By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Oct. 30, 2007 - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met today at the Pentagon to discuss proposals about control and coordination of rivate contractors in Iraq, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said. During a news conference, Morrell said the meeting was the first between the two since the return of a Defense Department fact-finding panel from Iraq. The two secretaries have both been traveling and just haven't had a chance to meet until now, Pentagon officials said.
Rice and Gates agreed with the working group recommendation that Multinational Force Iraq needs to be more involved in all contractor operations, Morrell said.
The working group – co-chaired by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte – looked at better ways to supervise and coordinate Defense and State Department contract employees in a war zone.
Morrell said Gates believes the key to whatever the two department leaders agree upon "must include a common set of standards, common rules for the use of force and ... thorough coordination of all contractor movements well in advance."
Defense officials also want to know what training private security contractors in Iraq have, Morrell said.
The working group still must flesh out the details of the various recommendations, Morrell said. The members will travel to Baghdad early next month and present their recommendations to U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker and Army Gen. David A. Petraeus, Multinational Force Iraq commander.
Gates will not buy into the recommendations unless Petraeus is comfortable with them, Morrell said. "But I don't want to present a problem where there is none," the press secretary said. The working group has made great strides in making some general understandings of the way forward, and "we do not anticipate there being problems down the line."
Both secretaries expect the new recommendations will be in place by Thanksgiving, Morrell said.