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Sabrina Singh, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary, Holds a Press Briefing

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH:  Hey, everyone.  Good morning.  Happy Friday.  I have a few items to pass on at the top, and then I'd be happy to dive in and take your questions.

So yesterday, as you're aware, the department announced the release of the 2022 Strategic Reviews of the National Defense Strategy, Nuclear Posture Review and Missile Defense Review.  For the first time in its history, the department conducted all major strategic reviews in an integrated way, aligned with the National Security Strategy.  The 2022 NDS set the department's strategic direction and priorities for the Joint Force, identifying how the military will meet growing threats to U.S. national security interests and to a stable and open international system.

Also on that note, today, the department is releasing the Fiscal Years 2022-2026 Strategic Management Plan, as required by the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010.  The SMP articulates the strategy -- sorry.  The secretary of defense's strategic priorities, consistent with the NDS, with an emphasis on priorities focused on building enduring advantages.  The SMP provides a management framework for describing general and long-term goals, actions the department will take to realize those goals and how the department will address challenges and risks that may hinder achieving results, and it focuses on strengthening the business and management capabilities necessary to implement the NDS.  This will be available -- the SMP will be available on later today.

Turning to other news, today, the department is announcing the authorization of the 24th presidential drawdown of security assistance valued at up to $275 million to meet Ukraine's critical security and defense needs.  This authorization is, again, our 24th drawdown of equipment from DOD inventories for Ukraine since August, 2021.

Capabilities in this package, which you'll see up here -- additional ammunition for HIMARS, which are the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, 500 precision-guided 155 artillery rounds, 2,000 155 millimeter rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine Systems, more than 1,300 anti-armor systems, 125 Humvees, small arms and more than 2.75 million rounds of small-arms ammunition, and four satellite communications antennas.

In total, the U.S. has committed more than $18.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration.

Just two more things here.  I'd also like to announce that the Change of Responsibility ceremony and the retirement of United States Space Force's first chief of space operations, General John W.J. Raymond.  Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall will officiate the Change of Command Responsibility ceremony, where General Raymond will relinquish command to Lieutenant General B. Chance Saltzman, deputy chief of space operations for Operation Cyber and Nuclear USSF at 10:30 A.M. at Joint Base Andrews' Hanger Three.  Secretary Austin will also be present, and General Raymond will award and provide -- sorry -- will pre -- Secretary Austin will present General Raymond with an award and provide remarks.

And lastly, on Monday the 31st, the U.S. Army Pacific will begin their first Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, which -- JM -- JPMRC rotation in Hawaii.  The JPMRC is the first combat training center established by the U.S. Army in over 50 years, and is the first combat training center for the Indo-Pacific.  It will include several thousand participants from all U.S. joint services and the Coast Guard, as well as active participants from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.  

JPMRC increases combined-training opportunities for our regional allies and our partners and produces significant cost savings versus moving personnel and equipment to continental U.S. training facilities.

And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions.  I'm going to first turn it over to Lita, who's joining us on the phone.

Q:  Hi, Sabrina.  Thank you.  I have a couple quick things.

First, the secretary -- I just want to make sure we're -- I'm interpreting the secretary's comments yesterday accurately.  He said we'll be able to get the capability and trained troops married up in Ukraine on the NASAMS early next month.  It -- does that -- am I hearing that correctly?  That means that there are already troops trained on the NASAMS in Ukraine that have been trained?  There are already Ukrainians that have been trained that are ready to use these NASAMS early next month when they arrive?  And is there also the MRM ammunition already there?

And then just secondly very quickly also, can you say whether or not there are thousands or tens of thousands of Russian troops that have come into Ukraine, the new troops that have just been brought in as conscripts?  The Russians have said 82,000 are in, and defense officials have been saying it's only been, they’ve only seen small numbers of trying to figure out which is accurate?

Thank you.

MS. SINGH:  Sure.  Thanks, Lita, for the questions.

Few things to unpack there.  So first, in terms of the training when -- on your question with training on the NASAMS, there is a training program with this system.  And once it has been completed, the system will be ready for delivery to Ukraine.  And we anticipate that that training program will conclude soon.

For operational security, I'm not going to be able to provide more details on that, but for when the NASAMS are delivered in country, I would refer you to our Ukrainian partners to make that announcement.

And on your second question on the troop numbers that it's been reported of Russian troops coming into Ukraine, I've seen the open source reporting.  I have nothing more to add at this time.  It's something that, you know, we're -- we continue to monitor and assess the situation on the ground, but I have nothing to add to those reports at this time.

I'm going to turn it over to the room.  Yes, go ahead.

Q:  All right.  Thanks so much, Sabrina.  I have two questions for you.

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  The first one is the nuclear posture review notes that as directed by the fiscal year 2022 NDAA, DOD will commission an independent review of the safety, security, and reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons, NC3, and integrated tactical warning and attack assessment systems.  What's the status of that review?  Has it kicked off yet?  And is there anything you can share about when it might be anticipated to be completed?

MS. SINGH:  Sure.  So I don't have a status update or an actual date of -- to announce on when the review will be completed.  I'd be, you know, happy to keep you updated on that.  For more information on the NPR, that is available now.  I think, you know, the secretary laid out the strategy that's been put forward in the review, which is, you know, to continue to deter any country, any nation from using nuclear weapons and, of course, reassuring our allies and partners that we continue to work with them if any deterrents were to fail.

Q:  And then, how concerned is Secretary Austin with the current state of NC3 specifically and how modern NC3 systems are operating?

MS. SINGH:  You know, I have now been able to have an opportunity to discuss that with him.  I would, you know, happily take that question and get back to you.

Q:  Thank you.

MS. SINGH:  Yes.  Ryo.

Q:  Thank you.

One question on Japan.  There are some reports that Japan is in talks with the United States to procure Tomahawk cruise missiles.  Does the Pentagon support Japan's such procurements to help Japan to strengthen its self defense capability?

MS. SINGH:  Sure.  So as a matter of policy, as you probably know, I'm not going to be able to comment on any potential arms sales or transfers before formally -- before they are formally notified to Congress, but look, for 70 years we've had a very strong relationship with Japan.  It's a relationship that has served as the cornerstone of peace and stability and freedom in the Indo-Pacific region and we’re going to continue to work with Japan when it comes to addressing our regional and global objectives, but for any other information when it comes to sales I would refer you to the State Department.

Yes.  I -- yes, Sylvie.

Q:  Yes.  Thank you. To go back to the package -- new package of aid to Ukraine.

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  -- The four satellite communication antennas -- are they Starlink or another company?  And how were they --

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

So these are -- these are SATCOM antennas that are coming off of our shelves.  These are not Starlink antennas.  These -- just to level set here, these SATCOM antennas are going to provide additional communications capabilities to the Ukrainians at a critical time but are separate from what Starlink provides.

Q:  Okay.  And what about the RAAM systems?  Is it something that they required?

MS. SINGH:  Again, these packages are worked out with our Ukrainians partners.  And so, this is something that certainly we have discussed with them and they feel that will make an impact on the battlefield.  Some of the equipment and systems that are mentioned are, you know, having everyday impacts that we're seeing on the battlefield, and that's why we are providing more, for example, more ammunition when it comes to the HIMARS systems.

And so, these are something that we are seeing Ukraine's -- the Ukrainians employ successfully on the battlefield everyday.  I'm going to go back to the phones really quickly, and then I can come back into the room.  Seng Min Li, RFA?

Q:  Yes.  Thank you for taking my question.

I have a question about North Korea.  Yesterday, North Korea launched two another short-range ballistic missiles.  I want to know have you have any comment on that?  And second question is about nuclear posture review released yesterday regarding the North Korea.  So that NPR mentioned that any nuclear attack by North Korea against United States or its ally and partners is unacceptable and will result in end of the review?  And there is no scenario in which that Kim Jong-un could employ nuclear weapon and survive?  Can you elaborate on this part?

MS. SINGH:  Sure.  So I'll take your first question first, and then I'll come back to the NPR.

So we can confirm that North Korea did launch two ballistic missiles.  Just to give you a little bit more detail, the launches were from the central part of the country.  We believe early in the day, October 28, so late in our day on the 27.

These missiles landed in the vicinity of Alsom Island, and we have assessed that these launches -- this event does not pose any immediate threat to U.S. personnel or our allies.  And again, we -- like we have and we continue to do, we are going to continue working closely with our partners and allies in the region, but the actions that the DPRK has taken, again, further destabilize the region, and our commitments to the Republic of Korea and Japan remain ironclad.

In terms of the NPR and what was released yesterday, and I think I remember most of your question, look, we released the Nuclear Posture Review because we believe that a nuclear weapon should never be used, and part of this review is to ensure that we are deterring other nations from using nuclear weapons.  Our goal is to see a full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  That is something that our partners and allies want. That is something we want. And so the actions that the -- the -- that DPRK continues to take further destabilize the region, but also, further commit and strengthen our relationship to the Republic of Korea and Japan.

I'm going to go to our next question on the phone. Idrees, Reuters?

Q:  Hey, two quick questions.  Firstly, has Secretary Austin reached out to Defense Minister Shoigu at any point since Sunday?  And secondly, is it your understanding that the Russian Grom exercises are now over, at least the missile launch part of it?

MS. SINGH:  Thanks, Idrees.  So in terms of any calls or any outreach, I have nothing for you to preview at this time.  If there is another call, I'd be happy to relay that when that -- if -- if that does happen.

And in terms of the exercises, Russia's strategic nuclear exercises, as far as we are aware and as -- as what we are monitoring, is that they are ongoing.  We won't speculate on -- on future actions, but we are continuing to closely monitor this exercise as it continues most likely into the weekend.

I'll take another one from the phone, and then I'll come back into the room.  Lara Seligman, Politico?

Q:  Hi, Sabrina.  Thanks for doing this.

I wanted to follow up on Sylvie’s question about the aids package and the communications antenna.  Is this the first time you're sending antenna that is not supporting Starlink?  Can you just clear that up?

MS. SINGH:  This is the first time that we are sending four SATCOM antennas.  Now, antennas can work with different types of satellites, so it's not just that they could work with Starlink.  These just help improve communications capabilities on the battlefield.

Q:  So can you tell us a little bit more about that?  Why are you sending these now for the first time?  And what will that support -- how -- how will that help Ukraine in this -- in this stage of the fight?

MS. SINGH:  Well, look, I mean, we're seeing Ukrainian infrastructure and electrical grids being targeted by the Russians, and these antennas provide an additional capability on the ground at a critical time when Ukraine's infrastructure is being hit.  They're not -- these -- these SATCOMs are not intended to serve as a substitute for a service like Starlink. They help increase communication efforts on the battlefield.

Do you have a follow-up, or did I -- I think I answered.Sorry about that.  Yeah?

Q:  Yeah, so you mentioned -- or -- and previously mentioned that Spain was going to be delivering the HAWKS air defense system.  The U.S. obviously has plenty of those systems, and it was mentioned also that there's been training conducted on these systems.  Is the U.S. supporting in that training?  And is there any possibility on the U.S. -- in a future PDA, I guess, delivering those systems to Ukraine?

MS. SINGH:  Well, as you know, I wouldn't speculate on upcoming packages, nor would I get ahead of our -- the -- the leadership on their decisions.

But look, I mean, Spain is providing the HAWK air defense systems.  I'm not going to comment on the training there, but you know, as -- as you have seen from the beginning, we have provided air defense systems to the Ukrainians in some of our very first packages.  We provided 1,400 Stingers at -- at the very beginning.  We have committed to providing eight NASAMS.  And I -- as Sylvie had asked in one of her questions, two, we anticipate, will be there next month, and training should be concluding soon so the Ukrainians will be able to operate those -- those NASAM systems.

But just to broaden it out, this is not just a U.S. effort.  We have our partners and allies, like you mentioned Spain, but Germany has committed also to providing an IRST system.  And that's, you know -- that is the point of these contact groups; It is to work with our partners and allies around the world to ensure Ukraine has what it needs on the battlefield day-to-day, and that's why we're -- we're -- we're extremely pleased that our partners and allies have -- have been donating these system to Ukraine.

Q:  Ukraine is being hit by you know, missiles and drones.  Would you appreciate if more partners and allies were able to commit more to them, to this effort?

MS. SINGH:  I mean, we are -- we are in constant contact with our partners and allies.  You just saw this week the secretary spoke with his Canadian counterpart, and part of -- and I mean, we're just coming off of the -- the most recent Ukraine Contact Group.  We are -- we are constantly working with our allies to see what else can be provided.  But this is an open communication, open dialogue.  We know that countries are doing what they can, and we're very grateful for it.

Yeah?  Anyone else in the room?

Q:  Yeah.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.

Q:  I'm sorry I'm late.  If somebody asked this question, I apologize.

MS. SINGH:  That's all right.

Q:  As you know, the state -- New York State Supreme Court slammed -- or rejected New York City's mandate for the COVID-19.  Does that have any implications here in the DOD?  And is that going to cause more examination of the DOD's COVID mandate?  Are you -- is it still the policy now?

MS. SINGH:  It is still the policy now.  We encourage all service members to get the vaccine.  Look, I mean --

Q:  You require all service members.

MS. SINGH:  We require all service members to get the vaccine.  I'm not going to comment on any ongoing litigation, and I'm sorry if I -- I'm not -- just not going to go any further on that -- on that front, but we -- yes, we do require our service members to get the vaccine, and as of right now, I have nothing new to announce in terms of if that policy is changing.  But right now, it's not.

I'll go back to the phone, and then I'll come into the room for any other additional questions.  Jeff Seldin, VOA?

Q:  Thanks very much for doing this.  Three quick questions, hopefully.  First, New York Times is reporting that Somalia is asking the U.S. to loosen restrictions on airstrikes against Al-Shabaab.  Can you talk at all about what the Pentagon's thinking is regarding this request?  And -- and also, what the latest assessment is regarding how strong Al-Shabaab remains, or its capabilities in Somalia?

Second, I'm curious if there's any updates on what role the Wagner Group or other paramilitaries are playing right now in -- in Russia's war in Ukraine, especially as more regular troops, according to Russia, are being sent to the front?

And then finally, the Pentagon, NSC has said repeatedly now that the U.S. is not seeing any signs that Putin or Russia have made a decision to use nuclear weapons or a dirty bomb, or that there have been any preparations for Russia to do that.  If that's the case, what does the Pentagon think is the reason that Putin and other Russian officials keep making these empty threats?  What is Russia trying to gain from this?

MS. SINGH:  Okay, thanks, Jeff -- appreciate the questions, and hopefully I will not forget any.  I wrote your three down.

In terms of, what is Putin and Russia thinking, you would have to ask them.  I -- I can't speak to that.  I -- I can't get into the mind of what -- what President Putin is thinking.  But I will say that the rhetoric that is coming out of Russia, and not just from Vladimir Putin, but from others is incredibly dangerous, it is destabilizing, it is not something that we would expect from a nuclear power, some of the language that is being used. And that is why we are we're certainly urging de-escalation when it comes to not just this language, but also just what we're seeing in Ukraine.

I guess I'll work slightly backwards here. In terms of your question, I think it was on Wagner and movements within Ukraine. I've seen the open-source reporting that you're referring to. I certainly don't have anything to add to that at this time. But if we do, I will let you know. And then on Somalia. So we will not speak to internal policy discussions are AFRICOM and this department here is continually evaluating the situation on the ground in Somalia. We work closely with our partners there on the ground on how we can both be effective at defeating al Shabaab. And we're working to continuing having an open an open dialogue with them on how to improve operations.

But in terms of any recommendations that the command has on the -- the execution of our mission in Somalia, you know, I don't have anything else to preview at this time. I will take another question from the phone and then I will come back into the room. Roxana, Bloomberg.

Q:  Hi. Thank you for doing this. Just a really quick question: On the ammunition, the 155 millimeters are those Excalibur?

MS. SINGH:  Thanks. Thanks for the question.

I'm not going to have more to provide on that at this time.  I just would direct you to what you should actually be getting at hopefully a press release in your inbox.  I know you can't see the slide on -- on the board here. But I just have no -- no other details to provide at this time.

Thanks. Great. I'll take one more from the phone. That'll all come back in the room. Heather, USNI.

Q:  Thanks so much.

I'm just wondering if when conversations with Ukraine about what the United States can provide, has there been any concern about the lack of maritime equipment?  I noticed that when we've talked recently that there's been caliber cruise missiles coming from ships. And I was just wondering if there's been any U.S. response to providing equipment to take down some of those ships or prevent some of those cruise missiles from hitting civilian targets?

MS. SINGH:  It's other as you know, and as you saw this week, the Secretary wasn't in touch with his counterpart, Minister Reznikoff. We are in constant contact with what Ukrainians need on the battlefield. As you can see, from this package today, I don't have any further updates on any other capabilities that we're providing on the maritime front. Okay, I'll come back in there. Yeah.

Q:  On the package, sure. For the -- the 1300 anti-armor systems, are those javelins? Are those something else? Is there any?

MS. SINGH:  Oh, yes. Let me give you some more detail on that. So, the anti-armor systems, their shoulder launch multipurpose assault weapons, and AT4s.

Q:  And then on the on the star, like you said, it's not intended, or the antennas are not intended as a substitute for something like, is there any connection between the recent uncertainty about Starlink and the provision of these antennas at this time? Is it kind of an augmentation in light of uncertainty related to Starlink? Or is there no link there at all?

MS. SINGH:  No, there's not this is something you know, we're seeing critical infrastructure in Ukraine being hit. And while the Ukrainians do have access to the Starlink capabilities, having additional SATCOM capabilities on the ground, is -- is certainly helpful for them to provide training or do you have access to the Starlink capabilities, having additional SATCOM capabilities on the ground?  It's' -- it's certainly helpful for them. It provides for better, just general command and control on the ground and so, but nothing to do in terms of access to Starlink. Mo Did you have a question? Yeah.

Q:  The governor of New York has mobilized the National Guard to help with asylum seekers who have been arriving to shelters in and around New York City. He's wondering if you could tell us if you have any more information about how many guards have actually been requested, what they'll be doing, what shelters they've been placed, and then additionally, have there been any additional requests put in this week?

MS. SINGH:  Thanks for question. I actually I don't have more information on that at this time. I'd be happy to look into that. But I would, I would actually direct you to the National Guard for those for those numbers. And I'm sorry, did you have another follow up? Okay, you're good.

Okay. Yes?

Q:  My question is about NPR in China.

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  NPR mentioned that the U.S. has made real progress about dialogue and crisis management is China.  China as a reaction to NPR, they accused the U.S. uses nuclear weapons for geopolitical goals and against expected to prevent nuclear war. So how do you react to Chinese?

MS. SINGH:  Sure. Our goal, using a nuclear weapon is never our goal. We our goal is to deter we and that and that's, you know, of course, laid out in the NDS, but one of the things it's also laid out is that the Secretary spoke more about his deterring strategic attacks on the United States, our allies and our partners, deterring aggression, and being prepared to prevail in conflict if necessary. Look, we don't see we don't see conflict with China. We can be we can be competitors. But we also know that China remains our pacing challenge. And -- and so we are going to continue to make sure that we are responsible and how we use our weapons and -- and our capabilities. But our main goal here is to deter.

Q:  Do you have an expectation that (OFF MIKE)

MS. SINGH:  We -- we would always we always would like to maintain an open dialogue. That's something that you've seen the secretary do before and so we -- you know, our -- I would certainly say that we welcome an open communication dialogue with China.

I'm going take one more question from the phone. And then if anyone has any last questions, I will come to the room, I realized I missed Luis Martinez, ABC.

Q:  Hi Sabrina. This is an out-of-left-field question, maybe an out-of-this-world question. It has to do with UAPs unexplained aerial phenomena.  Four months ago, the -- Dr. Hicks established something called AARO, the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, kind of a change from the previous AOI-MSG organization. How is that progress is going with in terms of UAP analysis? In terms of what you know what progress has been made in determining what is seen in those videos. And also, there's a report out today that maybe possibly China, Chinese surveillance might be responsible for some of the imagery that's been captured. That has been partially explained as not being UAPs earlier this year. Just looking for some comments on the Chinese surveillance angle.

Thank you.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah, thank you.  Thanks for the question.

I -- I don't have much to provide in terms of an update on -- on the review and more on UAPs.  I would -- when I do, I will certainly provide that to you, but at this time I -- you know, and I've also seen the -- the open-source reporting, but nothing to add right now.

Anything else in the room before I wrap it up?  Okay, well, Happy Friday.  I hope everyone has a great weekend, and we will see you on Monday.