ABC News' Luis Martinez reports:
The Pentagon did not mince words in dismissing as “absolutely absurd” and “comical” media reports from Indian news outlets that the US Navy was sending 34 warships off the coast of Mumbai as part of the security preparations for President Obama’s upcoming trip to India.
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell did not shy away from dismissing reports that appeared in Indian media outlets, such as the Press Trust of India and the television network NDTV. The Press Trust of India is that country’s largest news agency.
Morrell told reporters he was making an exception to the practice of not discussing Presidential security details to shoot down the reports.
“I will take the liberty this time of dismissing as absolutely absurd this notion that somehow we were deploying 10 percent of the Navy -- some 34 ships and an aircraft carrier -- in support of the president's trip to Asia,” said Morrell at today’s Pentagon briefing. “That's just comical. Nothing close to that is being done."
He acknowledged that a Presidential trip requiring security needs “should not come as a surprise to anyone” and that the Defense Department “does play a role in support of Presidential missions.” He said it was customary to not discuss such security requests, but “I made an exception in batting down this absurd notion of there being 34 ships, or more than 10 percent of the Navy, deployed in support of this trip. That is most certainly not the case.”
The Indian media reports also say security for the Presidential trip will cost $200 million a day. Morrell “there's been a lot of creative writing that's been done on this trip over the last few days. I've seen other reports with some astronomical figures in terms of what it costs to take these trips. I don't know the cost. We don't speak to the cost.” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was blunt in his characterization of the cost reports, “this trip doesn't cost $200 million a day.”
Referring to the reports about the 34 warships GIbbs said, “The Department of Defense has said, as we have, that that's simply not true.” Gibbs would only say the costs were comparable to the costs incurred by Presidents George W. Bush and Clinton to the region.
A Navy spokesman said “we do not comment on Presidential security,” but provided some statistics about the Navy’s deployment schedule that help put the Indian media reports into some context.
There are 288 ships in the Navy’s fleet, currently 147 of them are away from their home port and at sea. 110 of the 147 are deployed on missions, the other 37 are involved in training. Those numbers translate to 51 percent of the total fleet being at sea right now and 38 percent of the fleet being deployed.
Using the number of 34 warships being reported by Indian media outlets, 34 ships out of 288 would mean 11.8 percent of the fleet would supposedly be working Obama security.
ABC News Jon Garcia contributed to this report.