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Sabrina Singh, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary, Holds a Press Briefing

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH: Hello. Good afternoon, everyone. Just a few items here at the top to pass along and then happy to take your questions.

So first, a Hawaii update. As of this morning, approximately 580 National Guardsmen, 133 additional DOD personnel, and 119 Coast Guardsmen are actively engaged in the coordinated response to the western Maui wildfire.

U.S. Army Pacific is executing nine approved mission assignments from FEMA. The most recent mission assignment addition is portable water distribution support. Navy mobile diving salvage unit teams from Pacific Fleet concluded their dive operations yesterday and JTF 5-0 continues search and rescue activities with the Hawaii National Guard teams, FBI, and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Hawaii National Guard continues 24 hour support to local law enforcement, while the U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division's fueling trucks distributed about 470 gallons of fuel over the past 48 hours, in support of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' temporary power operations.

Pacific Forces delivered two trucks, two large water tanks, and six operators from the 25th Infantry Division to Maui, in support of the water distribution mission. Pacific Fleet's Navy Environmental Preventative Medicine Unit 6 will deploy two sailors to Maui later today in support of potable water testing for the JTF water distribution mission.

The department and the JTF 5-0 continue to work closely with state officials, FEMA, and other supporting agencies to support the people of Hawaii in response to this terrible disaster.

On the hurricane that's making its way towards Florida, as you've probably seen, the Florida National Guard have been fully activated under state active duty, with a mobilization of over 3,000 Guardsmen in position across the state for preparedness and response efforts. 

An additional 1,800 Guardsmen are on their way, bringing the total to 5,500 prior to the storm landing. The department stands ready to assist the state of Florida, FEMA, and state and local officials in any recovery efforts that are needed.

Today, the department also announced an additional security assistance to meet Ukraine's critical security and defense needs. This announcement is the Biden administration's 45th drawdown of equipment to be provided from DOD inventories to Ukraine since August 2021. It includes additional air defense and artillery munitions, mine clearing equipment, medical vehicles, and other equipment to help Ukraine counter Russia's ongoing war of aggression. 

The U.S. will continue to work with its allies and partners to provide Ukraine with the capabilities to meet its immediate battlefield needs and longer-term security assistance requirements. Additional details of this security assistance package will be available on Defense.gov.

And finally, the Secretary spoke by phone today with Qatar Deputy Prime Minister of State for Defense Affairs, His Excellency Dr. Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah, to discuss the importance of the U.S.-Qatar defense partnership and the U.S. commitment to a strong bilateral relationship built on common interests and mutual respect.

And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions. I'm going to go to the phones first because I believe we have Tara joining us by phone today. So Tara, I'll turn it over to you.

Q: Hey, thanks for doing this. In the National Guard buildup for this storm, it seems like a really high number to have, about 5,000 assembled, ready. Is there a sense that this storm will be more serious than anticipated?

And then you've seen MacDill evacuate. Are there any plans for any other base evacuations?

MS. SINGH: Thanks, Tara. So in terms of any other additional base evacuations, as you know, there are well over 20 bases across the state of Florida. So I would refer you to the services to further comment on how they plan to prepare for this storm and evacuate their bases or installations as appropriate.

As I mentioned, I believe in the top, this is the Florida National Guard that's been activated under state duty. I just saw that the FEMA Administrator was briefing the press earlier today. I think this is a storm that we are certainly taking seriously, the state of Florida is taking seriously, in terms of not only making sure that we have the appropriate number of people in the state of Florida to help with any response that's needed but also pre-positioning any assets or -- or any forces that might be needed in the aftermath of this storm.

In terms of the storm and how, you know, quickly it's moving, how much damage we can expect, I would really direct you to FEMA for that, but the department stands ready to assist the state of Florida and FEMA in what it might need.

I'll come back into the room. Yeah, Janne?

Q: Thank you. I have two questions.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: Regarding the North Korea's satellite launch, experts pointed out that recent failure of North Korea's satellite launch could be a self- destruction. Has the U.S. analyzed anything about this?

MS. SINGH: About the failed test?

Q: Yeah.

MS. SINGH: Nothing that we've analyzed, other than we certainly monitored that there was a space launch or an attempted space launch, but nothing further than what we've said previously.

I'm sorry, maybe I'm not understanding the question fully.

Q: Yeah, maybe, Is the U.S. still analyzing this or why they failed this satellite launch?

MS. SINGH: We continue to monitor the actions that the DPRK takes whenever it comes to a missile or a space launch or a missile launch like this one. You know, we're aware that the DPRK is using ballistic missile technology, which is a violation of multiple UN security resolutions. The behavior that we've seen continues to destabilize and undermine security in the region. But other than that, I just don't have more at this time.

Q: Thank you. One more.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: When will the missile warning information system for North Korea, between the United States and South Korea, Japan, begin to operate under the recent Camp David, you know, agreement? Do you have anything on that? When they're going to be, you know, working this system? 

MS. SINGH: Well, you mean following the Camp David meeting? We just conducted a trilateral exercise that followed the historic Camp David summit. It brought together, of course, even closer the leaders of the United States, Japan, and the ROK.

We are committed to peace and prosperity in the region and we'll continue to engage with our partners and allies in the region but I don't have more, in terms of any further response from the United States. Great.

Hey, Lara. Yeah?

Q: Thank you. Senator Kaine recently called for an investigation into the accident in Australia that killed three Marines the other day. Is DOD going to be doing an investigation into this specific incident, and not just this specific incident but a broader investigation of these aviation mishaps that have been happening?

MS. SINGH: Sure. Well, first, as you probably saw, the Secretary over the weekend issued a statement just offering our condolences. And of course, I'd like to offer that here from the podium. Our deepest condolences go out to the Marines that were killed in that exercise.

As with any training accident, there is an investigation underway to determine exactly what happened. And you've heard from myself and others that the safety and security of any of our service members is a priority. So of course we would take any lessons learned from that investigation and apply it forward.

I'm sorry -- and your second question?

Q: Is there a broader investigation of the aviation mishaps?

MS. SINGH: So each mishap that happens or each incident, there is always an investigation that happens, but I would view these as separate ones, not one that needs to be a holistic view of any aircraft or any operation.

So there is an investigation into this incident, as there have been investigations in the past to individual mishaps or incidents.

Yeah?

Q: Thanks, Sabrina. Just a follow-up on the Osprey line of question here...

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: Last year, both the Air Force and the Marine Corps acknowledged that the Osprey has this rare but persistent issue with its clutch. Is the DOD concerned about this engineering fault, which the Marines admit doesn't have a permanent solution yet as far as just the platform itself is concerned, broadly?

MS. SINGH: Well, in terms of the incident that happened over this past weekend, again, that's still under investigation, so I don't want to jump ahead or jump to any conclusions that haven't been reached yet. As I mentioned to Lara, each incident undergoes its own investigation. I wouldn't right now apply a sweeping broad stroke across every incident linking them together. They're all very unfortunate. Every time this happens, of course, we always think about the servicemembers who are putting their lives at risk. But I wouldn't say that they're all connected in one way or the other.

Q: Does the Pentagon have confidence in the Osprey as an airplane?

MS. SINGH: I think we do certainly have confidence in the Osprey. If anything changes, if these investigations lead to something that would cause us or a service to adjust anything about how we believe the Osprey should be used, we would do that. But at this time, we have confidence in that.

Q: OK.

MS. SINGH: Hey, Dan.

Q: Is there a point in looking at a broader issue of aviation safety? And there was a GAO report, as you know, that did say there was a broader problem in the Army, the National Guard, for the whole period of years where they found that there was a problem with maintenance and a problem with pilots being able to get enough hours in the air because the aircraft weren't ready to fly. Is that something you're at least considering, a broader look at safety?

MS. SINGH: At the moment, right now, no. We are focused on what happened in this particular incident and what has happened in previous incidents, but I would steer away from linking them together right now because they're still being investigated, and until we have a proper conclusion, I don't want to get ahead of the investigation or ahead of any recommendation that the secretary, or a service might have for the secretary.

Q: Could you just clarify in terms of the storm…

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: What are the precautions being taken?


MS. SINGH: So in terms of each base, there are, I think, approximately 20 in the state of Florida, and each one will conduct its own evacuation procedures, depending on where they are. So I'd refer you to each installation in terms of how they're handling the incoming hurricane. We have had MacDill evacuate non-essential personnel, as I believe the storm is coming up right along the coast there, but in terms of other individual bases, I would just refer you to the service for more questions. Great.

Yeah, right here.

Q: Thanks. On Turkey, the U.S. Embassy in Turkey announced that USS Gerald Ford was docked over the weekend. Turkish leaders say that there was a joint exercise, and they called it the largest ever between the two militaries. Can you, provide any details on those joint military exercises? 

MS. SINGH: Sure. I'd to actually take that question for you. I just don't have more details to provide from here at this time, so I'd be happy to take that one.

Q: And one more...

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: I believe it was April, the Turkish joint strike that targeted a convoy that had a Kurdish military official and three U.S. servicemembers in it. There was an investigation launched, the Pentagon, you know, told us at the time, and repeated questions asking about that investigation. The response that we've gotten multiple times now is that there's no comment. Is this investigation closed? Is there a reason? Could you provide any updates on that?

MS. SINGH: I believe you asked me about this just a few months ago. I don't have any updates for you at this time. I'm happy to take a look and come back to you, but at the moment from this podium right now, I just don't have any updates.

Q: Thanks.

MS. SINGH: I'm going to go to the phones really quickly. Jim LaPorta at The Messenger?

Q: Hi. Thank you for doing this. On the security assistance to Ukraine that was announced today, I had two questions. The 155 mm artillery shells, does that include DPICMs? And then also, is this the first time the U.S. have sent Sidewinders, the AIM-9Ms? Thank you.

MS. SINGH: In terms of the Sidewinders, I do not believe so, but I'd be happy to check that. In terms of were there any DPICMs included in this 45th drawdown, there were not.

With that, we'll go to Heather, USNI.

Q: Hey, thank you so much. I was wondering, just to go back to the Osprey questions, what is the breakdown between the U.S. and Australia in terms of investigations going on into what happened with the crash?

MS. SINGH: Well, the Marine Corps will be conducting its own investigation, but of course, this was a joint exercise, so there will be collaboration and partnership there. But for more details on the investigation, I would refer you to the -- to the Marine Corps to answer those questions.

OK, great, I'll come back in the room. Oren, and then Carla.

Q: There's a hearing going on right now with Gold Star families from the Abbey Gate bombing, and at the beginning of the hearing, Congressman McCaul, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that "Two years later, we're still here seeking answers. How did this happen? What went wrong? Why couldn't this tragedy have been prevented? These questions remain unanswered because this administration wants to sweep what happened under the rug. They know they bear the brunt of the blame, and they want to escape any kind accountability." Do you care to respond to that?

MS. SINGH: Well, I haven't seen the comments that were made as I think you mentioned, this is ongoing right now. But first, let me say that the secretary and others in this department have expressed they're incredibly grateful for the service and sacrifice that our servicemembers have made in Afghanistan and those who were committed to the evacuation operations. 

In terms of responding to some of the comments that were made, I think you know that CENTCOM conducted a very comprehensive, credible and definitive investigation into the Abbey Gate bombing following the attack. Our U.S. military commanders on the ground made the best decisions that they could. I'm sorry. 

Let me just take a step back, because I realize I'm sort of jumbling my words here. U.S. military commanders on the ground in Afghanistan made decisions that they could with the information that they had at the time. They were given the decision-making capability and were responding to threats on the ground in real time, and so we are very proud of the work that our commanders and our servicemembers did not during just the evacuation in those few weeks, but over the 20-year war. And I think as you probably know, we also did a very deep investigative AAR that we submitted to Congress that also provided members of the SASC and House committee with our findings of not just the evacuation, but just our larger takeaways from Afghanistan, and I'll leave it at that.

Q: One follow-up question.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Congressman McCaul has been working on his own investigation of the withdrawal itself and the circumstances around it. You talk about the CENTCOM investigation, the AAR as well, that looked over all of that. Is it your position that there is nothing more to learn, that everything that has been learned about it could be learned, or is there more information out there that could be made public that we haven't heard about yet?

MS. SINGH: Well, I think from the investigations and from the investigation that CENTCOM did in particular around Abbey Gate, it was incredibly exhaustive interviewing over 100 members that were on the ground and in this department to figure out what exactly happened.

We of course welcome transparency, we welcome accountability. We are accountable to Congress, and that is why we submitted the AAR when we did. That's also why CENTCOM led the investigation and interviewed the many people that were involved in the evacuation.

And so we feel confident in our efforts to get to the truth, to get to the facts. And of course what we think about as we are coming up on the two year anniversary is the service members, the civilians who dedicated their lives in Afghanistan. And so that's something that we're thinking about around the two year anniversary, as we close out the month of August.

I think I said Carla next. Yeah?

Q: I think that Chairman Milley had said that he would welcome additional investigations in the past. Does the Pentagon support additional investigations? I know you said you welcomed transparency, but is that a yes that you are welcoming McCaul's investigation as well?

MS. SINGH: If there is an investigation led in Congress, of course we will cooperate, but again, we feel very confident in the efforts that were led by CENTCOM and by the SIGAR report that was submitted to Congress on our efforts in Afghanistan.

Q: And then on Niger, has the U.S. flown any drone missions out of any bases in Niger since the President of Niger was forcibly removed from office?

MS. SINGH: So I'm not going to comment on any ISR capabilities or flights out of Niger but what I can tell you is that we continue to maintain and protect our interests in the region and we'll continue to work to protect our allies and partners in the region, and we have other means of doing that but I just don't have anything more to say.

Q: Can you say whether or not it's ... 

MS. SINGH: We don't comment on ISR operations so I'm just not going to go into that.

Q: OK. I mean, is the counter-terror mission in West Africa is that on pause, as a hold? Because, I mean, not just in Niger but those drone bases are responsible for areas outside of Niger as well.

MS. SINGH: We have redundancies around the world and in the region that allow for us to continue to protect our interests of our allies and the United States, but I'm just not going to get into any further intelligence.

Q: OK. And so finally, would you say that the counter-terrorism mission in West Africa, is it being hindered by this situation, this coup, or are things able to go as business as usual?

MS. SINGH: Well, it's certainly not business as usual as we're not conducting operations or conducting any other exercises with our Nigerian counterparts at this moment. What we're focused on, what this building and other agencies remain focused on is seeing a resolve to this diplomatically. And so I'll just leave it at that.

Yeah? Hey, Chris.

Q: Thank you.

MS. SINGH: You're welcome.

Q: On the forces the U.S. sent to the Gulf in response to the Iranian actions that you yourself announced and said didn't want to put a timeline on, has the Pentagon seen a decrease in that Iranian threat? How are you going to judge when those forces can come back and when they need to stay? 

MS. SINGH: Well, I can't predict the future. So I will say that, you know, as long as there remains a need for these forces to be in the region, they're going to stay there. They are there to deter any threats or unprofessional or unsafe behavior from IRGC-backed groups, and I'll just have to leave it at that.

Q: But when you stage forces… 

MS. SINGH: I'm sorry, can ... 

Q: these forces remain in the region, is that a force posture or could we see rotational of similar assets if this becomes an ongoing issue? 

MS. SINGH: I don't have anything to announce today. I have no updates or changes to announce, in terms of the forces that were moved to the region at this time. If that does change, I'd be happy to read that out, but at this moment, I just don't have anything. Great.

Do we have time for anyone else? Sure. David?

Q: The drawdown, how much is left now in the Ukraine funding? And does that authority expire at the end of September or does it carry over to the next fiscal year?

MS. SINGH: Good question. So in terms of how much is left, I would have to take that question and get back to you. I just don't have that on hand, in terms of the funds that are left. You might remember that this was a recalculation done of previous PDAs. So because it was a recalculation, this would not expire at the end of the fiscal year.

We're confident that we will have enough money to meet Ukraine's need through the fiscal year, but as you know, there's been a request for a supplemental. And we're hopeful that the Congress will approve a supplemental package for Ukraine.

Q: That part is a taken question?

MS. SINGH: For how much is left? Yes, absolutely. Yep.

Liz? And then I'll come back to you.

Q: Thanks. Can you explain the announcement from Secretary Hicks a little bit from yesterday on the Replicator drone program?

MS. SINGH: Sure. So the Replicator initiative is another tool for us to innovate and to modernize and to keep a pace with the PRC. The Replicator is basically a way to accelerate innovation by the warfighter, by delivering low cost autonomous systems at a scale of multiple thousands across warfighting domains, and that should be in a timeline between 18 to 24 months.

The Secretary and the Deputy have been focused on this urgency to innovate and the Replicator is that next step. Great.

Sure, Fadi? Hi.

Q: On Niger, has there been any effort to evacuate personnel from American personnel from Niger involving U.S. assets from Europe?

MS. SINGH: There's been no change to our force posture at this moment. So in terms of any evacuations, I would say no. If that changes, I'd be happy to keep you updated.

I will take one more question from the phone. Howard Altman?

Q: Hey, thanks, Sabrina. I've got two questions actually. One is DPICMs. David Ignatius over the weekend talked about the rocket-launched DPICMs, probably the M26, the U.S. being closer to providing those. Can you give us an update? Is that on the table? 

And then I have a question about Ukraine claims, and its satellite imagery seems to back that up, that Russia is sinking ferries along the Kerch Bridge to protect against sea drones and I wanted to get a Pentagon assessment on that.

MS. SINGH: Hey, thanks, Howard, for the question. I just don't have, on both of those questions, I just don't have more of an update to provide. 

On your second part, just in terms of what I think you were asking on where Russians are amassing forces along a bridge. I'm just not going to get into any intelligence assessments that we have here. I would refer you to the Ukrainians to speak to their operations. 

In terms of what the Ukrainians are doing in their counter-offensive, we're seeing that they continue to make slow progress and are continuing in this fight as the months continue. And so I would just leave it at that and direct you to the Ukrainians for further comment. Great.

Anyone else in the room? Dan. OK, last question to Dan and then I'll wrap it up.

Q: Presumably, ATACMS are still not something that the administration's considering providing Ukraine?

MS. SINGH: I don't have any update for you on anything that we're providing regarding ATACMS.

Q: Is it still under consideration?

MS. SINGH: I have no updates for you, when it comes to ATACMS. I think the Ukrainians, as you've seen, have been using, whether it's the HIMARS or the Storm Shadow, in quite incredible effect on the battlefield, but I just don't have anything to announce when it comes to ATACMS.

Q: Just going back to the question about the Gulf, and over the past several months, has the threat reduced, in terms of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria from Iranian-backed militia or in the Strait of Hormuz, in terms of commercial shipping? Is there an assessment that the temperature has dropped slightly in that whole situation?

MS. SINGH: I wouldn't know that I'd make an assessment on temperature dropping. We continue to see harassment. Over the past few weeks, we've seen harassment from IRGC-backed groups over commercial ships. And so as that continues, that's why we moved our forces into the region as we did.

We have not seen that threat drop, I would say, so we haven't seen a reason to move our forces out. So until there is a change, you know, I'm just going to leave it at that.

Q: And then the final thing -- this has got some attention. Is the U.S. considering reestablishing the nuclear weapons mission in United Kingdom?

MS. SINGH: I think I saw the report that you're referencing. So consistent with our longstanding practice, we just do not disclose the specifics of U.S. nuclear posture or basing. It is U.S. policy to neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at any general or specific location. I'll leave it at that.

Thank you.

27:40
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