News   Reform

Defense Officials Discuss Budget, Pensacola Shooting

Dec. 12, 2019 | BY Claudette Roulo , DOD News

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper will be in New York tomorrow to participate in a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations before joining President Donald J. Trump in Philadelphia on Saturday at the 120th Army-Navy football game, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said.

Two men, one wearing a military uniform, stand behind podiums and speak to reporters.
Pentagon Briefing
Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, and Navy Rear Adm. William D. Byrne Jr., Joint Staff vice director, hold a news conference at the Pentagon, Dec. 12, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee
VIRIN: 191212-D-WA993-1621

Hoffman was joined by Navy Rear Adm. William D. Byrne Jr., vice director of the Joint Staff, today for a Pentagon news conference.

On Dec. 16, Esper will be in Belgium to participate in the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, Hoffman said.

Hoffman said Defense Department officials were encouraged by yesterday's passage of the National Defense Authorization Act — which includes authorization of the U.S. Space Force — by the House of Representatives.

A rocket takes off from a launch complex.
Satellite Launch
A Delta IV rocket carrying the Air Force's Wideband Global Satcom-10 satellite lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., March 15, 2019. The high-capacity military communications satellite is part of an ongoing effort to provide ground troops with the ability to send larger transmissions more quickly.
Photo By: Courtesy United Launch Alliance
VIRIN: 190315-O-ZZ999-101Y

Although the bill has been passed, the department can't implement it without a budget, Hoffman said. "Our adversaries are making considerable gains in space, and our operational advantage is shrinking," he added. "We cannot implement Space Force, we cannot give raises to troops, we cannot begin new programs," he said.

"China and Russia have budgets they can plan and execute against and are moving forward with modernizing their militaries, while we are being held back by these disagreements," Hoffman said.

Steady, predictable funding is imperative in this era of great-power competition, he said.

Pensacola Shooting

Hoffman said the hold on operational training that was implemented following the shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida last week is restricted to Saudi students in the United States. Those students are still conducting training, but it is limited to classroom instruction, he said.

A man speaks from behind a podium.
Hoffman Remarks
Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, speaks to reporters at the Pentagon, Dec. 12, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee
VIRIN: 191212-D-WA993-1622

There is no prohibition on new foreign students coming to the United States, Hoffman noted, but they will go through additional vetting procedures that will be implemented in the coming days. "Until that process is complete, we will not see any new students come into the program," he said.

The suspect's Saudi acquaintances in the program are restricted to quarters, he said, a move that was taken in coordination with the Saudi government so that they are available to law enforcement.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Pentagon officials said the Saudi Arabian students are restricted to base by their commanding officer. The students are under direction by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to cooperate with the investigation, which they are doing, the statement noted. The students have access to classroom instruction, food, medical staff, a U.S. military imam, and their commanding officer, officials said.

Soldiers conduct self-defense training.
Security Training
An Army reservist, center, instructs Saudi Arabian security force students at a training site in Saudi Arabia, June 26, 2019. The training is in support of the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command's Military Assistance Group. The Defense Department program teaches Saudi security forces how to defend their country's critical infrastructure.
Photo By: Richard Bumgardner, Army
VIRIN: 190626-A-JJ298-001

Hoffman said the restriction "seemed prudent" and in line with the defense secretary's guidance that DOD needs to look after its people and their families.

"If something else were to happen and we had not taken steps to address and enhance our vetting and screening, that would be unacceptable," he said.

Two men, one wearing a military uniform, stand behind podiums and speak to reporters.
Defense Briefing
Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, and Navy Rear Adm. William D. Byrne Jr., Joint Staff vice director, hold a news conference at the Pentagon, Dec. 12, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee
VIRIN: 191212-D-WA993-1624

Since 2000, more than a million foreign students have taken part in training programs conducted in the United States and overseas, Hoffman said. This type of training is considered a vital tool to help partners increase their capabilities and interoperability and build cultural understanding, he said.

The No. 1 concern in the new vetting system being developed is the safety of U.S. personnel and their families, Hoffman said.. Once the process is developed, he added, the new standards will be expanded to all foreign students.