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Department Defense Press Briefing by Admiral Kirby in the Pentagon Briefing Room

Presenters: Rear Admiral John Kirby, Press Secretary
August 01, 2014

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: Good afternoon, everybody. Sorry I'm a little bit late.

Before I take questions, I just have three announcements. The first is about the secretary's schedule next week. He'll embark on his 15th international trip, a nine-day trip, actually focused on the United States ongoing strategic rebalance to the Asia Pacific. His first stop on the way to India will be at our European Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, where he will meet with General Breedlove and receive briefings on the latest developments in Ukraine and the reassurance initiatives we are undertaking with our NATO allies. The secretary will also meet with and thank servicemembers and their families stationed at EUCOM.

In New Delhi, Secretary Hagel will hold bilateral meetings with Indian leaders and deliver remarks at an event marking the 25th anniversary of the Observer Research Foundation, a prominent Indian think-tank. This visit is part of a series of administration engagements that builds on Secretary Kerry and Secretary Pritzker's participation in the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue this week, leading up to Prime Minister Modi's upcoming visit to the White House in September.

The election of a new government offers an opportunity to fulfill the potential of our strategic partnership. And Secretary Hagel's meetings will focus on the United States' and India's converging interests in the Asia Pacific. Our common interests in Afghanistan and initiatives to strengthen our defense cooperation, including military exercises, defense, trade, co-production and co-development, and research and new technologies. This will be Secretary Hagel's first visit to India as secretary of defense and his sixth trip to the broader Asia Pacific region.

From India, the secretary will travel to Sydney, Australia, to participate in his second Australia-United States ministerial consultation, or AUSMIN, as we call it here in the Pentagon, with Secretary Kerry and their Australian counterparts, Defense Minister David Johnston and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Secretary Hagel will be joined in Sydney by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey, as well as the U.S. Pacific Command commander Admiral Sam Locklear.

 The annual ministerial has been held since 1985 and is an opportunity to continue strengthening and modernizing the U.S.-Australia alliance which continues to be an anchor for stability in the Asia Pacific and, of course, it's very critical to our rebalance efforts. Secretary Hagel and Defense Minister Johnston will cover the wide range of U.S.-Australia defense cooperation and sign an historic force posture agreement that was first announced by President Obama and Prime Minister Abbott back in June.

 On his way home, the secretary will travel to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton near San Diego. Given his emphasis on readiness and morale, the secretary's making this stop to observe training exercises as well as education and transition programs that help Marines adjust to life beyond their service in uniform.

 While the secretary remains focused on preventing -- I'm sorry, protecting U.S. interests amidst the ongoing developments in the Middle East and Ukraine, this trip underscores his personal commitment to our partnerships with established and emerging powers across the Asia Pacific, as well as the United States and our partners' shared interests in a stable, rules-based order that can continue to deliver peace and prosperity throughout the region.

 Second, some of you have asked questions about a report issued by the National Defense Panel, a bipartisan group chartered by Congress to independently review the Quadrennial Defense Review. Secretary Hagel thanks Secretary Perry and General Abizaid for their work and leadership on the panel, and overall the report validates the QDR's essential themes and our clearly expressed concern that current and potential future budget constraints are dangerous and self-defeating, dangerous and self-defeating quotes the report.

 The review also supports the QDR's capability and investment priorities, DOD's requested compensation reforms and the restoration of management authorities to the secretary. We do not, however, agree with the National Defense Panel's conclusion that our planned force structure is inadequate or that it would result in a high-risk force. In preparing the QDR, DOD engaged in a thorough force assessment which was by necessity resource-informed, and we stand by it.

 Finally, I have an update for you on the Cape Ray, which continues its progress neutralizing materials from Syria's declared chemical stockpile. As of this morning, the crew reports it has neutralized 49 percent of the DF, which is a sarin precursor. That means that they have neutralized about 285 metric tons of DF or 109 of 224 2,000-liter containers. There are also 19 metric tons of HD, or sulfur mustard, that is yet to be neutralized aboard the Cape Ray.

 And with that...

 Q: A lot of numbers.

 REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I'll have them for you if you want after this. Any questions? Bob?

 Q: I've got a question on Ukraine. Any update on the situation on the ground with regarding to the border area, Russian forces either moving in or out? And also you mentioned General Breedlove and the previous series of reassessment measures that the U.S. has taken there. Is there anything more on the -- in a planning stage in terms of, you know, the U.S. rotation of forces or any other additional exercises this summer?

 REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't have anything new to announce with respect to rotational forces today, but all the efforts that we put in place continue, the air policing mission and our support to that, the infantry exercises that are going on in the Baltic states, all those continue. They are on a rotational basis and have been continually rotating out since we first announced them a few months ago. So those efforts continue, and General Breedlove and his staff continue to look for ways to bolster it, reinforce it, but the exercise regimen hasn't changed significantly since we last talked about it.

 On what we see from Russia, I would just say broadly we continue to see them reinforce the troops that they have in southwest Russia along that -- the southeast border there with Ukraine. I don't -- I don't -- they -- it continues to be north of 10,000, the numbers, but it fluctuates, to be honest with you, and it's difficult to pin it down to a specific number. But they continue to be reinforced. They continue to represent what we consider a combined arms capability, very capable, very ready forces. And as I've said before, they're close to the border, within 50 kilometers of the border. So closer than what we saw back in the spring.

 And -- and just as critically, the Russian government continues to support the separatists in eastern Ukraine. So taken as a whole, their activities continue to destabilize the region.

 Q: When you say reinforce, do you mean with additional numbers or with different types of...

 REAR ADM. KIRBY: With both -- our assessment is with both people and capabilities, weapons systems.

 Q: Are they introducing new kinds of weapons or...

 REAR ADM. KIRBY: Not that I -- not that I'm aware of, no.

 Q: Thanks.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Uh-huh. Justin?

Q: I got two questions. First, on Israel, is it a conflict of interest for the U.S. government to continuously re-arm the Israeli Defense Force and, at the same time, call for a cease-fire?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: No. It's not. Look, the -- the arms and ammunition that -- that you've seen us provide to Israel is through a longstanding foreign military sales program. Israel is a staunch ally in that part of the world. And that program has existed for many years, and we're supplying that material through that program.

We have -- in conversations that the secretary's had with Minister Ya'alon as early as this weekend -- I read that one out -- we certainly made it clear that we would like to see a cease-fire, a cease-fire that's held, and this last one obviously hasn't, and like to see a cessation to the violence there in Gaza.

And Minister Ya'alon would tell you the same thing that -- that they certainly would like to see the conflict end. So, no, it's not a conflict of interest. This is a longstanding program. Israel is a staunch ally. We respect the right for Israel to have to defend itself. And as I said before, I think the Israelis would tell you that the -- and I won't speak for them, but I think it's safe to say that -- you know, that they -- they would like to see a return to peace, as well.

It is made more difficult when Hamas hides behind civilian targets, deliberately puts civilians in harm's way, and indiscriminately fires rockets into Israel.

Does that answer your question?

Q: Well, if you think it does, yeah.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Your question was, do I think it's a conflict of interest? I said no, so...

Q: Right, but you wouldn't go as far as to hold off the delivery of those weapons to enforce the cease-fire?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: The -- you know, you talk about this -- like this flow of this -- like, this flow of weapons. This is a -- this is a normal interagency foreign military sales program that we have had with Israel for many, many years. And it is through that process that -- that these systems -- not systems, really -- in this case, it's arms and ammunition -- are provided to Israel.

Missy?

Q: (OFF-MIC) Afghanistan audit is supposed to resume tomorrow, I believe.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes.

Q: And, you know, there's varying estimates of how long it could take, but could you tell us what contingency planning, if any, is happening for, you know, a prolonged period for the audit to last and how that make affect the BSA and the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I would refer you to ISAF for contingency planning discussions. I don't have visibility on that. That said, you're right, the audits should resume tomorrow. And we continue to support the transportation of ballot boxes from the provinces to Kabul. I think about two-thirds of them have -- the provinces, their ballot boxes have been sent to Kabul. We look forward to the audit proceeding. We look forward to it being conducted expeditiously.

I would not get into hypotheticals right now about how long it's going to take and what impact it would have. We've made it clear that we're going to support the resolute support mission post-2014, as well as the counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan. The president was very clear about that.

In order to do that, we have to have a bilateral security agreement. Both presidential candidates have said they would support that. We look forward to working with them on that as we go forward.

Q: I guess I'm just trying to understand what -- you know, that there is a very real possibility that it could take several months. You know, what -- what does that mean for the resolute support mission?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think both -- and I don't want to speak for General Dunford, but I think everybody shares a sense of purpose here in getting the audit done as soon as possible. Both the U.N. and the IAC do, as well. And there -- the efforts right now are aimed at trying to get it complete by the end of August. And if it's complete by the end of August, I don't see -- I don't see any impact at all to our ability to continue to plan on a post-2014 presence, assuming we get a BSA signed.

Yeah, Phil?

Q: Admiral, can you please give us an update on the Iraq assessments in preparation in this building?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: The -- as I said Tuesday, the Iraq assessments continued to be reviewed. They also continued to be informed by additional observations made by assessment team members that are there on the ground in Iraq. The assessments have been shared in the interagency. In other words, they haven't just been kept here in the building. They have been shared with leaders, senior leaders in Washington across the interagency. And certainly as a result of knowledge of the -- of these assessments, certain options are being discussed. I won't get into speculating what they are or what they could be, but there is -- there has been and will continue to be a discussion here in town about what the assessments say and what they could mean for the future, but no decisions have been made, no formal recommendations have been proffered. The commander-in-chief has made no decisions moving forward in Iraq.

Q: Is the Pentagon waiting for Iraq to name a new prime minister before there's a decision point on this? Is that the next milestone?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: The decision will be made by the commander-in-chief on whatever timing the president decides to put it on, and I wouldn't speculate about that from here.

Courtney?

Q: (OFF-MIC) have you seen any -- any reasoned assessments on how ISIS or ISIL -- are they continuing to move forward? Are they continuing to gain ground? Is it somewhat stagnant from where it was, let's say, from when this assessment period began several weeks ago?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I wouldn't describe it in either of those terms. I think I would put it the way I actually have been putting it recently, which is that it remains a contested environment. It's very fluid. And it changes, frankly, from week to week.

But essentially, the situation is the same as it has been and since we talked on Tuesday. There are elements of Iraq, particularly northwestern Iraq, where ISIL still holds sway. There -- Baghdad and the immediate environment around Baghdad remains secure right now by the Iraqi security forces. There have been -- as you all have reported -- some violent attacks inside Baghdad, but they've been spurious.

And the Iraqi security forces have -- they've continued to hold some ground, like Haditha, the dam, and the oil refinery. There has been some give-and-take in Tikrit. We continue to see that. So there are areas which are still very much contested and are other areas that have remained relatively static. That's why I say overall it's still a contested environment, very complex and very fluid.

Q: So if the situation hasn't gotten better during the time of these assessments, is it -- why isn't there more urgency? I know that you want to take the time to go through the assessments for weeks and weeks and whatever, but, anyway, if the situation on the ground continues to be volatile and is not getting better, shouldn't there be more urgency by the U.S. to decide on these recommendations and to act in whatever manner?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, we continue to all share sense a urgency here. I mean, we've talked about this before. This is ultimately, though, a situation that has to be solved by Iraq, by Iraq's government, and by Iraqi security forces. And I would also remind you that the United States military has been -- has intensified our efforts there in recent weeks. We've intensified ISR. We've got 700-plus American troops in Iraq, either protecting our facilities and our people or working in some kind of capacity to help us learn more about the situation on the ground and, oh, by the way, staff those joint operations centers.

I mean, so it's not like we've turned a blind eye to this at all. But it's really important -- and we've said this at the very beginning, so -- but I haven't said it in a while, so maybe it's worth repeating. It's vitally important that we don't do anything in Iraq that further inflames sectarian tensions.

And not everybody -- not everybody of Iraq's neighbors is actually, you know, minding that principle, but we are very significantly trying to. So again, it's better that we -- that whatever we do there, that we do the right thing and that we don't make a situation worse, rather than rush in and make -- and end up making it worse.

Everybody understands it's a complex situation. Everybody shares a sense of urgency here. But I think the interagency is moving with a sense of deliberate, measured -- deliberate and measured pace that's appropriate to the situation.

Barb? Let me get Barb, and I'll come back to you, Nancy.

Q: I have two different topics. I want to follow up on Justin's question about Israel. From the United Nations to the White House to the State Department to this building, in the last few days, all of these places on very senior levels have expressed public concern about civilian casualties in Gaza, and specifically from the White House and here, have said that Israel needs to do more to prevent civilian casualties from the White House yesterday.

So my first question is, if that is the case, and the secretary, I believe, said it in the readout or expressed his concern, what more does Secretary Hagel want Israel to do to prevent civilian casualties? And how -- is there any consideration of making the ammunition resupply at this point not routine business, since there is the civilian casualty issue that they are raising concern about? And I have a separate topic.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I know of no indications that the -- that we're going to change what is a normal foreign military sales program with Israel, a staunch ally in the Middle East. On your question about civilian casualties, of course we share -- we have -- we harbor concerns about civilian casualties. We always harbor concerns about civilian casualties. And we work very hard in places like Afghanistan to try to minimize and limit civilian casualties when they occur.

Of course we have those concerns. And the secretary did express those concerns to Minister Ya'alon, who, I might add, expressed them back. He, too, shares concerns over civilian casualties. He, too, understands the -- understands the need to minimize them, and the Israelis have high standards for...

Q: (OFF-MIC) want Israel to do more, so what more would you -- would the Department of Defense like Israel to do? Is there any specifics you can offer?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm not going to litigate from the podium what the Israeli Defense Forces need to do operationally. We've made our concerns about civilian casualties known to them, concerns that Minister Ya'alon shared himself. We certainly believe -- Secretary Hagel certainly believes that Minister Ya'alon understands the need to minimize and limit civilian casualties.

Q: And my other topic I'd like to ask you about, can you tell us if there is any Defense Department involvement in the current Ebola situation?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: In the current Ebola situation. The -- all I am aware of, in terms of U.S. military involvement, is that we have a couple of Army researchers down in Africa and Liberia right now who have been for some time working on this particular virus. And I would point to the Army for specifics on that. I don't know exactly who they are or the scope of their work, but I know that we have a couple of researchers down there working on Ebola.

And then, as you may have seen, the State Department did release a statement that there are some patients that are going to be evacuated to the United States. What I can tell you is that they will be coming back to the United States -- the plane will be arriving at Dobbins Air Base in Georgia, and from there, the patients will be transported onto whatever medical facility they're going to be treated in. But that's the limit of our involvement.

Q: They arrive at Dobbins, but they are on still a private charter aircraft?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: That is right. They will not be on military aircraft.

Q: And will U.S. military personnel at Dobbins interact with the patients or the aircraft at any point?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: No. Simply using the runway, that's it.

Al. Good to see you, Al.

Q: And you, Admiral. On Ukraine, lots of concern about civilian casualties in the war zone, as well as Russian supply convoys coming across. Is the U.S. military or Pentagon doing anything to help the Ukrainians with targeting and other operational information to reduce civilian casualties and reduce the flow of supplies to the separatists?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Our support to the Ukrainian armed forces has been of a non-lethal nature, so we are not assisting them with issues of targeting, no.

Q: And what is the -- what is the reason for that, considering that Russia is apparently shooting across the border at their forces and they find themselves in this very difficult, narrow -- relatively narrow piece of ground along the Russian border? Why would the U.S. not provide that sort of information or advice that -- not weapons, not ammunition, not that sort of lethal assistance, but...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, as we've said, our -- the focus of our -- of our assistance remains on non-lethal. We continue to review requests for military assistance from the government of Ukraine through an interagency process. That's an ongoing process. No decisions have been made yet to move beyond non-lethal.

I would remind you, though, of two other points, and one is that the president's been very clear, there's not going to be a U.S. military solution to the situation in Ukraine. And, number two, we -- we also need to be mindful that we don't take actions that make it worse or make it less -- even less secure for the Ukrainian people.

And then I guess there's a third point I'd make, is what -- you know, what's really causing the destabilization and what's the root cause of the violence in Ukraine is Russia's activities not to observe the territorial integrity of that country.

Dion

Q: Back on Israel. Congress has been pushing through a measure to try and provide more money for Iron Dome, and Senator Graham today said that he -- that Israel is running out of interceptors. Is that your understanding of Iron Dome? And have you received any other requests from Israel for more support...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Dion , I'm going to take that one for the record. I'm not aware of any additional requests for Iron Dome interceptors. I will tell you that -- in the conversation with Minister Ya'alon, the minister was very, very praiseworthy for Iron Dome's success, spoke very eloquently of the thousands and thousands of Israeli lives that that system has saved. So I'll have to get back to you on the details of a request. I just don't -- I don't have it. But I owe you that.

Nancy? Sorry.

Q: Two questions. I'd like to follow up on Justin and Barbara's question on Israel. The criticism of the sale is not only have you sold munitions, but munitions of -- when fired in a densely populated area like Gaza are likely to cause civilian casualties, because of the lack of precision. So I'd just like...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I understand.

Q: ... to know if you can respond to that, that is, what kind of leverage is the United States doing to try to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza other than making these pronouncements? And then I have a question about Iraq.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: The -- we are -- the foreign military sales program, as I said, has been longstanding with Israel. Israel is a staunch ally in that part of the world and a good friend. We respect the right, we understand the right for the Israeli government to do what it needs to do to protect its citizens and its -- and its territory.

It's a sovereign government. And as a sovereign government, the Israelis need to and have been speaking very openly about what they're doing, their military operations, and it is appropriate for them to speak to what they're doing with the -- their resources, their capabilities, and their troops, and they've done that.

We have made very -- made it very clear what our expectations are for the -- the caution and deliberate nature of military operations in Gaza that -- that we -- we do have concerns over civilian casualties. And, again, we've made that very clear.

But I see no change, no indication that -- that our -- our defense relationship with Israel is going to be used as a carrot or a stick here. This -- this is a -- these are decisions that the Israeli government and the Israeli defense force are making. And we have made it clear what our expectations are in terms of civilian casualties.

Q: And then quickly on Iraq on Courtney’s question, you mentioned that there's a sense of urgency. And I'm curious. Has any timeline been given to the Iraqi government so that they can make an assessment as to what possible U.S. aid that they could receive in trying to fend off threats from the Islamic State?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Has there been -- I'm sorry. I don't quite understand the question.

Q: Has -- has the Iraqi government been given any sort of timeline in terms of when recommendations could be, what the scope of those recommendations are such that they can adjust accordingly or prepare accordingly for possible U.S. help or -- or...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, they already have U.S. help, right? We've got, as I said, two joint operations centers, one in Erbil and one in Baghdad. But I'm not aware of any specific timeline that's been given to the Iraqi government. You should talk to the State Department about that. They're the ones who communicate between governments that way.

Yeah, Joe?

Q: Admiral Kirby, going back to the Ebola thing, why are these patients being flown into a U.S. military base, especially since they're not going to be on a U.S. military aircraft? Was that for security reasons? Was it deemed to be safer to bring them into a military facility versus a civilian airport or civilian...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: We were asked by the State Department if we could provide an airfield that -- for the patients to land in. I think part of it has to do with the safety and security of a military installation like that. But -- so we got the request and we approved it, and that is the limit of our involvement is to provide an airfield for the planes to land, and I don't have a schedule of when they're coming.

Yeah, Gopal?

Q: So on Iraq, there is a handful of airlines today that have said they are avoiding the Iraqi airspace because they're worried about the ISIL, Islamic State, might have ahold of surface-to-air missiles. Do you have any information on that? Are you tracking this? Or is there any concern that this group might have got a hold of some of the missiles from the Iraqis?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I have no indications about surface-to-air capabilities of ISIL.

Q: But is that of concern? Is that something that the Pentagon would be concerned?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: We're always concerned about those kinds of systems ending up in the wrong hands, but I have nothing for you on that today.

Q: (OFF-MIC) are not looking into this as part of...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, actually, I've said -- made it clear, the assessment teams continue to review and provide an assessment of the cohesiveness and strength, readiness of Iraqi security forces. They continue to provide us information about ISIL and the situation on the ground.

Yeah, Maggie?

Q: You mentioned that (inaudible) to Russia, you were mentioning the number of people on the border, like, varies between 10,000 and 12,000. I was wondering, do you...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I didn't say varies between 10,000 and 12,000. I think I said it was north of 10,000.

Q: (OFF-MIC) we've heard from this building is that it varies between 10,000 and 12,000. We've heard the 12,000 number numerous times. So I'm wondering if there's some sort of explanation for this fluctuation. And also, there's $19 million that's going toward a Ukrainian national guard training something to do with western Ukraine, I want to say from 2015. Is that going to be DOD personnel doing the training or civilian contractors?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: So on your -- on your question about the numbers, it's an imperfect science trying to estimate the numbers of troops that another -- that the army of another nation has lined up somewhere. That's why we're being careful with the numbers and not offering some specific. I mean, they're not American troops, so I just can't simply give you the order of battle. That's a great question for President Putin.

And I suspect, as we -- we continue to see this area of southwest Russia, these troop deployments, and they come and go. So it's difficult to give you a hard number on that. I just -- so that's why we're being careful on that. And, again, I think -- I'll give you the best estimate we can, but the person you really should ask is Vladimir Putin.

On your question about the -- the train-and-equip money, so the Defense Department and State Department have notified Congress of our intent to use $19 million in global security contingency fund authority to train and equip four companies and one tactical headquarters of the Ukrainian national guard as part of their efforts to build their capacity for internal defense.

This has to get congressional approval. Pending that approval, we anticipate that the training would begin in 2015. I don't have anything more specific for you than that and would take place at the international peacekeeping and security center inside Ukraine. It's an area where we do multilateral exercises. It's an area that we're familiar with.

And I don't have -- yeah, actually I do -- pending approval, U.S. Army Europe and/or the California National Guard, which is the state partnership program unit with Ukraine, will be the ones providing the trainers. Does that answer your question?

Q: (OFF-MIC)

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Our intent to use $19 million in global security fund authority. That's what the authority's for.

Yes?

Q: Yes, you made it clear that Israel's a staunch ally of the U.S. So was -- so was Egypt. And, you know, aid was suspended to Egypt at one point after it slaughtered civilians. So why is this not even an option when it comes to Israel? That's the first question.

And the second question, Israel is using U.S.-made weapons. And when these weapons fall on civilians in Gaza, it's pretty clear it says "Made in the U.S." So for the hundreds of Palestinian children that were killed and for the thousands who have been maimed by U.S. weapons, what would you like to say to their parents?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, look, our thoughts and prayers go out to any victim of -- of a civilian casualty event, clearly. And we have -- again, I'll say it again -- we've made very clear what our expectations are for a discriminate use of force with our Israeli allies.

And I said earlier, Minister Ya'alon himself recognized that that is something he's very deeply concerned with. The Israelis have a high standard they hold themselves to in this regard. And I think we and they expect themselves to hold themselves to that standard.

Yes, some of the equipment, some of the systems they get are from the United States, but they're in control of them. They're the ones who can make these decisions and should make these decisions.

Q: Yeah, but why is there no pressure whatsoever?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: There is being pressure applied. There is being pressure applied by the United States government. We -- again, we've made our expectations known. But we also have to recognize -- and I'll go back and say this again -- we have to recognize that Israel has a right to defend itself. And unlike the restraint and the precision that Israel -- Israel has largely tried to observe in this conflict, Hamas has not. They are putting civilians deliberately in harm's way.

Q: Well, the U.N. has said over 70 percent of the casualties have been civilians, and you still talk about restraint. So when these children -- I mean, come on. Just look at the TV.

(CROSSTALK)

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Everybody...

Q: When you -- when you have kids, whole families who are slaughtered -- I mean, then you talk about precision and restraint -- I mean, people on the street, the people in the Arab world, Middle East, that's...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm not...

Q: I mean, all they have to do is look at their TV screens.

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm not at all saying that there haven't been incidents where civilians have been harmed, killed and wounded as a result of this. And we share the frustration over that. And we share the concern over that. And we have made that very clear.

Q: So what kind of pressure are you putting on Israel? Can you -- can you actually discuss that with us, what sort of pressure you're trying to put on them?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think the whole United States government has made clear what our expectation is of our Israeli allies and -- and Israel -- Israeli leaders have recognized that -- that this is something that they -- they need to be mindful of, as well.

Q: (OFF-MIC) the first question about Egypt. You know, like I said, it's so this is -- I know you made it clear they're a staunch ally -- Israel is a staunch ally. But has -- is this at all being discussed, that, you know, maybe somehow we can stop restocking their ammunitions or some of these weapons?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't have anything to read out in that regard today.

I got time for one more.

Q: I wanted to ask one...

(CROSSTALK)

REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, you've had enough. You've had a lot.

Q: But one of them was a throwaway.

(LAUGHTER)

I said...

(CROSSTALK)

REAR ADM. KIRBY: That's not my problem.

Q: Real quick. You brought it up...

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'll get to you after Justin's next throwaway.

Q: You said you -- you agreed with the QDR review panel that the force cuts are dangerous. But you disagree that -- when they say your plan is inadequate. How can you have it both ways there?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Because they're two completely different findings. We do -- the panel agreed that sequestration was devastating to national security and to our ability to continue to meet the national security demands places on the United States military. Secretary Hagel has been nothing but consistent on this since the moment that budget went forward back in the winter about the dangers of sequestration and how it makes -- renders us incapable of accomplishing the national defense strategy that the president has signed out and the Quadrennial Defense Review.

But we disagree that the force structure we built through the QDR -- we disagree that that is inadequate. We believe that if it's fully funded and funded appropriately, that it is more than adequate to accomplish the national security tasks that we've been -- that we've been given.

Ma'am?

Q: (OFF-MIC) sequestration-related, as well. I know a senior acquisition official recently spoke that Frank Kendall has advised budget programmers to build off-ramps looking forward for their budgets. I was wondering, what sort of guidance has been given to the services? And as they're preparing their FY '16 budgets, are they doing one budget, two budgets, multiple budgets? Can you give any insight on that?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't have any -- I have take your -- the core of your question for the record, but, look, when we -- when we plan in any budgetary year, we plan over the five-year defense plan. So even when you're putting together the '16 budget, which acquisition professionals are doing right now of all the services, we have to build that now, obviously, and they are. But it does look out over the five years after that, as well. On the question of off-ramps and specifics, we'll take that for you and get back to you.

Thanks, everybody.
 

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