EN ROUTE TO OSHKOSH, Wis., Nov. 12, 2009 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today condemned a spate of leaks regarding both the Afghanistan strategy deliberations and last week’s shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, threatening to fire anyone in the Defense Department he finds is involved.

“I am appalled by the amount of leaking that has been going on,” Gates told reporters traveling with him today in the wake of media reports following yesterday’s national security session on Afghanistan, President Barack Obama’s eighth in the past two months.

Gates said he has little doubt that some of those leaks have come from within the Defense Department. “If I found out who” was involved, he said, “it would probably be a career ender.”

Leaking information as Obama is weighing critical factors serves neither the interest of the country nor the military, the secretary said. He refrained from sharing his own views about the best option, but said Obama appears to be leaning toward one that combines parts of various alternatives presented so far.

The question, he said, comes down to “How do we signal resolve, and at the same time, signal to the Afghans and the American people that this is not open-ended?”

Returning to the leaking issue, Gates condemned information made public about the alleged Fort Hood gunman that he said could jeopardize the investigation.

“Everybody out there with their own little piece of the action” doesn’t understand how it fits into the big picture, he said. “Everybody out there ought to just shut up.”

Gates spoke with reporters en route to Oshkosh, Wis., where he said he wants to thank factory workers at the Oshkosh Corp. who have stepped up production of all-terrain versions of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle specifically designed for Afghanistan’s rugged terrain.

The M-ATVs, as the special MRAP vehicles are known, are part of the defensive response to roadside bombs responsible for more than 80 percent of casualties in Afghanistan, Gates said. Going after the networks that build and plant them is the offensive part of the response, he added.

Gates also announced a new task force focused on protecting U.S. troops in Afghanistan against improvised explosive devices. The new counter-IED task force will oversee the full range of efforts already under way, including the Joint IED Defeat Organization, MRAP production and other measures.

“It will bring together the range of capabilities we already have, and make them more collaborated and more integrated,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell explained.

Gates conceded that while M-ATVs provide more troop protection, very large IEDs being seen in Afghanistan pose a huge threat. “There is nothing that can protect our troops against everything,” he said.

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