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Transcript

Pentagon Press Secretary Conducts Press Briefing

March 3, 2021
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY:  OK, good afternoon.  (Inaudible).  All right, let me begin today, if I could, with the airstrike -- I'm sorry, the strikes, the rocket attacks in Al Asad.  Preliminary indications are that approximately 10 rockets were fired from points of origin east of the base. 

There are no reports of U.S. service member injuries and all U.S. service members are -- U.S. personnel are accounted for.  A U.S. civilian contractor suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering and sadly passed away shortly after.  Our thoughts and prayers, our condolences -- deepest condolences -- go to his family and his loved ones. 

Iraqi Security Forces were nearly immediately on the scene, and as far as I know, they still are and investigating.  We cannot attribute responsibility for the rocket attacks at this time and we do not have a complete picture of the extent of the damage on base. 

We stand by, as needed, to assist our Iraqi partners as they investigate.  I am not aware of any specific requests by our Iraqi partners for investigation assistance at this time.  Al Asad's counter rocket, artillery, mortar missile defensive system, also known as C-RAM -- I think you guys know that acronym -- engaged in the defense of our people and our forces and our partners.  Secretary Austin was kept abreast all morning and he continues to monitor the situation.  And as I said, we express our deepest condolences to the -- the loved ones of the individual who sadly passed. 

Also, Secretary Austin spoke today with his Singapore counterpart, Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen.  The two leaders reaffirmed their mutual commitment to the U.S.-Singapore bilateral defense relationship.  Secretary Austin and Minister Ng discussed COVID-19.  Secretary Austin applauded the strong measures that Singapore has taken with its response efforts. 

The Secretary also expressed appreciation for the regional access Singapore provides to U.S. forces and both leaders expressed interest in further collaboration on U.S. force posture and counter-terrorism.  Secretary Austin and Minister Ng also exchanged views on the general regional security environment and they look forward to one day being able to meet in person.

Finally, I'd like to draw your attention to Secretary Austin's memo we released yesterday, reaffirming our values and our ethical conduct.  This is an important topic to Secretary Austin and he believes that we all need to commit ourselves to acting in accordance with our core values, to -- to act ethically and professionally, to demonstrate the actions our fellow citizens expect of us. 

And I'll take some questions now.  Sylvie?

Q:  Thank you.  To go back to the rocket attack in Iraq ...

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah?

Q:  Do you think that this -- when you assess the responsibility, do you think it needs a military response?

MR. KIRBY:  I'm not prepared to speak to potential future responses at this time.  I mean, if we determine that a response is necessary, we'll do that, again, in a -- a manner, a time and a place of our choosing. 

Q:  But when you say that the -- the contractor died from a heart attack, you seem to imply that it's not linked to the attack.

MR. KIRBY:  I'm just trying to give you the facts as we know it.  The individual was sheltering during the attack and suffered a cardiac arrest at the time.  And I think that's a -- honestly, that's just as far as -- as we know.  Let's do this the right way, let's let our Iraqi partners investigate this, see what they learn, and then if a response is warranted, I think we have shown clearly that -- that we won't shy away from that but we're just not there yet, Sylvie.

Q:  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  OK, Nick Schiffren?

Q:  Hey, John, thanks.  Can I do one on extremism and one on the January 6th response?  On the January 6th response, as I'm sure you know, there was a lot of focus on what senators call a three-hour delay between the time that the Army Secretary got his first call to the first request for DC National Guard and the actual approval from the acting Secretary of Defense on the new mission for the National Guard.

And one of the explanations for that is that there was a reticence to have the military so prominent because of lessons learned in June.  So my specific question is do you think that the lessons learned in June, and Lafayette Square, and the Black Lives Matter protests in retrospect made the military too reticent and handcuffed General Walker too much?  And then I'll ask on extremism after that.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, Nick.  I mean, I think as you know, DOD IG is investigating the -- the events surrounding January 6th and trying to get a better sense of what happened and why.  I won't get ahead of that process. 

And the -- the people that could answer that question far better than me were the people involved in that decision-making process.  And I just -- I'm just not equipped or qualified, and I wasn't here, so it would be inappropriate for me to -- to attempt to answer that.

Again, I want to stress -- and I know there's a lot of interest in the hearing today, I understand that.  And certainly Congress has every right to hold these hearings and to -- and to execute their oversight responsibilities.  But it is being investigated by the IG and I am not going to get ahead of that process...

Q:  Sorry, instead of extremism -- sorry, John -- can I ask one quick...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY:  ... Go ahead.  You had another one?

Q:  ... One quick follow-up -- instead of extremism, can I just ask a quick follow-up to that?  Did DOD receive any requests for the testimony of either former officials who were in the chain of command on January 6th or current Army officials who were involved on January 6th to testify?  And did respond to that or block those requests at all?

MR. KIRBY:  There was no blockage.  They asked for a representative from the Department and -- and -- and Mr. Salesses was our representative.  I would refer you to the -- to the committee to talk to any other specifics they might have had, with respect to what -- what they requested or wanted. 

They wanted a representative from -- from OSD, and we provided one who is senior enough and -- and whose duties were representative enough to try to deal with that.

Q:  Thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  OK.  Dan?

Q:  Just going back to -- to the rocket attack, could you describe roughly the distance that the rockets were coming from?  And what does that say about the tactics -- and how does that -- of the -- whoever fired those?  And to what degree does this resemble previous attacks by the Iranian-backed militia?

MR. KIRBY:  I'm not qualified to do the forensics, Dan, on -- on -- on how this equates to previous attacks, other than obviously it's a rocket attack and we have seen rocket attacks come from Shia-backed militia groups in the past.  So in that way, it certainly -- it certainly coincides with our past experience here. 

And I don't want to get into the specifics more than I already have in terms of distance away.  As I said, it was points of origin east of the base.  But I think for right now, as the investigation proceeds, I'm going to be a little careful about how much more detail we put out on that.

Q:  And could I just follow-up on Asia for a second?  Today, the Secretary of State, as you know, gave a speech and it very much focused on China and identified China as the main U.S. competitor and -- and adversary.  Is the Secretary of Defense prepared to make some kind of guarantee to allies in Asia that the U.S. military posture will not be reduced, that the U.S. military presence will not be decreased?

MR. KIRBY:  I think what you've seen the Secretary do and I think what you can expect to hear him say is that we're going to take very seriously our security commitments in the region. 

Five of our seven treaty alliances are in that part of the world.  And we're going to -- as the Secretary has said, we're going to respect those alliances and partnerships and we're -- and we're going to -- and we're going to invest appropriately in them. 

But we are also, Dan, doing a global posture review that we expect will be finished this summer.  And part of that review is to look at the footprint around the world and make sure that it's matching the strategy, that the resources are appropriate, and that we've got good policy oversight for what we're doing in any part of the world.  And I -- I just won't get ahead of that.

But again, he has and he will continue to make clear, we take our alliances and partnerships very seriously and our security commitments around the world.  That's not going to change about the United States. 

Paul Shinkman, U.S. News.

Q:  Yes.  Hi, John.  Thanks for taking my call.  So going back to the incident on January 6, I understand that there's an internal review and I respect that but in some ways the incident is still ongoing.  The D.C. National Guard and the other National Guard are still at the Capitol.  At least they will be until March 12.  And there is persistent concerns about additional threats.  There has been some reporting about a known threat that might have taken place this coming Thursday.  So given that there is this internal review going on, does the current leadership believe that there's anything left that they need to address immediately regarding the decisions of that day, particularly regarding these units that are still deployed to the Capitol?  And do they any concerns about making similar mistakes in the future?  If -- if you will concede that there were mistakes made that day.

MR. KIRBY:  Well, there's a lot there.  I mean let's just try to break it apart here, Paul.  And the -- the mission of the guard on Capitol Hill now is different than it was that day.  Yes, they're still there but they are -- they are fundamentally contributing -- contributing to, supporting, a local and federal law enforcement and Capitol Police and, you know, District of Columbia request for their support.

So we are very much a supporting element to existing security that is being provided on Capitol Hill.  And as I said yesterday, that mission continues under its current form until the 12th of March.

And the Secretary is in constant contact with Army and National Guard leaders to make sure that -- that those troops have what they need and that -- and that they've acquired to do that mission, which is again, a very specific mission for right now.

As for lessons learned, I think we're going to learn a lot as a result of this IG investigation.  And again, we don't want to get ahead of that but clearly the Secretary's focus is on going ahead. 

It's making sure that -- that we are properly postured, properly trained, properly resourced to meet valid requirements for U.S. forces here at home and around the world.  And I wouldn't get head of decisions he hasn't made yet but I think it's, you know, very clear that he's going to want to make sure that under his leadership there are sound, prudent, effective decision-making processes in place.

You know should we ever get to a situation where additional forces are needed here locally in a hurry.  And I think I'd leave it at that. 

Barb?

Q:  Well, two things to follow up.  First, you were talking about moving ahead, moving to the future on this.  So what is it that you having the National Guard in D.C. being prepared to do as of March 4 and for the rest of their deployment?  What can you tell the American people about it?

It seems like that should be something that should be fairly transparent what they are -- not asking what they're equipped with.  What are they facing, what are they prepared to do?  And what are you having them being prepared to do?  What do you think they are facing?

You also, you know, just talked about the fact he wanted them to be equipped properly, trained properly should they face a need to rapidly deploy again.  So what are you doing to make sure that happens?  Both of those questions.

MR. KIRBY:  I think he had discussions with Army and National Guard leadership to make sure -- to make sure that the -- that they know they'll have his support in terms of their readiness.  I'm not going to speculate about potential future operations whether it's here at home or overseas.  Barb, you know that.  It's about making sure that everybody is ready to execute whatever missions might be required.

But it's not as if I'm going to go into specifics on contingency planning, we just wouldn't do that.  And as for what they're doing now; they are, again, supporting a security infrastructure that is in place at the request of local D.C. officials, the Capitol Police, the secret service and of course local law enforcement.

And that's what these -- what these soldier's are doing.  And again, the secretary believes the requirements valid right now and we're constantly reevaluating that requirement.  And if that changed than obviously the mission will change.

Q:  Just to button that, as of today, since we're so close to March 4; have you had from the Capitol or D.C. any additional request for any support people, technology equipment, support of any kind.  Have you had any additional requests?

MR. KIRBY:  I'm not aware of any additional requests that have come through officials channels here at the Pentagon.  Yes. 

Let me go back here.  Jared, Al Monitor.  OK.

Q:  Hi, John.  Thanks -- thanks for taking the question.  Can you hear me?

MR. KIRBY:  I got you.

Q:  Hi, I was wondering if U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq are making any special security preparations with the Iraq security forces ahead of the Pope -- Pope Francis' visit later this week?

MR. KIRBY:  I -- I would just -- we -- you know -- as you know we don't talk about specific force protection measures but our -- I can't speak for the Iraqi security forces but our commanders in the field always have it within their right and responsibility to take the security precautions they believe is necessary for any myriad of contingencies and I just wouldn't -- I wouldn't get ahead of that.

OK.  Sure, go ahead.

Q:  Thank you, John.  As you know yesterday was big attack again in (inaudible) in Afghanistan and three Afghan journalists has been killed at the TV station.  And Taliban – Daesh, ISIS take the responsibility.  Do you think that Daesh going to be for future a big dangerous and capable in Afghanistan?

MR. KIRBY:  We've said that they remain a security threat and a -- and a presence in Afghanistan as well as where in the region.  They are a greatly diminished threat than what they once were.  Certainly a great diminished network and organization than they once were but they still remain a threat.

Q:  And also Taliban says that the USA violated the Doha Agreement, which means that the U.S. attacked them from air.

MR. KIRBY:  I'm comfortable and confident in our compliance with the Doha Agreement.  But as we've said, we are reviewing that agreement now and we're reviewing compliance by all sides and no final decisions have been made about that. 

Sam?

Q:  Hey there, John.  I had just had a couple of housekeeping questions.  When are we going to hear about the service secretaries?  Is there a timeline for release in those nominations or kind of an idea?  And if it's not immanent, what's the hold up?  Number two, some of the nominations from the previous administration are kind of hanging out there, particularly the INDO-PACOM commander.  What's the status of that moving onto the Senate?  Thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes Sam, as you know, the nominations of the secretaries for the services is a presidential process, a presidential nomination and I'm certainly not going to get ahead of President Biden's decision making here as for specific timing.  I'd refer you to my colleagues at the White House for that.

And we don't have any personnel announcements or commendations to speak to at this time with respect to senior four-star officers.  Again, those are at that level nominated by the president and I just don't have an update for you.

Jenny?

Q:  Thank you John.  On the transition of the wartime operation concern, at -- how is the United States evaluating on the transition of the wartime of operation considered to South Korea.  Do you evaluate on this through joint military exercise between U.S. and South Korea? 

MR. KIRBY:  Well let me just -- I think you're talking about what we refer to as OPCON transfer.  And wartime operational control will transition? 

Q:  Yes.

MR. KIRBY:  When the mutually agreed upon conditions are fully met.  Conditions based wartime OPCON transition is not only what the United States and the Republic of Korea mutually agreed to, it's also what's -- is necessary to ensure the security of our military forces, our peoples in the region.  And we've talked about training in the past.  I'll just repeat what I've said before.  We know we have significant readiness requirements there on the peninsula and General Abrams is very mindful of that and works in lockstep with our South Korean allies to make sure that forces are appropriately trained.

Q:  Do you think it is a still too early to hand over to South Korea wartime transfer?

MR. KIRBY:  I'm going to leave my answer the way I -- the way I stated it.  Yes.

Q:  Thank you. 

MR. KIRBY:  Yes, go ahead.

Q:  Thank you John.  So, I have a question on Iraq and a follow-up.  So, based on local reporting and (inaudible) sources in Iraq, we've seen reports about the usage of 122 millimeter rockets, which are significantly different from previous attacks.   Some reporting is indicating these are Iranian made Arash-4 rockets.  In addition to that, there's been reporting and open sources talking about surveying different militia groups around Aian al-Asad air base in the last week.  Can you confirm any of these elements?

MR. KIRBY:  I won't talk about intelligence issues.  And as for the specific weapons used, I'll go so far as to say they're rockets.  And we'll let the Iraqi security forces on the scene do the forensics.  And we have some additional detail to provide you we'll do that.

Q:  OK.  And yesterday we hear from the podium you expressed hope that the first strike on Abu Kamal will -- might deter any future attacks.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes.

Q:  And less than 24 hours later, this happened.  In the airstrike, you targeted Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, two entities that are part of the PMF.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes.

Q:  Is the DOD, is the secretary addressing the issue of the PMF with the Prime Minister of Iraq since Prime Minister of Iraq is the leader of the PMF?  Is the PMF a threat to U.S. presence in Iraq right now in light of these attacks?

MR. KIRBY:  I don't have any additional conversations between the secretary and his Iraqi counterparts to read out since the last time that we talked about this.

Q:  How do you view the PMF now after targeting Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada?

MR. KIRBY:  We've long been open and honest about the threats that these -- that arise from these rocket attacks that are being perpetrated by some Shia-backed militia.  And we've not been bashful about calling it out when we've seen it.  And the only thing I'd add is, just like before we're going to act appropriately to defend our personnel, our interests and those of our Iraqi partners.

Q:  I'm asking about the PMF in general, since the group -- these groups are part of the PMF and they're actually the leaders of these groups are part of the leadership, like Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, the leader of --

MR. KIRBY:  I understand -- wait, I understand where you're going.  Again, we're focused on these -- the Shia-backed militias that continue to put at risk and to continue to threaten our people and our Iraqi partners.  And I don't have any other additional conversations to read out today.

Q:  If I may?  When you say Shia backed militias, do you mean Shia militias or Iran backed --

MR. KIRBY:  I mean Shia-backed militias. 

Q:  What does that mean?

MR. KIRBY:  Lara?

Q:  Thanks John.

Q:  No, no, seriously John.  I'm --

MR. KIRBY:  No seriously.  I mean Shia-backed militia.

Q:  Like what does that mean, Shia-backed militia?  You're backed by --

MR. KIRBY:  I've answered your question sir. 

Lara?

Q:  Thanks John.  So just to follow-up on something that you said about the attack in Iraq, when you say the C-RAM engaged, do you mean it successfully shot down some of the incoming rockets?  And how many actually landed versus where shot down?

MR. KIRBY:  So what we're counting right now is 10 impacts.  I don't have an exact -- you know -- we -- we -- so we -- as I said in my statement, we were counting approximately 10 rockets because we had 10 impacts. 

We know that C-RAM was used and engaged.  I don't have specific information for you today right now on the efficacy of that engagement.  So, that's why I'm being very careful about what we're saying right now.  What I -- what I know is what I know and what I've told you and that's honestly just within the last hour the most recent information that I had coming in.

Q:  OK.  And more broadly, does this attack coming 24 hours after the -- well, coming very soon after the strike in Syria, does it show that the U.S. response failed to do its job of deterring additional attacks?  And might there be a change in strategy that's required?

MR. KIRBY:  Certainly this is troubling development and now what anybody wanted to see.  No question about it.  But, we're going to let the investigation go.  We're going to see where that takes us.  And if there is a need to further respond, we're -- we will do that, as I said, in a manner of our own choosing. 

David?

Q:  John, does the Pentagon consider whoever fired those rockets responsible for the death of that contractor?

MR. KIRBY:  I don't know that a determination like that has been made.  As I said, the -- he was sheltering when he suffered a cardiac arrest.  And I don't know that we're in a position right now to make that specific determination.  OK? 

Abraham?

Q:  Thank you, John.  If it's ultimately determined that Iran again backed these militias that were responsible for the attack today, are Iranian -- are Iranian revolutionary guard assets elsewhere in the region off limits for retaliation?

MR. KIRBY:  What was the first word in your question?  If, great hypothetical, Abraham, I'm not going to engage in that right now.

Q:  All right, fine.  Let me rephrase that question then, please.  Are Iranian revolutionary guard assets -

MR. KIRBY:  Well I'm not going to get ahead of decisions that haven't been made yet.  Let's let the investigation conclude.  We went through this before, let's let the investigation conclude.  I cannot speak to attribution at this time.  I'm certainly not going to pre-suppose anything specific in the future with respect to operations or to speculate about what a response might or might not look like. 

Q:  OK, thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes. 

Q:  On the Shia-backed militias.  Previously U.S. officials would say Iran backed militias, Shia is a sect, it's a large group of people.  When you say Shia-backed what do you really mean?  I was confused.

MR. KIRBY:  I've been using that phrase pretty much since I've been up here and we know that and I've said this that that some of the Shia-back militias have – Shia-based have Iranian backing. 

Q:  OK.  So, because that was my question.  And then the other thing like currently we see that the Saudi Arabia attack was also meant to evade where U.S. forces were located.  So is this sporadic persistence and Iran-backed attacks on U.S. bases and U.S. forces in the Middle East at the same time we have a bill at the Congress asking for the -- taking back the AUMF 2002 and 1991.  So how will -- if the legislation pass the Congress how will the U.S. conduct its operations throughout the Middle East without this authorization?

MR. KIRBY:  I won't get ahead of the Congress or what they're doing in terms of the AUMF.  And I won't get into a lawyerly conclusion here.  The -- if you're talking about the response like from last week, as I said, legal justification clearly existing in Article II of the Constitution; the President's role as Commander of Chief, and Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which allows for nations for self defense.

And as the Congress debates and discusses the authorization to use military force they'll find a willing partner in that discussion here at the Defense Department. 

Q:  Idrees, it’s been a while.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes.  Did not recognize you.

Q:  I know.  That's what I was thinking.  When the Secretary spoke with his Iraqi counterpart last week the question of security of coalition forces in Iraq obviously came up.  With the latest attack does the Secretary believe the Iraqis are living up to their commitment of protecting U.S. and coalition forces in the country?

MR. KIRBY:  The reason we're there is to go after ISIS and to help Iraqi security forces in that mission.  And our commanders have the right and responsibility to protect their forces.  This isn't about whether the Iraqis are doing enough or not.  I mean we're there at their invitation, at their request; this is their country, these are their bases; to help them go after ISIS and that's the focus. 

And I would remind that Iraqi security forces are also coming under attack and under threat by these Shia militia groups.

Q:  You don't necessarily think the should be doing more to protect the bases?

MR. KIRBY:  Our focus with them is going after ISIS.  And this is a problem that has bedeviled us for a while.  These militia groups and their ties to Iran. 

Yes, Luis?

Q:  First I just want to compliment you on the improved audio.  Hearing it person here sounds great.

MR. KIRBY:  Yes.  (Inaudible) it sounds great.  Moving forward.  A little more difficult to get there than I thought it would be.

Q:  That's right.  But I wanted to ask you about when we talk about KH and KSS, these two -

MR. KIRBY:  Right.

Q:  -- Iranian-backed militias.  Is the assessment that in these attacks they are acting under the direction of Iran or that they are working autonomously when conducting these attacks? And then, the second question is, overall how do you assess right now what is the perception of the tensions with Iran in the region between U.S. (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY:  On the first one, Luis, I mean we know and we know for quite some time that there's a range of support that some of these groups get from Tehran.  I won't get into specifics on any given attack about exactly what degree of command and control there was or wasn't.  But we know they continue to get support from the Iranian regime.  And it varies -- it varies across the spectrum.  So that's -- and that's been a long standing and common concern. 

And clearly relations between our two countries are not at a high point and the maximum pressure campaign that was put on by the previous administration only emboldened Iran further to pull back its commitments under the JCPOA and certainly has done nothing to limit, constrain or curtail their other malign activities whether it's ballistic missile defense that they -- that they -- ballistic missile capabilities, I'm sorry, that they developed or their support for terrorism. 

And we seen -- we continue to see reports of other activity throughout the region, in the maritime domain as well.  So the bilateral relations between Iran and the United States remain tense.  And that's the situation as we come into it.  And because there's no -- because the previous administration pulled out of the Iran deal and now there's no direct method communicating as there was before. 

I won't get ahead, that's for the State Department to speak to in terms of how that's going to go.  What I can just say is from our perspective the secretary takes very seriously our commitments in the region to our people, to our resources, and to our allies and partners and trying to address and be prepared for the continued threats that come out of Tehran.

OK, Mike.

Q:  Yes, do you know if the rockets were fired from a single spot or multiple spots?  And assuming this becomes -- eventually you point the finger at the Iranian-backed Shia militias, is there a concern that this might -- situation might involve into some sort of tit for tat affair with them striking us so we knock a couple of buildings over so them strike us again?

MR. KIRBY:  My understanding on your first question is and I use the word points in my statement.  Points of origin, right now we believe plural.  But again there's forensics being done and I want to leave a little bit of a caveat there because early information, as you know, Mike, is not always 100-percent accurate.

Nobody wants to see this situation escalate.  That is why when we conducted this strike last week in Syria, we said it was -- we -- we believed it was measured and proportionate, it was intended to take that compound out and not allow these groups to use it but also to send a signal about how seriously we -- we take our responsibilities to protect our people.

And I said back then that we hoped it will have a deterrent effect.  We still do.  So nobody wants to see this escalate into, as you described it, a tit for tat.  That is -- that's not -- not in our interests, it's not in the Iraqi people's interest, OK? 

Ashley, on the phone?

Q:  Hi.  I wanted to follow up on Lara's question, and you said 10 rockets were impacted.  Do you mean that they hit the base or that they were hit by the C-RAM system?  And then I also wanted to ask has there been any request for any additional air defense systems to be deployed to the region?  And the Army has two Iron Dome batteries right now that they're training (inaudible) to be able to deploy later this year but they've also left open the window to be able to speed that up.  Has a decision been made to speed that up?

MR. KIRBY:  I'm -- I'm not aware of any decision to change defensive systems there in Iraq.  I -- I don't have anything for you on that.  And I -- again, on the -- on the numbers, as we speak now, we believe the -- approximately 10 rockets were fired.  We have noticed, we have seen 10 impact points on the base where the rockets -- where the -- where -- where rockets hit.

The forensics are still going on, so that's what I know right now, and as I said to Lara's question, we know that C-RAM engaged.  I don't have a measure of effectiveness of that engagement right now.  I suspect as time goes on, we'll -- we'll know a little bit more, OK? 

Yeah, Gordon?

Q:  John, thanks.  Just a quick one on that is do you have any sense of how long it will take for the Iraqis to determine attribution?  And how important is that in determining if there is a response and when there might be a response?

MR. KIRBY:  Clearly, we want to get a -- a -- a -- we want to know attribution, I think.  I -- I won't speak for the Iraqis, I don't know how long this investigation's going to take them to complete.  We're going to respect that process and let them -- and -- and let them do their work.

And again, I'm not going to speculate and get ahead of decisions that might or might not be made in terms of a response, except to say that we will, if it is deemed that a response is necessary and warranted, we'll do that in our own way and our own -- our own manner, and obviously we'll be mindful of -- of the need to do that in a -- in a way that is as effective as possible, OK? 

Lucas?

Q:  John, a number of lawmakers have called for a new authorized use of military force.  Does the secretary believe he has all of the authorities he needs?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, we just had this question.  As I said, if lawmakers are going to have a -- they want to have a discussion about the -- the authorization for use of military force, they'll find a willing partner in that discussion here at the Defense Department.

But as we talked about last week, the -- the answer is yes, and -- and the strikes that were conducted in Syria were done under Article 2 and under the UN Charter.  The -- the -- the President, as commander-in-chief, has a fundamental responsibility to act in -- in self defense of our troops and our assets overseas.  Nothing's going to change about that.

And as we -- as we said -- and I don't -- the question's kind of getting towards a response, I get that -- the response last week, as I said, was a defensive measure.

Q:  And would the Secretary like to see a new authority passed through Congress?

MR. KIRBY:  I -- I'm not going to speak for the secretary on that.  Again, we would -- we would welcome the opportunity to have those discussions ...

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  ... you say nobody wants to see this situation escalate.  It appears that the groups that are launching these rockets do want to see this escalate.  How do you make sure this doesn't spiral out of control?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah, I -- I don't speak for them, I'm speaking for the U.S. Defense Department, and once I -- when I say "no one," I mean no one here wants to see this escalate.  What was your second question?

Q:  That was it.

MR. KIRBY:  Oh, was that it?  OK.  Yep, we'll go to Mike and then you.  Go ahead.

Q:  One -- one -- one caveat for a second that -- I was in the artillery, so these kind of questions (inaudible) ...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY:  ... I've seen your Twitter feed.

Q:  They -- OK -- they fired 10 rockets from multiple locations and all 10 hit the target.  We engaged with C-RAM but apparently didn't knock them out because they all hit the target.  So, I mean, I just want to make sure I'm on the right sort of -- I'm not going off into some sort of ...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY:  ... I mean, I'll -- I'll -- I'll be as precise as I can be, Mike, right now.  We -- we -- we -- as I said, as of an hour ago, when I -- before I came out here, we believe that 10 -- approximately -- I think I used the word "approximately" -- 10 were fired from points of origin and we know that there were 10 impacts on the base.

Q:  On the base.

MR. KIRBY:  We know that C-RAM engaged. 

Q:  Right.

MR. KIRBY:  What I can't tell you is were there more than 10 and C-RAM knocked out a few of them, or is one or two of those impacts still registering on the ground, even though C-RAM hit it?  So I -- I just don't have that level of detail right now.

Q:  I want to say that is some Fort Sill level artillery right there.  10 rounds fired from multiple targets, hitting the same -- they're -- the time on target right there on the flight.  That's pretty sophisticated shooting.

MR. KIRBY:  So when you say it's Fort Sill, like, you mean it's good?

Q:  ... Artillery Center, I'm sorry.

MR. KIRBY:  OK.  I -- again, I'm telling you what I know now, Mike -- I'm telling you what I know now and -- and you guys know just as well as I do that initial reports don't often -- always pan out to be the ...

(CROSSTALK)

... nope, it's not, it's a fair question, I'm just being as honest with you as I can right now.  Yes, sir.  Go ahead.

Q:  My name's (inaudible) from (inaudible) and I have a question in Asia -- on Asia.

MR. KIRBY:  OK.

Q:  I believe that there's a -- a discussion about the need to disperse the forces to make it -- you know, to avoid it to become a big target.  So is this idea also implemented in the Global Posture Review?

MR. KIRBY:  Dispersion of forces?

Q:  ... forces to a location.

MR. KIRBY:  I think -- I -- I -- I think it's important to remember what the Global Posture Review is about.  It's -- it's not about the tactical employment or even the operational level employment of forces in a region or in a theater or in a combat zone, which is what you're talking about.  The dispersal is not an uncommon military tactic as a -- a self defense measure.  That's not what the posture review is about.  It's taking a look at where our footprint is around the world -- do we have -- do we have it right?  Do we have enough assets, enough resources, enough people to meet the strategy for that part of the world, and is that strategy tied to an effective policy that matches the will of the American people?  That's what the Global Posture Review -- it's a very geo-strategic look, it's not an operational or tactical one. 

Yeah, Lara?

Q:  Just one more question on the January 6th attack.  As I'm sure you're aware, during the testimony today, the commander of DC National Guard gave a different timeline than has previously been given by the Pentagon.  I know you weren't here at the time but is it concerning that two months later, there's still an inability to get the timeline straight, even within DOD?

MR. KIRBY:  From our perspective, Lara, there's not a -- there's no confusion about the timeline.  I think we posted it online, and I can point you to the link.  I mean, we've -- we've ...

Q:  But what was he talking about when he said ...

MR. KIRBY:  I -- I wouldn't ...

Q:  ... it's 5 p.m. versus 3 p.m. approval.  Are there -- were there ...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY:  ... General Walker?

Q:  Yeah.

MR. KIRBY:  I would point you back -- you -- you should really ask that question to General Walker.  We have posted on our website, and again, we can get you the link, if you don't have it -- of our -- our record of the timeline and the decision-making process.  That's all on the web and that was done before -- before -- before I got here.  And we're a very comfortable with that timeline, as expressed publicly, that we -- that we put out there. 

And again, I'd point you to General Walker to speak to his -- to his understanding of that day.

Barb?

Q:  But nonetheless, General Walker repeatedly publicly talked about the three-hour delay in getting the D.C. National Guard out there, which was the responsibility of DOD decision-makers that day, presuming that the DC National Guard commander is precise and knows exactly what he's talking about. Can you say now that such a delay would never happen again?  Are you -- is the Department (inaudible) -- that you're...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY:  That question -- that question implies, Barb, that we -- we -- that we agree the idea that -- the word delay.  And I don't know that that's the case.  We have, as I said, been very honest in posting what the timeline was from the view of this building.  And that -- and that's -- that's online.

But your question supposes that -- that there's common agreement that there was in fact a delay.  And I think you heard Mr. Salesses talk to the decision-making process pretty openly and honestly in terms of the seriousness with which it was done and the sobriety with which it -- those decisions were considered. 

And I don't know anything about -- I mean, oh, I shouldn't say that...

(LAUGHTER)

... You should never talk after you say something like, "I don't know anything about."  But...

Q:  (OFF-MIKE) Feel free.

MR. KIRBY:  ... But...

(LAUGHTER)

... from where I sat as a -- as a private citizen, it seemed to me like those National Guardsmen went from not being tasked at all to being on the streets in fairly quick fashion.  I mean, these are -- these are men and women who have lives, jobs, homes, and it seemed to me like they got there pretty quickly.

Q:  So the real question then is, since -- regardless of the investigation, since Secretary Austin got here, he's certainly been made aware of the facts of January 6th and what the military did or did not do. 

Has Secretary Austin ordered or asked for any developments, changes procedures, memos, authorizations, whatever you want to say -- to ensure that -- not hypothetical, simply to ensure that authorizing the DC National Guard is a subject that moves as fast as possible?  Has he done anything to put his stamp on making sure the DC National Guard can get out there as fast as it's needed?

MR. KIRBY:  Without any desire -- without any desire by him to get ahead of the I.G. investigation that's going on into that day, he has had -- he certainly has had conversations with the Army leadership and with National Guard leadership. 

And he's comfortable and confident that -- that they will execute a sound and prudent decision-making process, if and when -- or should there ever be a need to -- to repeat the kinds of events -- and goodness knows, nobody wants that to happen again.  But he's confident and comfortable in their ability to lead a decision-making process that will properly meet requirements for security, if it happens -- if it's needed again...

Q:  So (inaudible) January 6th, he has -- because I just want to make sure I understand -- he hasn't seen anything -- from the conversations he's had with people, he hasn't seen anything that he thinks at the moment needs to be changed?  He's confident in the process -- in the -- in the decision-making process as it exists here?  Or has he seen something and has he changed it?

MR. KIRBY:  Well, again, I'd just go back to say he has had conversations with the leadership.  And he's comfortable and confident that they know what they need to do to execute a decision-making process that is prudent, and sound, and as effective as it can be inside the time and space limits.  OK?  I'll leave it at that.

All right, thanks everybody.

Q:  Thank you.