Defense Secretary Robert Gates will be in South America this weekend to talk military matters with his counterparts. On Friday, the defense secretary will be in Chile to try to promote closer cooperation between the U.S. and Chilean armed forces. He’ll fly to Bolivia on Sunday for the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas. His Venezuelan and Bolivian counterparts will both be in attendance, though officials don’t expect any strong words of the Hugh Chavez sort. As one anonymous U.S. official said, “I think we're expecting a positive constructive dialogue like all the other conferences have been.”
Gates will be back at home next week, meeting with Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and a congressional delegation from the state about the closure of the Joint Forces Command. The Virginia officials have been trying to speak to Gates for a while now about “the importance of JFCOM to the security and defense of our nation.” JFCOM is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia.
A bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on November 16 that would require the screening of all packages on cargo planes. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that the plan is “an easy thing to say, but it’s probably not the best way to go.” The screening procedures put in place after the printer bomb plot came to light are better for security, she argued.
Vice President Joe Biden meanwhile was on Larry King talking about Afghanistan. He said that it was time to start turning over some responsibility to Afghan forces. He put it this way: “Let me tell you, we're going to start -- Daddy is going to start to take the training wheels off ... next July, so you'd better practice riding.” Iraq, he said, is “doing very, very well." Because the “Iraqis stepped up to the ball,” politics is winning out and stability is coming to Iraq.