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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 24, 2007
Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Wilmington, Delaware
9:27 A.M. EST
MS. PERINO: All right, we have a short flight to -- we have a short flight to Delaware. So I have a few announcements to make, and I'll take as many questions as possible, and we'll see as far as we can get. And then we'll be around the rest of the day if you need anything.
So the President had his normal briefings this morning. He will tour -- can you guys back these off just a little bit, thanks -- tour of DuPont Experimental Station. He will tour a greenhouse that will feature cellulosic energy research. He will make remarks. There's about 1,150 attendees -- mostly are made up of DuPont employees. Secretary Bodman is on the plane. He will introduce the President. Congressman Mike Castle is also on the plane.
At 1:00 p.m. today, the President will meet with -- I'm sorry, 1:10 p.m., the President meets with General Dan McNeil, incoming Commander for NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The President will congratulate General McNeil on his appointment. He's the first American assigned to this important position. They will discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the importance of success in Afghanistan as it relates to the war on terror. The United States is fully committed to providing the necessary resources to President Karzai.
And at 5:00 p.m. -- this is an addition -- at 5:20 p.m. -- we didn't have it on the schedule last night -- it was on the schedule, we just didn't put it on the public schedule, but should have -- meeting with the Joint Chiefs and combatant commanders. This is an annual meeting. The meeting will be in the Cabinet Room, followed by a dinner in the residence, in the Yellow Oval. He traditionally hosts this every year, as I mentioned.
This year's meeting with the President takes place on the first day of their three-day conference. This is an opportunity for the President to commend the senior defense leaders for their hard work and accomplishments in fighting the war on terror, defending our homeland, and maintaining a strong joint force.
I expect they will discuss progress to date on the new Iraq strategy, and then the continued efforts in -- to counter the Taliban in Afghanistan. He'll also talk about budgetary issues and working with Congress to ensure that they have the needed support for DoD operations and key programs.
Secretary of Energy Sam Bodman will also be on "Ask the White House" this afternoon to discuss the President's State of the Union address last night and the energy policy that was proposed in that speech.
Q What time is that, Dana?
MS. PERINO: The "Ask the White House"?
MS. PERINO: At 4:00 p.m.
And last announcement is that this morning, the President signed an executive order that directs the federal government to lead by example in advancing the nation's energy security and environmental performance needs. It's an order that consolidates five existing executive orders and two memoranda, and then establishes new and updated goals, practices, and reporting requirements for environmental, energy, and transportation performance and accountability.
A couple of examples are, the increased use of alternate fuels, including more use of alternate fuel vehicles such as hybrids; reduce federal petroleum consumption in fleet vehicles by 2 percent per year through 2015, and increase use of non-petroleum-based fuels; and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy intensity by 3 percent a year, or 30 percent by 2015. And we will release that EO upon landing.
With that, I'll take any questions.
Q Dana, can you recap that the 5:20 p.m. meeting with the Joint Chiefs and combatant commanders, is that right?
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q Is that annual --
MS. PERINO: Yes, the President traditionally hosts them every year. And so they're going to meet in the Cabinet Room, and then they'll have dinner in the Yellow Oval after.
Q Dana, now that the President has laid out his plans, particularly on health care and energy, requiring congressional action, what is his next step? What is he going to do now?
MS. PERINO: We were very pleased with the President's speech last night. We think that once people get past sort of the canned prebuttals of the State of the Union, and have a chance to look at the President's proposals, that we'll be able to have continuing dialogue with them.
I think that you saw some initial positive reaction on the energy piece. I think, collectively, everyone said, that might be something we can work on. If you think about it, over the years, there's been core bipartisan support for increased use of alternative fuels and renewable fuels. So that one is a little bit more ripe for a full-fledged discussion and to get hearings underway. It's an ambitious goal, but one, we think, that's attainable.
On health care, I see that one as a little bit more innovative and challenging. I believe it challenges the political imagination to think about how to upend the current health care system and have a very bold proposal that would change the way health care insurance is done in this country. I heard it was one of the most radical changes since Harry Truman actually gave the employer health care benefit -- tax benefit back in 1940.
So we have a lot of work to do in order to bring Congress along, but I think that the President also set a tone last night that will try to cool political passions, especially on a topic like immigration. Remember he said that convictions run very deep, but he believes that we can have a civil and serious discussion. And what he would like to see is a bill to his desk this year on that one. I think that that debate has been, again, discussed over the past few years, and it's ripe now for legislation to come to his desk.
Q -- hear anything new in today's speech, or is there any new thing to be looking for?
MS. PERINO: Well, I just announced the EO that the President did, but in the remarks of the President's speech? I think --
Q -- (inaudible) --
MS. PERINO: No.
Q Congressman Boehner says that the U.S. should know within 60 to 90 days whether or not the Iraq surge plan is going to work. What's your reaction to that? He's effectively laying down a marker, saying if something doesn't happen within 60 to 90 days --
MS. PERINO: I think General Petraeus is the best person to talk about that, and he did so yesterday. He's going to be the commander on the ground, and so the President will look to him. The President believes that the plan that he laid out is the best way to secure Baghdad so that we can help the Iraqis get to a position for political reconciliation.
In addition to that, we are also going to be looking to make sure that the Iraqis are meeting their end of the bargain, that they are ponying up the troops and that they are moving forward on the oil law and the other benchmarks that we laid out. So we'll be keeping a close watch.
Q The fact that you now have House Republicans openly saying there's a time frame here, 60 to 90 days, does that -- how does that sort of factor into the President's --
MS. PERINO: I didn't see his exact comments. I don't know if he meant -- what he meant -- what would happen at the end of 60 or 90 days. I think maybe he said we would know if it was headed in the right direction. And I think that General Petraeus and the commanders on the ground and supporters are the ones that could best answer that question, and we're not going to do it from Washington. And we're going to keep watch to make sure that they're meeting their end of the deal.
Q Dana, your announcement on fuel usage, is that strictly for federal government vehicles?
MS. PERINO: That's for the federal government.
Q Do you know how many vehicles that entails, how large the fleet is? I mean, how extensive is it?
MS. PERINO: I do not. I will see if we can get that. Well, I do know that the federal government is the single largest purchaser and user of energy in the world.
Anything else? All right, see you on the ground.
END 9:35 A.M. EST