Joint Press Conference with Secretary Gates and Minister MacKay From Ottawa, Canada

MODERATOR: At this time I would like to invite the Hon­or­able Peter Mack­ay, min­is­ter of nation­al defense, and U.S. sec­re­tary of defense, the Hon­or­able Dr. Robert Gates, to the stage. 

MIN. PETER MACKAY: Thank you very much, Cap­tain. And first of all I want to thank my friend, Sec­re­tary Robert Gates, for his fifth vis­it to Cana­da and also for his per­son­al flex­i­bil­i­ty in help­ing to rede­fine the scope of our meet­ings today. As you’re prob­a­bly aware, it’s unfor­tu­nate that our Mex­i­can col­league, Sec­re­tary of Defense Gen­er­al Gal­van, was unable to join us today due to ill­ness. We are hope­ful that we can sched­ule this tri­lat­er­al meet­ing as soon as pos­si­ble.

Clear­ly work­ing togeth­er, defense insti­tu­tions in Mex­i­co, the Unit­ed States and in Cana­da have a lot to con­tribute to the secu­ri­ty of North Amer­i­ca. For our part, our dis­cus­sions today, we’re focused on bilat­er­al, hemi­spher­ic and glob­al issues. 

TRANSLATOR: Cana­da and the Unit­ed States are part­ners for a long peri­od of time, in terms of defense and our bilat­er­al rela­tions are very sol­id. Threats to our secu­ri­ty are extreme­ly com­plex and for this rea­son we must work togeth­er even more. 

MIN. MACKAY: Today, I feel con­fi­dent in say­ing that Sec­re­tary Gates and I were suc­cess­ful in strength­en­ing and expand­ing the already strong defense rela­tion­ship that exists between our two coun­tries and in improv­ing our bilat­er­al coor­di­na­tion to effec­tive­ly address threats to our com­mon secu­ri­ty. Sec­re­tary Gates and I also addressed impor­tant issues relat­ed to the secu­ri­ty of our hemi­sphere, includ­ing the strate­gic role played by the great states of Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton. We dis­cussed a sit­u­a­tion in Mex­i­co and Cen­tral Amer­i­ca and about how we can help our part­ners in the region. We also pledged to have our armed forces con­tin­ue to sup­port the impor­tant work of civil­ian law enforce­ment agen­cies encoun­ter­ing illic­it activ­i­ties such as nar­cotics, human traf­fick­ing and pira­cy, and of course mil­i­tary pro­cure­ments like the F‑35 program. 

On the bilat­er­al front, we dis­cussed our bilat­er­al efforts through NORAD as well as new chal­lenges fac­ing our defense and secu­ri­ty insti­tu­tions such as mar­itime domain aware­ness which now falls under NORAD, and ways to make our mar­itime approach­es safer and cyber threats, and to that end empow­er­ing the Joint Per­ma­nent Board on Defense to con­tin­ue its impor­tant work. The sec­re­tary and I also dis­cussed impor­tant glob­al issues. Afghanistan of course fig­ured promi­nent­ly in the dis­cus­sion, NATO, and glob­al chal­lenges like Iran. We also touched on his recent vis­it to Chi­na and issues relat­ing to Russia. 

TRANSLATOR: The threat to our secu­ri­ty does not respect the bor­ders, and for this rea­son we shall con­tin­ue to work together. 

MIN. MACKAY: Hemi­spher­ic or glob­al prob­lems. Nei­ther the Unit­ed States nor Cana­da, nor Mex­i­co for that mat­ter, can afford to work in iso­la­tion. What Sec­re­tary Gates and I dis­cussed today will deep­en the unique part­ner­ship between our coun­tries on impor­tant defense issues and ulti­mate­ly increase secu­ri­ty for our cit­i­zens and our coor­di­nat­ed con­tri­bu­tions to glob­al secu­ri­ty.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT GATES: Thank you, Peter. Thanks as well to the peo­ple of Ottawa for their warm hos­pi­tal­i­ty dur­ing this vis­it, the hos­pitabil­i­ty con­sid­er­ably warmer than the weather. 

I too regret that Mex­i­can Defense Sec­re­tary Gal­van is not feel­ing well. We sure­ly wish him a speedy recov­ery and look for­ward to future oppor­tu­ni­ties to ini­ti­ate tri­lat­er­al discussions. 

Min­ster Mack­ay and I agreed some time ago that despite the Unit­ed States and Canada’s fre­quent engage­ment in multi­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty forums such as NATO and our ISAF talks, there remains a need to strength­en the U.S.- Cana­di­an bilat­er­al defense rela­tion­ship. I’m glad we were able to con­tin­ue that dia­logue with today’s pro­duc­tive discussions. 

In our meet­ings, Min­is­ter Mack­ay and I fol­lowed up on the issues raised last week at the 226th meet­ing of the Per­ma­nent Joint Board on Defense, a bilat­er­al forum whose longevi­ty is a tes­ti­mo­ny to the endur­ing nature of the U.S.-Canada alliance. We dis­cussed expand­ing our coop­er­a­tion in the Arc­tic, coor­di­nat­ing our mar­itime secu­ri­ty assis­tance to Caribbean allies, and shar­ing our best defense prac­tices for sup­port­ing civil­ian author­i­ties. The Cana­di­an military’s work dur­ing last year’s Olympics is an admirable exam­ple of how to pro­vide this kind of support. 

Peter and I agree that increas­ing­ly the threats we face on the North Amer­i­can con­ti­nent, from transna­tion­al crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions includ­ing NARCO traf­fick­ers to nation­al dis­as­ters, require a high lev­el of coor­di­na­tion among mul­ti­ple agen­cies in our two gov­ern­ments. Last Octo­ber, the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty and Pub­lic Safe­ty Cana­da par­tic­i­pat­ed in a joint exer­cise in strength­en­ing cyber defense. Mov­ing for­ward, we’ll exam­ine togeth­er how the advanced defens­es of our mil­i­tary net­works might also be applied to pro­tect crit­i­cal civil­ian infrastructure. 

I was also grate­ful for the chance to reit­er­ate the Unit­ed States Government’s strong com­mit­ment to the joint strike fire, the F‑35, which con­tin­ues to ben­e­fit from Cana­di­an col­lab­o­ra­tion dur­ing devel­op­ment. Despite some recent adjust­ments to the pro­gram, I am con­fi­dent that the F‑35 will be the back­bone of our tac­ti­cal air force fleet for years to come, and I’m pleased that the Cana­di­an mil­i­tary will make it theirs as well. 

And of course our mil­i­taries col­lab­o­rate most close­ly in Afghanistan. The Unit­ed States is deeply appre­cia­tive of Canada’s lead­er­ship and hard-fought and hard-won vic­to­ries in RC South. No coun­try has suf­fered more fall­en heroes pro­por­tion­ate­ly than has Cana­da, and I extend our country’s sym­pa­thy, prayers and admi­ra­tion to their fam­i­lies. As Cana­di­an forces begin tran­si­tion­ing from a com­bat role to one focused pri­mar­i­ly on train­ing the Afghan police and mil­i­tary, I’m con­vinced that they will be just as suc­cess­ful in this new capac­i­ty. As I’ve said many times before, train­ing the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces is the pil­lar of our strat­e­gy and key to our ulti­mate success. 

Mov­ing for­ward, we will also con­tin­ue col­lab­o­ra­tion in mul­ti­lat­er­al forums such as last fall’s con­fer­ence of the Defense Min­is­ters of the Amer­i­c­as in Bolivia to pro­mote region­al insti­tu­tions and agree­ments that coor­di­nate human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief, the val­ue of which we saw so clear­ly when respond­ing to the tragedy in Haiti. The Cana­di­an — U.S. alliance is strong and endur­ing. It increas­es the safe­ty of our peo­ple at home and serves as the bedrock foun­da­tion of our efforts to pro­mote peace and secu­ri­ty in North Amer­i­ca, the west­ern hemi­sphere, and through­out the world. Thank you. 

MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Mack­ay and thank you, Sec­re­tary Gates. 

I’d like to invite reporters to now raise their hand, and if you have a ques­tion, I remind you to lim­it your­self to one ques­tion. Please iden­ti­fy your­self and your media agency and to whom you are address­ing your ques­tion to. 

TRANSLATOR: I now invite the jour­nal­ists to raise your hands should you have a ques­tion, and I would remind you to lim­it your­selves to one ques­tion. Please indi­cate the press agency that you rep­re­sent and spec­i­fy the per­son to whom you are ask­ing the question. 

Q: Robert (inaudi­ble) from CDV News. A ques­tion to Sec­re­tary Gates. 

Giv­en the cost over­runs and delays in the devel­op­ment of the F‑35, Mr. Sec­re­tary, how many F‑35s will be built and how will it affect Canada’s unit costs includ­ing in-ser­vice main­te­nance? And you know the lib­er­al par­ty, if elect­ed, say they will pull out. What would be the effect of that, of pulling out of the F‑35?

SEC. GATES: Well, we have a num­ber of inter­na­tion­al part­ners, and we have every inten­tion of a very large buy in the Unit­ed States. I think our ulti­mate goal by the time the pro­gram is com­plet­ed is some­thing on the order of 2,3[00] or 2,400 F‑35s for each of our three ser­vices — for the three ser­vices com­bined. Our cur­rent pro­gram, even after the adjust­ments to the pro­gram, is to have 325 air­craft built by 2016. We have made some adjust­ments to the pro­gram. We have thor­ough­ly reviewed the program. 

The new pro­gram man­ag­er, Admi­ral Ven­let, took sev­er­al months toward the end of last year to review every sin­gle aspect of this pro­gram, 120 dif­fer­ent tech­ni­cal experts going into every cor­ner of the pro­gram. We have added about $4.5 bil­lion of U.S. funds to the sys­tem devel­op­ment bud­get to in fact make sure that we stay on the sched­ule that we now have sub­se­quent to the adjust­ments made last fall. So I’m fair­ly con­fi­dent that we are mak­ing good progress. Both the Air Force and Navy vari­ance — Cana­da is buy­ing the Air Force vari­ant — are actu­al­ly pro­gress­ing quite well. It is the short take­off ver­ti­cal land­ing air­craft that’s encoun­ter­ing some chal­lenges and the one that I’ve in essence put on pro­ba­tion. But the Air Force vari­ant as well as the Navy vari­ant are pro­ceed­ing. There don’t seem to be any sig­nif­i­cant tech­ni­cal chal­lenges so I have a lot of con­fi­dence in this pro­gram going forward. 

We are work­ing very close­ly with the man­u­fac­tur­er in terms of cost, and par­tic­u­lar­ly dri­ving the cost down. There are no cost increas­es in the pro­gram for this year, and in fact we have nego­ti­at­ed a con­tract for the next major buy that rep­re­sents a decrease in cost, and we are going to keep work­ing on this. 

Obvi­ous­ly, hav­ing all of our part­ners con­tin­ue to be with us in this pro­gram is very impor­tant, and I’m pleased at the num­ber of our allies who are going for­ward with the F‑35. It is a true fifth-gen­er­a­tion fight­er. It will give us sig­nif­i­cant capa­bil­i­ties. It will con­tin­ue the inter­op­er­abil­i­ty that has been at the heart of our NORAD rela­tion­ship for decades now. And so with­out get­ting into domes­tic affairs in Cana­da, I would just say that my hope is, that for all of our sakes, that all of our part­ners con­tin­ue to move for­ward with us on this program. 

Q: Hel­lo. Bob Burns with Asso­ci­at­ed Press. May I ask a ques­tion of Sec­re­tary Gates? 

I take you to a dif­fer­ent region if I could. In the Mid­dle East and North Africa, where there’s been a spread­ing wave of civ­il unrest from Tunisia, as you know, to Egypt, a major U.S. ally, to Yeomen and pos­si­bly beyond. I’m won­der­ing if you could tell us what you make of this sit­u­a­tion, where you see it head­ed, and does this unfold­ing sit­u­a­tion put at risk U.S. and nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests in the region? 

SEC. GATES: We obvi­ous­ly have a num­ber of close friends and allies in the region with whom we work very close­ly on a wide array of issues, not just in the region but glob­al­ly. At the same time, the Unit­ed States has been clear that the human and polit­i­cal rights of peo­ple are fun­da­men­tal, and the eco­nom­ic chal­lenges that face many of the peo­ple in the Mid­dle East, as well as else­where, are impor­tant as well. And there­fore, we encour­age reform across the board that address­es these chal­lenges and look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to work with these governments. 

Q: Mur­ray Brew­ster with the Cana­di­an Press. 

Min­ster Mack­ay, we’ve been hear­ing that the train­ing mis­sion in Afghanistan is going to be Kab­ul-cen­tric, and I’m won­der­ing if you can explain exact­ly what Kab­ul-cen­tric means and whether Cana­di­an train­ers will be restrict­ed to Kab­ul or will the go where NATO needs them? 

MIN. MACKAY: Well, Mur­ray, thank you. 

The inten­tion obvi­ous­ly is when we say Kab­ul-cen­tric to mean just that, that the num­ber of forces some­where in the range of 950, as you know, will flow after July into that train­ing mis­sion. That tran­si­tion will start to occur con­sis­tent with the par­lia­men­tary motion, con­sis­tent with the prime minister’s under­tak­ing. And Kab­ul-cen­tric means that based on our abil­i­ty to secure the type of facil­i­ty nec­es­sary, which, as you know, is a sta­t­ic behind-the-wire-based facil­i­ty, it will be in the capi­tol, in Kabul. 

Now, we have looked at a few loca­tions in the near­by region, that is to say, in the North, that are in close prox­im­i­ty to Kab­ul that would also facil­i­tate the type of train­ing that we’re under­tak­ing. And we’re in nego­ti­a­tions right now with NATO, with our allies, our clos­est allies, includ­ing the Unit­ed States, to deter­mine specif­i­cal­ly some of the more urgent types of train­ing that are required. 

But the feed­back that we’ve received thus far, and our chief of defense staff, Walt Natynczyk, is in these dis­cus­sions right now with Admi­ral Mullen, his coun­ter­part, as well as with Gen­er­al Petraeus, we’ve received of course a lot of direct feed­back as to where we can opti­mize that effort, where we can put Cana­di­an knowl­edge, know-how, skill and resources to the task of train­ing Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces. And some of that, as you’re well aware, involves police train­ing, mil­i­tary police train­ing, in addi­tion to the clas­sic mil­i­tary train­ing that’s going on now. 

We have now rough­ly 300 Cana­di­an sol­diers ded­i­cat­ed to the task of train­ing, but that is in a dif­fer­ent con­text, of course, down in the south. In RC South they are par­tic­i­pat­ing in OMLT and POMLT train­ing, so oper­a­tional men­tor­ing and liai­son for police, and that is more clear­ly in the field and out­side the wire. That train­ing will cease in July. We’ll being the sta­t­ic, on the base train­ing in and around Kabul. 

MODERATOR: We’ll now take one last question. 

Q: Thank you. Mr. MacK­ay, I’d like to know about the F‑35s, if we can come back to this sub­ject mat­ter. Your gov­ern­ment has been telling us that if we don’t pur­chase them that Cana­da will be exclud­ed from the pro­gram. I’d like to know if you dis­cussed this and what the answer was. 

I can just repeat in Eng­lish. I’d just like to know if Cana­da was to decide to not buy F‑35, does it mean that we’re out of the pro­gram? Thank you. 

MIN. MACKAY: (Trans­lat­ed.) First of all, it’s clear that it’s the inten­tion of our gov­ern­ment, the gov­ern­ment of Cana­da, to pro­ceed with the pur­chase. This is a sol­id deci­sion, as far as I am con­cerned, for the gov­ern­ment, and so there­fore as far as I am con­cerned, it’s a deci­sion that involves a lot of under­stand­ing on behalf of the gov­ern­ment, the air force more par­tic­u­lar­ly, and it’s a deci­sion which is nec­es­sary because, as you well know, for the peri­od until 2020, there were strong pos­si­bil­i­ties in terms of an oper­a­tional gap. If we make the deci­sion now to replace all the air­craft, the CF-18s, then there’s a cer­tain risk, as far as the deci­sion is con­cerned, to delay the purchase. 

Also, because the deci­sion of pre­vi­ous lib­er­al gov­ern­ments began this over­all process, Cana­da had a pref­er­en­tial posi­tion in this process as far as the price is con­cerned and the pri­or­i­ty in the pro­duc­tion line. So there­fore it’s a pity the gov­ern­ment now is deal­ing with a sit­u­a­tion which in my opin­ion, the oppo­si­tion, the head of the lib­er­al par­ty – that we’re play­ing a polit­i­cal game. And it’s a risk for the Cana­di­an forces, for the secu­ri­ty of our coun­try, as well as for the future con­tract is con­cerned. Because, as I said, we had a pref­er­en­tial posi­tion in this process and, as Sec­re­tary Gates stat­ed, in order to pur­chase a fifth gen­er­a­tion air­craft there is no oth­er air­craft with the same capa­bil­i­ties, with the same equip­ment on the plane, on the air­craft, and it’s a deci­sion which in my opin­ion, with an awful lot of impli­ca­tions for the future, if the future gov­ern­ment should decide to can­cel this project, this contract. 

Q: Mr. MacK­ay and thank you Sec­re­tary Gates, excuse me, we’re very tight on time. 

MIN. MACKAY: Just very briefly, Cap­tain. What I’ve indi­cat­ed is, look, our gov­ern­ment has tak­en the deci­sion to pro­ceed with a process that began under the pre­vi­ous lib­er­al gov­ern­ment – in fact, you could go back to 1997 when this process to pur­chase the F‑35 real­ly began, there was invest­ments made at that time and since that time – some­where in the range of $168 mil­lion to be part of this con­sor­tium. And my fear, in addi­tion to los­ing a pref­er­en­tial place in the pro­duc­tion line, is can­celling the con­tract now could, in fact, result in an oper­a­tional gap where, if around the year 2017, 2018 when we’re start­ing to take deliv­ery of the F‑35, our F‑18s are going to be tak­en out of use, and so there is a very, shall we say, a sweet spot in terms of the deliv­ery time and the invest­ment that allows us to be in that pro­duc­tion line, that glob­al sup­ply chain of, as Sec­re­tary Gates has said, when we start tak­ing delivery. 

And we need this air­craft. It is the only fifth gen­er­a­tion air­craft that has the capa­bil­i­ties, the onboard equip­ment, the stealth capa­bil­i­ty, the weapons radar sys­tem that is inter­op­er­a­ble with our col­leagues, our allies in the Unit­ed States through NORAD. It is an air­craft that will allow us to face what future threats may exist. And this is where we’re into the realm of spec­u­la­tion. But clear­ly, we have a respon­si­bil­i­ty under NORAD, we have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to Cana­di­ans. And – I’m quick to add – we have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to the young men and women who fly and main­tain these air­craft to give them the prop­er equip­ment and tools to do the impor­tant job that we ask of them. It’s also extreme­ly good for our Cana­di­an aero­space industry. 

Cana­da will be part of this con­sor­tium that allows Cana­di­an aero­space com­pa­nies to bid on the glob­al sup­ply chain of these air­craft. That takes us well beyond what tra­di­tion­al­ly is described as indus­tri­al region­al ben­e­fits that would lim­it us to the pro­duc­tion of 65 air­craft. By being part of this con­sor­tium, and nine coun­tries, pos­si­bly more, we’re look­ing at being able to sup­ply parts for air­craft in excess of, poten­tial­ly, 3,000 or more. So that, in my view, opens up greater com­pe­ti­tion, but greater oppor­tu­ni­ty for Cana­di­an aero­space and gives us cut­ting edge tech­nol­o­gy when it comes to the air­craft that we need for the 21st Century. 

Thank you. 

MODERATOR: Thank you, Min­is­ter MacK­ay. Thank you, Sec­re­tary Gates. This con­cludes the ques­tion and answer ses­sion. The min­is­ters will now gath­er for a pho­to on the left side of the stage. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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