THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DIRECTOR OF OMB JACK LEW, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE STROBE TALBOTT, AND DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, DR. JOHN HAMRE The Briefing Room
3:50 P.M. EDT
MR. LEW: If I could, I'd like to walk through the overall package, give you a few numbers, and then ask Deputy Secretary Hamre and Talbott to say a few words.
First, the package is designed to send a very clear message. We are going to maintain the U.S. readiness, military readiness, and provide the resources necessary to continue the current operations for as long as necessary. This is a package that funds through Fiscal '99, but the principle is that the resources should be available.
On the humanitarian side, we've provided funding to take care of the humanitarian needs both of the refugees who are outside of Kosovo and also we've provided additional resources so that we'll be able to deal with additional refugee problems as they emerge.
The totals -- the package is $6.049 billion, so it's roughly $6 billion. The military piece is $5.123 billion. Now, the Defense Department also has humanitarian costs as well, which brings the total for the Department of Defense to $5.458 billion.
On the State Department, the total is $591 million, and that breaks out that $386 million is for humanitarian operations; $35 million is for State Department operations and other related activities; and $150 million is for securing frontline states.
I'd like to say a few words about the way we put this package together because it is a little bit different than some supplementals in the past. In addition to paying the cost to date, the objective was to fund operations and to provide flexibility for circumstances that may develop in a variety of ways as we proceed through the balance of this fiscal year. So for the period of time up until now, we've estimated both the cost for the Defense Department of operations and munitions, and looking forward we have an estimate to permit sustaining all of the resources in the region and headed for the region operating through the balance of the fiscal year.
In terms of the funding, we've provided not a dollar-for-dollar or bullet-for-bullet replacement; we've provided a flexible mechanism where the Department of Defense will have the opportunity to replace munitions used with the munitions that are necessary to maintain readiness coming out of the operation. Many of the weapons used are older weapons. There's a need for flexibility. So this is not a mechanical, we're just buying what we used. It has substantially more flexibility than that, and where there was an option we erred on the side of more, not less, because that's the way to maintain readiness.
On the State Department side, and to some extent Defense in terms of humanitarian assistance, we have a very clear idea of the challenge that we're facing with the 650,000 refugees who are out of the country now. We have a less clear idea of how we're going to be able to provide relief for the people who are still inside. We've provided funding in a variety of places so that if we're in a position to provide assistance directly or indirectly, we'll be able to have funding readily available to meet the obligation.
The principle behind the funding is that we're going to continue sharing the humanitarian costs with our allies on the same basis during this period that we are now, which is the U.S. is paying 25 percent of the humanitarian costs, civilian humanitarian costs.
There are a number of details which I would be happy to go into, but I think before I do that I would ask Dr. Hamre and Deputy Secretary Talbott to say just a few words.
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: Good afternoon. There are three primary components to the request that goes for DOD: $3.6 billion is for operations that are projected through the rest of this fiscal year. Obviously there could be an extension into the next fiscal year; we don't know that now and we'll have to work with the Congress as we're developing the authorizations and appropriations for the next year's budget with them this summer.
Approximately, $1.55 billion is going for munitions. Of that, roughly half, $750 million, is to replace things that have been expended to date; and roughly $850 million is going to be going for contingency. It's presuming today's pace of activity extended through the rest of the fiscal year, but we don't know the mix of what's going to be actually expended, as Jack Lew indicated. Normally, when we submit supplementals we are just buying what we used. In this case, because we are projecting activity through the rest of the year, we are asking for an allowance and some flexibility on Congress's part not to be pinned down to specific systems because we don't know what they're going to be for the rest of the year.
And then there is approximately $250 million that is to replenish the resources that we used in Operation Desert Fox in the fall.
If I could say just very briefly, the program -- the supplemental we've submitted really has to be acted on very quickly. We're currently using the funds that are in the Department's budget that we otherwise would use the last three months of the fiscal year. If we don't have them replaced very quickly we'll have a genuine readiness crisis. So we need to have Congress to act quickly.
The leadership has been very forthcoming, and they've indicated that they intend to move very quickly to act on the supplemental. But we do need to have action quickly. And without it we will have a real emergency.
We are asking for an emergency designation. We do not have the resources internal to the Department to substitute offsets for this. And so this would require that it be declared an emergency, and OMB has been very good about doing that. I think it's going to be going up today, and we're very satisfied with that.
Let me turn it over to Secretary Talbott.
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Thank you, John. Let me perhaps give you a few thoughts about the political, diplomatic, and long-range strategic thrust of this package by picking up on something that John just said. He talked about the vital importance of maintaining our readiness in our own military capability in order to be able to deal with all conceivable contingencies in the future.
There is something comparable with regard to the frontline states who are the principal recipients and beneficiaries of the international affairs function 150 part of this package. They could face, without a lot of help from the international community, from the European Union, from ourselves, a capabilities crisis. That is, they need to have some assurance of being able to withstand the extraordinary drubbing that they have taken, not just over the past month, during the current military campaign, but over the last decade, which also happens to be the decade when they became independent states and democratic states.
This is a period during which Milosevic has launched four wars in the region, and it has had, of course, a devastating effect on their economies as well as their sense of security. And we hope, along with our principal allies and partners in Europe, to be able to help them address those problems.
With regard to their security, they live in a rough neighborhood and they particularly live next door to a very rough neighbor in the person of Milosevic and in the FRY, and particularly Serbia. Their sense of fragile security has, of course, been aggravated by the outflow of refugees which has not only imposed a huge burden on their economies, but especially in the case of Macedonia, which has maintained a kind of delicate balance between the different communities there as it pursues a multiethnic democracy, it has threatened to upset that balance as well.
And then in their ability to develop their own economies, they have not been able to get their goods out to other parts of Central Europe and Western Europe anywhere near as well as they would have been had it not been for the constant wars that Milosevic has been perpetrating in the area.
I'm not going to go beyond the breakdown that Jack gave you in his opening comments, but the states that will be benefitting, the frontline states so-called, are Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, and Macedonia. And the long and short of it is -- you'll be hearing a good deal about this, incidentally, during the course of the NATO and partners summit this weekend, because we're doing a great deal in conjunction with our European allies and partners. We feel it's very important, even as we prosecute vigorously and successfully the immediate military campaign, also to have a vision of the future. And we see this package as very much in that spirit, and also very much in the spirit of what the Europeans will be doing.
The long and short of it is we don't want to have to do this again. And our ability to be confident when this conflict is over that it will be over once and for all, and the United States and its allies won't have to once again come back with military force, is going to depend a lot on the security, the stability, on the prosperity of those countries in the region which have been part of the solution, as opposed to Serbia, which has been part of the problem. And that's why the State Department is glad to be participating in this program.
MR. LEW: If I could just say one more word before we take questions. The entire package is going to be designated as an emergency, including the humanitarian piece and the frontline states assistance. And in terms of timing, we had worked throughout the last week and today with the leaders and the committees -- the Appropriations Committees -- to try and impress upon them the need for very speedy action.
We're very pleased their response has been quite constructive, and we anticipate that there will be quick action on the package.
Q Could I ask a couple of questions of each one of you? What have been the costs to date? You said that you got that figure. And for John -- when you're talking about a genuine readiness crisis, how quickly do you need this appropriations to get to that point? And for Strobe, what do we want Chernomyrdin to do as far as the Russians helping us get through this?
MR. LEW: The costs to date I'd be happy to answer. In the Defense Department, $287 million are costs to date for operations. In the area of munitions, $698 million is the cost.
With regard to humanitarian operations, we haven't broken it out in terms of cost to date as much as looking at the different refugee problems that were addressing, and it's a little more difficult to answer.
Q Do you have a rough guess?
MR. LEW: Afterwards we can get back to you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: As I indicated, we are currently spending dollars for the operation that are programmed to be spent in the last three months of the fiscal year. We face a decision around the first of May where you have to know whether or not we're going to cancel exercises for the last three months of the fiscal year if we're not going to get the supplemental. So what we've traditionally said is May to June is the crucial time. We really do have to have action on it because of the size of it this year. Frankly, we really do need it by the first part of May, if at all possible.
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Let me answer your question about Chernomyrdin. That, of course, as I think you've already been briefed from this podium earlier today, was one of the principal subjects that President Clinton discussed with President Yeltsin earlier today. And by the way, Secretary Albright, almost immediately, within an hour or so, had a follow-up call with Foreign Minister Ivanov and Ambassador Collins, Jim Collins, in Moscow, who's been in to see Chernomyrdin. We welcome this appointment. All of us here in Washington, of course, know and respect the former Prime Minister. It's clearly evidence that the Russian government is stepping up its diplomatic engagement.
There has been, including in the presidential call today, a lot of discussion about the areas of commonality between the alliance position and the Russian government position. And on a number of essential points, there is indeed a lot in common, particularly on the importance of the return of the refugees of all ethnic groups, and the ability of humanitarian organizations to have access to those refugees; the need for the withdrawal of the Serb forces, which is to say the VJ and the MUP, and the paramilitary; and the establishment of a safe and secure environment in Kosovo with a very high degree of self-governance or autonomy.
Where we and the Russians are continuing to try to narrow our differences, and we have been working on that during the course of the day, is on the issue of what sort of international security presence would go back in in order to enable all these other things to happen. It's clear that former Prime Minister Chernomyrdin is going to be undertaking some travel, although it's not exactly clear when and where. But we have worked out an arrangement to stay in close touch with him and with Foreign Minister Ivanov, in order to coordinate and synchronize our diplomatic efforts as much as possible.
Q Strobe, how fragile are those -- the other countries around Kosovo, particularly Albania? And what about the NATO summit this weekend? What must NATO do, politically or diplomatically, during the meeting this weekend to help the situation?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Well, I was recently in the area. I visited Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Rumania. I also stopped in an Allied capital, Athens. And there's no question that all of these countries, in different ways and for different reasons, are extraordinarily stressed.
Now, in the case of Albania, of course -- which is a country that has come through a great deal of difficulty -- the sheer number of refugees that it has to take care of, now, not to mention the sporadic episodes of Serb forces actually taking action in northern Albania, this has greatly complicated their lives. But they don't have the identical problem that the Macedonians have, who have made a heroic and very promising effort to do exactly what the FRY has not, or at least Serbia has not, and that is build democracy on the basis of tolerance and inclusion. But to have vast numbers of members of one community suddenly come in from the outside, obviously, in addition to all the other burdens it imposes, causes problems there.
In the case of Bulgaria -- and as I think you all know, President Clinton talked to a number of the leaders from this region just yesterday, if I'm not mistaken -- there you have another country that has made terrific strides, particularly in recent years, but feels very much pressed and threatened. And let's face it: there is significant domestic opposition to Bulgaria and Rumania's governments' decisions to support the NATO air strikes, and NATO policy.
So the short answer to your question of what we both hope and expect will come out of the NATO summit is a high degree of reassurance to these governments and their leaders that NATO is in this to win, and not just on behalf of its own interests, but on behalf of their interests as well. And it's precisely the overlap between the Allies' interests and the partners' interests that gave rise to the creation of the Partnership for Peace and the EACP. In other words, we want them to have no reason whatsoever ever to regret the brave decision that they made to support this action, and I think the summit will definitely advance that goal.
Q Strobe, does the Russian participation or cooperation extend to attending the NATO summit? Do we know yet?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: We don't know yet.
Q Mr. Talbott, you said that even as we prosecute this action, we have to have a vision for the future financially. And earlier today, Mr. Lockhart talked about possibly helping out with the reconstruction of Kosovo after this effort is over. What can you tell us about the U.S. commitment to rebuild what NATO is now blowing up even as we speak?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Not much, for the simple reason that -- you'll notice of the states that I mentioned as beneficiaries and recipients of this immediate program, Serbia is not on that list, except insofar as Kosovo is still juridically part of Serbia. And some of this money will go to the resettlement of refugees, and we of course have it as our ironclad intention that these refugees are going to be going home to Kosovo.
But beyond that, you're looking off to the horizon a little bit, when Serbia will be itself part of the solution to the problems of the region. But we're not there yet.
Q Jack, maybe I didn't understand quite what you meant by flexibility. For this supplemental, what level of intensity of a bombing campaign are we assuming? Are we assuming about the number of planes that we have now? Or have we incorporated into that more, since there have been many changes in the amount of armor that's been used over there?
MR. LEW: We've incorporated all of the aircraft that are both in the region and that have been called for, and that are going to the region, and maintaining that full strength for the duration of the year.
Q So by that logic, though, you can't rule out further supplementals because those amounts have been increased several times over the last few weeks.
MR. LEW: I would defer to John Hamre to answer in detail, but we think this is a very substantial request in terms of maintaining a very robust operation for a prolonged period of time.
Q It doesn't include -- say, we succeed, it doesn't include if we're part of an occupation force there, it doesn't include any spending for that.
MR. LEW: It does not include any funding for ground forces, and that is a separate issue. As I described to you a little earlier, we've designed a package to maintain the current air operations without any artificial limit, which means we can sustain the air operations at their current level for as long as we need to.
Q When you say ground forces, does that include peacekeepers that --
MR. LEW: Correct. This funding request does not anticipate ground forces for either peacekeeping or any other purposes. That would be a separate action that we would have to take and that would, in fact, require further funding.
Q Can I ask John about the figures that he was just questioning. You read through them fairly fast. It costs how much to replace what you've used so far, after day 26, and how much more until from now until the end of the fiscal year?
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: Of the specifics, we are requesting by-line item, about $700 million. Now, some of that is things that have been expended and some of them actually are projected. We think we'll continue to have expenditures, for example, of Tomahawks, where we're actually buying some future requirement. But it is by specific line-item.
The $850 million I was talking about is a generic appropriation so that we can buy munitions that come up -- we currently don't know how we're going to -- but, for example, ATACMs -- we don't know how many ATACMs were going to use. We don't know how many MLRs we may use. We don't know if we're going to be using the Hellfire missile on the Apache. We don't know which variant to the Hellfire missile.
So for that reason, we've asked for $850 million in a generic sum that then we can then transfer to specific line-items. The reason we do that is Congress appropriates to very specific line-items, and so we're asking for a generic appropriation.
MR. LEW: To go one step further on that, in the past there's been a tendency until after an operation and to come in and ask for the funding. We're trying to anticipate the costs of this operation and to fully fund, so that we don't find ourselves either short-funding the operation or with a readiness problem down the road. It was a deliberate attempt to try and anticipate the need, and in order to do that in a way that leaves us with the munitions that we need, we needed a flexible mechanism.
Q You said in terms of the breakdown to date, it's been roughly $1 billion in military costs to date. And that doesn't include the humanitarian costs. So if after less than a month we've paid $1 billion plus whatever the humanitarian costs are, I don't understand how we can project out over five more months and say that the average is going to be roughly $1 billion month when we've in the first month spent that, not including humanitarian and not including the fact that for the first half of the month we weren't flying all these military operations.
MR. LEW: Obviously, the humanitarian money is separately provided for in this package. So there is additional funding for humanitarian --
Q That's included in the $6 billion figure, right?
MR. LEW: Correct -- $3.5 billion is the total military figure.
Q So the math doesn't work. If you said that the current expenses for the first month are practically $1 billion, then --
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: Part of the reason, in an operation like this, is that you use more of your precision munitions in the very early days of the operation. So we've had a much higher expenditure rate of the cruise missiles and things of that nature. Much more later on in the operation, of course, it's what we call dumb bombs -- it's gravity ordinance or semi-aided devices. And that's largely what we're using now.
MR. LEW: I think in terms of trying to make the numbers work there's one other thing that we didn't break out for you as a separate line, but it's the costs associated with Southwest Asia, with Iraq. That money is replacement funding for the most part. And that's in here -- it's $274 million in terms of the military operations.
Q What you're projecting is that -- you're saying to Milosevic, we're going to continue and intensify this bombing campaign over the course of the next many months, but we think that the military costs will actually go down as we do that?
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: No, I don't think the costs are going down as we do that. Remember, we're giving you net increases. Because all of these forces already have programmed O&M dollars for them during the rest of the fiscal year, and we're just asking for the increment on top of what they were already going to spend for their normal training and maintenance operations.
Q This is not the total cost of the war.
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: It's the total net cost, the additional cost that we need.
Q But the actual costs --
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: We would be spending this for normal training, normal flying, salaries, that sort of thing would be paid no matter what.
Q Spending this or spending some other figure?
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: No, that's in the basic budget that was appropriated last fall.
Q Republican leaders in Congress are saying the package should be even greater -- for our military readiness. Are you going to actively resist that, or if it appears that they are determined to do that, would you work with them to craft a package as quickly as possible and get it out, including that extra funding?
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: I'll defer to Jack, but let me, if I might, offer one observation. We've worked with OMB very closely for the last 10 days. Every bill that we can identify legitimately to this ongoing operation, and forecasting this operation, OMB has given us all those funds. And they're included. We're not seeking anything beyond what was in the operation or projection of the operation. So there's no effort here on our part to get well or anything of the sort. We actually think our readiness is okay. But we'll have a readiness crisis if we don't get prompt action on the supplemental.
Q Right, but what do you think about Congress's assessment, which is different, which is that you do have a readiness problem and they want to give you more than you're asking for?
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: Well, I think our forces, everything we've asked to get there has gotten there on its time suspense. We've not had any breakdown in operations. The operations last fall in Iraq were flawless, virtually flawless. And I don't think our underlying readiness is at question.
What is at question is, can we carry out this operation without supplemental funding, and still sustain the readiness? And that's absolutely no, we can't. We would be broken if we don't get supplemental funding for this operation.
Q But what about the original question. What are you going to do when the Republicans send you a bill that has some of this extra money tacked on to it? Are you going to work with them? Are you going to veto a supplemental bill that you say that you need so much?
MR. LEW: We are, today, going to be transmitting a request to the Congress. I don't want to jump all the way down the road to what we do when they complete action.
I've tried to emphasize -- Secretary Hamre has tried to emphasize -- that we've used our best efforts to fully anticipate the costs, and to err on the side of asking for more, not less. And we can try to track the numbers so that they make more sense. These are very complicated numbers. There are a lot of moving pieces.
The goal we had in working with the Departments was to fully pay for the operation. Now, some of those judgments are subjective. We've erred on the side, as I say, of going high. And we'll be working with Congress.
If you're asking, what do we do if there's a speed-up of the debate on the 2000 funding levels, we think that that's a separate matter. This package is an emergency. This package needs to move quickly. It needs to move without offsets, because that would only slow down the effort to move the package. And we want to work with Congress to move quickly to give the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the funding that they need. We hope that the spirit of cooperation that we've seen in the early sessions we've had prevails, and that we can work cooperatively on this.
Q Can I try one here? The $6 billion figure was not arrived at with any kind of assumption about ground troops. Is there anything that precludes money being used from this pot of money on ground troops, if at some point NATO determines that it's necessary?
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: Well, of course, it always depends on the conditions under which it's appropriated. The contingency funds we've requested is really for munitions and readiness-related items. It doesn't preclude, nor does it provide for, ground operations. Of course, if we're called to do that, initially we'll use our underlying operations and maintenance budget, and then seek supplemental funding from the Congress. But that's not included in this program.
Q Can I ask a question on percentages? You gave us, on humanitarian aid, that we were paying 25 percent of the costs. How about on the military side?
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: Well, the funds that we are spending in the Defense budget is really for things like the logistics, the transportation of meals ready-to-eat, tentage, blankets, things of that nature. And so that is entirely absorbed in our account, and that's $300 million.
Q No, that's not my question --
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: Oh, I'm sorry.
Q What percentage of the military operation is the United States footing? What bill? How much of the bill are we footing? We're footing 25 percent of the humanitarian. What are we --
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: Well, I don't know -- I'm not sure I have a breakout like that. I actually think that we're financing completely our contributions to this effort. What are the NATO expenditures beyond what we're doing, I'll find the answer to that and get it to you.
Q Because it's been said it was 67 percent, and I just want to know if 67 percent is --
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: Oh, no, I think the normal percent would be 25 percent -- 34 percent, I think, is our share of military operations when they're totally borne by the Alliance. But that would be things like -- you know, very small, like NATO AWACs and things like that. And remember, they're already programmed for operations during the year.
Q So wait. You're saying 34 percent of something called NATO costs?
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: Yes.
Q But then there's something else that are our costs?
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: That's our costs. Our direct costs. This is really to fund our direct costs. The NATO costs are relatively small, because this is largely allied contributions.
Q What we're trying to find out is, if the total air campaign is costing X amount, right? How much is the U.S. share of that?
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: Well, again, the only thing that is NATO are things that are genuinely NATO assets, like the NATO AWACs. It's not --
Q -- European planes.
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: Oh, we don't pay for the European planes.
Q This is important. This is a simple thing American people would like to know. There's this air campaign going on. It's costing, total, $100 million a day or whatever. What --
Q -- 19 countries are paying for it.
Q -- 19 countries are all -- contributing. What portion of the total cost is the U.S. underwriting?
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: I hope you'll forgive me for not knowing that. I'll get that back to you. But I mean -- you're saying, what is our contribution of the total campaign, and the cost? I do not know, and I do not know what other countries are paying. But I'll try to get you the best number I can.
Q Because on Capitol Hill, they did say this -- about 67 percent, they asked that, and it was --
DEPUTY SECRETARY HAMRE: I'll find out. We'll get back to you. Forgive me for not knowing that.
Q That would be great.
Q Mr. Talbott, could I ask, you spoke emphatically about the need not to have to do this again. And you also mentioned that Milosevic has started four wars. Now, how can you be so sure that we're not going to do this again unless Milosevic is removed from the picture? Is that what you're saying? I mean, it seems to me that if he stays in there, that he could start another war down the road. So -- and we would have to do it again.
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Well, I don't think there's any question that we and our allies, and indeed, all of the countries that we're talking about hope that the time will come when there will be a government in Belgrade that, like the other governments in the region, will be democratically elected and will be committed to the principles of tolerant, inclusive democracy. And that also means peaceful relations with neighbors.
But the objective of the immediate military campaign, as we've all stated many times on many occasions, is very specific, and it has to do with the root cause of what in some ways is the fifth war that he started, because there's no question that he has been using these great outflows of refugees to destablize his neighbors, including a number of the states that we're talking about here. And the objective is to permit their return under the conditions I described earlier.
But looking to the future, we all hope that all of these countries, notably including Serbia and the FRY, will be in the same camp as the other countries that we're talking about helping.
Q -- Romania and Bulgaria and you said -- I understand that they are under domestic pressure within. But besides that, does that mean that this money is basically kind of a payoff for them supporting NATO, or are there pressures beyond political pressures that we're helping to alleviate with this money in those countries?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Absolutely not. We had assistance programs for these countries before and we would have had those assistance programs in any event. The United States and our allies have a fundamental and permanent stake in these countries continuing to develop.
The odds against which they have been operating have gone up considerably, which is one reason we feel that they, too, should be beneficiaries of the kind of emergency assistance that were talking about.
Q What does the money go for? What do these six countries get $150 million --
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: I'm not going to go beyond the breakdown that Jack already gave you unless he wants to --
Q I mean, what's the assistance for? To build --
MR. LEW: There will be different forms of assistance for different countries. In some cases, it's infrastructure; in other cases, economic assistance. And the State Department, the Treasury Department, we have been working together to make sure that the piece is adequately sized so that they can go forward --
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: And humanitarian --
MR. LEW: And obviously, they're dealing with the inflow of refugees, which are enormous strains on their systems, both their infrastructure and their economic systems. And the goal is to maintain stability in some very fragile areas. And this funding would provide the tools to approach each one as need be.
Q Thank you very much.
Q Can I get one more in about the other supplemental, the forgotten supplemental?
MR. LEW: We haven't forgotten it for a moment.
Q Does the fact that you're going to be tapping the surplus, and a lot of the surplus, for this -- or a large amount of money for this supplemental make you any more willing to consider offsets that Republicans want on the other supplemental? Where are you on that?
MR. LEW: We should keep in mind that the fact that there's an enormous emergency far away doesn't in any way diminish the importance of an emergency that's very close to home. The Central America relief package that we've been working on for several months remains urgent. The timing is more critical than ever, because of the season down there, and the need for people to get assistance when they can use the proceeds of the assistance to plant a crop.
We will continue to work with the Congress. We've made very clear in all of our conversations that we remain committed to that package, that it is properly designated as an emergency, and that we want to work with the Congress to get both packages enacted very quickly.
Q Lott wants to do the packages together. Would you do that?
MR. LEW: We want to get both done very quickly. We'll work with them for the best way to do that.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
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