Transcript

Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds a Press Briefing

Dec. 20, 2021
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: So a few things at the top here.

I think you know today the department issued an updated policy on prohibited extremist activities by military personnel. This is instruction 1325.06, which is an existing instruction that we -- that we updated and we updated it as a result of, as I think you know, when Secretary Austin back in the spring established the counter extremism working group.

That -- that was one of the immediate actions that he wanted them to take so. So that has a -- that has been updated and published and it goes into effect today. The revised instruction regroups issues into three sections: prohibited extremist activities; command authority, and responsibilities and -- and criminal gangs.

It also prohibits active participation in extremist activities and clearly defines what we mean by the term extremist activities. As Secretary Austin has emphasized the Department is focused on prohibited activity, not on a particular ideology thought or political orientation.

The Department has always maintained a distinction between thoughts and actions. The new definition preserves a service member’s right of expression to the extent possible while also balancing the need for good order and discipline to affect military combat and unit readiness.

These new updates provide increased clarity for service members and commanders on what qualifies as prohibited extremist activities. The secretary heard from personnel across the force about the need to update and clarify this policy during the stand downs that he directed earlier this year.

It was one of the common bits of feedback that we got was that they wanted more clarity and so we tried to do that with this new instruction. He signed out next steps that were also going to be released today along with the countering extremism activity working groups report, which should be online and available to you now.

The report recommends next steps in four lines of effort; military justice and policy, investigative and screening processes, training and education, and the Department's Insider Threat Program.

The vast majority of men and women in our armed forces, as of course you know, serve honorably; while extremist activity in the force is rare, any instance can have an outsized affect.

Now in addition to revising the instruction, the three other immediate actions are also complete. The Service Member Transition Checklist has been updated to help address extremist groups that target military veterans. The recruit screening questionnaire has now been updated and is more consistent now, across the services and the Department has commissioned a study to gain greater fidelity on extremist activity in the force going forward.

That study has begun and I don't have an update for you on it today. The six additional recommendations from the working group are nested inside our government wide national strategy for countering domestic extremism that was issued by the White House in June.

So that's it on the extremist activities.

Earlier today on a schedule item the secretary swore in Admiral Chris Grady as the 12th vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The vice chairman is assigned a number of responsibilities within the Department, including leading the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and is a senior member of the Nuclear Weapons Council.

We thank Admiral Grady for his leadership and we certainly welcome him in his new position here.

Lastly today, we want to wish a happy birthday to the U.S. Space Force. This is year two of the service. And year two saw tremendous growth in partnerships and significant accomplishments for their mission of organizing, training, and equipping guardians to serve as the experts in the space domain. The Space Force also commemorates its birthday with a month long STEM-to-space campaign to connect students with space professionals to share experiences and emphasize the importance of STEM education. The campaign is designed to facilitate direct engagement with school classrooms, to raise awareness about the service’s contributions to national security and daily life, in addition to highlighting the importance of STEM education. Now this month they've reached more than 184,000 students in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Mexico, Guam, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Belgium, Italy, and the United Kingdom. And so we're, again, happy to congratulate them on their second birthday.

Lita?

Q: Hi, John. A couple of things on timing and then one other question.

Do you know -- can you say right now that the checklist for people who (are retiring ?) is actually being used as of today, is the screening of the recruits is that new updated screening being used as of today? And then the new training and education piece, that shouldn't seem to have already started to happen or has some of that actually begun?

MR. KIRBY: The questionnaire has been -- it's standardized across the services and that is in effect. I said that he ordered the four immediate actions and all of them have taken place. The other one you mentioned was the -- the checklist for departing members as they get through transition. My understanding is that that too is in place. And then you have another question on training and --

(CROSSTALK)

Q: Yes, has that -- has the additional training, and they talked about sort of a computer training, I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

MR. KIRBY: Yes, I think that's -- I'm going to take your question, but I'm pretty sure that's still in training that we're still working through that. I don't know that it is, you know, fully completed and instituted across the force. But let me ask. I would also just add there that that's the kind of thing that will be iterative, Lita. I mean, it will be updated and reviewed all the time. So there will be, I would, suspect continuous changes to that training.

Q: Just more broadly on the whole membership in extremist organization issue, there was a lot of talk about their -- what constituted active participation. There is no list of member organizations that people should not be a member of. Can you just explain more broadly why was there a choice not to at least enumerate some list to give people better guidance? And how limited is this sort of active participation and membership? Like what -- where is the line? What can they do? Can they just, say, fill out a little thing that says I am not a member? Do they have to pay dues? Do they have to go to a rally?

MR. KIRBY: Yes, so there's -- there's a lot there. Just where do I dig in? I mean, so on the groups, and we've talked about this before, a couple of things to remember, groups can and do change their methodology, their ideals, their motivations, and they -- they can reform themselves. They can disband and reform into something else. And so if we got into coming up with a list of extremist groups, it would be only probably as good as the day we published it, because these groups change.

Number two, not everybody who participates in extremist activities is a card-carrying member of a group. Some people just get self-radicalized, and there's many different factors that lead to them taking part in prohibited extremist activities. And so, again, you know, keeping it to a group dynamic would actually limit our ability to deal with the issue. And the last thing I'd say is there no federal list of extremist groups. And so, we didn't think it was appropriate for the Department of Defense to establish one.

On your question about active participation, I mean and I won't read the whole thing, but it's pretty clear in here in the instruction what -- let me see if I can find it.

Q: Active participation as it relates to being a member of a group.

MR. KIRBY: Yes. So active participation -- well let me put it this way without going through all the list of it. The two-part test of an activity being prohibited and that's not enough. Then you have to be able to prove active participation in that. When you put that two-part test together and when you go through the list that we have in the instruction you'll see that there's not a whole lot about membership in a group that you're going to be able to get away with just by dint of the very comprehensive two-part test that's in here and the active participation criteria.

There's really not a lot. You know, if you want to be a member of you pick it in order to prove your membership, you're probably going to run a foul of one of these -- of one of these criteria sets. 

Okay? Jen.

Q: So John, I'd like to understand a little more about if you like content on the Internet and how that could get you in trouble in terms of these new rules. What does it mean if someone accidentally likes something and do they have a chance to explain that to a superior officer? Do -- is it one strike and you're out? What -- and how do -- yes, explain -- if you can explain?

MR. KIRBY: Yes. So the active -- the physical act of liking is, of course, advocating, right? And advocating for extremist groups that certainly, you know, groups that advocate in the violating the oath to the Constitution, the overthrow of the government, terrorist activities, liking is an advocation, and that's laid out clear in the instruction.

But the other thing that's laid out in the instruction, Jen, is the responsibilities and the authorities of commanders here. And so, it's very -- it's going to be very case specific, and it will be up to a -- the chain -- an individual's chain of command and his or her senior leadership in the unit to have that discussion, the determination whether this was a very deliberate act of active participation in extremist activities or whether it was maybe a mistake.

And, you know, I don't think it would be helpful to get into hypotheticals at this point in time, but that's one of the reasons -- your question is exactly one of the reasons why one key component of this instruction is a more clear explanation of what commanders' authorities and responsibilities are and really delegating down to them because they know their units and they know their people better than anybody. Delegating down to them to help make that determination.

Q: Does that mean that they are authorized (to or maybe ?) monitoring social media 24/7 of their unit members or any recruits? How does the monitoring --

MR. KIRBY: There's no monitoring. This is not -- it's not about monitoring. There's no methodology in here. There's no intent. We don't even -- there's no ability for the Department of Defense to monitor the personal social media content of every member of the armed forces. And even if there was, that's not the intent here.

What we're talking about is a case where, for instance, it came to light that an individual on social media openly advocated, forwarded, encouraged the dissemination of prohibited extremist material. That would have to come to light through various streams of reporting. It wouldn't be something that the command or the department's going to be actively fishing for.

Q: So if a member of the U.S. Military likes a post that says Joe Biden is not the president, is that considered extremist behavior and punishable?

MR. KIRBY: Now I'm not going to get into specific hypotheticals, Jen. I just won't do that.

Q: People need to know is that extremist behavior?

MR. KIRBY: But Jen, we could be here for hours going through whether liking all kinds of different hypothetical pieces of material, and I just don't think that's useful. The instruction's very clear about what comprises extremist activity and what comprises active participation in it. And we are certainly have full confidence in our commanders' ability when something's reported to them to treat it appropriately and to -- and to look into it in the manner that they seen fit.

I do want -- your question didn't get to this, but I'm going to take the opportunity. Nothing about this has anything to do with who a service member votes for or doesn't vote for or their personal political views. We encourage the men and women of the military to vote. And there are -- there are lists separately in a different instruction of what you can or can't do from a political perspective when you're in uniform, but we want them to be a part of the democratic process. That's why we make sure they have access to cast their votes whether it's remotely or in person.

This isn't about political leanings or partisan inclinations. It's about activity. It's about prohibited extremist activity and active participation in that activity.

Q: So just to follow up, saying it (seems like ?) something that suggests that your Commander in Chief is not actually the president that is different than political activity. That is actually a good order and discipline issue. Is that punishable under these new regulations?

MR. KIRBY: I think it -- again, I'm not going to get into a specific hypothetical, Jen. It's all in here, but if you are advocating for the overthrow of the government, if you're advocating for the use of violence or force against an individual or a group based on who that individual is or that group is, I mean, it's all in here. If you're advocating for domestic terrorism, if you're advocating for, as I said, the overthrow of the government, or you're actively undermining the oath you took to the Constitution to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, then all that fits.

Q: And the (last question ?): How many extremists did you actually find?

MR. KIRBY: Well, the effort, just to be clear, wasn't about going and finding extremists.

There was two components here. One was to report out the work of the extremists working group, which we've done today, and also updating the instruction, which we've also done today.

Now, one of the things that we knew and we talked about this many times was that we needed to get a better sense of data collection because often times -- sometimes you find out about extremist activity from the chain of command reporting it up or a colleague reporting it. Sometimes we don't know about an extremist activity unless law enforcement or even the FBI reports something to us.

So we took a look at both internal and external data systems and we recognized that we've got to do a better job stitching them together. And in part you'll see some of that in the working group's report. And we're going to do that.

So, this exercise wasn't about finding numbers. That said, as we worked through things over the course of the last eight, nine months, we believe that less than 100 or about 100 active duty or reserve component members of the military participated in some prohibited extremist activities, about 100, that we have been able to get together.
And we -- but again, our data collection systems still need to get better. And so, you know, that's what we know right now and we obviously want to be able to make sure that we can refine that going forward. But about 100.

Yes, sorry.

Q: (Inaudible). So on the -- in the policy itself the liking also includes using emojis or (favoring ?) according to this new policy. And I was just wondering, will there be training? Especially --

MR. KIRBY: Yes.

Q: -- for people newly joining. Because I think there is going to be a lot of confusion about what they can and can't do on these social media platforms now. And will that training be universal so that everybody's playing by the same role set? And will the punishment be universal too?

MR. KIRBY: Well, let's not get into punishments, okay? But yes, part of this and part of the work we did was that we know we need to do a better job with training and education. As people come in, as they -- over the course of their careers and of course we also want to make sure they're educated as they get ready to leave the military.

So yes, there will be a training and education program that includes very specifically the guidelines for social media, what's permissible and what's not with respect to extremist prohibited activities.

Yes, now on punishments, I mean as I said and I really encourage you to look at the instruction. A lot of this is going to be the responsibility of commanders. And commanders will have to make that call on their own in terms of what they believe is the right thing to do. That's not something that the department would dictate at this level. And not everything has to be punished either.

I mean, to Jen's first question, I mean, it could be an accident, right? So you want to have a conversation here. So it's not just a knee-jerk reaction to immediately go to punishment. Each case will have to be looked at individually.

Q: And again, with kind of the outreach and training, I'm already hearing pushback from people that, you know, often they'll hit like because it's interesting or to bookmark it for later.

So, it seems like there really is going to -- there is going to be some confusion as to just because someone's clicked a like button are they advocating for the overthrow of the government? And just wondering like how will you deal with that pushback or is it just going to be a flat policy of don't do it, don't click on it, don't like it, don't --

MR. KIRBY: Again, I think the instructions made it clear what our social media expectations are. And what advocating in social media includes, which it does include liking something. It's been very -- it's very clear. So again, I encourage everybody to look at the instruction, but it's pretty concise the way it's written.
But to your larger point, as I said before, of course, we know we're going to have to -- this is -- this is part -- this is a new thing, this social media inclusion in the instruction. And so, we know we have to do some training and education of the force going forward and we'll do that. We'll do that.

Meghann?

Q: Does the budget proposal include the line item about developing some sort of UCMJ Article or some specification that deals with extremism specifically? Is that still on the table or is there anything you guys can do to start that process now without that additional funding from Congress that you have asked for?

MR. KIRBY: Yes, I -- let me take your question, because I don't -- I don't actually have a good answer for that one now.

Janne?

Q: Thank you, John. North Korea foreign ministry has one (inaudible) last weekend. Recently the United States reconnaissance airplane flew over the Russian border area and North Korea said that because the provocation of the U.S. were endorsing a strong Russian response. What do you think about North Korea’s defense of Russia’s claims?

MR. KIRBY: Of Russia, Ukraine?

Q: What -- yes -- what --

MR. KIRBY: Russia --

Q: North Korea (inaudible) -- Russia's (recent attempt ?) claims --

MR. KIRBY: North Korea's claims --

Q: Russia's (inaudible) --

Q: For Russia claims?

Q: Claims?

MR. KIRBY: Russia's claims?

Q: Yes, sorry. C-L-A-I-M.

MR. KIRBY: Yes, yes, yes. Right. And I'm sorry, I missed the -- I missed a little bit of it, so I'm –

Q: (Inaudible) (considerate ?) the U.S., the reconnaissance I think a CR6000 there -- airplane for -- flew over to Russian border area. So, Russia claims the United States, but this is the North Korea (can support ?) Russia, so how do you think about --

STAFF: So, Russia claims the United States --

MR. KIRBY: Russia claims that the United States flew

Q: Yes.

Q: And then North Korea's supporting Russia's claim the tactic violated Russian airspace. Is that correct, Janne?

Q: Yes (inaudible).

MR. KIRBY: Thank you. I don't know anything about this particular incident and the -- and the claim, so I'd really rather not speculate about it. And I just don't -- I've not heard about this particular incident. So, why don't we take this question too and we'll see if we can get you a better answer on that.

Q: (inaudible) by Black Sea, you know, that's the Russian's border. So, I think --

MR. KIRBY: Yes, I mean again, I don't know anything about this incident or what the claims are -- the counterclaims. We have said repeatedly we're going fly, sail and operate where international permits us to do that and that continues.

And the Black Sea's an international body of water. And we routinely operate in and above the Black Sea. I don't see any change to that going forward. But I don't know about this particular incident that you're talking about.

Q: All right, and (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY: I --

Q: (Inaudible).

MR. KIRBY: -- (yes, essentially ?).

Q: (Inaudible) (doctor ?) or (inaudible) (peace ?), so U.S. sees the (work peace breaker ?) and something like that exercises.

MR. KIRBY: Yes, I'll have to -- I'll have to look into for you.

Q: Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Jack Detsch from Foreign Policy.

Q: Hey John, the Pentagon ball parked back in the spring that there were 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, just wondering if you have a troop count or a characterization for what the Russians are doing now?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have a troop count for you. We have, as you know Jack, we've refrained from providing estimates like that. I'm not going to get into the intelligence. What I would tell you is, there are still -- there remains a significant Russian force presence around their borders with Ukraine and we continue to monitor that closely, we continue to be concerned about that. But I don't have an exact number for you.

Q: And just regarding the DOD delegation that went over to Ukraine the other week to talk about air defense, do you have any sense of when the report is coming back from that? Whether it's public? Just what the details are on that?

MR. KIRBY: It was a small assessment team that went over to Ukraine to talk to them about air defense issues and to evaluate what they believe their air defense needs are. That team has just recently come back, Jack, and we don't have a formal read out of what -- of what they learned or how that might affect security assistance packages going forward for Ukraine.

So I don't have an update to give you. And I don't know that we'll -- you know that their work will be the kind of work that would give us much flexibility to talk openly unless or until there's a decision to provide more security assistance and when that comes we've been pretty transparent with what's involved with that.

So it'll be folded into the discussions that we're having here in the Department about how to continue to assist Ukraine with their self-defense needs and again, should anything come of that, we'll be as transparent about it as we can be.

Ellen Mitchell, The Hill.

Q: Hey, can you hear me all right? Can you hear me all right?

MR. KIRBY: Yes, ma'am.

Q: So last month after Secretary Austin responded to the Oklahoma governor regarding the National Guard vaccine mandate, you were asked if there was a concern that this could quickly snowball, that other governors will say we won't enforce the mandate either.

And at the time you said the Secretary didn't have any plans on reaching out to governors to try to get in front of the issue because you said you hadn't seen any snowballing on your side. But now that there's seven Republican governors asking for retraction or exemption from the mandate, does the Secretary have plans to reach out in any way to governors he thinks might follow suit.

And basically what's the Pentagon's plan to try to make sure other states don't pile on to this?

MR. KIRBY: Well, we're not -- we're not going to make an active effort here to try to tell other states not express their concerns. So I don't know plans to proactively reach out to governors on this. We have received additional correspondence from a few other governors of states and we will reply to their concerns as appropriate, just like we did Governor Stitt.

I don't have an update for you on those replies but we'll do that. The only thing I would say is that -- what I've said before; the vaccine is a valid military readiness requirement. Medical military readiness requirement. It remains such.

And the mandatory vaccine policy remains in effect and that does include the National Guard. And I -- you know -- again, I don't have anything more to add than that. We want to see everybody get the vaccine because we think that's the best way to make a more ready force.

Q: As a quick follow-up, has the secretary responded yet to the other -- other governors that sent their letters out last week?

MR. KIRBY: He said he will respond appropriately. I don't have an update for you on a reply. But you know, we did reply to Governor Stitt, we'll reply to these additional governors in due course and appropriately.  

Tom.

Q: Thanks.

Q: Thanks, John. I have two follow-up questions. My first is has Space Force reached out to you regarding the design of their cake?

MR. KIRBY: No. They -- they did not. But I do hope I get a piece.

Q: My second question in regards to extremism; I looked through what was released in the briefing. It strikes me as somewhat of a passive approach. In other words individual A is flagged for perhaps exhibiting extremist behavior and then that individual is talked to or whatever.

Do you anticipate at some point, without going into speculation, that there'll be a more aggressive approach to extremism? Here's why I ask, remember earlier this year there was a Marine at Quantico who was identified in participating in extremist activity. And the question was asked will that individual’s participation and his associates be investigated seeing the extent of extremism perhaps at Quantico or in his unit and the answer is no, just focusing on individual.

So I'm wondering, you know, that would be more -- less passive. In other words, individual A posted this; let's see who he or she is associated with. Do you understand the question?

MR. KIRBY: I think I do, Tom. I think the best way I can respond to that is to, you know, remind -- and I know I say this all the time and maybe it -- maybe it kind of gets lost in the -- in the noise but the assumption for the department is -- and we think rightly that the vast, vast majority of the men and women who serve in the armed forces do so honorably with integrity and character and they take very seriously the oath that they took to the constitution.

That's our assumption going in. And so I don't know that I would describe this as passive. Although, I do understand where you're coming from. I -- I get the point of your question. But if -- if there is in your words passivity here it's because we fundamentally believe that everybody in uniform is going to serve with character and dignity and uphold that oath.

And we also are treating this not unlike we treat other potential violations, which is -- which is largely individual. We -- when you -- when you raise that right hand and take that oath you subscribe your set to yourself to a set of values and a set of expectations about how you're going to behave and if you don't meet those expectations, then in an organization like the military, there's ramifications for that.

I mean we were kind of talking about the same thing when it comes to the -- the COVID vaccine. It's a mandatory military medical requirement. If you don't meet that requirement and you don't have a good reason for why you can't make that requirement there'll be ramifications and I think that's the same way we're treating this.

Yes, (Abraham ?).

Q: Yes, thanks, John. I wondered if the Secretary has a response to the New York Times story about air strikes and accountability that ran over the weekend in particular? Is -- is the Department's capacity for such high procession strikes, is that sort of a handicap that now there's just unreasonable expectation of -- of no errors ever?

And then also does the secretary believe perhaps that there should be further study as to the procedures for when a strike is conducted?

MR. KIRBY: I think the only thing I would do is point you back, Abraham, to what the Secretary said himself about a month ago, you know that we work really hard to avoid civilian casualties and -- but he said -- he said himself we -- we clearly need to work harder. And he's dedicated to that and I don't have any updates or policy changes to state today. Yes, (Doyle ?).

Q: Hey, John. Two part question please. If the Secretary is (inaudible) soon and because of the Chinese influence in the region going and also at the same time many smaller nations are under pressure from China because of in the name of construction on infrastructure. And China is loaning them a lot of money, billions of dollars in (inaudible) Pakistan, and now recently like -- like Nicaragua.

So what do you think if any concern as far as U.S. security concern (from this set ?)?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have anything on the Secretary's schedule to announce today with respect to travel. As you know we have visited New Delhi and he had a great visit there meeting with his counterpart and discussing what is a very important defense partnership with India.

And as for Chinese influence around the world, without getting into specifics we know that they coerce and intimidate and try to bully countries to act in ways that are beneficial to Chinese security interests and not necessarily the interests of a given region or that given country.

Where and when we believe that our national security interests are put at greater risk because of their activities. We have that discussion, and we have that often with the third-party country involved or through other channels with the Chinese. Jen.

Q: Well John, you said you'd get back to us about the Chinese mind control weapons. And are they real? Are they a real concern? What are they? What does the -- I mean, the Treasury Department has sanctioned this Chinese --

MR. KIRBY: Yes. I regret to inform you that I don't have an update on that for you, but I'll keep working it.  

Barbara?

Q: With COVID clearly spiking all over the country at this point, can you tell us if there are any plans, decisions, discussion on any additional steps to help keep troops and bases safe during the holiday season when so many military people like other Americans may be traveling to try to keep them safe from COVID? And one of your biggest holiday programs, the NORAD Tracks Santa program, is that actually going to be able to go ahead with the spike in COVID? Are you going to have enough people to handle that program?

MR. KIRBY: I would refer you to NORAD NORTHCOM for specifics, but my understanding is that they absolutely will be tracking Santa this year. We have all kinds of capabilities to do that, and --

Q: He will be safe?

MR. KIRBY: He will be kept safe. Of course he will be.

(Laughter.)

My granddaughter definitely wants to know. Yes, he will be kept safe. And on the other question about the vaccine –

Q: No, no. I'm sorry. What I really meant is with it spiking all over the country --

MR. KIRBY: I'm sorry. Yes, yes.

Q: Yes, what steps are you taking? Will there be even more teleworking? Will there be more restrictions? Anything you're looking at doing in the coming weeks to try and keep it from spiking within the ranks?

MR. KIRBY: Well obviously it's a priority for us to get the number of COVID cases down, and we have seen a spike particularly over the course of the summer. Largely that was due to the Delta variant. We don't have widespread. We don't believe we have widespread Omicron cases inside the military right now. I think the number stands at like 10 across the force.

But we're obviously watching this just as closely as everybody else. And while I don't have any changes to our medical health or public health posture to talk to today, certainly we're going to keep all our options open. And if we believe that we need to take additional precautionary steps we'll certainly do that. Whether some of those steps are across the force writ large or whether it's delegated down to the local commander level because often times a base commander, for instance, in one state is going to have a different community issue to deal with than in another state.

So we -- there'll be a mix of -- if there's changes a mix either across the force but also at the local level, but I have nothing specific to announce today. We're obviously watching this closely.

Q: Just so I have (that ?) no indication at this point any governor might be asking for hospital ships or anything like that?

MR. KIRBY: No hospital ships are being requested right now. I think you've seen some governors have added or requested national -- their National Guard help in some of their hospitals.

There is -- NORTHCOM is still running a few small active duty teams that are helping out in certain states. In fact, I can give you the list. We can do that afterward if you want, or there's small 15 to 20 person active duty teams helping out in various states in hospitals. And that number could change over time depending on what the need is, but I know of no large scale military request for assistance with respect to these -- to these -- the boost in cases.

We have done it in the past as you saw back in the spring, and we certainly would -- you know, we'd consider any future request for support. We take those very seriously, but I'm not aware of any major changes right now. Yes.

Q: So on this anniversary of the birthday of the Space Force, is there any announcement about a possible briefing going forward? Is there plans over the next 12 months, that sort of thing, priorities? I mean, they've talked about this all along, but I just -- sometimes on an anniversary you do something special.

MR. KIRBY: Yes. That's a great question for the Space Force. I don't know. I don't know if they've got something planned to lay out, you know, what they've accomplished in two years and what they're looking forward to next year. That's really a question for them.

Q: And then on the Baltic Sea some time ago there was a report of a Russian submarine sighting between on -- passing under the bridge between Denmark and Germany or Denmark and -- yes, Denmark and Germany. And the question was whether the ship had been retrofitted so there was a lot more -- there was a great deal of lethality that hadn't been there before? And I'm wondering if there's any additional concerns about -- security concerns in the Baltic Sea area that have surfaced by the Baltic countries or reports to you, concerns about security?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not aware of anything specific. I mean, obviously we have great relationships with the Baltic States. We do rotational deployments to many of those states. Obviously our navy and the navies of our allies and partners operate routinely up in the -- in the -- in the Baltic area, but I don't have anything specific on that incident. I've not heard abut a particular Russian submarine going up under a bridge and having unique capabilities.

Let me go back to the phones here. Excuse me. Tony? Okay, do you want to take on the role of Tony today or --

Q: Anything (is possible ?). I'll try (my best ?).

MR. KIRBY: That's true.

(Laughter.)

Q: No offense.

Q: No, no. I noticed it, too, (a little bit ?). I think he wanted to ask about bits of the nuclear posture review and is there an expectation on when it's going to be released and what it will focus on?

MR. KIRBY: I -- well it's going to focus on our nuclear posture, of course. I don't have an update on the actual review itself. And this is an interagency effort. We are certainly apart of and -- but I couldn't give you an update specifically

Q: * Aren't you supposed (to say ?) -- aren't you supposed to check your -- yes, the cheat --

Q: What about your cheat sheet?

Q: Yes, your cheat sheet?

MR. KIRBY: I don't know.

(Laughter.)

I don't need to check my cheat -- I actually study before I come up here so I don't have to check it for everything. Did you have a question of your own that you'd like to throw or --

Q: I'm just going to channel Tony today.

MR. KIRBY: Just Tony. All right. Jen.

Q: Can I just circle back? Can you define for us since we're on the record what is considered extremism?

MR. KIRBY: Jen, I mean, that's almost a philosophical question, which is not one that we try to tackle in this instruction. The instructions specifically listed a definition of what extremist activities are. I'm -- I can read them for you if you want them -- if you want that, I'll do that. But it is in the instruction. It -- there was never an intent from the get-go to come up with a definition of what isn't extremism. The purpose of this instruction was to -- was to better -- well, many purposes, but one of them was to better define what is prohibited extremist activity. And then we added that two-part test of not just the activity but what is active participation in that activity, what does that mean. And all of that is laid out very, very specifically in the instruction.

Q: And this is a hundred people that you identified in the process of this review. What portion, if any, if you can break it down, were they all members of sort of groups that you might consider white supremacist groups or were there also some who may have been present at a Black Lives Matter protest? What is the breakdown of the types of activity that you saw?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have that breakdown of what their specific activities were. And, again, these were individuals that were substantiated allegations of -- of participating in extremist activity. I don't have a breakdown of all hundred of them, what the specifics were. I just -- I don't.

Okay. I'll take one more, because it's a holiday week. Jeff Schogol?

Q: Thank you. Can the Defense Department provide a list of the assets that will be escorting Santa Claus through American airspace this Christmas?

MR. KIRBY: Jeff, that is an excellent question. I -- I'm going to have to take it because we're talking about operational issues. And, you know, we don't like to do that from the podium, particularly OPSEC. So what I can tell you is that to the degree that we can be fully transparent with you, we will be about Santa's escorts. But I can assure everybody that he will in fact get the escorts he needs and he will be rendered as safe and effective as he can be on Christmas Eve.

Q: But was he (vaccinated ?)?

MR. KIRBY: That's really beyond the purview of the Department of Defense.

(Laughter.)

(CROSSTALK)

Q: -- (need ?) to be vaccinated?

MR. KIRBY: What I can say is that we will make sure that those escorting Santa have been fully vaccinated.

All right. Thanks, everybody.

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