Q: How are you, Admiral?
ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN: I’m good.
Q: I’m with the New York Daily News. Can I ask your personal opinion about something? I know you’re allowed to offer your personal opinion.
ADM. MULLEN: It depends. You’ll have to –
Q: About the terror trials. Do you think they should be held here in New York or elsewhere?
ADM. MULLEN: No, I actually stay out of that. That’s for the –
Q: You stay out of that completely?
ADM. MULLEN: The attorney general and others to both recommend and decide.
Q: Do you think they should be military trials or you won’t go there?
ADM. MULLEN: No.
Q: Okay, fair enough, sir. I appreciate it. Can you say something quickly about our New York City veterans and the sacrifices that New Yorkers have made in the past 9 years?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, they’ve been huge. And I mean, I visit our military all the time. And it’s – whether it’s small or big, there are New York – there are individuals from New York who are serving in active duty who could be active duty, could be reserve, could be in the Guard. And they’ve been enormously successful in what they’ve done. And I mean, we just wouldn’t be the military we are without the incredible support here.
I also have been in and out of New York over the last many years. And this city is one of the – you know – my favorite cities in the world, literally. I mean, it’s sort of this and Hong Kong, as I’ve grown up in my life. And I know how supportive New Yorkers are of our men and women who serve. And part of being here today is to try to just emphasize the importance of the local community connecting with veterans who have been through a lot, particularly those who are wounded and ill and their families in making sure they have a shot at the future – education, training, jobs, mental health, support, whatever it is. And I’m hopeful that New Yorkers will continue to reach out.
Q: Admiral, I wanted to ask you about Iran and has anything changed? Or can you tell us a little bit about how the planning has changed since your chairman’s guidance in December or Sec. Gates’ letter in January? Has it become more intensive? Is there a new process underway? Are you collecting new information? I know there is a new NIE underway? What’s going on?
ADM. MULLEN: Yeah, I think, I mean this is an area that has had great focus for years, not months. And certainly under the leadership of President Obama, Sec. Gates, Gen. Petraeus, and what we call the component commanders – the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines in the Central Command area – we’ve put an extraordinary amount of time on it. But nothing has – I mean, we’re very focused on this. We have been for not just the last couple months but for years. And so, I got that it’s got focus right now. I understand that.
I think in terms of in particular this article – but from a policy standpoint, as it was with the previous administration – its’ something we spent a lot of time on. We do now as well and will continue to do that.
Q: Admiral, one more question.
ADM. MULLEN: And you are?
Q: With Fox News, Jonathan Wytell (sp).
ADM. MULLEN: Hi, John.
Q: Hi, good to see you here. Question on Iran though – you mentioned all the apprehension you have over whether to strike or not and the consequences of that. But can you tell in sort of unequivocal terms how militarily prepared the United States is to take on Iran militarily that you will resolve the issue militarily if you have to?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, speaking of the unintended consequences – and this isn’t new news for me; I’ve spoken about this for the last couple of years – and that the military options have been on the table and remain on the table, but the engagement, diplomatic – that piece, the sanctions, the financial piece, all that – from my perspective – needs to continue to lead the effort.
And I have great comfort in the United States military, have had for understandable reasons for a long time. Best we’ve ever been – and we’ll basically be able to do whatever the president directs. And so, I guess, I wouldn’t take it any further than that.
Q: I’m Julie Bolcer from the Advocate, which is the national gay newsmagazine, so I wanted to ask you about “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
ADM. MULLEN: What’s your name again?
Q: Julie Bolcer. It was stated rather, after a question about DADT, that with the repeal of DADT it would be a key or a principle – one opinion – in helping to improve the relationship between the military and American college campuses. What do you think about that? You didn’t respond necessarily to those comments. And how would repeal affect the military’s relationship with other communities, but colleges in particular? Do you agree?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I don’t know if the question was asked of me that way. But I thought the president – I thought President Obama spoke to that very specifically. And he sees it from his perspective as a president of Columbia (sp) here – and he says he thinks it will have a significant impact, should the law change. And in fact, what he said was, it was the essence of what’s made it so difficult to reestablish a relationship, which was healthy for decades before the Vietnam timeframe. And then, the Vietnam war came in and I think as he said, the emergence of this issue took on such significance in the mid to late-‘80s and has been sustained right up to now.
So I think there is great potential there. Again, I don’t want to lead this in terms of change. It’s a legislative responsibility. It’s not mine. But I think the upside potential in that regard is pretty significant.
Q: Excuse me, just to clarify your answer earlier, Cartwright, in testifying just last week –
ADM. MULLEN: On?
Q: On Iran, made it pretty clear that the options are not that great in terms of the military options and really doing away with the program, having a decisive hit against the program. Do you agree with Cartwright?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes. I think we’ve all been very consistent on that, that military options would go a long way to delaying it. And I think that’s basically what he was repeating.
Q: Do you think it is worth – I mean, the consequences – delaying it. Is there a value in delaying it that would make that an option that’s –
ADM. MULLEN: That’s not my call. That’s going to be the president’s call.
Q: What do you think the number-one issue is facing our veterans?
ADM. MULLEN: The number-one issue? I think the biggest challenge we’ve got with our veterans coming off – and I’ll focus very specifically on these wars – is the whole issue of PTS, post-traumatic stress and handling it. And what I worry about is actually medically, the sooner you get at it, the less likely – the consequences of it are going to be reduced. And it’s a hard one to raise your hand for. So the longer it takes you to raise your hand, the more severe the consequences. So more than anything else, I think that’s it. And how we get to them in a way, how we can support them, and –
Q: Would you raise your hand and ask for help?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes.
Q: Thank you, sir.
Q: Admiral, in answering his very poignant question about delaying though, does a delay put you at a military disadvantage in terms of reacting and addressing the problem itself, if you do indeed need to take military direction in resolving this?
ADM. MULLEN: I think to go to what Cartwright said – and I would just repeat – that the options would cause a delay. And that would be very clear. That said, delay is very well defined. And so, given that, that doesn’t mean the problem is going to go away, and that it could be a continuing problem. But it’s very hard to predict outcomes there.
Q: But the meaning of my question was addressing things in a military fashion. If you have to go after Iran in a military way, does this delay make it more difficult for you to accomplish your ultimate goal because of Iran’s capability of defending their nuclear program and their military in order to fend off any sort of U.S. –
ADM. MULLEN: Actually, I think all of that would have to be taken in consideration in the decision calculus, if you will, to strike. But from my perspective, that’s the last option, is to strike right now. And I think I was very clear about the decision space, to not much decision space to work in because of the two – both outcomes – having a weapon and striking generate unintended consequences that are difficult to predict.
Q: Can you predict a few of them?
ADM. MULLEN: No. No, I’m actually – I’m very serious about, first of all, our ability to predict. If you go back to Iraq or you go back to Afghanistan, I’m fond of quoting Sec. Rumsfeld, when asked a question about the future, said that McNamara didn’t get asked one question in his confirmation testimony about Vietnam. Cheney didn’t get asked one question about, when he was getting confirmed in front of the Senate about Iraq. He didn’t get asked one question about Afghanistan. And that’s about as well as we predict.
Q: One more question.
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, ma’am. Who are you?
Q: (Inaudible) – increase of the military expenses in China this year compared to the last year? Then, Taiwan and Japan had a worry about the peace of the Asian Pacific. Do you have any comment for the expenses increased?
ADM. MULLEN: We’re all concerned about the stability in the Asian Pacific. I am as much economically, because of the economic engine there, because of the people who are there, and the alliances – the longstanding alliances we have – in that part of the world. So I have been increasingly concerned with Chins’s increased investment in defense, increasingly concerned with their lack of transparency with respect to what I’ll call strategic transparency. Why this investment is being made – what’s the strategic intent? And with the potential – you know, the peaceful rise of China with a strong military is fine with me. I mean, I have no problem with that. But it’s the strategic intent that isn’t that clear at this point in time, which we’re working to try to – through dialogue and other engagement paths – trying to understand better.