Transcript

Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks and Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby Hold a Press Briefing

Sept. 22, 2021
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby; Dr. Kathleen Hicks, Deputy Secretary Of Defense

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: Good afternoon everybody. I am pleased and honored to be joined at the podium today by Dr. Hicks the Deputy Secretary of Defense who is going to talk to you at the outset of this briefing on the department's implementation roadmap on preventing sexual assault and sexual harassment. 

And after the Deputy Secretary has some opening comments to walk you through that roadmap. She will be able to stick around for a few questions. As before, I will moderate the questions. We don't have time for very many. The deputy has a pretty packed agenda this afternoon, but I'll moderate a few questions after that.

And then when that's over I'll come back up to a podium for our normal briefing stuff.

So with that- Ma’am?

DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE KATHLEEN HICKS: All right, good afternoon everyone. As part of the department's efforts to eliminate sexual assault and sexual harassment from the ranks, today I am providing an important update on our implementation roadmap.

This represents the department's strategic approach as approved by the Secretary of Defense to act on the recommendations of the 90-day Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the Military.

We're going to make needed foundational investments to support sexual assault accountability, prevention programs, healthy command climates and quality victim care. 

To date sexual harassment and sexual assault remain serious problems in our force with lethal consequences for our service members and harmful effects on our combat readiness. 

This administration has placed an unprecedentedly high priority on this challenge set. In fact, on his first day in office Secretary Austin issued a memorandum to department leadership tasking them with reporting data pertaining to sexual assault and sexual harassment. 

On February 26, at the direction of President Biden, Secretary Austin established the 90-Day Independent Review Commission or IRC. On June 21, the IRC provided its findings and recommendations to Secretary Austin and their comprehensive evidence-based and stakeholder-informed report made 82 recommendations that spanned four lines of effort. Accountability, prevention, climate and culture, and victim care. 

And on July 2, 2021, less than six months after stating his intent to lead the department in countering sexual assault and sexual harassment, Secretary Austin directed this implementation way ahead. 

We have now created that way ahead called the Implementation Roadmap and Secretary Austin has approved it in its entirety. 

We constructed our roadmap by creating specialized teams comprising experts across the department. 

After reviewing the IRC's recommendations our experts identified sequencing issues, estimated resource requirements and characterized the risks and benefits associated with different implementation paths. 

Built in consultation with the department's civilian and uniformed leadership, the resulting roadmap represents a best-in-practice sexual assault and harassment prevention and response program that ensures rapid action and early and enduring results. 
 
In accordance with Secretary Austin's guidance our approach is holistic, addressing all of the IRC's recommendations across its four lines of effort. We are implementing in four tiers of action. Our goal is to implement as rapidly as possible while ensuring we can deliver durable and meaningful outcomes.

The first tier, which we have already begun implementing is our foundation. It consists of the most important elements in preventing sexual assault and sexual harassment and holding offenders accountable. The preponderance of initiatives and resources are focused in our first tier.

For instance, it contains three of our highest priority recommendations including the establishment of the Offices of Special Victim Prosecutors, the creation of a full-time and specialized prevention workforce and the implementation of full-time sexual assault response coordinator and sexual assault prevention and response victim advocate positions. 

Follow-on tiers build on, or expand beyond, these foundations. That said, our tiered approach is not rigidly constructed and we have done in such a way that we are able to be dynamic and expect it to evolve over time where more expedient pathways or best practices are newly identified. 

And make no mistake, the department is committed to completing implementation on as fast a timeline as possible while ensuring our efforts take deep root throughout all levels of leadership down to the unit and individual level.

To that end we are taking necessary steps in the department to ensure expedient implementation of recommendations that the administration has already proposed in legislation. Those recommendations, such as the establishment of the Offices of Special Victim Prosecutors represent real, cultural and structural shifts for the military departments. 

In the memorandum Secretary Austin released today, he includes four specific actions to ensure that the department begins to swiftly and deliberately move from the recommendations contained in the roadmap to implementation.

First, he has directed the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to issue enterprise-wide guidance for implementing all recommendations this fall. Beginning with guidance on tier one recommendations by October 13, 2021. 

Second, each service and relevant component is directed to develop implementation plans and resource mapping by November 12, 2021, for tier one recommendations and by the end of January 2022 for all actions. 

Third, the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness will develop an outcome metrics evaluation report by May 1, 2022. This will be used to track the effectiveness and progress on implementation. 

And fourth, in consultation with the services and relevant components, the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness will formally assess the roadmap no fewer than twice per year and make recommendations to me through the Deputy's Workforce Council or DWC. 

The DWC in turn will meet quarterly to monitor implementation progress and accelerate timelines wherever possible. Countering sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military remains a priority for Secretary Austin, for President Biden and for me. 

We continue to move quickly and deliberately and are committed to the path that I have outlined. Our changes are comprehensive and they provide us an opportunity to deal a fundamental blow to this problem. As I've said previously, our service members deserve no less and our combat effectiveness depends on our success.

Thank you. And I'm happy to take some questions. 

Q: Yes, thank you. Madam Secretary, Bob Burns from A.P. You made several references to moving quickly with this. So can you give us any -- well you mentioned in a year any date, so when will you have completed the implementation of tier one for example?

DR. HICKS: So including our reserve component elements we think it could take up to 2027 to do the full implementation, primarily around these majority hiring actions that we're putting forward, so this is the major prevention workforce. 

The focus of most of that workforce as fulltime professionals on sexual assault and sexual harassment, making sure we get the right skills not just people in jobs but the right skill sets and expertise into these positions. That we think is the longest lead item in tier one and probably the most important of our recommendations.

For the active component, I think we'll be able to see progress much earlier in the first two years.

Q: So you're distinguishing between 2027 for reserve only?

DR. HICKS: The full implementation of tier one is inclusive of all elements of the force and that reserve component moving to fulltime professionals who are able to look after, for example, the National Guard. Obviously across 54 different National Guard components -- elements, that will take much more time, but in the first two years you'll see significant movement on that fulltime force for the active component.

Q: And one quick follow up. Does that to any extent reflect the military services' skepticism about moving too quickly?

DR. HICKS: I smile only because it does not. The military services are eager to move as fast as possible. They would like to make sure that as much as we can is in this first wave, this first tier of activity, and I think what we're trying to balance is the expert advice we've been given to make sure we do this well, that you know, that the roots have to be deep. We can't just move quickly but shallowly, and have the figment of action without having really well thought-through processes for how we do this.

The DOD efforts in this space will be the largest ever attempted. No university, no major institution is at our scale. So building a workforce -- a prevention workforce, building the accountability approach varies specifically around sexual assault, sexual harassment, and related crime.

This will be a first of its kind endeavor. We want to move fast, but we want to make sure that these changes last and we build back that trust in the force.

Q: Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Dave?

Q: So I understand, the priorities that you laid out and the deadlines you gave, do they still require a legislation? And I have a follow up after.

DR. HICKS: Sure. They're -- most of the actions that I've described we can do ourselves. There are some key elements we have asked Congress to help us with. The first and most important is the change to the Uniform Code of Military Justice to expand a group of activities or offenses -- excuse me -- around sexual assault, sexual harassment, and related sexual offenses and put those outside of the chain of command under these offices of special prosecutors so these offices also we are asking for legislative assistance to develop those offices.

Those are probably the two most important elements for which we need legislative relief. 

Building out the prevention workforce we need Congress's help on funding it and make sure -- making sure we have the particularly civilian workforce ceiling to hire people, but mostly we can do that within our own authorities.

Q: And you mentioned coming up with metrics by May of next year. Don't you already have metrics in the annual sexual assault report? Aren't you going to know the next time a report comes around whether or not you're having any impact?

DR. HICKS: Those kind of metrics, you're right. We do have metrics that help us understand the rate of reporting, for instance, on sexual harassment, sexual assault. What we're looking for is how to measure the quality of this workforce, the particular -- the steps in the process I think is how I would put it for how we understand how to scale the challenge. 

For instance, the size of the unit level at which we need a dedicated professional, how we think about the offices of special prosecutors in each military department. That's the level of metrics we're talking about. 

Q: And would you expect to see any change in the annual sexual assault harassment report when it comes out next spring as a result of this?

DR. HICKS: Well I don't expect as a result of this we will see it as soon as this spring. We also have not had the change of the chain of command yet through Congress, so we certainly are looking to make change as fast as possible and see change in those statistics as fast as possible. Where I think we will see more immediate effect to that point is more along the lines of what the Secretary's already put into action beyond what was from the IRC recommendations. He had a series of actions right away.

So you can think of the Fort Hood report, for example, and the follow-on actions taken there. So for example, we are already looking hard at installations across the force to understand where there are installations that are doing particularly well and where there's some installations where we need to send focused help so where we take that prevention of sexual assault, sexual harassment prevention workforce that we have today and send them out, think of ‘fly away’ teams, to help at the installation level.
Those sorts of actions are already underway, and I do hope, in fact, that they will have effect on the statistics we next see.

MR. KIRBY: Last one will be Terese.

Q: Thank you. I’ve spoken to a few military investigators, and one of the issues that they’ve brought up was the fact that if an offender is kicked out of the military for other than honorable discharge, once they're out they can apply to get that changed to honorable which will impact wherever they apply for jobs. Is that one of the issues or recommendations that's going to be worked on through this new program? Are they going to try to adjust that or fix that or has it been discussed at all?

DR. HICKS: Yes, I would have to look into that. That was not one of the IRC's recommendations to change that policy. It has not come up to my level thus far and our look – our re-look at how the department addresses this issue, but I'm happy to look at that.

Q: Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Thank you ma’am.

DR. HICKS: Thank you. Thank you all.

MR. KIRBY: Okay, just a couple of other things to get through this afternoon. This morning, as I think some of you know, Secretary Austin welcomed Australian Prime Minister Morrison to the Pentagon. The Secretary thanked our Australian allies for more than a century of shared sacrifice and for their contributions in Afghanistan.

The Secretary and Prime Minister discussed the future of the alliance and how this AUKUS agreement will contribute to integrated deterrence. That's working closely with our allies and friends and defense of our shared security and to deter threats to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

I do have one other thing that I wanted to mention. I’ve Seen in the news that Bob Reismann, who worked for Stars and Stripes for a very, very long time, just passed away this week due to complications from cancer. If any of you -- and I know many of you have served and -- or reported out of Iraq and Afghanistan -- you can thank Mr. Reismann for the fact that you can pick up a copy of Stars and Stripes and read it and so could the troops because that was one of his key jobs was to -- I think they -- I think the title was Expeditionary Distribution, getting those copies of the newspapers to as many mess halls and work facilities across Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 20 years, pretty incredible work. 

And Stars and Stripes, as you know, is a publication subsidized by the Department of Defense but has complete editorial independence, and I think that's pretty remarkable. I don't know too many other places where you can find something like that. 

And having been a veteran myself, I just can't speak enough about how important "Stripes" is to helping inform our men and women, and their families all over the world -- even in warzones. 

And so, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Reismann family -- and our thanks and our gratitude for his many long years of service to such a noble task. And so we're all heartbroken here to get this word and again we stand by to support the family in any way that we can. 

With that, Bob. 

Q: Hi, John. Thanks. I have a question for you on -- there was a line in the joint statement put out by President Biden and President Macron regarding their conversation in which it said that the U.S. commits to reinforcing its support to counterterrorism operations in Sahel, and I'm wondering if that has any actual real world implications for military operations? 

MR. KIRBY: It absolutely has real world implications, and we continue to provide a measure of support to French operations in the Sahel. And that's what this line was referring to was the long-standing support that we continue to provide the French. And you can certainly surmise from that that that support will continue. 

And I'll tell you, the secretary spoke to Minister Parly on Monday, and in fact this was one of the things that they talked about was ongoing U.S.-French collaboration. 

Q: If it's reinforcing, I just wonder if that means increasing or expanding in some way? 

MR. KIRBY: I won't speak to specifics about increases or decreases. What I can tell you is that we have supported some of their operations in that part of the world, we're going to continue to do that. And clearly we're going to look for ways to make it as affective as possible going forward. 

And I can't rule in or rule out any particular element of that support, Bob, in terms of whether it's going to increase as a result of this conversation today. But when I saw the verb ‘reinforce,’ what I took away was that we're going to stay committed to that task. 

Yes, Tom. 

Q: There were thousands of Afghan refugees out at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, an Army facility, and apparently there are problems with lack of food, clothing, some of the women are being harassed by former Afghan soldiers. Members of Congress are asking Secretary Austin to investigate what's going on. Can you say if he's received that letter asking for the investigation, and any sense of the way ahead? 

MR. KIRBY: We're certainly aware of these reports, Tom, and we take it very, very seriously. Especially at a place like Fort McCoy with winter coming on, NORTHCOM is very mindful of the needs of the weather and the climate, and making sure that the evacuees have a safe, clean, warm living environment while they continue this processing. 

But we're mindful about this at all eight installations here domestically, that we have a responsibility to provide that kind of an environment for these individuals and their families to be able to subsist while they continue to work through the immigration process. And again, we're taking it seriously. 

I know of no specific request today to conduct an investigation, but the Secretary is certainly mindful of the reports and he's comfortable that General VanHerck, the Northern Command Commander, also is mindful of these issues and will continue to work closely with our interagency partners to alleviate any concerns there might be. 

Q: Give us a sense of who is in charge of the facility? I know it's an Army facility, who's running it? Is it Homeland Security, is it State, is it all of you -- all of the agencies? Because it seems like -- 

(CROSSTALK)

Q: First of all, there’s lack of access for reporters getting in to find what's going on. Some lawmakers have gone in, but it's confusing about who's actually in charge out there. 

MR. KIRBY: Obviously we own the facility, Tom. These are military bases, and so the military commanders are responsible for the facilities on their installations and their bases. We are also responsible for the environment -- the physical environment, the housing, and making sure that food and water is provided, appropriate medical care if it's needed, recreation facilities and access to that kind of thing -- particularly for the children, and of course appropriate religious accommodations. 

That's what we're responsible for. The actual health of the individuals is HHS and DHS is responsible for the immigration process, and of course they're lashed up with State. So it's truly an interagency team effort, no one of us alone can or should be responsible for the totality of the mission. But our job is the housing, and making sure that there's a safe environment -- a safe and secure environment for them to complete the processing. 

And then to your point on access, there's no concerted effort to keep the press away. In fact, just a week or so ago there was a media day that we did at Fort Bliss, and we fully anticipated and hoped to conduct follow-on media days at the other installations, and then we got word of the measles outbreak. 

And as you know, we have frozen -- at the request of the CDC, we have frozen all other transportation out of overseas locations to the United States because of that out of due caution. And once we get past that, whenever that is, I fully expect that we will be able to restart media access to the facilities. There was no desire to keep the press out for any reason. 

I think in the early weeks we just wanted to make sure we had things in order, that we were prepared to receive the numbers that we received but we absolutely fully expect to be able to provide access going forward -- and that includes for members of Congress, clearly they have a responsibility and a right to see these facilities too. But right now visits are being postponed for health reasons. 

Q: It seems to be of the eight facilities, there's one place where there are reports of serious problems and I don't hear or see any problems at the other facilities, particularly Fort McCoy. 

MR. KIRBY: Yes -- no, I understand. And as I said, we're aware of these reports too, we're taking them all seriously. General VanHerck is very much mindful of what our responsibilities are in terms of the safe and secure environment, and we take it all seriously. I can't speak with specificity to each and every one of these reports, but we're obviously taking them seriously. 

Jennifer?

Q: John, at Fort McCoy it's our understanding that there are two barracks that don't have heat. That is the DOD's responsibility. So what is being done about that? It's getting very cold up there.

MR. KIRBY: Yes, as I understand it, Jen, they have taken steps to correct that.

Q: And if you look at Ramstein they've carried out the MMR vaccinations, 95 percent of the 9,000 or so people there have been vaccinated. And then they also looked at the population and found that 95 percent of the sample they took had antibodies to -- for the measles. 

So why can't those flights begin again? The CDC is saying they have to wait 21 days. But if they're vaccinated and they have antibodies, shouldn't they also be moved to the U.S.? It's also getting cold at Ramstein.

MR. KIRBY: Yes, it is. Again, we are working in lockstep with the CDC and HHS on this. And we want to be mindful that we are observant of CDC guidelines and their requirements. So we're not going to move any faster than we can do it safely, for the health of the evacuees as well for the health of the communities to which they're being transported. 

And we are all mindful of the changing weather. Fall is upon us. We know that. And all the installation commanders are taking steps to make sure that with the coming colder weather we can be able to keep people warm and safe.

Q: And last question, on the COVID vaccines. Are those service members who don't get the COVID vaccine, are they facing dishonorable discharge?

MR. KIRBY: What I can tell you is that we're going to try to help those who resist taking the vaccine, help them make the best decision. Now, some of them will have legitimate reasons, maybe health reasons of their own or because their doctor doesn't want them to get them. And yes, there can be some that can apply for a religious accommodation. There's a process each service runs for that.

But for those who resist just because they don't want to take the vaccine, it is now a lawful order. And what the Secretary expects is that commanders will do everything they can to inform and educate these members to get the vaccine. Because it's not just in their best interest, it's in the best interest of their families, their loved ones and their teammates. 

And that would include counseling with not only one's chain of command but with health care providers, medical professionals to again, walk them through the risks that they would be taking. There are number of tools, short of using the Uniform Code of Military Justice and disciplinary action, to try to get these individuals to do the right thing and to follow this lawful order.

That said, there are disciplinary actions that can be taken. Again, not all of them have to, or I would think, would rise to the level of a discharge, and I wouldn't want to go through the list because it's going to vary case to case and each service and commander is going to handle it differently. 

But it is a lawful order. If you refuse to obey a lawful order, yes you can be held to disciplinary action. But I wouldn't want to specify at this time exactly what that would be in every case because it's going to depend on the individual, and the commander and the tools that they want to use available.

The best incentive that one can have is knowing that one -- by taking the vaccine -- is doing the right thing for the unit, for the family, for the community, not just for him or herself. And look, we're up over 90 percent now of the active-duty force with at least one dose. So we're making pretty good progress.

Yes, Travis?

Q: Thanks, John. Is there any update on the DHS request for DOD to contract air transport for migrants at the border?

MR. KIRBY: Yes, I don't have a specific update on that Travis. To date, there have been no flights that have occurred. Transportation Command is working to get them contracted now.

Q: So the request has been approved by the Secretary?

MR. KIRBY: The deputy secretary has verbally approved a request for transportation support from the Department of Homeland Security. Under this request DOD will provide contracted air transportation for Customs and Border Patrol on a reimbursable basis. This will conclude on or before the 20th of October and again, as I said the other day, can be provided with minimal risk to current DOD missions. 

I talked about this the other day. But again, today as of now, there haven't been any contracted flights. Transportation Command is still working that.

Q: When you do get those flights up and running can you say whether service members will have any role at all, whether transporting migrants to the actual aircraft or providing security or anything like that?

MR. KIRBY: I don't know about that Travis. I can ask to see if there's more fidelity we have on this. Again, the request is specifically air transportation. And Customs and Border Patrol, as I understand the request, would be escorting these individuals on these flights. I'm not aware of any additional escort duties on the ground that would accompany the request. It really was about air transportation to these other locations in the continental United States.

Yes, Mike?

Q: Yes, John, did the secretary or the prime minister discuss the administration sinking France's submarine deal with Australia during their meeting?

MR. KIRBY: They certainly talked about the arrangement and the importance of the arrangement for not just Australia but for security dynamics in the Indo-Pacific. I won't go into any more detail than that. 

I mean, everybody in the administration is mindful, of course, of the statements that French leaders have made. And what the Secretary has maintained -- and he maintained this in his discussion with the French minister of defense on Monday -- that France is our oldest ally. We share a lot of security interests around the world and in the Indo-Pacific specifically. One of them of course is in Africa, as we talked about earlier. And that we're going to keep working at the security interests we share. We're going to maintain a commitment to one another bilaterally and certainly multilaterally through many other fora.

Janne?

Q: Thank you, John. You may have seen it reported that South Korean President Moon Jae-in proposed a end-of-war declaration with South Korea, United States, North Korea and China at the United Nations General Assembly. In fact, this declaration of the end of the war is what North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wants and that it means that the withdrawal of the United States -- U.S. troops from South Korea, and the dismantling of the United Nations Command. Would you like to say something?

MR. KIRBY: Well, I think, you know, the United States remains committed to achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and diplomacy with North Korea. We continue to seek engagement with the DPRK to address a variety of issues. 

And we're open to discussing the possibility of an end of war declaration. Our goal remains as always, the complete denuclearization of the of the peninsula.

Q: Do you think this declaration of the end of the war is not a solution to North Korea, the nuclear problem? 

MR. KIRBY: As I said, we're open to a discussion about an end of war declaration. But we are also committed to diplomacy and dialogue with the DPRK to achieve the denuclearization. We know that this is a complex issue, and we're committed to supporting the role of our diplomats in having that kind of dialogue going forward. 

Q: Alright, thank you. 

MR. KIRBY: Sylvie.

Q: I would like to go back to have a follow up to Bob's question about the statement, the comment statement, and the sign. You said that you understood that the U.S. is going to continue to stay committed to the task. So, does it mean that it's business as usual? Or you are going to send more capabilities or to use more capabilities? Or what exactly is reinforcing?

MR. KIRBY: Yes. When it comes to counterterrorism operations, there's no business as usual. I mean, it's something you focus on day to day. And as you've heard the Secretary of State before, he has praised the French and their military efforts in the Sahel specifically. And we are, and have been for quite some time, supporting them through a variety of means. And as I said to Bob, when we look at the word ‘reinforcing,’ it means exactly that- we're going to continue to stay committed to that task, to helping the French in their operations in that part of the world against the terrorist threat and that support, has and will continue to change over time situationally as it needs to.  

I know, you know, I know, it's interesting to see whether that signals an increase or decrease or what that looks like. And I totally understand the interest in that. But don't get lost in that level of detail. The important thing is that we understand the important role that France is playing in that part of the world, specifically, and that we're going to continue to support their efforts to do that to the best of our ability.

Q: Yes. But when we see ‘reinforcing,’ we understand more. That's --


MR. KIRBY: I understand. You understand that means more. I would just tell you that that there's not going to be any slackening of U.S. support for French operations in the Sahel. And that we are going to continue to maintain a dialogue with the French,  as the Secretary reiterated on Monday in the phone conversation with the Minister Parly. 

We're going to maintain a focus on that. And, you know, I think it's conceivable that over any period of time that support’s going to increase. It could decrease depending on what the nature of the threat is. But rather than get into the sine wave on a daily basis, I would just ask that the takeaway here is that we're going to stay committed to it over the long haul. 

We know how important it is. And we know how effective the French have been and we want to see them continue to be that effective. I go to go to the phones here. 

Phil Stewart? You still on?

Q: Yes. I was going to ask about the French support as well. But I'll change my question. Last week the -- or I think it was earlier this week, the CDC was given the authority by the President to quarantine folks for 21 days for the MMR vaccine. Just wondering whether or not that is translated to any kind of actual order to you all? 

Or any memo to the DOD saying that, you know, you have to keep these people in place wherever they are, for 21 days following vaccination? Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: I'm not aware of any official order on that, Phil. As I said, we're following CDC guidelines just the way we do with respect to COVID, here at the Pentagon and military installations around the country. 

We follow CDC guidelines. And that's going to be exactly how we approach this. We're not going to move people until the CDC is comfortable doing so.

Q: Just a follow up, could you explain whether that means that they'll be held for 21 days following the vaccine?

MR. KIRBY: Again, I won't speak to specific mandates by the CDC. But I certainly think it's reasonable to suggest -- to think that this quarantine will go on for a while longer as we continue to work through the vaccination scheme. 

Luis?

Q: John, just want to back to Tom's question about Fort McCoy. Is NORTHCOM making long-term plans for the housing of these Afghan evacuees at all of their bases? And if so, how long term are we talking about?

MR. KIRBY: I think you heard General VanHerck talk about this the other day. We're going to maintain the ability to keep them as long as we need to. As long as there's a valid mission and a population that needs support. The Department of Defense will stay at that. I couldn't begin to speculate now what that will look like on the calendar. 

I couldn't be predictive about how long, but we're certainly prepared to be able to house these individuals for as long as we need to.

Q: And does that include potentially ramping up the size this -- the infrastructure that you have right now? As I imagine that if you were counting on a short term, stay that the infrastructure that was put in place is not as sturdy as maybe what you may need.

MR. KIRBY: Right now, we don't think there's a need to add installations or change the capacity. I think we have a capacity now of over 60,000 and we're at roughly 53,000. But, again, as you've heard General VanHerck say, if he feels like, as these flights start resuming again, if he feels like he needs added capacity, we would expect him to ask for that, to speak to that, and to get the support that he would need for that. But there's no anticipation now that we would have to change in any kind of major way the capacity that we built out to. We've got excess capacity right now as we sit today. And again, we'll obviously be revisiting this in real time going forward. 

Yes. Oren?

Q: Can you comment on the dismissal of Leonor Tomero and explain why that would happen in the middle of the Nuclear Posture Review?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to talk about specific personnel matters, Oren. I would just tell you that we have a wide-ranging team of experts working across policy issues, including on the Nuclear Posture Review, and we're committed to ensuring that all teams work efficiently and effectively to advance these policy goals. It's natural with any new administration, this one's not excepted, that we would want to reevaluate the organizational structure and make changes where we think is appropriate to support the Secretary's priorities. And I think, again, without speaking to individuals, we're certainly doing that. We're going to continue to consider and include a wide range of viewpoints in the Nuclear Posture Review, including those from Administration Officials, of military leaders, academics and all others. 

Again, the focus right now is on protecting our security interests. The Nuclear Posture Review is a big part of that. And quite frankly, so are our reorganization efforts here at the Department. Are all designed to help us better defend the nation and support the Secretary's priorities. 

Okay, that takes us almost to four o'clock. Thank you very much.

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