'Rightsizing' the US Mission Iraq

Our goal has been, quite frankly, upfront, which is we will continue to look at this – the mission set to make sure that we do not compromise on our core responsibilities, which is, number one, the security of our people. So regardless of what the size is, we are going to make sure that the people there – our diplomats and our – and the people that we have hired there are secure, number one, and two, that the ability for us to be involved in the political engagement of Iraq is at the highest possible level because there’s – clearly, as you all know, there’s – this is as important a diplomatic mission that we have anywhere in the world. The stakes are high, and we plan to be engaged. So --

QUESTION: I understand that, but what I’m getting at is that barring – or unless – until there is development, until the circumstances allow for a dramatic reduction in, say, security guards, the security footprint, if you are just getting rid of the expensive contractors and hiring local people at less cost, isn’t it possible that there won’t be that significant a reduction in the number of personnel at all, at least until we get to the point where there doesn’t have to be that many – where there doesn’t --

DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: I mean, Matt, my – the way I’d answer the question is: I mean, having spent a lot of time in the business world as well, so I guess I’m somewhat uniquely qualified since I’ve had – I’ve done this a few times – there’s a variety of ways to do this, right? One is, obviously, the numbers of people that are working on different programs. And again, I go back to this notion that we want to make sure we have enough people to do the programs that we believe are critically important. The second way to make sure that you are smart about it is the numbers of locations you have, right? The amount of space you have, because obviously, the number of, quote, “security guards” you’re talking about is a total derivative of how many square feet we have, right? I mean, how many locations you have, because you have to obviously protect the perimeters of those.

So as we proceed over the next year, and as we look at our mission set and look at what we’re trying to achieve on the diplomatic side, my hope is, is that we’ll conclude over – in the period of time that we can consolidate some of the locations and space, and that will allow us to rely more upon local Iraqi contractors. But the most important thing is what we’re going to do is we’re going to be studying it, we’re working on it, we’re going to work very closely with our staff at our – in Baghdad and around the country, and we’re going to work with the Iraqis. They – we are a team working closely with them as we look at this diplomatic mission now and into the future.

So guys, I’ve got to run. But thank you all. And if I can be of any other help, I’m sure you’ll let us know.

MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much for joining us.

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