Transcript

Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds a Press Briefing

April 27, 2022
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: OK. I don't have a whole lot at the top. I do want to announce that tomorrow Secretary will be welcoming his Canadian counterpart, the Canadian Minister of National Defense Anita Anand here at the Pentagon. They just had a chance to speak yesterday, I think it was yesterday in Ramstein, at the Ukraine Consultative - Defense Consultative Meeting. 

So, we're delighted to be able to welcome her here into the Pentagon, her and her staff. And as you can imagine, there'll be a lot of things to discuss, obviously, what's going on in Ukraine. But also, our shared NORAD responsibilities, the Arctic, the Indo Pacific, there's a lot on the agenda. 

And we're very much looking forward to welcoming her and her team here tomorrow. And with that, Bob.

Q: A couple of quick questions on Moldova, is there any more clarity that you're aware of what the explosions in the region?

MR. KIRBY: No, I'm afraid we don't have much more on that Bob. And no clear indication here of exactly what happened.

Q: OK. The other question I have for you is regarding the howitzers that you're sending to Ukraine, the 90. Can you update us on where that stands? And are you confident that they’ll get enough of them there fast enough to make a difference in this offensive?

MR. KIRBY: I would say today, without giving whole numbers more than half of those howitzers are in Ukraine.

Q: Are in Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY: Are in Ukraine.

Q: And the training part of it is that...

MR. KIRBY: Well, they're on a second tranche of training here, Bob. You know, we finished up earlier this week, the first tranche of more than 50 trainers that are going to go in and train their teammates. And we're working on a second tranche here of training. I'm not sure if that second tranche has actually begun yet, I'll have to check and get back to you on that. 

But there was another tranche of more than 50 that we're going to go through training in the same location outside Ukraine. And then we are also - part of the discussion yesterday was to explore additional training opportunities on that system as well as other systems.

And so, we're just not in a position where we can announce anything, but the training is ongoing.

Q: The first fifty are done you say?

MR. KIRBY: Yes, they finished up earlier this week. Travis.

Q: Thanks, John, I wanted to ask you about recruiting. And I know that that's an issue usually handled by the services. But our colleague over on the Hill, Leo Shane is reporting that at a SASC hearing today, the Chair said that he's worried that we're in the early days of a long-term threat to the all-volunteer force. 

He said, every single metric tracking the military recruiting environment is going in the wrong direction. And so, I'm just wondering if this is something that's risen to the Secretary's level? Is he concerned? And does this need some kind of global approach within the department?

MR. KIRBY: It absolutely has risen to the Secretary's attention. In fact, I think it was last week, he had a chance to meet with the Service Secretaries. Obviously, they meet on multiple topics, one of the topics was recruiting because he wanted an update from them on where they are. And while none of the services were, you know, reported sort of in extremis conditions. 

Clearly, the Service Secretaries and the services are - aren't taking anything for granted in the recruiting environment. And it can be a tough environment, particularly when COVID has prevented recruiters from being able to do that face-to-face contact that you want to have. And that's beginning to loosen up now as we start to come out of the pandemic, but it had a huge effect on their ability just to connect with people. 

And the economy, which is - continues to improve and so you've seen the unemployment numbers yourself. So, there's plenty of jobs out there, and then there's always the issue, which has been almost a perennial issue now for much of the last 20 years is just the number of young Americans who can meet the basic standards to come in. That continues to be a challenge. 

So, look, recruiting numbers are often lag indicators - lagging indicators, you know, when you start to really get down to bare metal, then you're well past the problem set, and the numbers are probably going to get worse. I would let the services speak for where they are. The Secretary doesn't want to get us down to bare metal. And he wants to make sure that we're staying ahead of recruiting challenges because they're real. 

And so, we're working on that. And the Secretary is, is 100 percent committed to making sure that we continue to recruit the best possible force that we can for the American people, for the defense of that country. Whether or not he thinks there's some sort of overarching policy, umbrella. I mean, he believes that as Secretary of Defense, he has enough authorities to direct the services with respect to every aspect of how they spend budget to include recruiting and retention. 

So, he's very comfortable with his own authorities here. And he also recognizes that the services have unique recruiting demands, not just in terms of numbers, but in terms of skill sets. And he doesn't want to overly dictate to them how they manage their workforce, but it is absolutely on his mind. He's he has had a good session with the Service Secretaries. And I fully expect that there'll be more going forward.

Q: Well, we've seen the services rolling out bonuses, in efforts to bring people in. Was there a sense at that meeting that there needs to be a kind of like a rethink about how the military is doing this? That whatever it's been doing isn't quite working and we need to figure out a better way?

MR. KIRBY: I think each service is working that through in real time. And again, the Secretary didn't you know, expect from them, you know, fingertip feel solutions right in the moment. He wanted it to express that key to his concerned, making sure that we - that recruiting is healthy going forward. 

He wanted to get their assessments, and they - each - and all let them, and the services speak for themselves, but they each offered him a view of where they are in recruiting. And I think all participants agreed that this is an issue we're constantly staying on top of and discussing going forward. But there's no - there was no individual solutions put forth in that discussion. 

 Courtney.

Q: Do you have any information about Trevor Reed, and whether it will come back to the DC area and get any kind of medical care in the military?

MR. KIRBY: At this time, I do not have information on Mr. Reed. I mean, obviously, we all at the department are glad to see him back and you know, be reunited with his family where he belongs. But this is really a State Department issue to speak to not a DoD issue.

Q: So reason I ask you this, it's pretty common if somebody's held hostage, and it wasn't necessarily hostage. But they are brought into military and medical care afterwards. So, do you have any indications at all that he's either eligible for that? Or if that's even under consideration?

MR. KIRBY: I would let the State Department and Mr. Reeds family speak to that being clearly Court. You know, if there was a, if there was a role we can play from a military medical perspective, we absolutely would do that. That's not unusual at all, but at this time, I just don't have much more detail on whatever medical care he's going to need and where that would be. 

But if there's an appropriate role for the United States military to play, in helping assess and restore him his health, we absolutely would do that. 
Phil.

Q: You've said for a long time that there are not US troops in Ukraine. With the return of diplomats, and there's a team there yesterday in Lviv. Is that still the case? Is that something you can still say? Or is it going to become, you know, are there going to be certain numbers of troops there to ensure diplomatic security?

MR. KIRBY: I think we're going to be having constant conversations here with our State Department colleagues about what their diplomatic activities are going to entail. And to what degree they might need support from the United States military and force protection mode. Keeping in mind, Phil, that they may not. So, we're just going to take this in steps. And we'll see where it goes. But as you and I speak here, I mean, nothing's changed about our support to U.S. diplomats.

Q: And secondly, you know, is there any sense after the conference in Ramstein yesterday that there is no - that the Ukrainians have enough munitions right now? And artillery, and everything they need to repel the Russians in the southeast? Or is that still to be determined?

MR. KIRBY: It's a kinetic - it's an active kinetic fight there in the Donbass every single day, including this day. And as you, I think, heard when you were in Ramstein, I mean, there are real needs that the Ukrainians have to stay active in that fight. And you heard the Secretary say very clearly that we're going to be trying to meet those needs as best we can, not just from the United States, but other countries as well, that includes munitions. 

So, what I can tell you, Phil, is that munitions continue to flow into Ukraine. That the United States is helping coordinate. That continues to flow in there, including while we were overseas just over the last couple of days. And that - and efforts to get those munitions into Ukrainian hands will also continue going forward as they are in a very active fight. 

You're asking, do they have enough? I mean, I think that question is something that changes every hour, depending on their rate of consumption and what is actually going on the battlefield. So, it'd be a difficult question for me to answer you know, here thousands of miles away at the Pentagon. All I can tell you is that we know they're expending rounds every single day of all different types and calibers. 

And we're doing everything we can. The flow continues to make sure that they can stay in the fight.

Q: Today, or right now, even a former master sergeant is meeting with the Secretary of the Army. He is waiting for compensation for misdiagnosis while he was in the Army. Does the Pentagon have a response to his case in the hundreds of others who are waiting for their repayments here? And why is this taking so long to happen?

MR. KIRBY: Look, I won't talk about the specific case that you're speaking of. And that's really for the Army to speak to. I'm aware that there is going to be a meeting this afternoon if it hasn't already happened. And again, I'll let the Army and the family speak to that. As you know, the Military Claims Act is governed by law, we follow the law. 

And we do the best we can in every case, to make sure that all claims are treated fairly and appropriately and judiciously. The Secretary takes that responsibility very, very seriously. I won't - I can't speak to the specifics of this individual claim, that wouldn't be appropriate here from our podium. But I know that the - that Army leadership is certainly mindful of this case. And as you rightly said, I mean, there's even a meeting today in the Army department. 

So, look, bottom line, we take our responsibilities under the Claims Act seriously. Nothing's more important to the Secretary than the health and wellbeing of our people and their families. And we - and that's a sacred obligation. But we have to follow the law. And we absolutely do in every case.

Q: Could there any way expedite it? Because for some of these people, they're running out of time.

MR. KIRBY: Again, it's governed by law, and in very strict, as you would expect, there would be. Procedure that has to be followed so that claims can be treated impartially and fairly. So while we want to certainly work claims as fast as we can, we don't want to go so fast that we miss something. And so it's - there has to be a process here, and we have to follow that process. Again, it's in the law, too. I mean, we obviously can't break or bend the law.

So, all I can tell you without getting into the specifics of this case, is we do take that seriously, and follow the law. And we can we treat every claim seriously and as judiciously as we can. 

Q: And if I may ask one on switching gears to the nuclear threat. Do you see a danger and not taking urgent threats of nuclear war seriously?

MR. KIRBY: Do I see a danger in not taking the threat seriously? The question presupposes that we aren't taking the threat seriously. And I think I might challenge that supposition there. You heard the Secretary got asked this question yesterday. And said very clearly that the rhetoric that we keep hearing from Russian leaders, and just recently was Minister Lavrov, raising the specter of nuclear confrontation is irresponsible. 

It's certainly not what you would expect from a modern nuclear power, nor should anybody expect from a modern nuclear power. Nobody wants to see this war escalate any more than it already has. Certainly, nobody wants to see, or nobody should want to see it escalate into the nuclear realm. And there's no reason that it should. Mr. Putin can do the right thing right now by ending the war, moving his forces out of Ukraine, sitting down in good faith with President Zelensky and coming up with a negotiated settlement. 

Now, clearly, he doesn't appear interested in doing that, because they're still fighting in the Donbas and in the south. Short of that, raising the specter of nuclear confrontation does nothing for the peace and security of the region, much less the people of Ukraine. And I think we can all understand that, that escalating this conflict and making it between the United States and Russia is not only not good for our national security or the Russian national security. It sure as heck isn't good for the people of Ukraine. 

And so again, I go back to what the Secretary said yesterday. It's irresponsible rhetoric. It's rhetoric, beneath what should be the level of conversation by a modern nuclear power. We monitor the threat every single day, including today. And the Secretary remains comfortable that we have the appropriate strategic nuclear deterrent posture in place. 

Yes.

Q: John, two questions, one to follow up on Phil's. How tight are the supplies of non-standard ammunition, the kinds of things Ukraine military uses? And is really tight, is there a shortage? Is there - are there moves to step up manufacturing? This kind of stuff wasn't explained in the conference yesterday.

MR. KIRBY: Yes, no we're not going to talk about specific inventory levels for the Ukrainians. First of all, I'm not going to talk for Ukrainian inventories on anything. That's really a better question better put to them. And clearly, I think you can understand why we wouldn't necessarily find that level of information in detail in the public realm helpful to Ukraine right now, as they're in an active fight. 

There was a discussion yesterday, at the end of the day, the last session was all about the defense industrial base, not just from the United States, but from other countries that were represented there. And a - and to begin to get a grasp from an international view of what Ukraine's longer term defense needs might be in a post war environment specifically. 

That - it was meant to be a broaching session on that, so, you know, you heard the Secretary read out the meeting, I can't do better than he did yesterday. So, I can't give you an act of deliverable that came out of the defense industrial base discussion. But I think it's noteworthy that it was even had here, even while Ukraine is still involved in an active war. 

There was a discussion by 40 nations about their defense industrial bases and how those industrial bases could help address longer term, Ukrainian strategic defense needs going forward. But no actual decisions made yesterday that we can speak to.

Q: Do you know anything about whether the producers, the Western European countries who can produce non-standard ammunition are stepping up production?

MR. KIRBY: I think they're - each country is looking at that on their own. And I can't speak to all of them.

Q: And my second thing, different. Apparently, according to Russian videos and stuff like that. There were two - possibly two Bayraktar drones downed over Russia in the past day or two. I don't know if you could confirm that? And on top of that, there was a report that President Zelensky is asking U.S. for attack drone including MQ-1s and MQ-9s. Is there a possibility that the U.S. could supply those?

MR. KIRBY: Cannot confirm the reports of downed drones and Russia. I don't have anything on you - for you on that. And all I will tell you is we have been very transparent about what we are providing Ukraine -- very transparent. And we will continue to be transparent with you as decisions are made to provide capabilities to Ukraine going forward. 

And there will be foreign contributions and we will talk about them. I am not going to talk about from the podium deliberations that are ongoing with the Ukrainians about this or that capability. We talked to them every single day, including the last two days, and at the very senior levels, as well. 

And when there are decisions to announce and to speak to about capabilities that we're going to provide Ukraine, we’ll certainly do that. Yes.

Q: Follow up on nuclear. What is the level of concern in the department that Russia might use low-yield or a conventional nuclear weapon in eastern Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY: Low-yield or conventional nuclear weapons? I'm not sure I've ever heard it described as conventional. But I'm not going to again, speculate here about what Russia may or may not do with that or any other system. The rhetoric surrounding nuclear activity, particularly given that this war is now months old, and there has already been bloodshed and violence visited upon the Ukrainian people is irresponsible. 

It's irresponsible for a nuclear power to even broach that topic in part of this discussion. And, again, I'll go back to what I said before - we're monitoring every single day as best, we can. And we continue to see nothing that gives us cause to change our strategic nuclear deterrent posture. And we're confident that in our ability to defend the homeland from that perspective, as well as our allies and partners.

Q: And then, Secretary Austin back in Europe, said that they would like to see Russia weakened in a way that it will not be able to launch another this type of invasion against any other country. Do you think that the arms that the United States is currently providing Ukraine will be sufficient to weaken the Russians not to launch another invasion into Europe?

MR. KIRBY: The weapons and systems that the international community is providing Ukraine are designed to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion. And if you're asking me, have they been effective? I would just offer you look, we're at two months into this war. And Mr. Putin didn't take Kyiv. He didn't take Chernihiv. 

He hasn't taken Odessa. And instead of moving on three, why geographically separated lines of axes, now he's concentrating all his firing and forces in the East and in the south. So, he has achieved none of his strategic objectives. So, I think that's proof right there that the kinds of systems that are being provided to Ukraine have had an effect an inability on their self-defense needs. 

What the Secretary said yesterday, and I think he was very clear. And we've been clear from the very outset of this conflict. That we don't want to see Russia in a position to be able to do this again. That's what the Secretary was referring to. And there's nothing new there. We want to see Ukraine be able to defend itself. We want to see Ukraine win.

You heard the Secretary talk about that. They believe they can win and so did every other nation that was in Ramstein believes that they can win. And we don't want to see Russia in a position going forward, where they haven't suffered consequences for this unprovoked invasion. And I think that's what the Secretary was talking about. Yes, in the back there.

Q: Hey, John.

MR. KIRBY: Hey, Jay.

Q: On Monday, there was a $700 million tranche and about more than half of it was financing for allies in Eastern and Central Europe to backfill the equipment that they've been sending to Ukraine. I just want to ask you what, you know, why does the Pentagon think that this kind of backfill model is promising? What's the what's the benefit? 

MR. KIRBY: Look, I think - there's a lot of nations that are providing capability to Ukraine. And that provision is not risk free in every case. Nations are doing what they can, they're having to make some tough decisions. Some are just in a better position than others to give more. And so, I think it's the responsible thing for us to do to have conversation with these allies and partners about what their needs are going to be going forward as well. 

Q: Are their industrial base concerns as well? You know, after all, we're, these are - this is maybe Soviet gear getting back filled with, with American supplied.

MR. KIRBY: Not every case. I mean, right now the focus Joe is on making sure they can defend themselves in the fight they're in. And in a fight, they're in, they're still using non - what we call non-standard equipment and munitions, because that's, you know, that that's what they're trained on. That's what they've been procuring. 

That's what they've - they're used to, to operating with. Now, where this goes long term, in terms of what standard they're on, I don't think Ukraine's made a decision about that. And you can't really expect them to have made a decision right now while they're fighting for their lives. But the whole purpose of having a session yesterday on defense, industrial base health and vitality is because we know whatever happens here, however this war ends, the security landscape in Europe has changed. 

Not ‘is changing’, not ‘will change’, it's changed now based on what Mr. Putin has done. And so the Secretary thought it will be a useful exercise, because we're looking at our own industrial base, to ask other nations that were there yesterday, their assessment of their defense industrial base. And the degree to which there might need to be changes in terms of production of certain systems or not, or accelerations or not. 

Not just based on how to help Ukraine long term, but also to make sure that they can look after their own national security. And so those discussions are ongoing. And I mean, I'm not going to get ahead of where we are. But in terms of - and this is a really important point. In terms of what Ukraine's military looks like, in a post-war environment, that's up to Ukraine to decide. 

They get to decide what systems they want to buy and use. And we'll just - we're just not there yet. We'll see what kinds of decisions they want to make, you know, when they're not actively trying to fend off an invasion. We also have to be, you know, we have a defense industrial base to that we have to look after. And so, we've had meetings now with CEOs about some of the very specific systems that we've been providing Ukraine, javelin stingers, the switchblades. 

And the Secretary wants to keep that dialogue going with the defense industry as well, on those and maybe even other systems. Because we certainly think that now that the focus is on the Donbas, this could become a more prolonged conflict. And we want to make sure that our own defense industrial base can continue to support our needs, as well as supporting our efforts to support Ukraine's needs. 

It's a really weird way of saying it. But…Mike.

Q: John does the administration believe that Israel should provide the Iron Dome System to Ukraine? And if so, are they doing anything to encourage them to do that?

MR. KIRBY: The United States believes that every nation that provides equipment and systems to Ukraine should do it according to their own dictates. These are sovereign decisions, Mike. They're sovereign decisions and we respect that. 

Jim.

Q: John, the Secretary ordered thousands of U.S. troops over to defend the Eastern Flank of NATO. Has there been any sort of discussion on how long that deployment is going to be? And if it would be rotational following on?

MR. KIRBY: There's been no redeployments as yet of the additional forces that we have sent to Europe, air, maritime, and ground. Now there's been - I shouldn't say there's been no -some ships have come home. Some squadrons have come home. But I mean, in terms of the ground forces, in particular, they're still there. 

The Secretary is in constant communication with General Wolters, as well as in the case of the Army that the Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff about and the Chairman about what that needs to look like going forward. So, I don't have any announcements for you in terms of redeployment of like the 82nd, for instance, which is where I think you were kind of getting at. But - and right now, our footprint in Europe, which is now over 100,000, is both permanently based and rotational and temporary. 

And we're still working our way through what that's going to look like in coming months. I mean, clearly, at some point, if we're going to have to make a decision about the 82nd, for instance. And whether they're replaced or not, that - we're just not there yet. 

Q: Is that something that probably will wait until the summit in Madrid?

MR. KIRBY: I don't - I wouldn't peg it to Madrid, necessarily. The Secretary and the chairman look at force posture every day. And he - there are decisions that come up to the Secretary every week, about force posture around the world, but including in Europe. And so, they look at this continually. 

And he just hasn't there been a decision about other redeployments or replacements just yet. I will say, though, that and we're not at the point now where this is happening. But back to my point to Jim, I mean, the security environment has changed now in Europe. 

And so, the Secretary does believe that it's - that it would be healthy for leadership here at the department to take a look at our European posture going forward, and what that should look like. Now that's really not a discussion, that's going to be a series of discussions to include consultations with allies and partners. 

You can't just take for granted that you can talk to a bunch of soldiers in one country or another. You kind of have to talk to the host nation. And so those kinds of consultations haven't started yet, but I can tell you that the Secretary wants us to start thinking about what a European footprint should look like going forward because again, the landscape is definitely changed. 

Let me - I haven't gotten anybody on the phone yet. Dan Lamothe.

Q: Ah, good afternoon, John. The Canadians announced a day or two ago that they were going to be sending some triple-seven artillery rounds, I'm sorry, triple-seven artillery pieces, and also from the Excalibur rounds specifically. That's an American capability, it occurred to me, the Pentagon might be sending those as well. 

Can you clarify if that's the case? And then speak more broadly to Pentagon efforts to send precision artillery rounds, specifically? Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Yes. Dan, I think, again, we've been very transparent about what we're sending. You can see it up on our website. And I'm not going to go beyond that. I mean, what we've said, we're sending triple seven howitzers. And I told Bob earlier, I mean, we - more than half of them are already in Ukraine, and they're continuing to move. 

But - and obviously, we've talked about, you know, 155-millimeter rounds to go with those howitzers, and they continue to flow into Ukraine. I mean, between the two tranches, between PDA seven and eight you're talking about almost 190,000 rounds total of 155-millimeter artillery. 

But I'm not going to go beyond that in terms of specificity. John Ismay.

Q: Hi there. One of my Capitol Hill colleagues flagged that there's a Lend Lease Bill for Ukraine and maybe heading to the President's desk for signature later this week. And I want to know if there's been a discussion about how this could possibly offer any additional permissions that the Pentagon doesn't already have now?

MR. KIRBY: John, great question. But I'm not going to get ahead of pending legislation. And I'm certainly not going to get ahead of the President's decision with respect to that. What our focus is right now is on meeting our responsibilities under the Presidential drawdown authorities that we're executing, as we speak. 

And looking ahead, what - about future drawdown authority and what that could look like working with Congress. And again, I don't want to get ahead of where we are in the decision-making process. Clearly, one of the things that Secretary took away from his time, both with President Zelensky in Kyiv as well as in Ramstein with 40 nations represented is that Ukraine does still have acute needs. 

There is a lot that the nations around the world can do to meet those needs. And we're going to keep looking for creative solutions to do that. But I'm just not going to get ahead of the legislative process right now. Ryo.

Q: Thanks.

Q: I want to ask you about U.S.- Japan, military exercises. That earlier this week they North Korean government said, if Japan expands the military exercises with the United States, near North Korea territory, North Korea will take a retaliatory measure. How much will you take North Korea's warning into account when you decide the scope and schedule military exercises with Japan?

MR. KIRBY: We will operate, train, fly, sail, we're international law allows us to do that Ryo. I'm not going to talk about specific training event scenarios. Japan's a treaty ally. We take our commitments, our security commitments to Japan very, very seriously. And Japan, should be the one speaking appropriately to the exercises that are conducted in and around Japan.

Q: The U.S. and Japan have focused mainly on defending the southern part of Japan, and addressing the threat posed by China. But as the threat of North Korea is increasing, do you think the U.S. and Japan needed to pay more attention to the northern part of Japan and allocate more resources to the north?

MR. KIRBY: Again, I would refer you to Tokyo to speak to about their self-defense needs. We have a very robust training regimen with Japan, a very strong military to military relationship. Exercises and training events are constantly monitored and changed as appropriate, not just to potential threats, Ryo, but to the kinds of capabilities you want to improve. 

That's why you do exercises to get better at things. And we're constantly having a conversation with Japan about what that could look like. But again, I'd let Japan speak to Japan's defense needs. That's really their responsibility, and appropriately so. Japan, as you know, I mean, was a participant in yesterday's meeting. 

I mean, they also recognize the threat to the rules-based order that Russia represents and their invasion of Ukraine, and they take that seriously. We were glad to see them participate. Sam LaGrone.

Q: Hey, John, just to clarify on Phil's question from earlier, so are you saying there are not U.S. Marines pulling embassy security in Ukraine right now?

MR. KIRBY: The specifics of force protection, Sam just not going to do it. We let - I'll let the State Department speak to what their diplomatic activities look like. But I would be surprised if they also want to talk about security right now. What I said to Phil was, if there's a need for U.S. military support, then you know, we'll have that discussion with the State Department, and we have supported our diplomats in the past. 

We know that's at least not a total U.S. military responsibility. But that there may be a role for that. But I got nothing. I got nothing for you on that today. Yes. One more

Q: Thanks. I have a follow up on the medical malpractice. You know, these claims have been filed for over two years now. So, hundreds of service members, over $2 billion worth of claims are in limbo right now. And it appears the services aren't processing the claims because they're waiting for policy guidance from the Secretary. 

So, I just wanted to try again, see if you could be a little bit more specific as to why that hasn't happened? You know, we've been waiting for that for over a year.

MR. KIRBY: I'm not aware that there was a need for guidance from the Secretary here. There - once a claim is properly filed and received the service that ran the military medical treatment facility reviews it. Claims are reviewed in a non-adversarial manner to assess liability and pay meritorious claims. 

Settlements are offered based on the best assessment of liability and damages. Claimants have access to the medical records and opportunities to submit additional information through their process. So, again, the services run this claims process. And as I said, we take it seriously. And we also have to follow the law and doing it. 

Q: So, do you have any sense of why they're not being processed?

MR. KIRBY: I don't. And I think you have to talk to the services and each individual case for that. Look, we take it seriously. We know that there should be a legitimate claims process and there is, and it's legislated, and we have to follow the law. 

But we absolutely believe that it's an obligation of ours to take this seriously and we do but it's done by the services, and I'd refer you back to them individually. OK. Thanks, everybody.

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