An official website of the United States Government
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Transcript

Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds a Press Briefing

May 4, 2022
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: All right. Today as I think you know, Secretary Austin met with defense -- Japanese Defense Minister Kishi, they had a terrific discussion, talked about regional security issues, bilateral efforts to upgrade the U.S./Japan alliance, and measures to expand cooperation with like-minded partners.

The secretary thanked Minister Kishi for his participation in the Ukraine Security Consultative Group last week in Germany. And he welcomed Japan's continued leadership role in countering Russia's illegal aggression.

They also discussed China's ongoing coercion in the East and South China Seas and the need to uphold a free and Indo-Pacific that secures peace and prosperity for all.

I never had theme music to my opening statement. It's -- no, it's very soothing, please don't stop it. Finally, they -- sorry. Finally, they affirm the need to continue close collaboration with allies and partners to bolster integrated deterrence.

Elsewhere here at the Pentagon U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs Dr. Celeste Wallander is meeting today with Kenya Cabinet Secretary of Defense Eugene Wamalwa and the Kenyan Chief of Defense General Robert Kibochi. They're here in the United States for the U.S./Kenya Bilateral Defense Forum.

The two sides are discussing a range of topics including regional security, cybersecurity, security cooperation, the U.S./Africa Command -- Commission, and climate change. And then lastly, in the Southern Command AOR, SOUTHCOM is participating in the exercise CENTAM Guardian '22 in El Salvador.

Started on the first of the month, runs through the 22nd. CENTAM Guardian is an annual multinational exercise designed to build humanitarian assistance, disaster response capacity, and promote cooperation, and interoperability between participating forces.

Four nations, including El Salvador as the host nation, of course, Guatemala, Honduras, and the United States are participating. And all told it's about 320 personnel from those four countries participating in that exercise. And again, it runs until the 22nd of May. 

So with that, Lita.

Q: John, as your aware Russia has been hitting a lot more targets out in the west towards Lviv and hitting electrical stations and things like that. Is there a concern that Russia is getting more precise in -- in their ability to hit critical infrastructure like that?

And does this raise concerns about the safety particularly of diplomats, et cetera in Lviv? And will the U.S. Defense Department provide additional security for them there?

MR. KIRBY: A lot there. You're right, they are attempting to hit what we assess to be critical infrastructure targets out towards the west. Electrical power, transportation hubs, that kind of thing. We think this is an effort to try to disrupt the Ukrainians ability to replenish and reinforce themselves.

We are, you know, particularly these most recent strikes we're still assessing the degree to which they hit what they targeted. I would just offer without trying to correlate specifically to these most recent strikes. I would just remind that their ability to target with precision has been less than advertised throughout this entire war.

They are not good at precision strikes. They are not discriminate with how they target. So again, I'm not making a statement about these most recent ones but I think it's just good to remind ourselves of their lack of accuracy over the course of the last almost 70 days here.

As for security of our diplomats, I'll let the State Department speak to their movements and their security protocols. As I've said before, we're in constant discussion with our State Department colleagues and obviously, you know, it's typical for embassies around the world to have a U.S. Marine security footprint there.

We don't have, we're not back at the embassy in Kyiv and so I just don't have anything to specifically to speak to with respect to U.S. military support right now.

Q: As a follow-up, do you see much impediment to U.S. weapons transfers into Ukraine? And are shipments still getting to them successfully considering these -- hitting the railheads and all that?

MR. KIRBY: Yes, what I can tell you is that the flow into the region continues at an incredible pace and the flow of materials from the region into Ukraine also continues every single day. 

And we know that because we talk to the Ukrainians every single day, we know that that material, those weapons, those systems are getting into Ukrainian hands. 

Yes. OK. Anybody else. Yes, Abraham.

Q: Yes, thanks, John. This one in a briefing from some of the trainers out in Germany, as you know, and sounded like a lot of U.S. Army soldiers doing that training and National Guard.

I wondered if given that the U.S. giving this Phoenix Ghost UAV and other materials that perhaps pertain to the Air Force if any Air Force personnel are doing training of Ukrainians?

MR. KIRBY: I don't know the status of Phoenix Ghost training but you're right. We had some officials from EUCOM, the Army training command talk to you guys about the systems that they were training Ukrainian soldiers on. As you know we had a small group that were here in the United States that got both some Switchblade training as well as some unmanned service vessel training. I just don't have anything on the Phoenix Ghost. 

But it would most likely be Air Force training, used to train operators who know how to conduct UAS operations. So it would be our expectation that it would be Air Force people doing that training. But I don't know whether that training has started and what that looks like right now.

Q: Status update of where?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have a status update on the Phoenix Ghost training but it's safe to assume that that training would be conducted by the Air Force.

Q: And if I might follow-up on one of Lita's questions about the -- well, I'll have to come back to you later. I've lost it.

MR. KIRBY: Are you sure.

Q: I'll try to -- thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Travis.

Q: Thanks, John. The Department just decided to allow service members to ship gun safes with their household goods. And it said one of the reasons for that was suicide. It also -- the announcement also said that this was something that was asked for -- the Air Force had asked for.

I'm just wondering if there is something more that you can say about that decision and does this dovetail or is connected at all with the secretary's commission on suicide? 

MR. KIRBY: I can't say that it's directly associated with the independent review committee that he stood up. But it's very much, in fact, he's talked about this. Publically he's talked about it, the fact that so many military suicides are by gunshot and that one of the things that we want to look at is weapon safety.

Particularly making sure that the men and women of the force know their options of what's available to them in terms of keeping firearms safe in the home. So we very much and he very much welcomes any move by the services with respect to improving firearm safety in the home as well, to include travel between stations. I mean that's welcome, it's prudent, it's the right thing to do because again, so many suicides are happening due to gunshot wounds.

Q: You've talked a bit in the past about the secretaries concern about gun storage and suicide and I'm just wondering if there is anything else that the Department is looking at as far as storage. Any changes or policies that it believes could help with suicide might be coming out --

MR. KIRBY: I don't have any changes to policy to talk to today but it is a concern of the secretary's and the Department's, suicide writ large. And as you know, that's why he stood up the Independent Review Committee to take a look at this. We're still putting all that together. But I don't have any specific announcements to make. Barbara.

Q: Different subject, if I may. Military women already face some -- compared to their civilian counterparts, face some of the strongest legal restrictions on getting abortion services already. They can be assigned to states -- just so you understand my questions not hypothetical.

They can be assigned to states with significant restrictions, they -- if they want to go to another state for that medical service they may have to ask their commander for leave in their military hospitals and military insurance doesn't cover it.

A number of states have trigger laws, should Roe v. Wade be overturned it will automatically mean additional new restrictions are put into place. So my question is, in this environment, which already exists, separate from the national discussion on the Supreme Court, the existing environment for military women, what concerns do you have -- does the Pentagon have that as you go forward, women looking at joining the military and women already in the military may not see it as the most appealing choice for their careers if they could be assigned, for example, to a state with severe restrictions, which already are in effect in places like Texas.

Do you have concerns that women as we go forward here may not see the military as an attractive career option for themselves, could it impact readiness. Do you have -- are there concerns about this?

MR. KIRBY: I think, Barbara, in general we're always concerned about being able to recruit and retain talent. And what causes an individual to want to join the military is often a very individual decision. And there's a lot of factors that affect one's decision to join and certainly a lot of factors once one's in that affect their decision to stay.

I'd rather not get into an abortion centric discussion here today but I can tell you that the health and well-being of our men and women are paramount concerns of Department leadership and we certainly want to make sure that whoever they are and wherever they are that they know that we’re serious about that pledge and that we are serious about making sure they have the information, the tools that they need to make the most informed decisions for their own personal health and well-being.

That is, of course, in discussion with their physicians and their families. Is that OK?

Q: Well, I --

MR. KIRBY: I guess not.

Q: -- I want to let my colleague ask her question as well, of course. But I'm going to ask, I guess, an additional time because the national conversation is -- and I realize it may be difficult from the podium but the national conversation is not hypothetical.

MR. KIRBY: I didn't suggest that it was.

Q: No, you certainly did not. I want to say that for the record, you did not do that. The national conversation includes whether the military has opened its doors in recent years to get rid of the don't ask, don't tell policy; same sex marriage; LGBTQ; women's reproductive rights. And I just wonder if the national conversation is yet at a point where you, the military, the Defense Department feels it will be allowed to maintain a socially diverse force? And especially the question right now, because no secret to anybody the Supreme Court conversation for women on reproductive rights. 

MR. KIRBY: Yes, I would just say a couple of things. I mean, one we have never assumed, ever, that we are somehow immune to what's going on in the rest of America. Whether that's a social issue, a medical issue, a legal issue, or an economic issue. 

We're an all volunteer force and have been since the mid '70s, which means we have to go out and recruit that talent, we've got to convince you that service in the United States military is in your interest as well as ours. Sometimes we're successful, and sometimes not. And individuals obviously have a right to make that decision for themselves, and we know that, look, I mean, a macro example of this is the economy right now. 

I mean, there are plenty of jobs out there, and so our recruiters have been under some strain because COVID didn't give them the contact that they needed with potential recruits, the way we're used to going after talent and then with the economy and the jobs situation being so good out there, then we're competing with that. And so we're absolutely not immune to it. 

All I can say, in the aggregate, is that as we make a case to a young person about joining, male or female, and it doesn't matter what service you're talking about. I mean, we try to make clear to them that yes, service in the military can endure hardship, it can be dangerous, it is dangerous. But that there is also great opportunity in terms of education, and learning skills, building leadership ability, and the sense of pride that comes with serving in the military. 

And when you sign that dotted line, that we commit back to you to make good on those promises as best we can, and that your health, your physical wellbeing, your mental health, you know, we're just talking about suicides a little bit ago, and this is mental health month that your health; your total health matters to us. And that when you come in we're going to care for that. And so, again, I... 

Q: Just a quick one, do you think (inaudible) asking your view there's a risk to readiness if you cannot maintain the appeal of military service to women. Are you concerned it could get to that point? 

MR. KIRBY: Again, I want to separate this from the current debate now with respect to abortion rights. The short answer to your question is of course yes. Of course we cannot be an effective military without the brave women who serve inside the military, and who serve in the civilian ranks. Think about the ways in which they contribute literally to operational readiness everyday and are commanding at the highest levels; including two combatant commanders. 

It's important for the military to represent all of America, not just because it's important representationally, it's important operationally and I've seen it myself at sea on ships. And why on Earth would we not try to attract the best talent in America regardless of background, as long as they're qualified and meet the requirements to come in? 

And there's lots of them - education, and physical as well. But we would be, to your question, we'd be literally cutting into our readiness. If we weren't talking with men and women about their concerns about joining, and what anxiety or worries they might have, and how we could allay those or address those. And then to continue to do that and to have those conversations as one progresses through one's career so that all those opportunities remain available to you. 

Yes, go ahead. 

Q: So, just to follow-up and raise it just a notch. The military has a great history of women on the tech side and science side making extraordinary contributions. And the White House is signing a national security memorandum today about quantum, and women in science and technology, this is one of the areas where they are also leading - making leading contributions. 

So I'm just asking whether you might be concerned about the kind of workforce, and being able to attract the workforce that can do the work that's needed in the science and the quantum area? 

MR. KIRBY: Again, I think yes, of course we're concerned about that. We want a wide range of skills here in the military. Thank goodness there wasn't - in 1986 a strong emphasis on quantum intelligence or I never would have gotten in. 

I mean, we don't - you know, yes STEM matters and you saw in the budget we just submitted the highest ever amount of investment money we're asking for from Congress for research and development in science and technology - it's absolutely critical. 

You can't call China a pacing challenge and Russia an acute threat and then not try to invest in capabilities that allow you to get at dealing with those challenges and those threats. So it's absolutely vital to us, and we recognize that knowledge and scientific acumen doesn't just reside in one gender or the other. 

So of course we're concerned about that, and that's why, back to my answer to Barbara, we're going to be diverse in who we try to bring in. Bring in the best talent that we can, and then keep that talent. 

But we also need people who don't specialize in STEM because there's a lot of skills in the military that require a different set of intellectual capacities and capabilities, again, thank goodness for me or I wouldn't have been able to join the United States Navy. You have to be broad in how you're looking at who you're bringing in. And the broader the better, quite frankly. 

Yes? 

Q: On the, Liz at Fox News.

MR. KIRBY: You're not Mike Stone from Reuters are you? 

Q: No. 

MR. KIRBY: No? OK. 

Q: On the most recent North Korea ballistic test launch, is the timing of it concerning to you considering President Biden is going to be in South Korea later this month, in Japan later this month? Is there anything different in particular with this test launch? 

MR. KIRBY: Well, we're still analyzing this launch, we're certainly aware of a ballistic missile launch yesterday, and we're consulting closely, as you might expect with Japan and with our South Korean allies, as well as other partners in the region. 

So I don't want to - I don't have anything more on this launch. As for timing, I don't think we can say specifically that it's time for anything in particular. There's never a good time, quite frankly, for the DPRK to conduct these kinds of tests - and that's the larger point. 

So we'll consult with allies and partners in the region, and we'll continue to assess what happened here. We continue to call on the North to stop these provocative tests and to be willing to sit down as we have offered; we would be willing to do without precondition and discuss a diplomatic way forward here to denuclearize the North.

Q: And a quick follow-up. They've more than doubled the number of test launches since last year. Is the U.S., you know, twice as concerned that -- how concerned is the U.S. compared to last year? 

MR. KIRBY: We're still very deeply concerned about these tests and the provocative nature of their continuing ballistic missile program. And that is why again, we have, not just the United States, but the international community has condemned these provocations. They're violations of UN Security Council resolutions. That's why we have called for the North to sit down again without precondition and have a discussion. And it's also why we continue to focus on the readiness of our alliance, our alliance in Japan, and meeting today with the minister of defense and our alliance with our South Korean allies as well there on the peninsula. 

Yeah, Ryo? 

Q: Thank you. I want to ask you about the secretary's meeting with Japanese Defense Minister Kishi. The Japanese government is revising its own national defense strategy. So, what inputs is the secretary gave to the Japanese counterpart to up to enhance the U.S.-Japan defense cooperation and to make sure Japanese strategy is closely aligned with the U.S. national defense strategy?

MR. KIRBY: They did have a discussion today about our national defense strategy and the Japanese national security strategy, and I think the secretary came away from the meeting feeling that they were very much aligned. And that is not a surprise because of our close alliance with Japan and the close, deep collaboration and cooperation we have military to military. So, I think there was a very good discussion about that. And the secretary doesn't have any concerns.

Q: Mr. Kishi said on top of the meeting that they would discuss extended deterrence to the Northeast Asia. So, could you tell us more about what they discuss in greater detail? And does the secretary think there should be some additional steps to keep that extended deterrence robust and credible?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I'm not going to get more detailed than what we've already readout. They certainly talked about the importance of integrated deterrence in the region. This is something the secretary has talked about since almost the day he took office. And integrated deterrence isn't just about integrating our joint capabilities. It's about integrating allies' and partners' capabilities in conjunction with ours. To deter potential adversarial action. And that certainly applies when you're talking about the pacing challenge that China represents. It certainly was discussed today with Minister Kishi. But I’d let the Japanese speak to specific extended deterrence issues with respect to their home islands. Again, the issue of deterrence and China's continued bellicosity and aggressive and coercive moves was absolutely discussed. But I won't go into any more detail than that. 

OK. Yeah. 

Q: Liz from Fox, but... 

MR. KIRBY: OK, then we'll go to the next one... 

(LAUGHTER)

Q: The minister today said that North Korea's become a greater and more imminent threat. And I'm wondering if the Pentagon agrees with that sentiment that it's greater and more imminent? And also, if there's anything that you could flesh out, and I know you're going to tell me that ask the Japanese about this, but I'm asking if there's anything that you could flesh about, flesh out about why particularly the recent tests or even this test (inaudible) North Korea may make North Korea a more imminent threat?

MR. KIRBY: I think with each test, Court, they learn, even if it's a failure. And again, we're still assessing this one, so I'm not going to get into the details of it. But with each test, they learn, and with each test, they try to improve. And sometimes they actually do. So, when we talk about greater, I think that's what we're all talking about. And we would agree that the threat from North Korea continues to increase because they continue to test because they, continue to learn because they continue to adapt their program. It would be foolish not assess that the threat they're posing is actually increasing over time. 

Yeah. In the back there.

Q: Thank you for taking my question. I'm (inaudible) from Kyoto News, Japanese media. I want to ask about Japan. The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan has recommended its Japanese government to possess counterattack capabilities. In light of China's military rights, how -- how... 

MR. KIRBY: In light of the Chinese military's rights?

Q: Rights. Rights. 

MR. KIRBY: Arise. Arise. 

Q: All right, I see. Sorry. 

MR. KIRBY: It's OK. 

Q: So, how does the Pentagon evaluate about this discussion? 

MR. KIRBY: I think it -- go ahead. Do you have another one?

Q: No. How do you think the U.S.-Japan defense cooperation will change if Japan poses counterattack capability?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I think I'm going to avoid wading into Japanese politics domestically. So, I'm just simply not going to speak to that. I would just say a couple of things. Again, the alliance with Japan is rock solid and gets better every year. And this is something that we're very dedicated to. And then, with the first trip, the secretary took overseas was to Tokyo and to Seoul. And he was very glad to meet with the defense minister here today. 

And we're always looking at ways to improve our collective defensive capabilities. And certainly, with an eye on what China's doing in the region, no question about that. And again, I'd point you back to our budget submission, which the secretary just testified to yesterday, and the kinds of capabilities that are in there, designed to help us with the pacing challenge of China. And that was what the discussion was about, part of the discussion was about today with Minister Kishi, about how we continue to pursue this vision of integrated deterrence, again, with an eye towards China. But as for internal Japanese politics, and proposals to the government in Tokyo, I think I'd let the government of Tokyo speak to that. I hope you can understand that. 

Tony? 

Q: I have a One Health question and a couple of Russian questions. Has anybody who attended the White House Correspondents Dinner from the Pentagon tested positive? 

MR. KIRBY: Not to my knowledge. 

Q: Good. OK. Russia, May Day victory parade that Putin wants to put on; what signs is the Pentagon watching for in terms of any mega assaults between now and May 9 to solidify a parade -- a victory parade? I mean, massed armor formations, more massed aircraft, artillery bombardments? Anything that would portend? 

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, Tony, we're not watching what's going on in Ukraine, nor are we talking to the Ukrainians and trying to help them with an eye towards what May 9 is going to look like. Look, I don't know, we don't know if he's going to throw a parade or a party. We don't know. You know, we've heard rumors of him, you know, he's going to declare war. Now they're denying that. And we are not focused on what Russia is going to do on May 9 or what they're going to say or proclaim or celebrate. What we are focused on every day, including this day, is to make sure that we are helping Ukraine defend itself by getting them the weapons and the material they need as quickly as possible. 

And it's in lockstep with what they tell us they need. And if we don't have it, we're working with other countries that do have it that can help get it there. And in some cases, we're actually helping with that transport. So, that's what the focus is on. I can't and won't speak to potential future operations in Ukraine. I wouldn't do that even if, you know, we were talking about U.S. operations. And we're not. We're talking about a war in which we are not fighting. All I can tell you is that the Russians have not made the kind of progress in the Donbas and in the south that we believe they wanted to make. We do believe they're behind schedule; we do believe it's been slow. And at every turn, they have met a stiff Ukrainian resistance. What we're focused on is making sure that that resistance remains as stiff as possible. 

Q: So, it rains on their parade? 

MR. KIRBY: We're just not focused on his parade plans.

Q: You said also that they have -- their lack -- their precision is less than advertised. Fairly surprising, given the amount of money they spend on precision-guided weaponry. What do you attribute that to? Is it Ukraine's air defenses that keep their ISR capability down or what? 

MR. KIRBY: I mean, it's hard to know specifically, again, when it's not a missile that you're launching, it's hard to know what was the actual intended target and how -- you know, and therefore if you don't know the actual intended target, it's hard to know by how much they missed. But we have indications that they have not been precise. I mean, actually, it's more than indications. You can see it for yourself and the imagery. I mean, they have not been precise, they have not been discriminant. And there's probably any number of reasons for that. It could be technical issues. It certainly could be Ukrainian defenses. Or it could just be incompetence on the part of operators. I mean, for any miss, there's likely a lot of reasons for that.

Q: And so, these are precision -- these are weapons that are designed to be precision-guided that aren't working as intended versus dumb bombs. 

MR. KIRBY: That is correct. 

Q: Good. Thanks. 

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. Yeah. No, Abraham, I'm already got you. Let me get somebody on the phone. 

Paul Shankman, U.S. News. 

Q: Hey, John. Staying on Russia for a minute. What do you assess would happen if Putin were to be incapacitated for any reason, particularly amid these reports that now he's giving direct orders for the military operation in Ukraine? Does, like, Russia appear to have a clear chain of command to succeed him or at least maintain operations in Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY: I don't want to speculate about their chain of command and how that would work. I mean, I just don't think that's a healthy speculation for us to get into. Mr. Putin is the leader of his country, he's certainly the leader of his armed forces, and how they execute orders down that that chain of command is not perfectly visible to us in every way. Nor is it perfectly visible to us how information bubbles up from below the ranks up to him. So, I think I just am going to not speculate on that. 

Jeff Shogle. 

Q: Thank you. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has confirmed that the draft opinion on Roe is accurate is authentic. So, it's not a question of if but when Roe is overturned. When that happens, will the Defense Department makes sure that female service members and military dependents can still have surgeries for ectopic pregnancies, and they will not be prosecuted by state authorities if they have miscarriages?

MR. KIRBY: I beg to differ. I think it's been stated that a draft opinion is just that, a draft. And it's not our place here at the Department of Defense to speak to opinions by the Supreme Court that has not been rendered. So, I'm just not going to entertain that. 

Karoun Demirjian.

Q: Hi, John. So I have a question that is about Ukraine. Earlier today a senior defense official was kind of talking about the advances that Russia's making and how they've been stymied and not gotten much progress outside of Mariupol, getting to Velyka Novosilka, if I'm pronouncing that correctly, and from Izyum to (inadible).

Just -- I was wondering though if you could kind of from your take explain are these advances something that aren't considered to be, you know, terribly significant by the Pentagon because there's some form of like deceleration?

Because if you look at them on the map it seems like the distance that's been covered by the Russian forces moving is like more than half of the way to Slovyansk or more than have the way to Kramatorsk or these cities that the Pentagon has defined as potential targets for the Russian advance.

So is there something else going on there that makes these not, you know, particularly, you know, not alarming advances I suppose as it seemed like the defense official was saying, or is that something that actually is putting Russians like in closer striking distance than maybe before?

Is there a pacing thing or something going on that's qualifying kind of the -- the inches on the map that seem to put that fairly, you know, seem to make it seem like they're more significant advances?

MR. KIRBY: Let me try it this way, again, we believe their progress in the Donbas and even in the south has been uneven. And it has been slower than we believe they anticipated being. We think in general, and I'd rather not get into specific lines of advance or towns and cities here from the podium.

But we think in general there's several reasons for this. And it varies from place to place but in general, we don't believe they have solved their logistics and sustainment issues. And that because they don't have it solved then they are more wary about getting too far out ahead of their supply lines.

And so, that has kept them at a fairly slow pace in terms of movement. Number two, and, actually, this is not insignificant at all is the Ukrainian resistance. This is an area that they have been fighting now over -- for eight years and the Ukrainians it's their home. They know it. And they know where to be.

And they know what to show up with. And they have absolutely impeded Russian progress in terms of their ability to take certain towns and villages or even in the case when they have they'd pull back and the Ukrainians re-take it. So the Ukrainians are very much a part of the reason why they haven't progressed in a very even, or even at pace manner.

The weather is also having an effect. This is the muddy season in Ukraine. This is a part of Ukraine that is flat, a lot of farmland. It's been described to me a little bit like Kansas. And so, if you think about that, and at this time of year, in the spring there's just a lot of rain and mud.

And that also has served to slow the Russians down a little bit. And then lastly, they still haven't overcome the leadership and unit cohesion challenges that they had early on. I mean, we still have anecdotal evidence, it's anecdotal, I understand that, it's not uniform; but anecdotal evidence of morale and cohesion problems inside many units. And leadership challenges, poor command and control that they haven't solved. So we do see that they are trying and have tried to overcome some of those challenges but it is not at all clear that they have.

And so, there's a whole wealth of reasons why the progress is as it is right now. They have a lot of force power left, a lot of firepower left to them. A lot of forces left to continue this fight. And that is why, and we've said all along, that this could be, end up being a prolonged battle in the Donbas.

And that's why we're focused, my answer to Tony, we're focused right now every day, including this day on making sure that we can give the Ukrainians the tools and the weapons that they need as well as the training that may be required with some of those tools to succeed. OK, Laura Seligman?

Q: Hey, John, thanks for doing this. I just wanted to take one more stab at the abortion question. Is -- if this ultimately is the decision of the court, I know DOD is a planning organization, is DOD making plans to offer some kind of workaround for service members that might make it easier?

Since as you know that servicewomen have even more obstacles to getting the medical care that they need than civilian women do.

MR. KIRBY: Laura, look, this draft opinion just broke in the media you know what 24, 36 hours ago. And I think the relevant authorities have spoken to it. And it is a draft opinion, we're focused on our requirements for the health and well-being of our -- people, all of our people right now. And we're just not going to get ahead of where this goes with the Supreme Court. I just don't think that would be prudent for us to do. Yes, ma'am.

Q: Has there been any weakening of the Russian blockade around the ports? Mariupol and Odesa?

MR. KIRBY: We still assess that in the maritime domain there are still blockades. They are still restricting the ability of Ukraine to trade economically. They are still able to do that, yeah. Yeah.

Q: John, you spoke a bit about how there's a continued flow of defense assistance to Ukraine. It has not been lessened or inhibited, in fact, it's very strong, some of the terms that you said earlier.

Can you give us a little bit, without revealing any operational security, can you give us some context as to how Russia could be striking last week five railroads -- railroad stations? And now hitting infrastructure -- critical infrastructure that provides the electricity for that? And yet there's no disruption? Can you give us some -- about hitting roads either?

MR. KIRBY: I would just, again, Abraham, what we've said from the very beginning is we're not going to talk about the ways in which materials getting inside Ukraine. And that there are lots of ways to do that. And that those ways change over time as they must.

So there's redundancy built into the process. And we're mindful of the potential threat that could exist in terms of getting stuff in. So we're also mindful of changing how we're doing that so that it can continue to flow. And it continues to flow.

Q: Is it constantly changing or are you mindful?

MR. KIRBY: It's constantly changing. It's constantly changing. OK, thanks, everybody.

41:17
Play