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Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan R. Hoffman and Joint Staff Spokesperson Air Force Col. Patrick S. Ryder Defense Department Press Briefing

ASSISTANT TO THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JONATHAN R. HOFFMAN:  And good afternoon, everybody.  Thank you for being here today.  Col. Ryder and I are honored to be here to -- today on behalf of the more than three million men and women of the Department of Defense.

We're holding this briefing as part of our larger effort to re-establish the department's regular media battle rhythm as set out by Secretary Esper.  First, a few updates.  Last night, the department completed the dignified transfer of remains at Dover Air Force Base.  We pass along our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Griffin.

At 1615 today, Secretary Esper will be speaking at the 2019 CISA Cybersecurity Conference over National Harbor to discuss the department's enduring role in cyber and election security.  

Tomorrow is National POW-MIA Recognition Day.  Deputy Secretary Norquist will recognize our nation's former prisoners of war and those still missing. We will be honored to be joined at DOD by former POWs and by family members of those still missing.  This is a deeply important day, as we still have more than 82,000 Americans still missing from past conflicts.  

I encourage you all to attend the event as part of the global event to bring recognition to the noble mission to provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and to the nation, and to remind the families of the special class of brave patriots they will never be forgotten.

Throughout this week, Secretary Esper has met with various members of Congress, from the House and the Senate.  In each of these meetings, he's thanked them for their support of the department, but he's stressed the importance of Congress passing an F.Y. 2020 appropriations bill as quickly as possible.

Timely and accurate appropriations allows the department to spend taxpayer dollars in the most deliberate and efficient manner to implement the National Defense Strategy.  An extended Continuing Resolution would hinder the momentum of the readiness and modernization gains the department has achieved in the last two years.  Secretary Esper looks forward to continuing to engage with Congress on this topic.  

Finally, this past April and May, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded roughly $2.5 billion in projects to construct border wall along the southwest border.  These projects will span 129 miles at locations in New Mexico, Arizona and California. 

We're proud to announce that as of this week, virtually all of that $2.5 billion has been obligated and is on contract.  We expect to have the remaining $3 million obligated before the end of the month.  So with that, Col. Ryder and I will be happy to take questions.  


Q:  For both of you, if possible.  On Iran and Saudi Arabia, can you say with any more clarity whether or not these cruise missiles and drones came from southwest Iran; and can you give us any update on whether or not the -- the forensic team is still in Saudi looking at the debris, or have they come back and have you been able to ascertain anything from -- from that debris yet?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So I'll let Col. Ryder take the part on the forensic team.  Generally, we're going -- our position on this has been we're going to work through with the Saudis as they make their assessment of what took place.

So with regard to that, we're going to let them put out the information as they go through the assessment.  We're going to be with them working through that.  We've provided, as you mentioned, the -- the assessment team on the ground.

So we're going to work with them but we're going to let the -- the Saudis to make the declarations on where they believe the -- the attacks came from and the ultimate responsibility.  But I'll have Col. Ryder for you on the assessment -- sir?

COLONEL PATRICK S. RYDER:  Sure, yes, sir.  Lita, in -- in terms of the CENTCOM forensic team, my understanding is they're still in the area there, still working with the Saudis, and so that will be going on for some time.  Of course, you can contact CENTCOM for any additional details on the -- the nature and scope of that team.

Q:  And then one follow up, just have there been any decisions made yet on whether or not there is a military option or retaliatory action that could be taken?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So with respect to that, the -- the -- the job of the Department of Defense is to provide the president with options and that is what we are doing.  We provide him with options and then he makes a determination of -- of what to do.

With regard to -- to the situation in the Middle East right now, those decisions haven't been made; but we need to make an assessment, we may need a determination, we need to attribute the result or the responsible party of this act.  That hasn't taken place.

We're being deliberate about this and -- and we're -- wait until the final assessment is completed with the Saudis and that they've made their declaration.  I will acknowledge that, as of this time, all indications are we have that Iran is in some way responsible for the attack on the Saudi refineries.

So Luis?  Oh, Idrees?

Q:  Sir, could we follow up?  I believe Secretary Pompeo today said he believed it came from Iran.  So you said Iran has some -- has in some way played a role.  Does the Pentagon believe that it came from Iran, the missiles of the crew?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Just referring you back to the -- the first response there, is we're not going to get ahead of the Saudi investigation and their assessment of this.  This was an attempt -- this was an attack on Saudi Arabia.  We're supporting their investigation.  

We have -- like I said, we have teams on the ground working with them, but we're not going to get ahead of their conclusions.

Q:  And just to follow up, Secretary Pompeo -- sorry, Secretary Esper spoken with any of his counterparts or regional leaders since Monday, or is that something Secretary Pompeo will be doing?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Well the Secretary has -- had -- we actually had the -- the foreign minister of Bahrain was in the building, I believe yesterday, and had a conversation with him.  Our Under Secretary for Policy John Rood has been on the phone near constantly since Monday, having conversations with our counterparts in the region.

And -- but we are also working through with the State Department.  They have the lead on -- on the diplomatic negotiations on this.  And as we've always said with regard to Iran is, our goal is to deter conflict and to put this back on the diplomatic path.

So let's go around.

Q:  Thank you, sir  -- Hoffman.  So although you're saying you're going to leave the Saudis to lead on this, however Secretary Pompeo seemed very confident that the Iranians were behind these attacks.

So can you give more indications why the State Department is making this type of assessment based on the information you have?  And on the second issue, Col. Ryder, Foreign Minister Zarif of Iran today said in an interview that any attack by Saudi Arabia or the U.S. on Iran means all-out war. 

Do you have enough troops on the ground to face a challenge if it comes down to that scenario?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So with regard to the question about Secretary Pompeo, as I've said, we have -- indications are that this is -- in some way, this is -- the Iranians are responsible for this.  But we are going to allow the Saudis to make their -- their own conclusion and to present that to the -- the public and the international community.

This is an international issue.  What we've seen is an -- an attack on a -- a civilian facility, two civilian facilities that had a dramatic impact on -- on the global markets.  And so Saudi Arabia's going to reach their conclusions, they're going to work with international partners and -- and share that information.  We're not going to get ahead of them on that.

And before -- before I go to Col. Ryder on that, on the second piece, I would just say our goal has been to deter conflict in the Middle East.  We've said that repeatedly, the president has said that, the secretary said that.  We do not want conflict.

What we do want is we want for Iran to return to the order of -- the international rules based order and to cease the maligned activity that they've been promoting in the region and -- and to get back on the diplomatic path.

And that's been the goal all along and we're going to continue to push with that.

COL. RYDER:  And in regards to your question, you know, I'm -- I'm not going to respond to speculative or bellicose threats other than to say that we certainly believe that we have the forces in the region that we need to protect our forces and to deter potential future threats from Iran.

MR. HOFFMAN:  All right -- all right.  

Q:  Hi, just two questions.  So you just said that the -- the U.S. has forces it need -- the forces it needs currently to protect its -- its footprint in the Middle East.  Does that mean that there is no plan or no requirement to supplement the force posture in order -- just for force protection purposes?

COL. RYDER:  So as -- as you recall back in May, we did increase the force presence at the time based on some threats from Iran and the current situation in regards to this particular incident; you know, we're constantly assessing the region and the environment, but we do not have any announcements to make at this time in terms of any type of force adjustment or posture increase.

Q:  And just the -- but just a clarification, I know that you're -- that Jonathan said that the Pentagon is going to let the Saudis come out with their final determination about responsibility for the attack, but can you just help us understand what the implications would be if there is, at best, circumstantial evidence that Iran is behind it or if it was some sort of -- or the evidence showed that it was perhaps an indirect Iranian attack versus something -- if the -- if the Saudi government and the U.S. government had -- does not have, you know, direct imagery or direct evidence that the munitions were launched from Iran, what does -- what does that mean?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So your question is if it -- if the facts are that it's -- it was from a -- an Iranian proxy or from Iran in general?

Q:  Or that there's only circumstantial evidence that this may have been launched directly from Iran.  Can you help us understand what the implication of that would be?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I -- I -- I don't want to speak to what the evidence is now or what it may turn out to be but -- but regardless of -- of whether this was a proxy or a direct attack, this has been a dramatic escalation of what we've seen in the past.

This was a -- a -- a number of -- of -- of airborne projectiles, it was very sophisticated, coordinated and it had a dramatic impact on the global market.  So regardless, this has been a dramatic escalation of what we've seen in the area and we need to get the -- the parties back on the diplomatic path and in a path to avoid this type of action.

So, Barbara?

Q:  Col. Ryder, I wanted to start with you.  I'm not sure I understand.  If this is such an escalation, clearly it was a successful attack, it was able to evade air defenses in this area, in this region, millions if not billions of dollars of U.S. provided air defenses.

So how -- what can you say to the thousands of Americans who work there in that specific region, to U.S. military troops and their families, how can you assure them that you don't need more protection, more adjustments to the air defense system?

If you can't say exactly what those adjustments might be, can you at least say that changes are needed to ensure this does not happen again, that this evasion -- and very quickly before -- my follow up for Jonathan is a completely different question.

MR. HOFFMAN:  We haven't even answered your first one, you can't have a follow up.

Q:  ... In case you evade me, I want to make sure I get it in here.

MR. HOFFMAN:  Oh, you never do that.

Q:  Can you tell us if Secretary Esper still has 100 percent confidence in the nomination of Gen. Hyten?  But Col. Ryder, if I could ask you first?

COL. RYDER:  Sure.  So it would be inappropriate for me to talk specifics about another country's air defense systems, other than to say in this particular case, clearly there was an attack on this oil facility, and U.S. Central Command is in consultation with the Saudis to discuss potential ways to look at mitigating future attacks.

I'm not going to go into details today about what that may or may not be, but clearly, as a longstanding partner in the region, we work closely with Saudi, for example to help them as they defend their -- their southern border from the Houthis.

And to that point, I would highlight the fact that the Saudis have had some effectiveness in terms of countering missile and drone strikes in the south, where the Houthi attacks have been relatively more common.  And so, you know, again, we're -- we're talking with them in terms of looking at the northern part of the country and -- and what it is that they can do to mitigate.

Q:  If I could just briefly follow up, the -- there is a good deal of U.S. provided, U.S. military air defense in that region.  How can -- what are you doing broadly -- is it -- are these discussions beyond just Saudi Arabia to ensure that potentially Iran or its proxies could not launch a similar secureness route attack and conduct another attack like this?

COL. RYDER:  Yeah, I think -- you know, again, not to minimize the -- the nature of the attack on this oil facility and the implications for the global energy market, but we also need to step back here and look at what we're talking about, which was an attack on a civilian facility and a -- in a foreign country.

So when it comes to talking about the U.S. presence and posture writ large across the region, we have many other requirements throughout the region and we're constantly assessing that, but in terms of specifics on changing that posture, I don't -- I don't have anything to note.

MR. HOFFMAN:  So on -- on Gen. Hyten, I haven't spoken to the secretary recently on this, but Gen. Hyten was confirmed by a bipartisan majority in -- or this was voted out of committee by a bipartisan majority in the Senate prior to the recess.

We -- we're looking forward to his vote taking place in the full Senate in the coming weeks.  I'd refer you to the -- the -- the Senate on when that will take place, but he's a -- the view from the department is that he is a -- an incredibly qualified and will be a very effective vice chairman.  All right?  

Go -- Lucas?

Q:  Just shifting to Afghanistan, there was another major suicide attack there today ahead of the presidential elections.  Is the plan going forward to withdraw some U.S. troops?

COL. RYDER:  Lucas what I would tell you, you know, first of all, we obviously offer our -- our thoughts and prayers to the -- the families and -- and people that were unfortunately attacked in this case by the Taliban or -- or whoever's responsible.

What I would tell you right now, the Department of Defense has not been ordered to draw down forces.  Our mission there continues to remain the same, which is to advise and -- and train Afghan Security Forces, defense forces, as well as conduct counter-terrorism operations in support of our Afghan partners.


Q:  I wanted to ask on the forensics -- their forensics effort, does it include not only looking at debris on the ground -- missile degree -- debris but also in reviewing ISR tracks from airborne assets or off U.S. intelligence satellites over the region to reconstruct those moments before the strike, to try to get attribution?

COL. RYDER:  So Tony , I don't -- I don't have an answer for your question.  We can look into that other than to say that we know that -- that our Saudi partners are conducting an analysis of all types of areas, as -- as are we, all right?  We're -- we're also looking at this.

And as Mr. Hoffman pointed out, it's important that we take the time to get the facts on this.

Q:  Jonathan, why did you say it was sophisticated?  What -- what -- what's your basis for that besides gut instinct?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Said it was sophisticated?

Q:  You said the -- the attack was sophisticated.  What do you base that on, beside gut instinct and intelligence?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Well I would -- I would say if you -- you look at the fact that there were a large number of airborne assets used that were launched in a -- in a similar timeframe, and that they -- they impacted the area that they were targeted for.

It's not something we've seen in the region before on that level.  I don't think there's any way other than to describe it as a -- as a well planned and sophisticated attack.

COL. RYDER:  And -- and I would just add to that -- and you've all seen the same photos that we have and you look at the precision -- I think that obviously is not something that we've necessarily seen in the past from Houthi attacks.


Q:  ... on this one?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Sure, go ahead.

Q:  A quick question.  If you haven't seen something like this, that doesn't mean that the Houthis haven't been able to gain this type of capability.  Why are you ruling out that actually the Houthis are stepping up their game?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So I -- I -- I would leave that to the Saudis on the -- they've talked about this in their briefings, but if you look at the range of weapons, the type of weapons, you look at the -- the past practice that you've seen from the Houthis, it doesn't match the -- the practice of what they've done, it doesn't match the capabilities we believe they have.  


Q:  Quick question for you Mr. Hoffman.  Do you feel confident that the Department of Defense will be able to determine a culprit after the analysis is done?  And then Col. Ryder, you have been the spokesman for a couple of years to Chairman Dunford, who's going to be stepping down in less than two weeks.

My question to you, is Syria and Iraq and is Afghanistan safer now?  What's your assessment of the four years under his leadership on -- for our military?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So I'll take the first question on that.  We have a high level of confidence that we will be able to accurately and appropriately attribute the responsible parties for this but we're going to continue to work with the Saudis to reach that point.

COL. RYDER:  I -- Carla, in answer to your question, I would go back to look at what the U.S. national security interests are in those areas.  So certainly when it comes to Iraq and Syria, if you go back four years and you look at the difference in terms of the presence of ISIS and -- and what they had achieved then and where they are today, certainly there -- there's been progress.  A lot of work remains, of course, in -- in the region.  

In terms of Afghanistan, again, the reason we went there back in 2001 was to prevent another 9/11 on the homeland and I would say to date, you know, that has not happened again.  But again, the work remains and we will continue to work with our Afghan partners to not only counter violent extremism in the region, but to work with them to try to instill some type of regional peace and security.

MR. HOFFMAN:  (inaudible)

Q:  Thank you, thanks for doing this.  Yesterday, the Interior Secretary transferred about 560 acres to the Army for about 70 miles of border wall.  Is that in addition to the 175 or is that -- does that -- is that included?

Can you give us an update on where it stands now?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So as part of the 2808 process for using military reconstruction funds to build border wall as a result of the president's declaration of a national emergency, the land that we are going to build that property on needed to be transferred from the Department of Interior to the Department of the Army, who -- the Army Corps will be the -- the -- the executive agent for it.

So some of the property we were going to build on, specifically the Barry Goldwater Range in Arizona, was already in DOD possession, but this was additional land that needed to be transferred so we can be -- begin that.  It's not additional to that 150 miles or whatever it was out of the 2808 funds, it's -- it's that land that we're going to be building on.

Q:  Is this part of what you announced at the top, the -- I think it was about $2 billion or so?

MR. HOFFMAN:  No, so that's -- that's a different pot of money.  So as part of the -- the president's national emergency declaration in February, it opened up a couple different pots of money for use in addressing that -- that crisis.

One pot was 284 money, which was monies that we found that were -- that had been unspent from other accounts and that we reprogrammed to wall construction.  What we announced today is that -- that $2.5 billion that is going to go to build 129 miles of wall, all of that money is on contract as of -- I think there's $3 million left and that'll be by the end of next week.  So all of that money is on contract.

The 2808 money is the $3.6 billion that we announced probably about two weeks ago, and that's the funds that you're talking about, the projects you're talking about, so.

Q:  Thank you.

Q:  For Col. Ryder, you said that there were discussions underway between CENTCOM and the Saudis about ways of mitigating future attacks, particularly in the north.  Is it safe to say that you are referring to the possibility of additional U.S. military troops and air defense capabilities, given that this was an air attack?

COL. RYDER:  Yeah, so I'm not going to speculate.  Again, when it comes to U.S. force presence in the region, that's something that we're constantly assessing based on requirements, based on threats.  Again, I have no announcements to make.

In terms of consulting with the Saudis, I mean they've been longstanding partners of the military, and so you can imagine it would just be a natural conversation to have with them as they assess the attack, how to respond and what kind of assistance we may be able to provide in terms of advice.

Q:  What are some of the capabilities that the U.S. military can bring to bear to address ... 

COL. RYDER:  Yeah, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to speculate about what they may or may not ask for.

Q:  On Turkey and -- and Syria -- (inaudible) -- Turkish foreign minister today said that they are working with the U.S. on establishing permanent patrol bases in the east of the Euphrates River.  Is that something that you guys are working with Turkey on, establishing permanent patrol bases in Syria?

He was saying that we will establish those like the ones that we have in Iraq.

MR. HOFFMAN:  You want to take that?

COL. RYDER:  I'm sorry, who was saying they were going to ... 

Q:  The Turkish Foreign -- I'm sorry, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

COL. RYDER:  So I -- I haven't seen those comments, so I -- I can't make any comments.

Q:  But is that something that -- are -- are you guys working with Turkey on establishing patrol bases in the Eastern ... 

COL. RYDER:  I can tell you what we are working on Turkey with is implementing the security mechanism to address Turkey's legitimate security concerns along the border, and, of course, trying to prevent the resurgence of ISIS and instill campaign continuity.

So I know that there has been, at this point, five reconnaissance flights to review implementation of the -- the security mechanism as well as some joint ground patrols that are being conducted.  And, you know, by all accounts, progress is being made in that regard.

I know that we've already seen some dismantling of the YPG fortifications along the border, you know, as the SDF demonstrate their -- their willingness to -- to support this -- this agreement.  So that's all I've really got to provide. 

Q:  Hi, thanks for doing this.  I wanted to follow up on Barbara's question, actually, in terms of the air defenses.  As you know, the Saudis have a lot of U.S. weapons, U.S. air defenses, including the Patriot.

So are you looking into why there was a failure in these systems and whether this has any implications for other areas in the region or even in Europe where -- or places -- elder -- elsewhere, places that have Patriot missiles?

COL. RYDER:  So Lara, what I would tell you is, again, there is thorough analysis going on.  I'm -- I'm not going to speak to the details of Saudi Arabia's air defense system other than to say again it's being looked at and taken seriously.


Q:  You know your concerns about an extended CR.  It looks like Congress is poised to pass a CR that would extend through the end of November.  What kind of an impact would that length of a CR have on DOD's acquisition programs, and what is the Pentagon doing to try to mitigate those impacts?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So there are programs that will be affected, and -- and some of those include our ability to -- to move forward with contracts that should be issued, and as well as to -- to look at some of the -- the modernization efforts we're putting forward.

If you want, I can get you some more specifics on the exact programs, but the hope is that if it's -- if it's kept within, you know, a few weeks to a little bit more than that, that it's something we can manage and work through, but once we start getting into -- to months and quarters, the impact grows exponentially and -- and it becomes more difficult to recover from those -- those impacts.

Q:  Thank you.  A question on military housing.  Does Secretary Esper support allowing the services the ability to renegotiate their 50-year contracts with these private housing companies?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Well the -- one of the secretary's key priorities is definitely the military families, and that's something he's focused on in addition to the NDS priorities.  And so he -- he's looking into that; he's actually had the -- the -- the assistant secretary for -- handling that and looking into the -- the housing issue.

One of the things we're looking at right now is the Bill of Rights, the tenets Bill of Rights to make sure that our people are aware of their rights and working with them.  I haven't spoken to him specifically about the -- the contracting issue, but -- but the Bill of Rights issue's the one that we're actually working on most closely right now.

Q:  Hi.  Travis Tritten, Bloomberg Government.  I wanted to follow up on the border construction and the $3.6 billion in 2808 money.  Do you know when that will be fully contracted out?  And then, do you have a timeline for when both pots of money will -- construction from both pots of money will be fully completed?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I don't have a timeline for you on that.  I -- the -- right now, we're -- we're getting the first of those contracts ready to go.  As was previously mentioned, we have a property from DOI that needed to be transferred over for -- for a number of those, so we've got to work through that process.

And it's going to take, you know, months to get that, as I mentioned, the money for the 28 -- 284 projects came on -- came over in -- I believe in -- in May and we've just completed that process now.  So it's -- it's going to be a few months but our goal is that by the end of next year, we will have completed over 100 -- 450 miles of wall construction all told across the entire federal government.

What you're going to see is there will be a -- a -- kind of a -- it's a -- it's a bubble; it'll take a little while as we do the planning, we buy the property, we do the environmental assessments and all of the other things we -- we -- the assessment we need to do, and then the -- you'll see a rapid increase in the amount.

Right now, we're at a pace of about a mile a day and we'll see that -- that continue to go up, so.

Q:  You said 450?

MR. HOFFMAN:  450 is, I think, the administration's goal for the end of next year.

Q:  A follow on -- on those two questions regarding the wall.  The projects for the second pot of money that you referred to, were they adjusted at all by Secretary Esper, or are they the projects that were at the top of the list when he became Secretary of Defense?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Were they -- were they -- or -- do you mean the -- the projects that -- so we received a list -- we received a list from the Department of -- of Homeland Security that -- the prioritized projects that they would like to see, the wall projects they would like to see completed.

So we're -- we -- we took the -- the list that was provided to us by DHS and we're working off of their priorities.  I don't -- I don't -- yeah, the secretary's not made any adjustment to where the wall will be built.  We're relying on the Border Patrol agents on the ground, the people that have the most knowledge to tell us where the border wall should be built.

Q:  My -- my follow-on on my independent question is, has the secretary yet contacted, as he said he was planned to, his counterparts in Mexico?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I don't have news for you on that.  I can -- I can follow up for you on that.

Q:  Thank you.


Q:  Can I just follow up on that question?


Q:  ... follow up.  You said that there's a mile a day in construction.  You mean the administration, the government as a whole?  Has DOD broken ground on any projects?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So the -- they're -- understanding that the -- the executive agent for much of the construction is the Army Corps of Engineers.  So when you say the DOD, the Army ... 

Q:  ... pots of money, the 284, 2808.  Have any projects gone on under that ... 

MR. HOFFMAN:  I can get an answer for you in about 10 minutes, but I'm -- I'm almost certain that on the 284 that we have started projects out of those monies, but I -- the money's in the contracts for all of them, but I believe we've broken ground on those.  I can get an update for you pretty quickly after this.

All right, we're going to do one -- one more after this.

Q:  Thanks.  Amanda with CNBC.  This has been asked a few different ways, but I'm wondering what the lesson learned here is, that the Kingdom's top export could be taken out and the world's top two oil production facilities could be that vulnerable, and then the ripple effect, as you mentioned, in the global economy.

So what was the -- your consensus, what's the lesson learned from this?  And my follow is, has Secretary Esper had an opportunity to speak with Mr. O'Brien?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So with regard to the -- the global -- the -- the crisis right now in the Middle East, it's been a lesson we've been talking about for -- for years now, and this administration's been hammering it again and again.  Iranian destabilizing and maligned activity has impacts, not just in the region but globally.

So what we've seen is that maligned activity has now resulted in a major impact on the nation -- on the -- the world's global supply of oil.  And that impacts different countries differently.  The United States is a net exporter of oil, but we have countries -- China, Japan, Korea -- that are -- are heavily dependent on oil from this region.

And so what this, I think, has done is internationalize the problem.  So instead of efforts by -- by the Iranians to target individual ships and individual countries, what we've seen is this has now become an international problem where they've now really shown the -- the -- the impact and how debilitating that can be.

And the expectation we have, and that I think the Saudis do, is that our international partners are going to take a look at this, and -- and realizing it's time for them to -- to step up and -- and help them deter Iranian behavior, but also get Iran back on the diplomatic path. 

What we've seen is Iran has been confronted with diplomatic and economic challenges based on their behavior, and they've responded with military action, and we want to get them back into the diplomatic channels.

With regard to your -- your -- your second question, I -- I haven't spoken to the secretary about whether he's talked to him.  It's -- it's been 12 hours.  If he hasn't talked to him already, I'm -- I'm sure he will be having frequent conversations with him in the coming days.

Q:  Just one follow up real quick?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Yeah, sure.

Q:  Has Gen. McKenzie, the head of U.S. forces in the region, requested additional Patriot batteries or any type of air defense systems?

COL. RYDER:  So again, we're constantly taking a look.  No announcements to make today regarding any type of ... 

Q:  But you can't rule out that Gen. McKenzie made ... 

COL. RYDER:  Again, we're constantly looking at what force requirements there may be in the region, but nothing to announce today.

MR. HOFFMAN:  OK, we'll go right back there to the last one.

Q:  So Gen. Townsend was meeting with leaders in the G5 Sahel Task Force nations in West Africa earlier this week, and I believe it was Ambassador Nathan Sales had mentioned, I think in August, that the U.S. intends to ask coalition partners to up their support for the fight against ISIS, which he said has been destabilizing -- or threatening the stability of West African nations -- nations in Africa.

Does the U.S. plan to ask coalition partners to send troops to combat ISIS in Africa?  And if so, what do you guys assess would be the response to that, given the sort of shaking of the faith of coalition allies following the president's withdrawal announcement from Syria?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So I'll -- I'll take the first part of that and then Col. Ryder, (inaudible) the operational question.

COL. RYDER:  Sure.

MR. HOFFMAN:  Not familiar with the particular meeting, but -- but aware Gen. Townsend -- one of our NDS line of efforts is to work with our allies.  I know the secretary's had conversations with our allies when we -- we traveled through Europe a couple of weeks ago on the particular issue of -- of Africa.

And we actually sat down with AFRICOM while we were in Stuttgart, and he received a briefing from Gen. Townsend and -- and highlighted some of the challenges in the region.  

So in Africa, there is the -- the counter-terrorism issue, which we've been working to highlight with our -- our allies and -- and make sure they understand that this is going to be a -- a -- an enduring challenge, but the other issue we've confronted in Africa is looking at the influence of China and Russia as they've attempted to expand their -- their global reaches and in some cases destabilize some of our efforts in the region.

And so it's kind of a complex issue but -- that we're looking at.  Gen. Townsend obviously has the lead on that, but we do expect partners -- they've been great coalition partners throughout the -- the war on ISIS in Afghanistan and throughout the -- the Middle East and have been partners with us in -- in Africa.

I think when we were in -- or AFRICOM a few weeks ago, there was actually a case where the French military had helped airlift an American soldier who was injured in an operation, and ended up resulting in saving that individual's life.

So our allies are there with us, but we'll be looking to talk to them some more.

COL. RYDER:  I -- I believe you've answered the question, sir, but was there one part about it -- that ... 

Q:  ... if you guys have any intention of, in the future, asking coalition partner nations to send more personnel support to -- to Africa?

COL. RYDER:  Yeah, I mean I -- I don't have any specifics in regards to Africa other than to say clearly there is a global coalition to fight ISIS right now and focused on Iraq and Syria, but as we see, ISIS manifests itself worldwide.

Clearly this is an ongoing conversation that we have of how can we confront the threat of violent extremist organizations?  I would -- I would point out at last October, so almost a year ago, we conducted a -- an annual meeting with chiefs of defense from around the world to talk about the issue of countering violent extremism, and I would anticipate we'll hold another one of those meetings.  It'll be a reoccurring thing.

In fact, this is a constant topic of discussion among chiefs of defense, to include Gen. Dunford, of how can we -- how can we address the threat of violent extremist organizations?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So with that, thank you guys for -- for your time and keeping with our regular briefing schedule, we will see you guys again next September, so thank you. (Laughter.)