MODERATOR: (In progress.) Hopefully that's classified, but where does the operation in Syria and the Middle East, the shifting sands, as Dr. Charles Krauthammer talked about yesterday, leave us? What are our options going forward in the Middle East?
ADM. WINNEFELD: Well, that's a big, massive strategic question and I would probably want to mostly defer to the president and secretary of state and secretary of defense. (Laughter.) So I'll try to stay out of trouble here, but we have worked - I will say since the beginning of the Syrian issue we have worked very, very hard over the last couple of years to provide options to the president and a full range of options for the military instrument of power, in conjunction with all of the other instruments of power that our nation has in play out there.
Obviously more recently with the horrible use of chemical weapons against his own population, that has drawn that into a sharper focus. Once again, we provided the president with a range of options, including very robust strike options using, again, the full range of instruments that the military has available to it. And as we know at the moment, that threat of the use of force seems to have made the difference in enabling what we hope will be the diplomatic solution to at least the chemical weapons dimension of that problem in Syria, although it does not solve the overall issue in Syria of a civil war, which is sort of out my lane.
But it does point out the great dangers in the - highlight again the great dangers in the Middle East - the instability in the "Arab awakening" that has flashed across the region and that we're - you know, as much as we would like to shift to the Pacific, if you read the Defense Strategic Guidance closely, it does say very explicitly that we will maintain our focus on the Middle East. And it's just a terribly important part of the world, and air power, as you know, is there, it's important, it's an important deterrent to things like Iran producing a nuclear weapon, and it's doing great work out there.
MODERATOR: The other question is, if you could turn back to your former role as commander of the United States Northern Command, how would you assess the nation's ability to cope with natural disasters and calamities here at home?
ADM. WINNEFELD: Well, it's - OK, as we know, whether you're a believer in climate change or not, they are all - those natural disasters and calamities are out there. I think that we have improved - thanks to Craig's leadership and working with me and out at NORTHCOM, we've been enabled the command and control of that I think a little bit better.
So we're in a much better place to help protect the American people when something like this happens, and we work hard every day to try to pull the sand out of the machinery wherever it is and put - insert grease in the machinery so that we can respond as quickly as we can when there's a natural disaster.
And you've seen out there this week, and last week with the terrible flooding that we've had in Colorado, we've put together a dual-status commander in Colorado. That may be one of the first few times that we've had really substantive federal resources and helicopters actually detailed over to the dual-status commander - (inaudible). We've done smaller versions of that, but this is a growth industry, I think, and the nation is well positioned, I think, to - and air power is certainly a big component through lift and through helicopters and other things that airmen provide to help those missions - natural disasters.
MODERATOR: Thanks, Vice Chairman. And on behalf of all the AFA folks here today, please send our condolences to Admiral Jonathan Greenert and to Secretary Mabus. We were very saddened to hear of the tragic loss of life the other day.
Thanks for your attendance here today. We appreciate your leadership, your friendship. And thanks for helping Phil Breedlove mature during his - (inaudible) - years as much as possible. (Laughter.) He sends his regards from Europe. So thanks.
I have a small token of our appreciation. John Steinbeck, who most of us are familiar with from writing "Of Mice and Men" and "Grapes of Wrath," also was commissioned in World War II, back when 14 million men and women were put in the service of our nation, to take a look at the United States Army, Air Force'sBomber Corps. So we have a small token of our appreciation for your time today and for your meaningful comments. Thanks, Sandy.
ADM. WINNEFELD: Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)