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Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan August 16, 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 16, 2004

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Cincinnati, Ohio

CONTENTS
President’s Schedule
Iraq/Troop Level
European Troop Withdrawl
FBI/New York

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay. Good morning. Let me do a quick run through of the President's day. The President had his usual briefings before he departed. Upon arrival, the Freedom Corps greeter is Alexandra Amend, who, since 2001, has helped raise nearly $5,000 for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund by giving patriotic violin concerts on street corners in downtown Cincinnati.

Following that, the President looks forward to making remarks at the 105th Annual Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Cincinnati -- I'll come back to that in a minute. Then we go to Traverse City, Michigan, where the Freedom Corps greeter is Sheila Blonshine, who for the past 25 years has been involved with the Special Olympics and has been the director of the Special Olympics Area Two since 1994. And then the President will make remarks at a Michigan rally before returning to Washington this evening.

Let me just mention that the -- we're going to have a fact sheet for you on the announcement the President is making at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, we're finalizing that right now, so we'll get it to you when we get on the ground. But the President will be announcing a new plan that will help us be in a better position to win the war on terrorism. He'll be talking about the most comprehensive restructuring of our military forces since the end of the Korean War. This is a new initiative to realign and redeploy our forces to strategic locations around the world. This recognizes that we are transforming our military into a more flexible and rapidly deployable force structure. It will help us strengthen our ability to confront the new dangers that we face, namely, the dangers from global terrorism, rogue nations and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and will help us better protect the American people. We will be redeploying some forces to these strategic locations. We will also -- the President will also be announcing that over the next decade, about 60,000 to 70,000 uniformed forces will be coming home, along with about 100,000 families and civilian employees of our military.

That's the broad structure of the remarks, but --

Q Over the next decade, you say?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, over the next decade. We've had extensive consultations with our friends and allies. We will continue to do so as we move forward on this realignment of our force structure.

Q Is Iraq affected in any way, the troop levels in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this is much broader than just what is going on in Iraq. In terms of troop levels in Iraq, I expect the President will continue to talk about the importance of completing our mission and not sending the wrong message to the enemy in Iraq. And there is some clear contrast there between the President's views and the views of his opponent. So I expect he'll talk about that in his remarks.

Q But will any of these troops that are being redeployed be sent to Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, this is something that's happening over the next decade, so I think you should look at in the context of it's not going to be one big event, where all of a sudden they redeploy. It's going to happen over the course of the next decade, and it'll happen in close consultation with our friends and allies.

But in terms of our troop levels in Iraq, that's determined -- the President believes that it's best determined by our commanders on the ground, who are in the best position to assess what our needs are going forward. We have an important mission to complete in Iraq and certainly we appreciate the service and sacrifice of our troops who are in Iraq right now.

But this will -- this realignment, while we redeploy some forces, it will also help ease the burden on our troops and their families overall.

Q How does this affect the BRAC process, you know, domestic base closings?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has been supportive of continuing to move forward on the base realignment and closure process, and continues to move forward on the timetable that has been set out. I mean, you can look at this as part of the overall transformation of the military, that this President has undertaken. And Secretary Rumsfeld has been very -- and our military leaders have been very involved in those efforts.

Q So this is not designed to minimize the closing of domestic bases, or to increase the troop strength at domestic bases?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that process is moving forward. And the President wants to see that process continue to move forward. In terms of what we're announcing today, like I said, this is about the force structure, and our defense posture to -- our defense posture when it comes to facing the new dangers and threats that we face in this day and age, in the 21st century. It's also a recognition that it's important to make use of 21st century military technologies, and recognize that the Cold War is behind us, and we're moving from a time period of large-scale armies to more flexible and agile forces that can move quickly to confront these dangers that we face.

Q About how many troops coming out of Europe?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, the fact sheet is going to be coming out. And this is -- today, I don't think -- and it will talk about some of the different regions that will be impacted by this in the fact sheet. I think Defense is going to be briefing some later today. We may be setting up a conference call, as well. But I don't know that today we're getting into all the actual numbers in the different areas, because those are conversations that we'll continue to have with our allies as we move forward. But it will give you some general outlines of what it's going to look like.

Q No troops are -- this does not affect any troops in Iraq or Afghanistan?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, I mean -- I'm sorry?

Q The recall of troops.

MR. McCLELLAN: The recall --

Q The redeployment.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's going to affect the overall military structure over the next decade, but in terms of Iraq, our military commanders have said that they believe that they have the troop levels they need right now. And that remains the same.

Q Would any of the troops to be redeployed in the short-term relieve, say, Guard units in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you might want to talk to the military about some of those questions regarding Iraq, specifically. They've been talking about that and talking about our Guard and Reserve units, as well, and about making it -- bringing more certainty to that process, in terms of looking at 12-month deployments.

Q It's obviously not an accident he's making this announcement at the VFW. Is this an effort to puff-up his credentials versus Kerry's on defense issues?

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, there are clear differences on the war on terrorism and our support for our military. And the President will -- I expect in his remarks will also be thanking all our veterans for their service and sacrifice in the defense of freedom. I expect he'll be talking about our solid record of accomplishment when it comes to fulfilling our commitment to our nation's veterans.

And he'll talk -- I expect he'll talk about the unprecedented levels of funding this administration has provided to our nation's veterans. It is more than double -- the increases in funding since 2001, when you take into account our fiscal year 2005 budget is more than double what the previous eight years -- more than double the funding increases in the previous eight years. We've also worked to reduce the disability backlog and worked to reduce the waiting lines. So the President has a solid record of accomplishment when it comes to our nation's veterans. He also has a strong record of support for our military. And there are some clear contrasts on those issues, too, starting with what we've done to make sure that our military has the resources and funding levels they need to win the war on terrorism and our support for our troops in Iraq, as well.

Q Any reaction to the tactics that the Justice Department and the FBI are using to keep track of would-be protesters in New York?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I saw the news reports this morning. I think that the specifics regarding that are best addressed to the FBI. I'm not sure that the article accurately reflects what they are doing, so I think that you ought to talk specifically to the FBI. I mean, the President expects that as we take steps to address potential violence here in the homeland, that people's rights are respected. And that's what the President believes. But in terms of specifics, you need to direct those questions to the FBI.

Anything else? Thank you.

END 10:13 A.M. EDT

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