MODERATOR: Thank you so much, and thank you, everyone, for joining the call on a late Friday afternoon. I know it’s a topic we are all very interested in.
So I will introduce the folks who will be giving some brief opening remarks and who will be available to answer questions. I will let you know who these four senior Administration officials are. This is a call on background, so after I give you their names, from here on out they will be referred to as senior Administration officials.
The first speaker will be [Senior Administration Official One]. That’s Senior Administration Official One. The second speaker will be [Senior Administration Official Two], Senior Administration Official Two. The third senior Administration official we will have is [Senior Administration Official Three]. And the fourth senior Administration official we have, who won’t be making opening remarks but who’s here to answer questions, is [Senior Administration Official Four].
So with that, I will turn it over – after our folks give some opening remarks, then we will open it up for questions.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Great. Thanks. Well, we are now two weeks away from the opening of the Sochi Olympics. We are extremely proud of our U.S. athletes, and we look forward to cheering them on as they compete in the best traditions of the Olympic spirit. We know they will showcase to the world the best of America, which is diversity, determination, and teamwork.
In the run-up to the Games, we know that in addition to the focus on the athletes, there is increasing attention on security and reports of threats to the Games. Our expectation is that we’ll see more reports in the coming weeks, and we know that people have questions about this issue. So we wanted to offer you an overview of the U.S. Government’s preparations, including specifically on security issues. So I want to start by giving you an overview of U.S. participation. Then we’ll turn to the issue of U.S. Government involvement, and then give you a status report on security concerns.
On U.S. participation, I would break this down into three categories: athletes, our official delegation, and the general public attending. On the athletes, we expect a U.S. team of 230, with 270 coaches and support staff. For our delegation, the President has asked former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to lead our official delegation to the opening ceremonies, and there will be four others joining her: Billie Jean King, Brian Boitano, Rob Nabors, and Ambassador Mike McFaul. Deputy Secretary of State Burns and former Olympians Caitlin Cahow, Eric Heiden, and Bonnie Blair will represent the United States at the closing ceremonies. There will also, of course, be a large contingent of corporate sponsors and private American spectators.
The U.S. Olympic Committee has made it clear that the safety and security of Team USA is its top priority. As is always the case, USOC is working with the U.S. Department of State, the local organizers, and the relevant law enforcement agencies in an effort to ensure that our delegation and other Americans traveling to Sochi are safe. For the U.S. Government’s official delegation, we are also working with USOC and the Russian Government on accreditation, logistics, and security.
On the general public, there are estimates that as many as 10,000 Americans may attend the Olympic Games as spectators. As private citizens, these individuals are responsible for their own tickets, travel, reservations, visas, and overall logistics. That said, the U.S. consular services will be in Sochi in force. And in fact, indeed U.S. officials already are on location in Sochi to provide information, support, and appropriate services for Americans visiting a foreign country.
On U.S. Government involvement, I would like to turn at this point over to my colleagues from the State Department for their comments.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Good afternoon. We break this down into roughly three categories: support to the U.S. citizens attending the Games, assistance to the Russian Government – let me rephrase that – cooperation with and liaison with the Russian Government, and security contingency planning efforts that we’ve had underway for quite some time.
I’d like to turn it over to [Senior Administration Official Three] for a moment to talk about the consular services and the State Department efforts towards regular American citizens that are out there.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Thank you. This is [Senior Administration Official Three]. Good afternoon, everybody. As noted earlier, we will have consular officials on the ground in Sochi. We have been very much part of the planning efforts towards the Games. And one of our – the cornerstones of our efforts to protect American citizens traveling and residing abroad is our consular information program, and that’s no different here. To make sure that Americans have good information to make sound decisions about their travel and their activities while they’re at the Games, we’ve put out a Sochi fact sheet, and we’ve also recently issued a Russian Federation Travel Alert, which, again, provides information that we think American citizens need to know before they travel to the Games. We – again, we will have consular officials on the ground, and we are strongly encouraging people traveling to the Games to enroll their visits in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which is accessible through our website.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: On other types of support, U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service leads an interagency group that we call the ISEG, which is the International Security Event Group, and we have been working long and hard prior to the Olympics to liaise with the Russian Government, Russian security services, and Russian forces that are there to ensure the safety and security of our Olympic team, to ensure the security of the sponsors that are out there that are American companies, American citizens, and then also to work closely with consular for the safety and security of American citizens that are there.
We will have a fairly large contingent of personnel in Sochi as well as we obviously have the United States Embassy in Moscow, which plays a huge role in this. In Sochi, we have Diplomatic Security agents and representatives from other agencies in the federal government, including the FBI and others. We will have people on the ground manning what we call a joint operations center, which is an information hub for all of us. We will be passing information out through OSAC, the Overseas Security Advisory Council, to American businesses and subscribers. We will be passing information directly to the U.S. Olympic Committee when we think that there is security information that needs to be passed. And we will be working closely with consular as well.
On the ground in Sochi, we will have enough American diplomatic security agents so that they will be accompanying the American teams to all of the venues. They’ll be on site at all times. They’ll be available to liaise with the Russian Government security services that are there. They’ll be an interface for the Olympic Committee. And they’ll be overseeing generally the levels of security that we’re getting and making sure that our Olympic teams and our Olympic participants are as safe and secure as they can be.
I think that at this point we might want to turn it over to discussion of the threat picture, and I’ll turn that back to – who do I go back to on the threat picture?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We’ll take it back here.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: All right, [Senior Administration Official One].
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks. So on the overall security picture, I’m going to state the obvious here, but everyone knows we’ve seen an uptick in threat reporting. Obviously, we’re closely following events, and will continue to do so for the duration of the Winter Olympic Games and also for the Paralympic Games.
We are aware of reports of potential threats that may occur during the Olympic Games, including the media accounts we’ve seen of female suicide bombers and a video posted online claiming responsibility for the tragic bombings in Volgograd that also promised more attacks during the Sochi Games. We take all such threats seriously.
The United States continues to work with Russian and international security partners to look into these reports, and we will continue to update our security information for American citizens as new information becomes available.
In terms of contingency planning, the United States relies first and foremost on the host country, as is the case with every Olympic Games. But obviously, both the State and Defense Departments are doing prudent planning and ensuring appropriate assets are available should they be needed by the U.S. Government or requested by the Russian Government.
So I want to reiterate that the safety and security of our athletes, our delegation, and all Americans in Sochi is our highest priority. We know that Americans have questions about security issues, given recent press reports, and although we’ve seen an increase in threat reporting, which is concerning to us, it is not entirely unusual for a major international event like this. We are ensuring that the full resources of the U.S. Government are aligned in support of our athletes, our delegation, and Americans attending the Olympics.
And I’ll turn it back over to [Moderator].
MODERATOR: Great, thank you. If the operator could remind folks on the call how to ask a question in the queue now.
OPERATOR: Certainly. Ladies and gentlemen, again it is *1 for questions. And you may remove yourself from the queue by pressing the # key. But again, *1 for questions.
We’ll go first to the line of Devlin Barrett with The Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing the call. We’re told by the athletes that the State Department issued a warning to the athletes not to wear team colors or the team uniforms outside of accredited areas. I just want to understand – what is the rationale behind that warning, and has that sort of warning been issued in any past Olympics?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Hi, this is [Senior Administration Official Two]. I’ll take this. That advice was actually given by the security coordinator for the U.S. Olympic team. I think it reflects just good common sense if, in fact, there are threats of terrorism. And I think most of us agree with many of the outside security experts that have decided that it’s probably more likely that things may be happening at soft targets outside the actual Olympic events. I think it makes sense to give people some advice in terms of how to handle themselves when they’re traveling. And I think it’s just common sense that perhaps if you’re an American Olympic athlete, you perhaps don’t want to advertise that so much directly outside of the – or far outside of the venues.
But as I say, this was advice that was given by the U.S. Olympic Committee’s security coordinator, and quite frankly, I concur with it. It’s just good common sense.
QUESTION: And just to the second issue of – has that been done before for any past Olympics?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: I’m trying to think back. I don’t think we did it in London. I am not sure about previous to that, but I think given the threats that we’re hearing about, we’re not sure of whether they’re actually true or not, how serious they are, but given those threats, I think it’s reasonable advice.
OPERATOR: Our next question --
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you. Oh, go ahead. Yeah.
OPERATOR: Our next question from Andrea Mitchell with NBC News.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for the call. Can you talk to us about the level of cooperation at the granular level between the Russian security and the U.S. security? And under what protocols would you be more engaged? Do you have enough people on the ground? Are you getting enough from the Russians in comparison to previous Olympics, such as London and Greece, and I guess Beijing as well? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks. The cooperation between the United States and Russia on the Sochi Olympics goes back now quite some time. The – and in many venues. We have been discussing counterterrorism cooperation in our standard venues for discussing these issues, like – we have a working group under the Bilateral Presidential Commission, and as you may have seen in our readout, the issue was also discussed in the call between the presidents this week. This is repeatedly discussed at high levels between counterparts in the U.S. and Russian Government.
But then specifically on the Sochi preparations, Embassy Moscow has been leading an effort to engage with the Russian Government directly on issues of security in Sochi, to work to make sure that our liaison officers do have the right credentials and will have access to be able to do what they’re able to do within their competences at the site. And it’s been – it’s not just something that’s popped up in the last couple of weeks or in the last month. The preparations have been ongoing for quite some time.
Now, of course we always wish our partners will share more information with us, and we are always asking for more information, but the United States has many sources of information that we’re using to assess the situation and assess ourselves independently what we see the threats are or how we view the credibility of threats that we do hear about. One of the most important venues for our cooperation in this regard is with our Five Eyes partners. We have been coordinating very closely with them on the Sochi Olympics as well. So we have lots of different venues and different possibilities to get ourselves the very best information, and to convey that information as well to those for whom it would be actionable to improve the security situation at the Olympics.
In terms of comparison to past events, I wasn’t involved in them so I can’t speak directly to it. But I will say that my understanding from colleagues who have been working on this for many years is that this is a common theme in working with host governments. Different governments are set up in different ways, and so there’s always a process of working institutionally with partners. And so the form of that cooperation always varies by event, and obviously, we have closer cooperation with countries such as the UK, who is a Five Eyes member, than we do with a partner like Russia or probably with China. We don’t worry too much about those comparisons. We’re focused on doing the very best we can in each case, and that’s what we’re focused on right now with the Olympics coming up.
OPERATOR: Our next question is from Barbara Starr with CNN.
QUESTION: Thank you. I have two questions, first for [Senior Administration Official Four]. As you know, Secretary Hagel just said, and I’m quoting him, “If we need to extract our citizens, we will have appropriate arrangements with the Russians to do that.” Can you clarify, are those – has – Hagel said he had spoken to his counterpart. So have those arrangements now been put into place on a standby basis if there is a reason for the U.S. military to go in? Because Hagel says there will be appropriate arrangements.
And my second question: I’m not sure who can answer on Diplomatic Security, but I believe I heard you say DS will accompany teams to all the venues and all of their events. And I just didn’t know, has that also been typical in the past for DS to accompany the teams?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL FOUR: I think what the Secretary is referring to is simply the broad-level discussions that he has had with his counterpart, and General Dempsey had with his counterpart, and a mutual understanding between the two defense establishments that obviously, if there was a need to do something, we would be able to coordinate and consult on that and do it in a proper way. I think that’s what he was referring to. He did speak, and I can get back to you, Barb, on when the conversation was. I understand it was earlier this month, but I can get back to you on a more accurate answer.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Barbara, this is [Senior Administration Official Two]. On your second question, yes, that’s typically what we do. That’s our role out there. That’s why we asked for the accreditation passes. That’s why we asked for the agents to be accredited, field the numbers of people that we do. And I’m not going to go into exactly the numbers, but it’s to make sure that we’ve got eyes on the teams and eyes on the events.
MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Let’s go to the next question.
OPERATOR: Our next question is from Justin Fishel with Fox News.
QUESTION: Hey. My question was basically just the same as Barbara’s, but – I mean, so Secretary – about what Secretary Hagel just said in suggesting that we will have appropriate plans to extract Americans if need be. So in other words, does – are there plans right now? I mean, I realize the Games haven’t started, but has the planning started, or would the planning only start if there was a need to extract them?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL FOUR: Justin, there are no specific evacuation plans for the Olympics per se, but as you know, our combatant commanders have on the shelf American citizen evacuation plans and general guidelines just as a rule. But as I said from the podium yesterday, there is no request to have a specific plan to evacuate right now, and if we’re called on to do that in – certainly in coordination with the State Department who makes these decisions – and we’ll be prepared to do it – but there’s no Sochi Olympics evacuation plan on the shelf that we’re ready to just pull off.
And as I also said, and this is not – and this is a key point – I mean, our commanders are doing what you expect them to do, which is to be prepared just in case. And so they’re taking a look at the assets they have available to them – General Breedlove specifically – that he has throughout the region in case he needs it for any purpose. And so that’s just part of what we do. It’s all about being prepared to act if you’re called on to act.
MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Let’s go to the next question.
OPERATOR: Our next question from Adam Goldman with The Washington Post.
QUESTION: Hey, this goes to the level of cooperation. I guess, [Senior Administration Official Two], maybe you can answer this. Were you aware that there was a suicide bomber, this Black Widow, on the loose? Did the Russians tell you that beforehand? Or did you just find out about it through the media?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: I think that particular report came to us through the media. I – we have been aware for some time that in the entire region, that that is a type of attack that has been used before. I don’t think it surprised us that that came up on the radar screen at all. In determining what levels of security, you look at what types of threats are presented, and that’s clearly one of the ones that was presented.
The specifics of the Russians putting out what I would call a “be on the lookout” for a specific person, I think that we got that just about the same time that the press got it.
MODERATOR: Great. Next question, please.
OPERATOR: Thank you. That would be from Howard LaFranchi with the Christian Science Monitor. One moment while I get his line open here. Mr. LaFranchi, your line should be open at this point.
QUESTION: Great. Okay, thank you. Yeah, there was mention earlier of General Dempsey meeting his counterpart, I believe, earlier this week. And at that meeting he spoke of potential sharing of counterterrorism technology. I wonder if there’s any update on that in terms of – I think it was IED detection and jamming technology and equipment, and that that could be shared if it was found to be compatible. I was wondering if there was any update on that.
MODERATOR: Yeah, we can take that here.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I’ll defer to [Senior Administration Official Four], but U.S.-Russian defense cooperation on different specific projects, including among them counter-IED, are actually – I wouldn’t say longstanding, but they predate the issue of Sochi. So there’s really very good defense cooperation between the U.S. military and Russian military in specific areas, and this happens to be one of the areas that we’ve cooperated on because of our common broader interests in cooperating on counterterrorism.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL FOUR: Yeah. The only thing I would jump in is, again, that we’ve simply had generic conversations with them about this technology and some of the lessons we’ve learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, as recently as this week when General Dempsey was over there, but it wasn’t done necessarily or specifically was related to the Olympics. There was no formal request by the Russians for counter-IED technology with respect to the Olympics, and there was no offer made of that technology or assistance, again, with respect to the Olympics.
But as was said earlier, and this is spot on, we have these conversations in general about the technologies and the capability.
MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Let’s go to the next question.
OPERATOR: That would be from Eli Lake with The Daily Beast.
QUESTION: Hi. Can you say anything more about the information sharing with the Russians? I mean, I think you got into it with the Black Widow answer, but there was, I guess, an allegation that was made on the Sunday shows by Chairman Mike McCaul. And if you can just add any more to that about the nature of it and anything else that he might have been talking about, about information that was not shared.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We can’t really speak to specific conversations we have in all our channels between counterpart organizations. But we – again, I’ll repeat, we have been talking to the Russians about the regional security concerns we have. These are longstanding concerns about the North Caucasus. We have – in recent weeks as we’ve gotten closer to the Olympics, we’ve continued to have those conversations and sought information from the Russian Government. This is a tough issue because it’s an issue of intelligence. We have good relations, we have good conversations, but we always want to know more.
And so what you’re hearing is frustration that we don’t know everything. We’re frustrated we don’t know everything too, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we aren’t working with the Russians to identify – to get better information about the threat reporting we’re seeing.
MODERATOR: Great. Let’s go to the next question, please.
OPERATOR: That would be from Kevin Johnson with USA Today. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for the call. Somebody had mentioned earlier that these – the threat stream is common in the run-up to the Games. But I wonder in this case, how does this threat stream compare to, say, Athens, Salt Lake, and others, right after 9/11?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: It’s a different environment. Every situation is a different situation, and so we can’t – again, I don’t want to compare among them. It just – it’s not really – I appreciate the question but it’s not a meaningful question. I think we should be focusing on what we need to know and what we need to work with the Russian Government to focus on the specifics of this instance. And in that regard, I just want to reiterate that we’ve been engaged with the Russian Government for months if not years on understanding the arrangements for the Games. We’ve seen the Russians take this very seriously. They are devoting significant resources to security in the region. And so we’ll deal with this one on its own terms as appropriate.
MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Lets’ go to the next question, please.
OPERATOR: Next question from Rosalind Jordan with Al Jazeera English Television.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for the call. I have two questions and they might be most appropriate for officials number one and number two. The first question: Can you give a little more detail about what kind of legal access needs to be provided to U.S. Government officials in order to help provide security for the athletes, be available to respond in case of any crisis? If, heaven forbid, something were to take place, would U.S. officials be able to go into country and the paperwork be handled later?
And then the second question, which might be more appropriate for official number one: Given that you just expressed your frustration that there’s a lot of detail that the U.S. Government simply does not know, there’s not enough intelligence that you’ve been able to access for whatever reason, would you advise the 10,000 or so Americans who have made plans to attend these Olympics in two weeks’ time to actually go, or is the risk any higher than it would have been, say, four years ago for the Summer Olympics in Beijing?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Hi, this is [Senior Administration Official Two]. I’ll take the first portion of that. I don’t think that we’re looking to flood large amounts of American officials in. I think you have to go back to the context of this, is that this is the Olympics in Russia. We’re relying on the Russian Government for the security for the most part. We are relying on their great efforts that they are making on this. We’re there in a liaison role.
The components that we have on site, including Diplomatic Security and the FBI and others, do bring very good capabilities should the Russians ever ask for them. I’m not sure that we think that they will be, because the Russian capabilities in many cases are quite good as well. But we have experts on scene that can help in terms of counterterrorism, in terms of IEDs, in terms of intelligence and other types of things, should we be asked. And I guess it’s true that should we be asked, like in many other cases in countries when something happens, if an official request is made to the United States, we can add other people, but I’ll tell you the truth, we’re not anticipating that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, I would just emphasize – [Senior Administration Official Two] did a good job, but I want to emphasize because we’re closely lashed up here back in Washington with the Embassy. And the Embassy has done a fantastic job of making sure we have the right U.S. – the right planning for exactly the contingencies you talked about. The consular services are in – partly in place. There are plans to surge more U.S. officials down into Sochi and with backup back in Moscow. The kind of contingencies you raised are exactly the kinds of contingencies in terms of legal assistance, helping people who find themselves in different kinds of situations, medical situations. That planning has been done and those resources are in place in Moscow at the Embassy and also in Sochi. So yes, that’s a big piece of what we’ve been working on.
On – I’m sorry, I suddenly forgot the second piece of the question.
MODERATOR: Whether you (inaudible) --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Oh, the – I want to clarify. I said I was – that we’re – sure we’re frustrated we don’t know everything. I didn't say we were frustrated with the Russian Government. I said we’re frustrated we don’t know everything. We always want more information, and you always want to – that’s in any situation, not just dealing with the Sochi Olympics. It’s a – so I guess what I’m saying is, certainly there is uncertainty. There’s uncertainty in any kind of big event like this. But what I’m reassuring you, or what I am confirming to you, is that we understand the information requirements. We’re pursuing every venue and every opportunity we have for satisfying our own requirements, whether that’s in partnership with the Russian Government or in partnership with other countries, or in our own efforts to understand what’s going on and how that will let us provide for a safe and secure and enjoyable environment for the Americans who will be attending or participating in the Olympics.
MODERATOR: And just to chime in here for a second, the travel information we put out from the State Department is very clear about people should be on the lookout, they should be aware of their surroundings, but it doesn’t – we are very clear it’s not telling people not to go. I think that was your question, right: What would you say to the 10,000 people that have private plans to go? Well, look at the travel information. It very clearly lays out what they should do. And if we need to update it because of new information, we always will. So I think that’s something important to keep in mind.
Let’s go to the next question, please.
OPERATOR: That’ll be from Tim Phelps with the LA Times.
QUESTION: Hello. Could you elaborate just a little bit on what you mean by an uptick in threat reporting? Are you talking about intelligence or are you talking about public media reports? Can you tell us anything about these threats?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: All of the above. We’ve seen uptick in all those categories that you listed, and we are paying close attention to them and tracking them down and assessing them with heightened scrutiny and great attention.
MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Next question, please.
OPERATOR: The next question is from Paul Shinkman with U.S. News & World Report.
QUESTION: Yes, thanks very much for doing this call. Can you give us a sense, as specifically as you can, about how many more additional American personnel there are currently and going to be on the ground in Russia who weren’t there in the lead-up to the Olympic Games and how that compares to security preparations in previous Olympics?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: We’re not going to get into talking exact (inaudible) people we have. We work these out very carefully with the Russians. It is appropriate to what we need. As we said, we’ve addressed consular issues, we’ve addressed Overseas Security Advisory Council and private industry, we’ve addressed the sponsors, we’re addressing the athletes and the U.S. Olympic team, we’re addressing private Americans that are there. Prior to the Olympics, prior to about six months ago, there were no Americans in there. This isn’t the location of a consulate or an embassy. But we have, I would say, the appropriate numbers and they’re about the same numbers as we’ve had in Olympics in the past in other countries.
MODERATOR: Okay, let’s go ahead to the next question.
OPERATOR: That will come from Courtney Kube with NBC News.
QUESTION: Hi, this is Jim Miklaszewski with NBC, Courtney’s colleague. I just wanted to clarify or try to clarify one more time Secretary Hagel’s remarks that if we need to extract Americans, we will have appropriate arrangements in place. Now, does that mean that U.S. military aircraft personnel would be able to go land in Sochi and take Americans out, or would we still depend on the Russians to extract the Americans and put them somewhere, somehow, into American hands? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL FOUR: Mick, I’m going to obviously defer to my State colleagues because issues of American citizens being evacuated are really coordinated at that level. As you know, sometimes evacuations are done using other assets, not military assets, whether it’s other – charter air or commercial air, and not always is the military called upon.
What I will tell you – and I’ll go back to what we said before – was that the European Command commander, General Breedlove, wants to ensure that he has complete visibility on the assets in his region that – to know what he has available, including potential airlift and perhaps even sealift if he’s called upon for that kind of a mission. We haven’t been tasked to do anything specific in that regard. Clearly, we take our lead from the State Department and only if not only does the State Department believe there’s a need that we’re answering but that they – but they, the State Department, want to use military assets to do so.
Again, all we’re doing at this point is the kind of prudent planning and research into the assets available to make sure we have a good handle on what we have and where we have it just in case we’re called. That’s the limit of what we’ve been doing right now.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: This is [Senior Administration Official Two]. I think without going deeply into all of the contingencies that we look at, I think it’s safe to say that all through the years when we’ve looked at evacuating Americans out of different situations: (a) it depends what the situation is; (b) it depends what the situation is on the ground, and we work very closely with the host government; (c) we look at a variety of assets. Everybody seems to be keying solely on DOD. DOD is an excellent asset if it has to be called, and they’ve got contingency plans in place and will work with us if that’s the need.
But we also keep track of things like regular commercial flights that are going out of there. We know that many of these delegations are coming in with their own chartered aircraft. We look at the chartered aircraft market, spot market, to determine what’s available for us to lease. And we’ll be looking at all of these contingencies as we go through this, but it’s really very event-specific and it’s – you make large-scale contingency plans and then you pick off the shelf what’s your best available options if and when something happens, which we all hope that nothing happens here at all.
MODERATOR: And we have one more thing from our end on this. Go ahead.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: And I just want to emphasize and remind everyone again, as the host country, Russia has primary responsibility – and primary capability, I would add – for dealing with the kinds of contingencies we’ve just been speculating about. Russia and a big part of what the U.S. Government has been doing is working with and liaison and discussing with the Russian Government about its assets and its capabilities for if there are medical situations or worse, the ones that are inspiring some of these questions.
So first and foremost, Russia has the responsibility in responding to and coping with situations that might affect the safety, security, and the presence of their guests. And that’s what all the American citizens there are their guests. And so the U.S. Government will work with the Russian Government on the various options should they need to be implemented that we’ve just been talking about.
MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Let’s go to the next question.
OPERATOR: That will be from Major Garrett with CBS News.
QUESTION: All right, thanks for doing the call. Can you hear me?
MODERATOR: Yes, we can hear you, Major.
QUESTION: This came up at the White House, so forgive me if it was answered previously at State or Pentagon. In all these situations, should they occur, after-action reports always talk about the need to have a point person, a central, organized, core leader onsite. And I’m wondering if, as a contingency for Sochi, either Pentagon or State has put together a team or a person in charge who is the regular instantaneous liaison with the Russian Government and is the point person for any contingency that may arrive. I’m just trying to get this into a slightly higher bureaucratic level to understand, if something goes wrong, is there a person, is there a team on a 24-hour basis that’s already identified and maybe an additional bureaucratic layer there on scene to handle whatever may arise?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: That’s a great question, and yes, that’s exactly what there is in Sochi. There is an American operations center that is staffed with exactly the array of experts, subject matter experts and officials that you would need to cope with any of the contingencies we’ve been talking about, and there is definitely a chain of command, and someone at the top of that chain of command who is responsible for exactly what you’ve just laid out.
MODERATOR: I think we just have time for a few more questions, so let’s go to the next question.
OPERATOR: Very well. That will come from Jose DelReal with Politico.
QUESTION: Hey, guys. Thanks for hosting this call. So, not to keep pushing this point on contingencies, but on the ground, how would those sorts of notifications go out? How would Americans be notified what steps they could take should they need to be evacuated?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: This is [Senior Administration Official Three]. That’s the reason why we encourage people to enroll their presence in Russia or in Sochi with us through our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. We’re able to use that mechanism, then, to push out information, whether it’s new threat reporting or – threat information, or here’s where we want you to go to do X, Y, or Z. So the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, again, accessible through our website.
MODERATOR: Okay. Great. I think we probably have time for one more question. So Operator, who’s the lucky last person to ask?
OPERATOR: That will be from Taurean Barnwell with NHK.
QUESTION: Hi. I have a question that maybe Senior Administration Official Number Four can answer. I want to know if you can tell us what kind of ships the Navy is dispatching to the Black Sea, and also, in the case of any contingencies, will those ships provide any evacuation services for non-Americans?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL FOUR: We’re not going to get into identifying the ships just yet. It’s our policy with respect to transits in and out of that body of water that we don’t talk about identifying them or their schedules until they’re in the Black Sea. They are not at this point. But as you know, all our ships to some degree have multi-mission capability. They’re all designed for more than one thing depending on the class of ship, and they’re capable of lots of things, including helicopter lift if required. Certainly our ships have some limited medical capability on board.
As for the specifics of your question on non-Americans, again, we – when it comes to evacuations, we very much take our lead from the State Department in that regard, and as was said earlier, the State Department has a wide range of assets that they look at and arrangements that they make in this, and so I simply would not be able to speculate about that. And I’d have to refer to my State Department colleagues to talk about that.
MODERATOR: I can jump here. Just generally speaking, I know in the past, obviously, it depends on the situation, but we have been able to extend our capabilities to non-American citizens, but every situation’s different and I don’t want to speculate on what might happen here under some hypothetical contingency. But we have a variety of capabilities, and again, I don’t want to speculate.
So I thank you all for joining the call. For folks who jumped on late, this is all on background. Everyone was senior Administration officials. I know we’ll be talking all about this a lot in the coming weeks, but everyone have a great weekend, and thanks for jumping on.