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Department of Defense Press Briefing by Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White and Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. in the Pentagon Briefing Room

DANA WHITE:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Happy belated new year.  We missed you guys last week because of the snow, so it's good to see everyone.

I wanted to let you know that we are on day 1,116 under our C.R.  That's more than three years cumulatively.  And as we look ahead in 2018, the C.R. will expire a week from tomorrow, January 19th.  We are -- they are wasteful, they're destructive, and the longer they go the worse it is.  So I'm going to keep my topper short today, so we can get more questions in.

So with that, I'll open it up.  Lita?

Q:  Hi, Dana.  Lita Baldor with AP.

Can you give us a little bit more information on the secretary's trip to Vancouver?  What it is he's going to be doing there, what message is he going to be sending to the countries that are gathered there?

And also, I noticed that he apparently was at the Canadian embassy yesterday for a meeting.  Can you tell us what that was about?  It wasn't on any calendars we saw, so I don't think any of us were actually aware he was going to do that.

So can you tell us why?  Was it a private meeting?  Why wasn't it noticed and what did he do there?

MS. WHITE:  So on Vancouver, he's going there in support of Secretary Tillerson, to one, demonstrate that we have a comprehensive approach.  This is a diplomatically-led effort, the sending states will be there.  And he is there to support Secretary Tillerson.

With respect to his engagement at the Canadian embassy, the secretary believes one of his pillars is alliances and partnerships.  So he has several meetings with foreign dignitaries, and that was just in the normal course of his regular duties.

Q:  I guess, number one, on the Vancouver meeting, is he not going to give any remarks or make any remarks to the group there?  Can you give us a sense of what his message will be?

MS. WHITE:  He -- he's showing solidarity with -- with Secretary Tillerson.  He will provide some remarks, he will be there to talk to the other dignitaries there.  It is to show that one, we have a comprehensive approach to North Korea.

And that the secretary of state is fully in the lead, and that we are here to support our diplomats to ensure that they negotiate from a position of strength.

Q:  And can I just request, on -- meetings like the one he had at the Canadian embassy.  If that's -- if it's possible to include things like that on the week ahead, that would be helpful.

MS. WHITE:  I'll take that, thanks, Lita.


Q:  I would like to ask you about the phone call that Chairman Dunford had last night with his Russian counterpart, General Gerasimov.  If you could give us more details, what it was about and if they have discussed the latest attacks on two Russian bases inside Syria.

Whether those were drone attacks?

MS. WHITE:  I'll let the general --

LIEUTENANT GENERAL KENNETH F. MCKENZIE JR.:  Sure.  The call did occur yesterday, it was a frank, cordial exchange of views.  I'm not going to comment on the substance of the call, we don't do that as a matter of policy.

Q:  To follow up, does the Pentagon know who is behind the attacks on the Russian -- two Russian bases, Khmeimim and Tartus?

MS. WHITE:  Again, we're not going to comment on --

Q:  I'm -- I'm not asking you if you're going to -- if -- to comment on the phone conversation.  If the Pentagon is aware, who is behind the attacks on those two Russian bases inside Syria?

MS. WHITE:  We're not going to -- we're not going to go into that.  (Inaudible)?

Q:  There are reports that the U.S.-led coalition has started training some elements of SDF to protect the borders with Turkey and Syria -- Iraq.  Can you update us on how it's going, and how many SDF fighters are you planning to train, regarding the border security -- (inaudible) -- issues?

GEN. MCKENZIE:  That's an operational detail that I'm not going to go into at this time.  We provide a broad variety of training opportunities to allies and partners in the region, but I'm not going to go into the details of that.  It'd be premature at this time.

MS. WHITE:  Erik? 
Q:  Erik Rosales, with CBN News.  With so much emphasis being put on North Korea, we're taking a look, also, at Russia and -- and the buildup of missiles that they are having.  They want to go from anywhere from -- from 7,000 to 8,000 within the next 10 years.  Comments from the Pentagon on that?

MS. WHITE:  We are always looking and monitoring the situation.  We've always said that our assistance -- I mean, it's about alliances and partnerships, and we're going to continue to help our NATO allies to deter any -- any aggression.


GEN. MCKENZIE:  So, just from a purely military perspective, we tend to -- we try to think globally.  So we balance a number of competing threats.  Certainly, Russia and the development of the Russia strategic force is something we continue to look at.

But at the same time, we balance it against more pressing, immediate threats.  I -- I would say we watch it closely.  I think we're -- we're on a trajectory that we believe is -- is going to give us a lot of good alternatives as we confront their growing forces.

Q:  And with President Trump actually stating the fact that he does not want to increase the missile size but, yet, wants to modernize it.  That will play a role in it as well?

GEN. MCKENZIE:  I -- I'd wait on the NPR for the details of that, which is going to be forthcoming very soon.  But -- and -- but that we'll talk in some detail about our nuclear modernization program, going forward.  And recapitalization, long-overdue, perhaps.  That's going to be part of that.

MS. WHITE:  Tom? In the back.

Q:  Thank you.

Can you -- can you talk a little bit about what the current, the anti-ISIS coalition is going to be doing in the -- in the coming year or so, given that the caliphate, the supposed caliphate, is basically gone now?

MS. WHITE:  Well, it is a -- it is a broken, and has been fractured.  But the work still continues.  So we're going to continue our operations because we ultimately have to ensure that we have the conditions on the ground that ISIS can never re-emerge.

GEN. MCKENZIE:  So, really, I would -- I would take that in two dimensions.  First is the physical caliphate in the central Euphrates River Valley.  And, certainly, we're coming to -- we're coming to probable closure on that.

Although, I think it's difficult to forecast the way military events are going to turn.  We seem to be having some success there, with our allies and partners.  But I'm not going to -- I wouldn't put a timeline on that.

There's also an enduring global element to it, the franchisement, if you will, of ISIS.  Even though they've failed as a caliphate, there are global -- global manifestations of their brand that we see pop up.

So I think there's plenty of work for the global coalition to do in the year ahead, aside from the actual physical end of the caliphate in the Euphrates River Valley.  We have to be attentive to the global issue that's linked to it as well.  And that's what I think you'll see a lot of attention to, here.

MS. WHITE:  Barbara?

Q:  (Off mic) question for a minute about the drones.  Because, as I'm sure you're both aware, the Russians are now making not-so-veiled statements that the U.S. may be behind the drone attacks on their airplanes.

So can you, at least one of you, say definitively, if it is accurate, that the U.S. had nothing to do with the drone attacks on the Russians?

GEN. MCKENZIE:  I can tell you unequivocally that the United States was not involved in any way with the drone attack on the Russian base at any time.

Q:  And, if I could just also ask you, Dana, the U.S. Air Force -- Pacific Air Force announced, I think, technically overnight that it was sending three bombers to Guam and -- as part of their rotation.  And we know the Vinson is now going out on a WESTPAC cruise.

But the secretary has said that -- had indicated he didn't want to see a lot of public talk about, you know, U.S. military operations during these talks with -- between South and North, that you weren't going to be -- you (inaudible) rescheduling some of your exercises.

Can you help us understand what part of military operations in that region you are talking about and what you're not talking about and what the rationale is behind all that?

MS. WHITE:  So the secretary had talked about -- we have -- we're deconflicting those exercises.  And these decisions are always between both South Korea and us.  This is a -- an alliance decision.  Those decisions are being made.

In terms of when we're going to talk about it, you know, in general we don't want to sort of -- we don't talk about these things in advance.  But they have been deconflicted, and we will work with the South Koreans, because we have to work in lockstep with them, to ensure that we're ready and that we will continue to exercise and be ready.  The American people can be confident that we'll be ready to fight tonight.


Q:  Yeah, it's J.J. Green, WTOP Radio.  Spoke with Senator Mark Warner a little earlier in the week, actually last week.  And one of the things that we were talking about was the Russia situation, the investigation into possible -- or allegations of collusion.

And one of the things that he said was he was concerned about whether the U.S. has fielded the best 20th-century military anybody could field and is concerned about whether the U.S. military is prepared for the 21st-century battles of cyber and disinformation.

Is there any response or thought about that comment of his?

MS. WHITE:  Well, I think we have -- the president has sort of demonstrated by the fact that we've elevated Cyber Command to a full command that we have an evolving threat in cyberspace.  And so we are ready and we are preparing.

And you will see that, both in national defense strategy as we sort of lay out where we're going.  But these things require an investment, and that's why we need a budget.  We've been on C.R.s, but we have to have predictable budgets to ensure that we're investing for the capabilities for the 21st century.

Q:  Very quick follow-up:  Do you think every day that the budget is delayed is a day in which it impedes your ability to step up and to do the things specifically related to Warner's question about the 21st-century kind of warfare that we're looking at, delays your ability to get where you want to be?

MS. WHITE:  Yes.  The longer a C.R. goes, the more damage it does.  We need budget predictability.  But you'll see, when we lay out the National Defense Strategy, that's our blueprint.  We have a strategy, moving forward, that's going to drive our budgets.

So the fact that we don't have the predictability that we need to ensure that we have -- we can make the investments necessary -- it has a ripple effect.  It has a ripple effect for the industrial base, it has a ripple effect in communities.

This is a $2.4 trillion enterprise, so we need the Congress to write the check.  The president has already signed the National Defense Authorization Act, and it was passed by both houses overwhelmingly.  So we need the $700 billion, and we are confident that the Congress will make a deal.


Q:  Dana, can you explain why you chose to deploy those three B-2 Stealth Bombers to Guam, but delay joint training with the South Koreans?

MS. WHITE:  General, would you take that?

GEN. MCKENZIE:  Sure.  The bomber deployment's part of an ongoing planned deployment that affects not only the Korean Peninsula, but also a broader alliance structure in the Pacific.  So that's the reason -- the bomber deployment.

You would be wrong to view the bomber deployment within the single lens of what it means to the Korean Peninsula.  It affects allies across the Pacific.

When we begin to talk deconfliction of activities more directly related to the peninsula, that's where you can see why we would have chosen to deconflict and adjust the timing of some of those activities, because of the Olympics and the Paralympics.

Q:  So are you sending a message to China, as well, with this deployment?  Is that what you're saying, General?

GEN. MCKENZIE:  I think, when we move bombers across the globe, we send a signal to everyone.

Q:  And just to follow, can you rule out any airstrikes against North Korea during the Olympics?

MS. WHITE:  We don't talk about future options.

Q:  You can't even rule it out, like, right here, to say there will be peace during the Olympics?

MS. WHITE:  We -- the secretary has said that we've deconflicted our exercise, and we maintain a full arsenal of options for the president.

Q:  You can't rule out any kind of bombs dropping on North Korea during the Olympic games?

MS. WHITE:  Tara?

Q:  Thank you.

Three different lawmakers expressed frustration with the Pentagon yesterday.  Senator Shaheen has expressed her concern that the DOD is not sending a witness to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to talk post-ISIS strategy and -- wonder if there are plans to send a witness.

And then two lawmakers, Representative Gallagher and House Chairman Thornberry, expressed their frustration on the Pentagon's less-transparent readiness initiatives, telling the services to talk less openly about readiness, and how they get that message, how that message is communicated.

So I'm wondering, how is the Pentagon going to, you know, make its budget pitch to the House and talk to the American public about the state of the military, with the -- these directions to basically reveal less about the state of the military?

MS. WHITE:  So your first question -- in terms of witnesses, as -- we just welcomed John Rood as the under secretary of policy this week, so we're very excited to have him on board.

We will continue to communicate with Congress as much as we can, and when we can, as often as we can.  They're very important.  They're our board of directors.  So we -- if we have more work to do, we'll do that work.

With respect to talking about budget or readiness issues, we've been very clear with the Congress, behind closed doors, about what it -- what we need.  And we will continue to be very candid with them.  But the American people need to be confident that we're ready to fight tonight.  And we talk about that, and we talk about our capabilities.

With respect to Congress, we will always be transparent with them.  We will always tell them the truth about what we need, and we'll continue that dialogue for as long as we need to have it.

Q:  So one of the challenges is that the HASC and SASC, who are very familiar with the readiness challenges that -- have to convince the larger Congress that doesn't necessarily attend these closed sessions.

So how do you communicate to the American public, in a broader sense, about the state of readiness in the military, if there's a direction to not talk about it as much?

MS. WHITE:  Well, let me also tell you that there's been no direction not to talk about readiness issues.  The secretary has -- wants his commanders to talk about readiness.

We have to ensure that we are telling our authorizing committees.  But absolutely, there are many, many conversations that the deputy and the secretary have, not only with members of the authorizing committees, but also with leadership.

So we're having those conversations all the time.  We will continue to have them.  We will have them discreetly about some issues, but we go up and testify.  We -- those are our service chief's opportunities to talk to members of Congress about what we need.

But we will continue to communicate that we will sometimes need to communicate in a closed-door session.

Q:  As opposed to no direction that last March, OSD did issue direction to the services, to not talk openly about readiness.  And that has trickled down to all the services.  It's trickled down to the COCOM --


MS. WHITE:  Are you talking about a specific memo?

Q:  I'm talking -- yes, about directions to the services.

MS. WHITE:  The -- there was direction given about how we talk about classified, unclassified and pre-decisional information.  There was never any direction that was given about readiness in -- exactly, readiness.  It was talked about, "how are we talking about that information?"

Again, the secretary has said, many times, how it's very important that we not telegraph to the enemy.  American people need to know we're ready to go tonight.  And Congress -- and we owe to Congress exactly what we need and when we need it.  And it's why we need them to pass the F.Y. '18 budget.


Q:  (Inaudible).  Yes.  I -- I kind of want to follow up because several Senators at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this morning, on the future of Syria post-ISIS, they basically said that they extended the invitation to the Pentagon for a witness to come.  And either the Pentagon was unable to, or declined, to send a witness there.  Are you aware of that --

MS. WHITE:  I --

Q:  -- specific issue today?

MS. WHITE:  I -- I'm aware -- I'm aware of the criticism.  And, again, we'll continue to work with the committees of authorization, as well as the other committees, as well as other members, to provide witnesses, briefings as we can.

And I would just, again, emphasize that John Rood just arrived this week, who is now the undersecretary for policy.

Q:  Don't you think the Pentagon should be there?  I mean, today, this obviously has a -- plays a key role in the future of --

MS. WHITE:  I will look into the details of -- of what was the actual decision-making process.  But what I can tell you is, that we're committed to communicating with Congress, whether it's the SFRC or the armed committees of jurisdiction.

As you know, secretary and sec state have both testified to the SFRC.

Right here. Yes, in the green.

Q:  (Inaudible).  With the repeated continuing resolutions, do you still expect to have the Fiscal '19 budget on time, or do you see a delay with the requests?

MS. WHITE:  I'm very focused on hoping that the -- the Congress passes the FY '18 budget.  It's paramount that we have certainty.


Q:  I have a -- a readiness question.  To fight tonight implies a range of capabilities including space capability.  Earlier this week, SpaceX launched Zuma, a classified satellite payload.  Does the Pentagon consider the mission a success or a failure, both Dana and General, given its classified payload?

MS. WHITE:  I would have to refer you to SpaceX, who -- who -- who conducted the launch.

Q:  (Off mic) I'm sorry.  I -- this is a billion-dollar satellite.  It's been four days.  Was it a success or a failure?  And what's the fate of the satellite?

MS. WHITE:  Again, I would have to refer you to them.  And -- that's -- that's the answer.


Q:  But it's not -- (inaudible) -- satellite?

Q:  General?  I mean, is the satellite --


GEN. MCKENZIE:  I'm -- I'm done.  We're not going to be able to give you any more information, so --

Q:  Why not?

Q:  Why -- why can't you do that?  This is a -- accountability is one of your keystones, here.  The -- (inaudible) -- general.  Secretary Mattis said this repeatedly.  I'm asking you, from an accountability standpoint, this thing went bump in the night somewhere, and nobody knows what happened to it.

Can you give us a sense of whether you consider it a failure or a success as a mission?

MS. WHITE:  Again, I'd have to tell you to -- you'd have to -- I'd have to refer you to SpaceX, which actually launched the satellite.

Q:  But you're the government, you paid for it, you're the overseers, and you're asking us to go to the company who might have been partially responsible for the problem?  I mean, that doesn't make any sense, ma'am, I'm sorry.

MS. WHITE:  I understand, and given the classified nature of all this, but again, that's -- that's -- that's the answer.

Q:  Will you, at some point, commit to talking about accountability measures the DOD is taking to -- not only for the last capability, but for the loss, I don't know, hundreds of millions of dollars?

MS. WHITE:  So, Tony, I would just -- I will -- I will take that, I will come back to you on that.

Q:  Fair enough.

MS. WHITE:  Jeffrey?

Q:  Thank you.  Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose.  Has Secretary Mattis been briefed on this video which reportedly shows a U.S. service member firing a shotgun into an Afghan truck?

MS. WHITE:  The secretary is aware of the video.

Q:  Have you ordered any specific actions because of it?

MS. WHITE:  CENTCOM is looking into those allegations, it's currently under investigation.

GEN. MCKENZIE:  We actually have very good procedures for this, as you know.  We take these allegations very seriously.  I'd refer you to General Votel's statements, CENTCOM is looking at it very hard.  This is not something we look at lightly and it'll receive all the serious attention that it deserves.

Q:  And getting back to Tara's question, she described the guidance accurately.  It was telling press shops not to talk about readiness shortfalls, lest it encourage an adversary like North Korea to attack us.  I'd like you to take, for the record, whether the services are allowed to talk about readiness and what they are not allowed to talk about.

MS. WHITE:  I can tell you that the services are allowed to talk about readiness.

Q:  That is -- that contradicts the guidance from March.

MS. WHITE:  The services are allowed to talk about readiness.

Right here.

Q:  Thank you very much, madam.  Before, my two questions.  First of all, a too late Happy New Year to everybody.

MS. WHITE:  Happy New Year.

Q:  My question on India.  Are U.S. relations concerned that the secretary was in India?  And also of course India has now first woman on the globe as secretary of defense -- minister of defense.  Where do we go as far as we enter the new year?

As far as U.S.-India -- (inaudible) -- relations are concerned?

MS. WHITE:  Well, I was with the secretary on that trip, and it was a pleasure to meet India's new female minister of defense.  There's an opportunity.  India has contributed a great deal in terms of developmental aid in Afghanistan.

And I -- we're excited about the opportunities for India to participate in the South Asia Strategy, and how we secure that region.  They're an important player and in 2018 we look forward to doing more with them.

Q:  And a second question, madam, as far as Pakistani-U.S. relations are concerned, this issue has been going for over 20 years, I've been asking everywhere here, at the State Department and the White House.

Then it came 10 years ago, almost, Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan, they kept denying.  And now they keep denying that they have any terrorisms, and their foreign secretaries -- or foreign minister have said that yes, they have some terrorists inside the country.

It will take time, but why it'll take time?  Were they sleeping?  How much now can you trust Pakistan that they will be with you to combat or go after terrorists?

MS. WHITE:  We believe that Pakistan has the ability to address this threat.  And we -- and this is an opportunity for them to take decisive action, and we look forward to working with them to -- to encourage them to do so.


Q:  There's a report in the Daily Beast that government employees, including the United States Navy, used government servers to assess a revenge porn site.  Are you guys aware of this report?  Are you investigating it on your own?  And can you remind us of the protocols that Navy employees have when they -- when they do use government servers?

MS. WHITE:  So I am aware of the reports.  And the department has procedures that all employees must train on, with respect to use of websites.  With respect to this specific issue, I know the Navy is working it, and I would -- I would refer to you for more -- to them for more details.

Q:  OK.  I have a separate line to General McKenzie.

You've just said that, whenever we move strategic assets -- it's referring to the B-2 -- that you're sending a message to the entire world.  That conflicts a little bit with what we were told about this beforehand, that this was just a normal scheduled rotation.

So is this a scheduled rotation, or is this meant to show some -- send some sort of strategic message?

GEN. MCKENZIE:  Yeah.  Actually, I disagree with the premise of your question.  I think scheduled missions show -- deliver a message.  It doesn't have to be an unscheduled mission to deliver a message.  So I would say that we are sending a message by executing scheduled deployments.

Q:  Can I ask how long the B-2s are going to be staying -- are deployed -- going to be deployed to Guam?

GEN. MCKENZIE:  Don't have that information off the top of my head.

Q:  Can you get that?  I mean, is it days, weeks?


GEN. MCKENZIE:  If I can share it with you, we'll get back to you on it.

MS. WHITE:  Jamie.

Q:  Just a quick follow-up on the computer pornography question.  There's some legislation in Congress that would specifically make it a crime to use a government computer to access pornography.  Does the Pentagon and the U.S. military -- do you currently block any sites that are judged to be pornography?

MS. WHITE:  I'm not familiar with the legislation.  I -- and like -- and as I said, we have -- we have procedures in place.  Guidance is given.  Training is required, and we'll continue to look into this.

Q:  And, just one small housekeeping matter on this question of transparency, it would be nice to know sometimes what the secretary is up to, even if he's at an event that's not open for press coverage.

So is -- so it's disconcerting when your editor looks at your Twitter feed and asks me why I don't know where the -- what the secretary's doing when he's appearing publicly.  So more transparency on that level would be helpful.

MS. WHITE:  I'll take that.  Thank you, Jamie.

Right here.

Q:  There are reports of increasing ISIS activities in Iraq, especially around Nineveh province.  Are you aware -- are you aware of any activities by ISIS -- (inaudible)?

MS. WHITE:  General?

GEN. MCKENZIE:  I wouldn't say that ISIS is completely gone from Iraq.  But I believe that, largely, local security forces have the situation in hand.  I'd have to look at the specifics.  I'm not aware of any significant spike.

I'm not telling you there are no activities, because we're a long way from being at that -- at that stage.  But I don't think there's anything I'd identify as a trend.

Q:  So have your forces engaged in any confrontation --


GEN. MCKENZIE:  Well, our forces aren't engaging in anything.  We are actually supporting the Iraqis, who are doing all the work in Iraq.  So I am not aware of any specific case.  There may be something fairly -- at a fairly low level going on.  I'm not aware of a significant spike.

STAFF:  Ma'am, we have time for a few more questions.

Q:  Can I just follow on that?  So this is -- this means that it's the local police that are able --


GEN. MCKENZIE:  Well, I want to be -- it could.  It could be the local police.  It could be -- it could be Iraqi army.  It could be CTS.  Don't know the specifics of the case.  I think, as you know, in all cases, we want to proceed to a point where it is local police, indigenous police that are actually able to handle it.

I wouldn't say that we're there in all cases yet.  But it's certainly not U.S. forces doing this.  We're actually providing -- the enablers and the other support to enable the Iraqis to go after these problems.

MS. WHITE:  So right here in the middle.

Q:  Thank you.  Parker Walton with the Asahi Shimbun.

On the suspended exercises with the ROK, do you have a better idea of when those will take place?  Or is it still kind of tentatively after the Olympics?

MS. WHITE:  It -- it's still tentative after the Olympics.  I don't have a specific date.

GEN. MCKENZIE:  You know, I actually wouldn't use the word "suspension."  It -- they're deconflicted with the event.  Exercises are going to occur -- just an opportunity to adjust based on a significant event in the Korean Peninsula.

MS. WHITE:  Ryan?

Q:  Can you talk a little bit more broadly about the relationship with Russia right now?  Joe and Barbara raised a question about this recent incident where they accused the U.S. of being involved in this attack.

Also, there was a report that they'd denied the coalition permission to strike ISIS targets near the base at Al-Tanf.  And also, they've -- you said last month that they were intentionally violating the deconfliction agreement.

Have the relations deteriorated in Syria with the Russians?  Is that -- is it worse off than it was a month ago?  Is it better off?  Or is it about the same?

MS. WHITE:  Well, we're still deconflicting, but I'll let the general talk to that at the moment.

GEN. MCKENZIE:  Sure.  So we -- you know, we maintain communication with the Russians on what goes on in Syria at a variety of levels.  The most effective level is probably the level in theater, where they actually talk about deconfliction details.

And I would tell you that, certainly, they've probably asked us not to strike targets, and we've done the same with them.  So I think that process is actually alive, and is generally effective.

At the highest level, you go to the conversation that occurred yesterday between the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the -- and the Russian CHOD, and I think that was also a frank and very -- and a very good discussion.

So I wouldn't -- I don't -- we believe that deconfliction is an effective technique to allow us to pursue our goal of destroying ISIS or finishing ISIS in the Euphrates River Valley, and it's been effective in trying to get to that end.

Q:  And it's been said that Russia and its regime allies haven't been able to stop ISIS from moving freely in the areas under its control.  Is that still something that you're observing, or is -- have they been better at combating ISIS in that area?

GEN. MCKENZIE:  We're generally satisfied with what we see in the areas that we control -- the SDF, the forces that we operate up and down the Euphrates River Valley.  We obviously have a little bit less visibility into areas that are directly under Russian or regime control, and we'll just have to let time bear out whether or not they're able to actually execute on those targets.

I would just come back to one other point, though.  And I'd just emphasize again that we had nothing -- the United States had nothing to do with the attacks on the Russian air base, and that's just a -- that's a flat assertion, and I want to be very clear on that.

Q:  Do you know if the Russians (Off mic) I'm sorry for jumping in.

MS. WHITE:  I really want -- I would like to let Missy get -- because Missy is back with us, and I wanted to give Missy a chance to ask a question.

Q:  OK.  I mean, Joe, do you want to ask first?

Q:  No, that's (Off mic).

Q:  I was just hoping you all could talk about the CT campaign in Yemen.  We get this periodic information from CENTCOM about CT strikes, but it's hard to know what the scale of what's ahead is on that.  Is this -- I'm not asking you to talk about numbers of AQAP and other militant groups, but can you sort of characterize the strength of the CT threat there?  And should we be expecting a sort of indefinite future of periodic CT strikes in Yemen?

GEN. MCKENZIE:  So I think we'll continue to strike targets in Yemen as long as we assess that what we're striking poses a threat to the United States.  And there have been significant threat strains that have emanated from Yemen that talk about attack plotting -- what we would call external attacks, as you're aware, against the United States.  And, when those targets present themselves, we're going to strike them.

Q:  So do you -- the -- obviously, AQAP really regains -- has regained strength during the Yemeni civil war.  Do you feel like that has been addressed for the most part, in terms of getting them back to what they were prior to the outbreak of the Yemeni war?  Or is this something that still is -- has yet to be done?

GEN. MCKENZIE:  I think it's a difficult problem.  We're making progress on it.

MS. WHITE:  All right.  Well, thank you.

Q:  (Off mic) a budget question?

MS. WHITE:  A small budget question.

Q:  Can you explain the importance of spending over a trillion dollars on overhauling the U.S. nuclear forces?

MS. WHITE:  Again, we need to wait for the Nuclear Posture Review.  But the secretary is committed to having a credible nuclear deterrent, so --

Q:  (inaudible).

MS. WHITE:  Thank you all.

Q:  Thank you.