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Department of Defense Press Briefing by Assistant to the Secretary of Defense Jonathan Hoffman and Rear Admiral William Byrne

Dec. 12, 2019
Jonathan R. Hoffman, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs; Rear Admiral William D. Byrne, Jr., Vice Director, Joint Staff

ASSISTANT TO THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JONATHAN R. HOFFMAN:  Hey, good morning, everybody.  Thank you for being here today, and thank you to all those who made it out to our holiday event yesterday -- good to talk to many of you.

Tomorrow, Secretary Esper will be in New York City, where he will participate in a moderated discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations, visit a recruiting center and participate in a luncheon with the Business Executives of National Security.

On Saturday, the secretary will join the president in Philadelphia at the 120th Army-Navy game.  The two teams first faced off in 1890, and it has become a storied rivalry.  The game is a tradition that celebrates our cadets, midshipmen in the spirit of America's armed forces.  The department wishes both teams luck and looks forward to an exciting game.

On Monday, Secretary Esper will participate in the 101st Airborne Division's 75th commemoration of the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium.  Winston Churchill called the Battle of the Bulge the greatest American battle of the war. 

In frigid weather and against an onslaught of over 30 German divisions, American troops spread along 85 miles of the Ardennes Forest, thwarted Hitler's last major offensive attack in the war.  Through fatigue and challenging conditions, American troops persevered and paved the way for the Allied victory. 

Secretary Esper looks forward to commemorating this occasion with our allies and partners in Europe.

The department is encouraged by the House of Representatives passing the National Defense Authorization Act yesterday, which includes authorization for United States Space Force.  Our adversaries are making considerable gains in space, and our operational advantage is shrinking. A branch of the armed forces focused on space is necessary, and DOD appreciates the support Congress has shown thus far.  The department urges the Senate to follow suit by passing the NDAA and authorize the Space Force.

And although the NDAA has been passed, without a budget, we cannot implement its changes.  We cannot implement Space Force, we cannot give raises to troops, we cannot begin new programs.  C.R.s continue to negatively impact readiness, lethality, maintenance efforts, training, acquisitions and more.

It is unacceptable to go a quarter of the fiscal year on a C.R.  China and Russia have budgets that they can plan and execute against, and are moving forward with modernizing their militaries while we are being held back by these disagreements.

The department urges Congress to pass a budget next week so we can continue the progress made under the previous budget deal along with the National Defense Strategy's three lines of effort.

It is imperative that the department has steady, predictable funding at the requested top-line to best complete -- compete in this era of great power competition. 

Finally, I want to discuss the recent shootings on Pearl Harbor and Pensacola.  The entire Department of Defense is devastated by these attacks.  The number one priority, as always, is the safety and security of our people and their families.  Our thoughts are with the families of those lost and those injured. We greatly appreciate the outpouring of support from all corners of the country and the globe.

In Pensacola, we are encouraged by the dedication and professionalism of the Department of Justice and FBI teams and local law enforcement that are leading the investigation into the shooting, and look forward to continuing to support their efforts.

With that, Rear Admiral Byrne and I are happy to take your questions.

Q:  For both of you, can you bring us up to date a little bit more on the Pensacola issue?  The secretary was asked yesterday whether or not any students coming -- there are additional students coming in, either Saudi or other.  Can you answer whether or not any new students, any international new students are actually coming in to programs currently?

And can you also say whether or not this has affected any other U.S. training programs worldwide, and any other updates you might have on the investigation as far as the dozen students that are currently being...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. HOFFMAN:  So I'll -- I'll start with the -- initially on the training aspect of it.  So the -- the stand-down, to classroom training, is restricted to the Saudi students that are in the country at this time, not applying to students from other nationalities.

We -- with regard to new students coming into the country, at this time, we haven't had any new students come in.  There is not a prohibition so far on that taking place.  State Department still has to issue visas.  But at this time, any new students that would be brought into the program would go through the new vetting that we're looking to implement in the coming days.

So until that process is complete, we will not see any new students come into the program.

Q:  And just one quick follow-up. There is a report about Randy Schriver resigning, is that accurate?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So I just actually got off the phone with Randy, and Randy let me know that he is planning on leaving the department.  He has a young family, has been here for two years in a very intense -- I know a number of you -- an intense role.  A number of you have gotten to travel with Randy.

His area of expertise in the Indo-Pacific region is unmatched in the department.  And also given the demands of the job, it requires a significant amount of international travel and, as you guys know, going back and forth to Mongolia, Japan, Korea, Australia, China on a near-biweekly basis. 

It takes a toll on a family, and so Randy is looking to move -- move on to another position.  So, appreciate everything he's offered the department, and look forward to seeing what he does next. So.

Q:  Can I just follow up?  You talked about the new vetting procedures.  Could you explain what those specifically are and how they're different from (inaudible)?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So I'm not going to get into too much detail on that because as -- as you guys know from the direction from the deputy secretary that we've given guidance to develop what those procedures will be.

In the -- traditionally, with the -- the students coming in, they go through the home country vetting process, where a number of these countries, they're looking to send their best students here to brush up on their skills and to then come back and be able to excel in their own militaries.

And just to remember, the visa program, we've had -- I think the numbers I've gotten is that over -- since 2000, we've had more than a million foreign students go through training programs in the United States and for programs that we've conducted overseas.

This is considered a vital tool in our ability to one, help our partners increase their capabilities and their defensive capabilities.  Two, to help them increase their ability to interact with us and joint measures so that they understand our processes, so that if we end up having to go to war together, that we have that capability.  And three, to help build up the cultural understanding of our partners.

The trip we just went on in Asia, I think there were a number of different leaders that we met with who had actually gone through the training programs in the U.S. and had gone to the same training programs at Fort Bragg or Pensacola or in Texas and had an understanding of the military and had built relationships with U.S. personnel.  So these are vital -- vital programs.

But traditionally, the training -- the vetting has gone through State Department and DHS making a vetting, with DOD doing a little bit of a touch, as well.  What we're looking to do is to increase that.  So we're looking to take the information we can get from Department of State, from the host countries, and then take it and then run it through systems we have.

That -- what that system's going to look like, what those vetting -- that vetting is going to look like, is being developed right now.  That's part of the review.

Q:  And on a separate topic, obviously where the U.S. drone that was brought down in Libya a few weeks ago.  Does the U.S. believe that Russia was indirectly or directly responsible for that shoot-down and has the -- Secretary Esper spoken with -- or anyone at the Pentagon spoken with their Russian counterparts about that?

MR. HOFFMAN:  (Inaudible), if you want to take that.

REAR ADMIRAL WILLIAM D. BYRNE JR.:  No, we're not ready to make any attribution on that incident, and we continue to review our force posture in the theater with the combatant commander and make those allocation and reallocation decisions as appropriate.

STAFF:  All right.  Lucas?

Q:  A number of instructor pilots at NAS Pensacola have requested the ability to be armed.  Is that something the Pentagon is considering?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I'm not familiar with that request and I'm not familiar with anybody considering that at this time.  I would point out that both in Pearl Harbor and in Pensacola, that our armed law enforcement on the bases both were able to respond to the shootings in a very rapid manner and engage with and address the shootings.

So obviously, our number one concern is the safety of our personnel and their families, and we're going to take a look at this and try and take some lessons learned from the shooting, but it's -- so I'm not familiar with those requests.

Q:  ... North Korea, are you seeing any signs that North Korea is preparing any kind of nuclear or any kind of missile test?

ADM. BYRNE:  Well, in an open forum, I'm not going to share any classified information, obviously, and we don't talk about specific indications and warnings, but more generally, the North Koreans have made a commitment to denuclearize and to cease their missile -- long-range missile testing and their nuclear weapons testing.

And we would hope that they would abide by those words, but hope is not a strategy.  As the secretary said up on Capitol Hill yesterday, we hope for the best and we plan for the worst.  And so we take that rhetoric seriously, and with our ROK partners, we're putting the appropriate defenses in place to meet that threat.

Q:  North Koreans put out a statement today saying if the United States can test intermediate range ballistic missiles, why can't they?  Can you answer that, gentlemen?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I'm not familiar with that statement.  I haven't seen that.

ADM. BYRNE:  I think that the United Nations Security Council has made a decision on that.

STAFF:  All right, (inaudible)?

Q:  Thank you.  The “Afghanistan Papers” were published by the Washington Post earlier this week.  So in light of that, can either of you tell us what has been the progress -- the military progress in Afghanistan over the course of the year?

And if so, could you give specific – give examples, such as have they been able to take additional ground, or have they been able to get their casualties into check so they can have a sustainable casualty numbers for the future, something like that?

MR. HOFFMAN:  OK, I'll take that first crack at that and then if the admiral has some operational views on that.  With regard to Afghanistan, I think the top-line view from the department, from the administration, has been that the future in Afghanistan is one that is going to be through a diplomatic solution with all parties.  And so we've continued to look into that and to work toward that.

To do so, we've been working with the Afghan Security Forces and able to build up their capabilities, and we have seen that increase over the last year; we've seen the number of students that go through those programs; we've seen the success of their – the safety of the elections and how those elections were conducted; and the number of major attacks was minimal and that's a -- to great credit to the Afghan Security Forces in doing that.  And what we've also seen is a continuing commitment from our partners and allies to support the Afghans as we go through this process.

So we've seen that happen over the last year, but we're still looking and focusing on trying to get to a diplomatic solution in a timely manner.

ADM. BYRNE:  Yeah, I'm not going to get into specifics with respect to metrics, but Gen. Miller, the commander on the ground, is satisfied with the force posture that he has currently in order to meet the mission, which is counterterrorism, and training, advising and assisting our Afghan partners.

Q:  Well to follow up, with all due respect, I wasn't asking about the goal of the diplomatic solution, I was ask -- I want -- I would like to hear a snapshot of the military progress that we've seen, and I would love to hear from Gen. Miller but he hasn't spoken to us recently.

So could somebody talk about just a review of the year, militarily what has our -- what have our allies done to progress in Afghanistan – or have they not? Have they lost ground, have they lost numbers?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Well, I mean, I would just point you back to the Afghan Security Force.  I think the fact that they're able to conduct a relatively violence-free election was one of the major goals and major accomplishments of the year for our allies, for partners; that we've been able to train -- I don't -- I can get you the training numbers, but the amount of training that we've done with them is obviously one of the major goals and major things that we've been working on, that they've been able to increase that training and that they've been able to deploy a force that was -- that had the capability to protect their population and have a relatively violence-free election, I think that's one of the major accomplishments.  So -- all right, we'll go right ...

Q:  Question on the National Defense Strategy.  On December 6th, in roll call, Chairman Inhofe, Ranking Member Thornberry wrote an op-ed saying that they were concerned the Defense Department isn't really going to transform, to do what has to be done to carry out the National Defense Strategy.  They say as evidence, there'd be voices of discontentment about this.  Instead, it's eerily quiet.

Can you assure them a winter of discontent is coming, with the F.Y. '21 budget you're going to break glass, you're going to move forces, cancel programs and do something to -- can -- may convince them that the NDS is real?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I haven't heard anyone who doesn't think the NDS is real.  I know the commitment from the secretary on down has been a -- a forceful focus on implementing the NDS.  I think those of you who have interacted with the secretary know it's one of the -- his prime concerns, as well as with the chairman.

The fact that there has not been voices of discontent, I don't think that that is a good measure for whether it's been implemented, because I think one of the things you look at as the NDS was developed in a -- how it was developed.  It wasn't a plan that came on down from high. It was a plan that was developed through significant interaction and review and consultation of members of the Defense Department, the interagency.

And I think that it's more -- the lack of discontent is more of an indication of the fact that you had a collaborative process that came together, and the fact that people agree with the goals.  There are very few people, I think, that would challenge the fact that our future adversaries are China and Russia, and that we need to be adjusting our force posture to confront them.

Admiral?

ADM. BYRNE:  Yeah, I would agree that the focus is on those three lines of effort:  improving our lethality, enhancing our network of partners and allies, and reforming the department.

Now, the lethality piece, the partner and ally -- allies piece is what we are in consultation with, with the combatant commands, every single day, 24/7.

The reforming of the department, we tend to think of the budget process, as the Pentagon as the center of the universe of the budget process, but I would assure you that the reform measures that we are undertaking are felt globally. 

And I say that in a good way; I don't mean to say that there are cuts being taken in every corner of the globe.  There are efficiencies being gained in order to make us more lethal.

STAFF:  OK, Laura?

Q:  So with the departure of ASD Schriver, I'm just wondering if you can tell us -- update us on how many vacancies OSD has now among its senior leadership.  And, I think it was 14 as of September 5th; some people have been confirmed but there have been a few more resignations.  So can you update on that and tell us how that is impacting the department?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I can get you a number, I don't have it in front of me right now.  I think that's probably close to it, the number.  We've actually had additional people come on board.  I was -- we have swearing-ins every week of new -- we've got a couple new DASs [deputy assistant secretaries] coming on board next week, we've got additional people coming on in the weeks to come.

It's a large department.  We have people who have been here for a long period and have been working incredibly hard.  As you can imagine, it's a -- stressful and it's a job here that takes up a lot of your bandwidth and time, and so it's not unusual for people to look to move.

But I can get you an update on numbers, I know that we're looking to bring on and we'll have some personnel announcements in the coming weeks, likely possibly after the holiday, as we look to bring on some new people.

Q:  There was also -- just to follow up, there was just a report that Guy Roberts, the former ASD for nuclear, chemical and biological programs, when he resigned, he was being investigation – investigated by -- for allegations of sexual harassment.  Can you comment on those?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Not familiar with that at all.

Q:  … that report just came out …

MR. HOFFMAN:  Not familiar with it at all.

Q:  In light of the North Korea developments, is the Pentagon reconsidering the suspension of large-scale exercises with South Korea?

ADM BYRNE:  Well, the secretary made very clear that the cancellation of this year's combined flying event was -- was made as a sign of good faith.  And that is in order to allow room for negotiations to (inaudible). 

There are a lot of negotiations and discussions taking place with respect to the Republic of Korea, whether it's GSOMIA or the (inaudible).  But from the military-to-military perspective, Gen. Abrams and his Republic of Korea counterpart are tasked with maintaining the readiness to fight tonight. 

The fact that large-scale exercises have been scaled back does not mean that training has stopped.  Unit-level training, squadron-level training, staff-to-staff-level training continues and it continues 24/7 because it is a combined force out there.

Q:  Will you be reconsidering the suspension in the coming weeks, or...

ADM BYRNE:  We're always considering what's next with respect to maintaining readiness, with respect to training events and what's happening day-to-day.

Q:  I have a question on Iran.  Have you seen any more signs of (inaudible) in the Persian Gulf since the drone -- since the downing of the drone?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Sorry, can you repeat that?  I couldn't...

Q:  Have you seen any more signs of hostilities in the Persian Gulf from Iran?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I mean, I can just speak generally to Iran and the fact that, you know, our goal with Iran remains the same.  We would like to see them full -- end their nuclear program, limit their ballistic missile program and also stop their support for malign actors.

So whether we've seen them with direct attributable action or their continued support for malign actors, they've been continuing to support those efforts and their proxies throughout the region, and we'd like to see that continue -- that stop.

STAFF:  Jeff? 

Q:  Thank you.  The Washington Post also reported that for 20 years, defense officials have altered statistics to give a sense of false progress in Afghanistan.  What assurances can you give that this department will provide accurate information about Afghanistan, going forward?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So one, I would quibble with the idea that we weren't providing it in the past.  I think what we see from the report from The Washington Post is, looking at individuals giving retrospectives years later on what they may have believed at the time.

This department has attempted to be honest, open, transparent in all of its actions with the American people.  And I think that you can see is the fact that these interviews that make up the basis of this report, the Washington Post report, were interviews that were given to Congress' special investigator on this, with the intention of being public.

So I don't follow that interviews given with the purpose of going to Congress and going to the American people, show any sign of being dishonest.

I know from this administration, from this secretary, that we will always endeavor to be as open and transparent with the American people, and to show our work and be honest about it.

The number of -- the American people have a right to understand what's going on overseas, and what our military is doing.  And our forces and our military men and women deserve to have that transparency as well.

Q:  If I could follow up, in the reporting, which as far as I know no one has disputed the accuracy of the statements, public officials have said one thing in private and a very different thing in public.  Given these were the Obama and Bush administrations. 

But given this difference between what they're saying in public and private, why should the American public trust anything that the military says about Afghanistan?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So once again, I can just speak for this administration and this department today.  And the fact that we're going to continue to be open, transparent and honest with the American people.  That's the direction that I have from the secretary, and that's the direction that all of us have.

And also, I'd point out, once again, those statements appeared for the most part to be people looking back retrospectively on things that they had said previously -- and using hindsight to speak to comments they had made.  So (inaudible).

Q:  You just said that transparency and open about what's happening overseas, and that it's the right of the American people to hear it.  However, ever since Gen. Miller has assumed command, he's never given a Pentagon press briefing. 

There's been no information.  I've asked for over a year, when this briefing's going to happen.  I've sent e-mails saying, when are you going to do a briefing?  Gotten silence.  When is the Pentagon press corps going to hear from the commander of Resolute Support about the Afghanistan war?

MR. HOFFMAN:  OK, I can take that for action.  I was not familiar that you had that request in.  I'll be happy to take it and talk to the general.  I will note that he was on the Hill briefing Congress on this ...

Q:  In a closed hearing, though.

MR. HOFFMAN:  He was briefing the American people's representatives on what's going on in Afghanistan.  So I -- but I understand your point and it -- it's a fair question and I'll be happy to take that.

Q:  So I have two questions.  First, on -- a follow up on Afghanistan.  You said the future of Afghanistan is a diplomatic solution.  After 19 years of war fighting against Taliban, millions of dollars of spending and thousands of casualties, is that the conclusion, that you ended up with, a diplomatic solution with Taliban?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I think right now, what we've -- in Afghanistan, we have worked to a position where we've been helping the Afghan Security Forces reach to where they have -- and capabilities to handle their defensive needs and we're going to continue to help them to grow that, but that -- they need to work with the other parties in the country to come to a diplomatic solution. 

That's the path that we've set out, that we're helping the Department of State pursue, and that's the stated goals of this administration right now.

Q:  And on a separate question, yesterday Secretary Esper expressed concerns about Turkey and said that it's a challenge to figure how to bring Turkey back closer to the NATO alliance.  At the very same time, the Senate committee passed a -- the brand new large sanctions bill against Turkey.

So do you think that the trade of sanctions can help to bring Turkey -- and help bringing Turkey closer to the NATO alliance?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I'm not going to get into the sanctions piece.  That's the -- Congress has a purvey of -- they're able to make those decisions and then State Department actually has the role in implementing sanctions.  That's not a role for the Department of Defense.

But I will say that we've expressed concern about the -- Turkey's role right now and where they've moved.  The S-400 issue and the F-35 issue is obviously of great concern and the incursion into Syria in the face of public condemnation, both from the United States and from our NATO allies, is of concern.  But we are hoping to encourage and to make it clear to them that the path forward for them, they are better off working with the U.S. and working through NATO than going in a different direction.

So, sir?

Q:  One on Turkey and one on Iran, just because you guys just did Turkey.  Just -- can you just give us a status of the S-400s?  Are they turned on?  And is there anything that Turkey can do to keep them in a box, so to speak, and would that be acceptable to the Pentagon?

And on Iran, State Department officials, including Brian Hook this morning, talked about restoring deterrence on Iran.  The implication of that phrase is that obviously deterrence hasn't always worked or hasn't been working to the extent that people have wanted to with Iran.

What's the military's assessment right now, what military assets need to be either deployed in addition to what you have in order to restore that deterrence?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So I don't have an update on the S-400 or what's going on right now.  I don't know if you do?

ADM. BYRNE:  We're aware that there was some testing going on.  We have no indications that it is actually employed in the field.

MR. HOFFMAN:  Regardless, our position with the S-400 has been that if Turkey wants to come back into the fold, the path forward is to get rid of the S-400.  So it's not a keep it in a warehouse and lock it up. It is they need to divest themselves of that weapons system.

Q:  And the indication is that they are just continuing on with the process that they started, right?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Yes.  We have no indication that they have reversed course and are seeking to go in a different direction.  With regard to Iran, I'm not familiar with Representative Hook's comments on that.  I'll say that we believe we have forces in place and we're continuing to increase – or, sorry, not to increase, but to address threats from the region.

And so that -- we've put forces in the region in the last few months to address Iranian malign activity in an effort to deter them.  I'm not familiar with the -- with the specific comments and whether he is talking about going forward or just to -- generally what we have been looking to do.  Don’t know if you have anything ...

ADM. BYRNE:  Yes -- no, those discussions are taking place, again, around the clock with the commands, with Gen. McKenzie and his component commanders.  We are all rather comfortable right now with the force posture that we have in place.  There are no active plans to drastically increase or decrease; though having said that, we're the U.S. military and what we do is we plan and we're planning for those contingencies all of the time.  That's frankly what we do the best.

MR. HOFFMAN:  And I would just point out that a lot of our efforts with regard to planning our force deployments, they're obviously dictated or they're implicated by the actions of our adversaries.  And so we would look to see what Iran is doing in the region, and if they do something that we may end up having to react to make a change to our plans or -- currently.

Q:  ... you said (inaudible) drastically increase or decrease, any plans to increase or decrease without the (inaudible)?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I think what I would say on that is we always have forces going in and out of -- of theater.  So if one ship goes in and one ship comes out, some may read that as an increase or some may read that as steady state, but at any day we have hundreds of forces traveling around and redeploying.  I was looking at the numbers ...

ADM. BYRNE:  Coming and going every day.

MR. HOFFMAN:  Yeah, so (inaudible)?

Q:  Can I ask again about Pensacola?  Can you clarify something the secretary said yesterday?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Sure.

Q:  He said about a dozen of the Saudi students who were friends or acquaintances of the shooter were under the control of the FBI.  What does that specifically mean?  Are they segregated to a certain portion of the Pensacola ...

MR. HOFFMAN:  So sir, I -- I'll be happy to clarify that.  So what the secretary is referring to is there are a number of Saudi students that were acquaintances of the shooter and as part of the investigation, the Saudi commander on the -- training commander on the ground there, their commanding officer, has ordered them to be restricted to quarters.

So they are restricted in where they can go and -- on the base.  That's been done at -- at the -- in coordination with the Saudi government and at our request so that they are available to law enforcement who are continuing the investigation.

So they are -- they have been given orders to be restricted and we're working with them to ensure that they follow that guidance as we work through the investigation.

Q:  And about all of the Saudi students, I believe it's something like 152 at Pensacola, are they allowed to leave the base or are they restricted to the base, as of now?

MR. HOFFMAN:  At this time, I'm not familiar with any restrictions to base for all of the students.  The only change has been so far that they are -- a stand-down in operational training and that they are conducting only classroom training at this time. 

So, Phil?

Q:  Just a quick clarification and then a question.  So they're restricted to quarters or they're restricted to certain parts of the base?

MR. HOFFMAN:  My understanding -- and I can get a clarification for you -- but a restriction to quarters.  I'm sure that they're -- they still have access, obviously, to food and medical care and all of those.

I can get you a better definition of what quarters means, but they're not free to move about.

Q:  Yeah, that would be great because I’m sure everybody would like to know.  And then -- and then on Libya, just to clarify, so the combatant commander was quite clear that he thought that the drones by their -- in the custody of the LNA are of the Russian mercenaries.

What do you believe happened?  You said you weren’t ready to make attributions at this point.  Could you just explain what -- what do you think happened to the drone that was shot down?

(CROSSTALK)

ADM. BYRNE:  I'm not prepared to discuss in this forum.

Q:  OK.

STAFF: Yes, ma’am?

Q:  So the defense -- Kristina Anderson, AWPS News.  Thank you for doing this. 

A couple of days ago, the defense secretaries from Finland and Sweden were here, and they had a discussion.  And there's been reports about rising tensions, asymmetric threats, that sort of thing in the North Sea area as well as the Black Sea.  So I'm wondering if there's any thought about changing force posture in that area beyond NATO, our commitment to NATO.

MR. HOFFMAN:  I'm not familiar with any of those.  And I think with asymmetric threats, I don't know that that would be, you know, deploying additional assets into the area, would be the path we would take.

What I would say is that we do -- one of our concerns, particularly in Europe, is that the Russians are developing asymmetric weapons, and that we've got to look to challenges -- whether it's hypersonics, whether they are cyber-weapons.  And so we've been taking measures to develop those, and countermeasures to them as well.

(CROSSTALK)

ADM. BYRNE:  But your point to -- you -- to force posture in that region goes back to the discussion of the force posture in the Middle East as well.  The chairman's responsibility, he is the global integrator. 

So he takes a look at the threats around the world, our current force posture and any changes in order to meet the requirements of the combatant commanders.  And the High North is part of that, the Indo-Pacific is part of that, as is the Middle East.  And we're making that global view and taking that global perspective every day.

STAFF:  All right, last question, here.

Q:  Can I ask one more on Pensacola?  Jonathan, you said that -- that the people are -- a number of them were acquaintances of the shooter.  I mean, there are only so many of them there.  Aren't they all acquaintances of one another?  So what is the actual -- are they -- is there a concern...

MR. HOFFMAN:  I'd have to refer you to the FBI on that. That's the phraseology I've been given by them.  They're -- they've got the lead in the investigation.

Q:  But do you have any early indication that there might have been some sort of a ring or they might have been supporting him?  I mean, the one thing I've had a hard time understanding through this stand-down is why -- if there was one individual who -- there may be a link to terrorism, why all the Saudi students would be impacted by that unless there was some belief that it was a ring, for lack of a better term.

MR. HOFFMAN:  So I would refer you to the FBI on the investigation.  They have the lead, we're supporting, we're encouraged by the work they're doing, we appreciate the work that they're doing down there to get to conclusions.

I think what I would say, and what the secretary would say with regard to why a stand-down that affects a large population, is it just seemed prudent.  I mean, going back to our guidance that we need to look after our people and their families, that if something else were to happen and we had not taken steps to address and enhance our vetting and screening, that that would unacceptable to the American people, we should be held to account for that.

And so the secretary took the prudent measure to give direction that -- that those steps should be taken.  We're starting it with the Saudi student population.  But we're going to expand it to all the students as soon as we go through this initial round of -- I think it was a 10-day effort by the deputy secretary and the under secretary for intelligence, to come up with what those new standards will be, and to implement them for all of the students that come to the U.S.

Q:  The expansion is new standards for everyone...

MR. HOFFMAN:  Yes. 

Q:  OK.  And then did the FBI recommend that -- any -- did they have any part in recommending that there be a stand-down for the Saudi students specifically?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I'm not familiar with that.  I don't believe that that was a recommendation of the FBI, I believe that was an internal recommendation from the secretary, the under secretary of intelligence, Gen. O'Shaughnessy, the head of NORTHCOM, making that decision jointly.  So.

STAFF:  OK, guys.  Thank you very much.

Q:  Admiral, who's going to win Saturday?

ADM. BYRNE:  Oh, hey, Lucas.  Hey, I'm here as the Joint Staff rep, so by definition, I'm supposed to bleed purple, but not this week.  I bleed blue and gold.  So this weekend, the 120th meeting...

(Laughter.)

ADM. BYRNE:  ... of America's game, and I am going to end this press conference, if I may, with the first two words I learned in Annapolis when I showed up, three decades ago:  "Beat Army."

(Laughter.)

STAFF:  Thanks, (inaudible).