program that we got a handout about, is that a new thing? What is that about?

MR. DUFFY: It's not a new thing. I think it's been in existence for some time. The President will mention that in his remarks. One thing I failed to mention about the President's remarks, he will likely talk about ways in which the American people can support our troops. This is one of those ways. He'll list some other ways in which the American people can really get active to support our troops and show our troops that America is behind them all the way.

Q That handout had to do with what the President's going to talk about, not with the greeter that he's --

MR. DUFFY: That's correct.

Q How many families will he be meeting with this afternoon?

MR. DUFFY: I'll see if I can get you that.

Q Trent, on the intelligence director, how soon might you expect the President to begin to issue some of the regulations that are needed on that? And appointing a new director, is that something he's already doing -- interviewing people?

MR. DUFFY: As you know, we don't speculate on personnel matters. Let's -- the bill still has yet to pass. We're optimistic and the President certainly, again, as he did last night, calls on the Congress to pass the intelligence reform bill. But that is the first step, and then we'll -- once that happens, and we're hopeful that it will, we will go about the next actions of implementing the bill, writing regulations and that sort of thing.

Q Do you know what you have to do? I mean, is the Counterterrorism Center already -- you've already issued regulations on that. Do you know what the next step would be on that?

MR. DUFFY: Well, the National Counterterrorism Center was something that could have been established by executive order. The President chose to do that as part of his ability to implement a lot of the 9/11 recommendations without legislation. The legislation represents the last bit those reforms that required a legislative solution. So I think the administration looks forward to continuing to work on a dual plane, both by executive order, as well as with the hopeful enactment of the new legislation, to continue to make America safe.

Q Do you know what you have to do by executive order? What's left to be done?

MR. DUFFY: I'll see what I can get for you on that. You might want to check with the National Security Council. But we'll see what we can do.

Q Now if the bill is passed by both the House, and I guess the Senate has to actually vote on it one more time, as well, is the President going to have a very public ceremony to mark its passage?

MR. DUFFY: We'll let you know about the plans for any signing ceremony, but the focus right now is to make sure that the bill gets voted on, and we're optimistic that it will and it will pass.

Q Secretary Snow. More stories today that he's twisting in the wind.

MR. DUFFY: The President supports his service. He is glad that he's part of his economic team. Past that, we don't speculate on personnel matters.

Q Is there anything that he's done that has led administration officials to feel in any way dissatisfied? I mean, why is his future being so talked about on background by officials if everything he's doing seems to be great?

MR. DUFFY: I don't have anything more than what I said on that.

Q I'd like to ask about Adam's question earlier. I don't know if what he was asking about was what kind of things you expect to do by executive order?

MR. DUFFY: Well, I think Adam was asking, when the bill is enacted, how fast are you going to move on the national intelligence director, those sorts of things. My answer was, the bill needs to be enacted first, we're hopeful that Congress will vote on it and the like.

Q But you also suggested that there's still more things that you -- the administration might do by executive order.

MR. DUFFY: Well, no, I was just saying that -- he had mentioned the National Counterterrorism Center. That was something that the President did establish by executive order that he could. It represented those aspects of the 9/11 Commission recommendations that could be pursued, and we did pursue -- the President did pursue by executive order, without legislative changes that were necessary. Now that we are hopeful that an intelligence reform bill will pass, that is completing, if you will, the 9/11 Commission recommendations, so that we have both the ability through executive order, as well as, hopefully, when the new legislation passes, to be able to continue to make America safer.

Q Two more quick things. Anything on Energy Secretary? (Laughter.)

Q General Abizaid said yesterday that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and envisions it getting worse. Is there any plans to address that, in terms of training of Iraqis -- more Iraqis, or sending more U.S. troops, or --

MR. DUFFY: Well, I think you saw General Abizaid's comments. He said that the training was progressing. And we hope to train Iraqi troops, continue on that training. The President will talk about the need to continue to train Iraqi troops in his remarks today, that NATO is very much involved in the effort, that NATO will be soon opening up a military academy training facility outside of Baghdad so that training can continue. But I think General Abizaid was discussing what everyone recognizes, is that the Iraqi security forces are an important part of moving forward, as are the elections, on all these fronts. And that's what we'll continue to do.

END 10:19 A.M. EST

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