Transcript

Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds an Off-Camera Press Briefing

Aug. 10, 2021
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY:  OK, just a couple of things at the top here. I'd like to take a moment to recognize two Senate confirmations yesterday, which  – which adds to  – continues to add to the list of Senate-confirmed political appointees that we have here at the department: Dr. Mara Karlin, who many of you know; confirmed as the assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities; and Karl Spangler as Army comptroller and assistant secretary of the Army for financial management. And then I think, as you know, we also recently welcomed the following other appointees: Caroline Krass to general counsel, Heidi Shyu as undersecretary for research and engineering, Deborah Rosenblum, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense, Gina Ortiz Jones, undersecretary of the Air Force, Meredith Berger, assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment, and Shawn Skelly, assistant secretary of defense for readiness.

So we're continuing to flesh out the team here, and the secretary's grateful for the willingness of all these leaders and experts to  – to serve the country, some of them to serve the country again in these capacities, and we're  – we're  – we're pleased to have them on  – on board and joining the team at this very critical time.

And with that, we'll take questions. Bob, I think, is on the phone.

Q:  Yes, thank you, John. I've got a question for you about Afghanistan, and I  – I know you spoke quite a bit about Afghanistan yesterday. I'll try not to tread the same ground. But it's sort of a two-part Q: What  – in your view, in the  – the air strikes that the U.S. has done thus far over the past three or four weeks with some regularity, how would you  – how much difference have those air strikes made on the ground, in terms of the battlefield?

And  – and, secondly, I'd like to get your  – ask you about Secretary Austin's thinking on this question about the utility of limited air strikes in Afghanistan. So as you get  – get to August 31st, what is his view about, do air strikes alone by the U.S. make a decisive  – can they make a decisive difference? Thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  There's a lot there, Bob. What I would tell you is  – let me  – let me reset this again, and I  – I  – I want to be very deliberate here, and  – and I know you've heard me say it  – you've probably heard me say it three times yesterday, but I'm going to say it again today because it's an important framing.

We have the authorities to continue to conduct air strikes in support of Afghan National Security Forces, Defense and Security Forces through the end of the drawdown, which ends on the 31st of August. I won't speculate about authorities beyond that, but we have the authorities to do it now, and we are, and we have flown airstrikes in just the last several days. We  – we have every confidence, without getting into details on every individual strike, which I won't do  – we have every confidence that we hit what we're aiming at, and that the strikes are absolutely having a kinetic effect  – if you don't mind the Pentagon-ese there  – a kinetic effect on the Taliban on the ground.

Obviously, as I said yesterday, we're watching with deep concern the Taliban advances throughout the country. They continue to make advances. As I've said, we will conduct these strikes where and when feasible with the full understanding that as we continue the drawdown and the drawdown for  – in many ways, in  – in  – in the  – in many facets, is all but complete. The where and the when, in terms of feasibility, of these strikes is going to be  – is  – is  – is going to be different, and it's going to decline. So we do it where and when feasible with the understanding that it's not always going to be feasible. But when we strike, we have every confidence that those strikes are  – are  – are hitting what we're aiming at and are having an effect on the Taliban in that place and in that time.

Nobody is suggesting  – nobody has suggested here at the Pentagon that air strikes are a panacea that  – that will solve all the problems, all of the conditions on the ground. We've never said that. What  – what we have said is that the Afghan forces have the capability, they have the capacity, they have numerical advantage, they have an Air Force, and that  – and  – and  – and oh, by the way, that Air Force is engaged. I mean, they are  – they are also flying strikes, many more than we are. So they  – they have  – they have the capabilities at  – at hand, and it's really going to come down to the  – to the  – to the leadership and the will to use those capabilities.

As for Secretary Austin, I think the way I've just summarized it summarizes very well his thinking about this. I don't think I can elaborate any any more. He he understands that  – you know, he understands the authorities that he has. He certainly understands the need to use those authorities and capabilities as appropriate in support of Afghan forces. And he also recognizes he has got a drawdown to complete and a new relationship with the Afghan forces that  – that he wants to pursue.

I would also add, not that you asked this, Bob, but I would also add that  – I mean, you know, we're focused on airstrikes, and I understand that. I understand the interest in that. But I would ask you not to forget the other things that we continue to do and have done since the president's decision for Afghan national security forces. We continue to be committed to helping their air force. Just last month we delivered three refurbished the Black Hawk helicopters at the Hamid Karzai International Airport. There are 37, so another 34 in the pipeline that will get delivered to the Afghan air force over time.

We have agreed to purchase three A-29s, the propeller-driven strike aircraft, to the Afghan air force. We are helping with the financial aspect of refurbishing, not the actual overhaul, but helping with the financial aspect of overhauling their fleet in MI-17s. We have continued to pursue contract and maintenance support options for them over-the-horizon. They are contractors on the ground that are still supporting the Afghan air force, in particular.

I mean, so there is  – there is still a lot that we're doing. And the relationship is going to be different going forward. We've talked about that because we aren't going to be on the ground in numbers. But it's not like we're walking away from Afghan national security and defense forces, either now, as they  – as the Taliban continues to make moves on the ground, or later when our drawdown is complete. That's a long answer, Bob, but I appreciate the chance to let me filibuster a little bit.

Q:  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  (Megan ?)?

Q:  Do you all have numbers on the number of troops who have religious exemptions for vaccines? And are those broken out at all by vaccine, by which kind of vaccine for what...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY:  I don't know, Megan. I'm going to take your question, I honestly don't know, to  – I'm going to hazard a guess that if we do, it's going to be the services that will have that, not OSD, because exemptions  – religious exemptions to vaccines are decided by the services, not by  – not by OSD.

Q:  Right.

MR. KIRBY:  So let me take a question and get back to you. I truly don't know the answer.

Q:  I'm told your people are looking into it (INAUDIBLE).

(Laughter.)

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY:  I actually asked that question myself this morning.

Yes?

Q:  John, can you provide a breakdown by service of who is vaccinated in the U.S. military?

MR. KIRBY:  We already put that information...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY:  It's a little old, but it's because it  – but it's more accurate. I mean, we  – we  – I mean, Lucas, go to our website. It's up there. I mean, we do that. Now, yes, there is a little time lag but that's because we're trying to funnel the data through the Advana system, and so there is a little bit of a lag, but it gives you a pretty darn good sense.

Q:  Is the military considering any incentives to get the troops the jab besides just ordering them?

MR. KIRBY:  I know of no corporate level DoD-wide incentives that are being pursued. But as you've reported yourself, I mean, many of the services, local commanders have the authority to offer incentives such as, you know, working out at a gym over  – versus a  – a masked gym and that kind of thing, and they  – they ...

Q:  a day off perhaps?

MR. KIRBY:  I beg your pardon?

Q:  a day off perhaps?

MR. KIRBY:  Again, local commanders and unit commanders have  – have their  – the ability to offer some positive incentives, but I don't know of any department-wide incentive program. I think  – and I would, you know, go back to what the Secretary said  – the  – the best incentive to get the vaccine is the knowledge that you're not only protecting yourself but you're protecting your unit, your ship, your teammates, your shipmates and you're doing the right thing for force readiness. That should be the biggest incentive of all.

Jim?

Q:  Just jump on that a little bit. Now, you were talking about the Pfizer vaccine possibly going through the FDA approval (inaudible) maybe by the end of this month. The other vaccines, though, are they going to be coming out at the same time? And will  – will the Secretary need to ask the President for a waiver to be able to use those vaccines, even if the Pfizer vaccine is passed?

MR. KIRBY:  I don't know what the timeline is for licensure. That's really an FDA question. We're  – we're not in any position to know what timeline (are ?). As the Secretary noted in his memo yesterday, press reporting suggests that the Pfizer vaccine could achieve licensure by early next month, and I think we saw Dr. Fauci say yesterday it could be even before the end of this month. So I  – I wouldn't speculate about timing on those.

To your other questions  – so a couple of points. One, once FDA licensure occurs for a vaccine, the Secretary doesn't need any more permission to make it mandatory. He has the authority to  – to mandate that vaccine upon licensure. And as he indicated in his memo yesterday, that's exactly what he'll do, if licensure occurs on any of the vaccines prior to mid-September.

But if  – if he wanted to pursue mandatory vaccinations for, say, the remaining vaccines that have not achieved licensure, yes, he would need a waiver from the President. I think if  – I  – I don't want to get into speculation but the  – the  – the  – there's a lot of Pfizer vaccines in the inventory and there's certainly the capacity and the capability to get more so that if Pfizer were to achieve licensure before mid-September, I think you can expect that the department would energetically pursue a mandatory vaccination program for using  – using the Pfizer vaccine.

Q:  Yeah, that would've been my second question  – is there enough Pfizer in the pipeline ...

MR. KIRBY:  I don't know what the actual inventory is. As you know, there's a shelf life on these things and  – and the services and the COCOMs handle their inventories. I  – I  – I couldn't begin to guess what that would look like.

But if  – if there's not enough on hand immediate  – first of all, the  – you know, to  – to vaccinate the rest of the force, you're  – it's going to take a little time. It's not  – you can't just knock it out in one day. And to what  – to  – to the degree that there are needs in  – in inventory, we'll meet those needs. I mean, there is absolutely the manufacturing capacity to get them and to get them on  – in  – in pretty short order. The  – the Secretary's not worried about that.

Q:  So are ...

MR. KIRBY:  Go ahead, Barb.

Q:  Just to make sure I understand, you're saying if full licensure occurs for Pfizer, your understanding is that'll be a  – they won't pursue mandatory for other vaccines that remain under emergency use?

MR. KIRBY:  No, that's not what I said at all. I  – I said that  – and that's not what I said, Barb  – I said  – I said that regardless of which  – I don't want to speak for the FDA's timeline  – regardless of which one's first, once they have achieved ...

(CROSS-TALK)

MR. KIRBY:  We have press  – press reporting suggests that they'll be first. Whatever one  – however they reach FDA licensure, once they've reached FDA licensure, the Secretary has the authority to make them mandatory, and as he put in his memo, that's his intention.

But I don't want to get into the timeline of which one's first and which one's next but you can expect that he will make them mandatory when they reach licensure. I did not suggest  – and if I  – if I  – if I came across that I suggested that "well, we're just going to get  – the  – the Pfizer will be first and then that's the only one we're going to do," I  – I  – that is not at all what I was trying to express.

Q:  So even the ones that remain under emergency use, you will still pursue having them become a mandatory vaccination?

MR. KIRBY:  If, by mid-September, we have not ...

Q:  Any  – by mid-September, anything that's still under EUA, you will pursue having a waiver for a mandatory ...

MR. KIRBY:  The Secretary wants to preserve that option for himself.

Q:  Preserve the option? I thought you were going to do it? I'm really confused.

MR. KIRBY:  Well, what if, Barb, you're able to vaccinate the rest of the force before the second or third vaccine gets licensure?

Q:  Well, don't you want to have maximum vaccine ...

MR. KIRBY:  The Secretary's going to preserve the option to make all the vaccines mandatory, pursue the waiver by mid-September. As I said  – as he  – as he wrote and I said yesterday, it's whichever comes first.

Q:  Can I just ask one other very quick question on Afghanistan? You keep talking about doing strikes that are feasible. Can you tell us what the use  – what is meant by that? What makes a strike feasible?

MR. KIRBY:  The availability of  – of aircraft, proper  – enough time to reach the target, enough knowledge that it's a valid target and a target that could be hit with the ordinance that you have on the  – I mean, it goes on and on and on. It's no different than the kind of calculation we use when we conduct airstrikes anywhere else in the world.

Q:  Thank you.

Q:  Can you talk to me about the President  – or the Secretary's authority to  – he doesn't have to approve every airstrike in Afghanistan, right? Isn't the  – General McKenzie have that authority?

MR. KIRBY:  He does not approve every airstrike.

Q:  But he doesn't have to  – I  – is  – is it  – whether it's CT or Taliban, the Secretary does not have to get  – have any (inaudible) authority, right?

MR. KIRBY:  The  – when we're talking about supporting Afghan National Security Forces, he does not have to  – he's not involved in the specific decision-making process for each airstrike.

Q:  I just asked you cause that was something you said earlier. Can I ask one more on the vaccine?

MR. KIRBY:  Yeah.

Q:  I  – there  – like, the  – the main question that I keep getting is what happens if service members  – the  – refuse to take it? And  – and I  – I know that yesterday, you said you didn't have any fidelity on that but, like, can you just give us anything  – if  – if  – if  – especially if you're  – you're someone who's been in the military for some time and they add this vaccine  – so we're not talking about people who are going to boot camp and have to get all of these vaccines that they know about before they even joined  – like, if you're in a new  – is there any path for you to  – to decline to get the vaccine for  – for what  – whatever reason? Not  – not, you know, a religious exemption but for any reason if you're opposed to it?

MR. KIRBY:  One  – look, once  – once a vaccine becomes the  – mandatory, then it's a lawful order to administer the  – to  – to  – to administer the vaccine. I think you guys have all  – I think Megan's question gets at the religious exemption. Clearly, there is a religious exemption possibility for any mandatory vaccine and there's a process that we go through to counsel the individual, both from a medical and from a command perspective, about using a religious exemption. There's a  – there's an actual thoughtful process. Each service does it a little differently, but there's a process here. It's not just  – it's not  – it's not done in a thoughtless way. And an individual could also be exempt from a mandatory vaccine based on medical purposes, reasons  – a pre-existing condition, that kind of thing. Again, the  – the  – the primary care physician will be able to help make that determination.

I really don't  – the reason why I didn't want to get into it yesterday, because I don't want to speculate and  – and hypothesize about  – about what we think would  – won't be a serious issue. I mean, we have every expectation that once the vaccine's made mandatory, the troops are going to  – they're going to do the right thing. But without speaking to the future, you know, if it  – it's treated like, certainly, any lawful order  – and  – and there could be administrative and disciplinary repercussions for failing to obey that order.

I would tell you that going forward with this particular vaccine, the secretary's expectation is that commanders are going to treat the administration of that vaccine with, as he wrote in his memo, professionalism  – professionalism, skill and compassion, and we're going to make sure that every individual who has reservations about taking a vaccine for whatever reason is properly counseled about the safety and the efficacy of the vaccines and the  – the health risks for not taking it, and as well as counsel about the readiness impact of not taking it, the impact that  – that an individual would be having on his or her teammates. So we're  – there's going to be, certainly, a measure of counseling here as  – as a result of that.

And I would also remind, Courtney, that commanders have a range of tools, short of using the UCMJ, available to them to try to help individuals make the right decisions. And again, it's the secretary's expectation that  – that  – that that's going to be the locus of the effort here, OK?

Let me get on the phones here, all right? Megan, it says you're on the phone.

Q:  (inaudible)

MR. KIRBY:  It says you're on the phone.

Q:  My (inaudible), actually. (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY:  That's Brooke  – that's Brooke DeWalt's terrible spelling.

Q:  Is  – you're calling (Megan Epstein ?), or...

MR. KIRBY:  No, says Megan Myers. All right, Jeff...

Q:  I mean, I did not call in.

MR. KIRBY:  Jeff Selden, VOA.

Q:  Thanks, John. Thanks very much for doing this. If  – if I could bring this back to Afghanistan for a moment, you said yesterday, and you kind of inferred it again today, that the Afghan government and the military, they have the  – the capability. They have the capacity, and they really needed to show leadership. Are you seeing any indications, as we're getting word today that  – that another provincial capital appears to have fallen to the Taliban. Are you seeing any indications that Afghanistan's leadership is  – is  – is starting to show, "exude", I think was the word you used yesterday, the  – the leadership that you want? And  – and is the fact that you're all publicly saying that they need to show leadership, what does that say about the  – the plan and the confidence the U.S. has in the plan that President Ghani offered, where he said that it would stabilize Afghanistan over the next six months, if they're not showing leadership and they need to show more? Does that mean the  – the  – the plan that he's putting out there is not going to work?

MR. KIRBY:  Jeff, I want to be careful. What I said yesterday was when we look back at the outcome, whatever the outcome is, we're going to be able to say that a lot of it had to do with leadership, both political and military. That's how I phrased it, and I stand by that today.

I'm not going to assess on a day-to-day basis Afghan progress, meeting their  – their responsibilities to defend their country and their people. That's for them to speak to. What I can tell you is that we will continue to support them where and when feasible from the air, and we are still working to complete our  – our drawdown. But I do not want to  – and it wouldn't be appropriate for the Department of Defense every day to be getting up here and  – and  – and talking about what  – what is or what isn't going right on the battlefield when we aren't on the battlefield. It is  – it is  – this is an Afghan strategy that  – that  – that they  – that they have to execute, and we are going to continue to support them as  – as best we can, as I mentioned. And it's not just through air strikes, although I understand that that's the interest item. We are continuing to support them in other longer-term strategic ways, and that will continue.

Jeff Shogol?

Q:  Thank you. There are already memes being posted on social media with templates allegedly showing service members how they can apply for religious exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines. I'm hoping you can say  – you can provide some information about what  – what are the steps? How can service members apply for religious exemptions for the mandatory COVID-19 vaccines?

MR. KIRBY:  So Jeff, as I said, each service does it a  – a little bit differently. Requests for religious exemption must comply with the provisions of the applicable  – applicable policy and/or regulation for the service member requesting it.

So for the Army, it's  – that policy's provided in an instruction, AR 600-20, which I think you can find online. For the Navy and the Marine Corps, waivers are granted on a case-by-case basis by the chief of Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, and so on. Each service does it a little bit differently.

But in general, once an application is made, a military physician must counsel the applicant. The physician should ensure that the service member is making an informed decision and should address, at a minimum, specific information about the diseases concerned, in this case, COVID, specific vaccine information, including product constituents, benefits, risks and potential risks of infection incurred by the un-immunized individuals. The commander then must counsel the individual that noncompliance with an immunization may  – it may adversely affect deployability, assignment or international travel. And so again, it  – there  – there's a DOD instruction, DOD instruction 1300.17, and applicable service regulations will be provided, whether service members were pending active requests for religious exemption or temporarily deferred, pending outcome of their request.

So there is a process. It's not like we haven't done this before or we haven't thought about it before, and it's all laid out there in these instructions that you can go look at online.

Q:  So  – so I'm clear, there will be a process for service members to apply for religious exemptions once these vaccines become mandatory?

MR. KIRBY:  Absolutely, as is  – as is for every other mandatory vaccine that is required from  – of  – of  – of service members.

Yeah, (Tom ?)

Q:  Hi, good morning, John. Over the weekend, U.S. Army Europe announced that they were going to retain, I think, six or seven bases that were previously going to be turned over. Is that decision of harbinger of the Global Force Posture Review, or is it just a one-off?

MR. KIRBY:  It's not a one-off, and it's not part of the Global Posture Review. It's a separate process. It's a separate process. It's a separate process.

Q:  Thank you.

Q:  On Afghanistan  – from the roughly 650 troops who are expected to remain past the deadline to support the diplomatic mission, can you give any detail, without giving too much, about, you know, how those troops are comprised as the Joint Force across services? What type of support are they expected to have from over-the-horizon, the situation?

MR. KIRBY:  So without getting into too much of the granularity, I think there'll be a portion of them on the embassy compound  – yes, it's a Joint Force, so that's one  – the portion of them, not the majority, at the embassy compound, and then the remainder will largely be based at the airport.

So there'll be obviously physical security provided, you know, for the embassy compound and for our diplomats, and then there'll be a range of  – of security, as well as enabling functions that will be maintained at the airport, to  – to include, you know, some air logistics and that kind of thing.

Q:  And on vaccination, in terms of religious exemption, I was wondering if you could say any more about how that sort of thing is justified when typically, service members' personal beliefs have to be subordinated if it conflicts with readiness? This seems to fall under that  – that sort of thing. How are the  – how is that kind of exemption justified but not somebody ...

MR. KIRBY:  Well, again, it's something we've done for a long time, Matt, and there is a  – as I said in  – it  – here in the outset, there is a  – I mean, there's a series of counseling that goes on to  – to make sure that the  – the member's making an informed decision and  – and  – and that they understand the repercussions of the  – of that decision.

But  – but we take freedom of religion and  – and worship seriously in the military. It's one of the things that  – that we sign up to defend. And so it's  – it's  – it's something that's done very carefully. And there are, as I'm sure  – and Megan has reported  – I mean, there's a range of religious accommodations that are  – that are made in the services to accommodate the belief systems of  – of those who raise their right hand and  – and serve. This is no different.

And it will be done when the COVID vaccines are  – are mandated and put on the required list. They will  – they will be subjected to the same level of scrutiny for exemptions that  – that all of the other mandatory vaccines are.

Q:  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. Yeah, Pierre ?

Q:  (Inaudible) toward Afghanistan  – what is it that we don't want Pakistan to do and what is it  – what we want Pakistan to do to help the situation?

MR. KIRBY:  I'm not going to, you know, message Pakistani leaders here from the podium here. I  – I  – as I said yesterday  – and Secretary talked to his counterpart just yesterday from Pakistan. We clearly want to see, continue to see  – or want to see the safe havens that  – that are still afforded members of the Taliban along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan  – we want to see those safe havens shut down and that  – and that free flow of access across that  – that border.

And where  – we're mindful that the Pakistani people themselves fall victim to terrorist attacks that emanate from that region. So we all have a common interest here. And the  – without speaking to Pakistan or any one country, as I said yesterday, we want to see all of the neighboring countries, all the  – all the nations that  – that  – that believe they have or want to have a stake in Afghanistan to pursue those stakes that  – in  – in a  – such a manner that  – that  – that Afghanistan can  – that  – that  – that their  – the security of Afghanistan is not impaired, stability is  – is ensured, and that the Afghan people have a voice in their future, and that whatever any nation neighboring Pakistan does, that  – that they contribute to trying to find a political, negotiated settlement to the war.

Q:  (Inaudible) just a follow up to that question? Do you think the Taliban could be making these battlefield gains in Afghanistan without Pakistan's help?

MR. KIRBY:  I  – I'm  – I  – again, I'm not going to  – I  – I can't assess the  – the  – the Taliban order of battle, Lucas. I  – I  – I  – so I won't  – I  – I won't speculate about what manner of support they're getting from any other nation state or any other source.

Clearly, the security situation is  – is not moving in the right direction, they continue to make advances, it's deeply concerning to us and to the international community, but I'm not going to speculate about motivations or resources.

Q:  Pakistan's intelligence services helping the Taliban right now?

MR. KIRBY:  I  – I'm not going to get into intelligence assessments here, Lucas.

Q:  Shifting gears  – can you confirm that the attack on the oil tanker off the coast of Oman originated in Yemen?

MR. KIRBY:  Are you talking about the Mercer Street?

Q:  Mhm.

MR. KIRBY:  No, I cannot confirm that.

Q:  Did  – did the Secretary address specifically  – with his call yesterday, did he specifically  – oh, it was General (inaudible), right, that he spoke with?

MR. KIRBY:  Correct.

Q:  Did he ask him specifically if the Pakistani military or intelligence services or anyone is  – is aiding the Taliban right now? I mean, was it addressed  – that  – that directly in the call?

MR. KIRBY:  I  – I  – look, it was a  – a very frank discussion. I  – I  – I  – I'm not going to get in beyond  – into details beyond what the  – the readout was. But I  – I ...

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  ... there is a lot of  – I mean, there's a  – it's  – it's beyond just press reporting. There are people who have  – there's  – there's photos on Twitter and video and people who are saying that the Pakistani military is  – is helping them, you know, and  – and that it's  – it goes (inaudible) more senior levels of the Pakistani government.

So if  – if they had a conversation yesterday where they were talking about the security situation in Afghanistan, it'd stand to reason that he would address it very  – especially in a frank conversation, that he would address it specifically and ask him "are they helping and  – and" ...

MR. KIRBY:  I think we've been  – we've been nothing but frank and honest about our concerns for the safe haven that  – that continue to exist along that border. I think I'd leave it at that.

Let me go back to  – just so there's no confusion  – back to your question, Jim  – the Secretary made it clear that  – that he will seek a waiver from the President by mid-September. Doesn't mean that the  – I've seen press reporting that, you know, all of the troops are going to get vaccinated by 15 September. That's not accurate  – or that he set a  – a  – a mid-September date to have everybody vaccinated. He said by mid-September, he will seek a waiver from the President to make the vaccines mandatory  – vaccines, plural  – or upon FDA licensure, whichever comes first.

He's going to keep as many options open as he can. And I would also point you to what he said in the memo, that if he feels, watching the trends, that he needs to act any sooner than the timeline he laid out in that memo, he'll do that. OK?

I just want to make that clear cause there was some confusion about whether he's going to  – you know, whether we're just going to try to solve everything with Pfizer or not, and that is not at all what I was trying to imply. He wants to keep as many tools in the toolbox as possible to make sure that the force is protected. There are three very effective vaccines out there. When they become licensed by the FDA, you can expect the Secretary will have  – make them  – put them on the required list of vaccinations, on whatever timeline that happens to occur.

And if that doesn't occur before the middle of September, he'll  – he has every intention of  – of asking the President for a  – a waiver to assist. OK?

Thanks, everybody.