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Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder Holds an On-Camera Press Briefing

BRIGADIER GENERAL PAT RYDER:  All right. Well, good afternoon, everyone. I hope you enjoyed your holiday season and that you were able to get some well-deserved time off.  We here at DOD are looking forward to meeting the challenges of 2023, and we wish all of you a very Happy New Year.  I do have several things to pass along at the top.  So, I appreciate your patience in advance and I'll be happy to take your questions.

So, next week, Secretary Austin and Secretary Blinken will co-host the 2023 U.S. Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting, January 11, with Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi and Japanese Defense Minister Hamada, at the Department of State here in Washington, D.C.  The U.S. Japan alliance remains the cornerstone of a free and open Indo Pacific region.  The U.S. and Japan will discuss our shared vision of a modernized alliance that will tackle 21st century challenges in the Indo Pacific and around the world.

Then on January 12, Secretary Austin will welcome Minister Hamada to the Pentagon for a bilateral meeting during which the leaders will reaffirm the strategic alignment between the United States and Japan, as well as our shared goals to modernize the Alliance, bolster integrated deterrence, and ensure a free and open Indo Pacific region in collaboration with likeminded partners, we will of course have more information to share after the conclusion of these meetings.

Also, just to quickly recap, Secretary Austin spoke by phone yesterday with his Israeli counterpart, Minister of Defense Yoav Galant, the two defense ministers agreed on the need to work together to address the wide range of regional challenges, including threats posed by Iran's destabilizing activities.  They also discussed opportunities to increase military cooperation and to advance Israel's integration in the region, building upon the Abraham accords and Israel's entrance into the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility.  A full readout is available on

Separately, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante, today directed all DOD organizations to begin full implementation of the Commission on the naming of items of the Department of Defense, a.k.a. the naming Commission and those recommendations.  This announcement follows a congressionally mandated 90-day waiting period that started when the naming Commission shared the third and final part of its report with the Secretary of Defense and U.S. Congress in September of 2022.  We've issued a press release and additional information pertaining to the naming Commission's Reports to Congress … can be found on

Also, today, the Department of Defense announced the expansion of the military parental leave program, which authorizes service members who give birth on 12 weeks of parental leave following a period of convalescence to care for their child.  Importantly, service members who are non-birth parent, a non-birth parent will also be authorized 12 weeks of leave to care for the child as well.  This expansion builds on the DOD support of military families and service members by streamlining and enhancing the parental leave benefit across all the service branches.  The full memorandum outlining the updates to this important program can be found on the DOD website.

And, finally, let me conclude with a couple of congratulatory items.  On behalf of the Department, we'd like to congratulate three nominees who were sworn in this week.  Milancy Harris was sworn in as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security.  Mr. Russ Rumbaugh was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Finance, Financial Management and Comptroller. And Dr. Agnes Schaffer was sworn in as the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.  Also, and on behalf of the Secretary and the entire Department, I would like to extend our congratulations to Major Katie Lunning of the Minnesota Air National Guard.  This coming Saturday, January 7, Major Lunning will be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for her extraordinary actions as the critical care air transport team nurse while deployed with the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.  On 26 August 2021. Lunning and her Critical Care Transport aeromedical evacuation team mobilized in response to a mass-casualty event caused by the suicide bomber at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan.  This represents the first time in history that an Air National Guard flight nurse has received this honor.  So, congratulations to Major Lunning and the Minnesota Air National Guard on the job very well done under very trying circumstances.

And with that, I will take your questions.  We'll start with AP.  Lita.

Q:  Thanks Pat.  On the Bradleys, since the man has obviously said that some are coming for Ukraine.  Can you talk a little bit about what are the benefits?  What will this bring to the Ukrainian forces on the battlefield?  How long will it take to get them to the Ukrainian troops?  And can you just give us a broad idea of how long the training will take?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  Thanks, Lita.  So, as you highlight, I can confirm that another round of security assistance for Ukraine is anticipated tomorrow and that, as the White House has indicated, that new assistance will include Bradley Fighting Vehicles.  And so, I'm not going to have any specific additional information to provid this time regarding other aspects of what that pending security assistance package will look like.  But, as always, we'll be sure to keep you updated.

In terms of what the Bradleys bring, it is obviously an armored capability that can transport mechanized infantry into battle in support of both offensive and defensive operations, providing a level of firepower and armor that will bring advantages on the battlefield as Ukraine continues to defend their homeland.

Q. Timelines?

GEN. RYDER:  In terms of training timelines, again, we'll have additional updates to provide in the coming days.  Not going to go into that now.  To just again, once we once we have an official announcement, other than to say that training, both on the operation side and maintenance side, will be part of that effort.  Thank you. Liz.

Q:  Thank you.  On a separate topic, we heard from Mike Gallagher, Representative Mike Gallagher this morning that he was unable to attend a meeting with General Milley because there's no speaker of the house.  He doesn't have a security clearance.  What's the impact of not having a speaker of the house on national security?

GEN. RYDER:  Yep, thanks, Liz.  So, I'm not going to comment on the proceedings of the legislative branch.  But I can assure you that the DOD continues to conduct operations to safeguard and protect the nation, and our operations continue unimpeded worldwide.

Q:  To follow up on that, DOD has commented on the past on legislative proceedings, but it hasn't passed the NDAA.  So, what's the impact of not having…?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, I think your question was in terms of, given what's going on in the hill in terms of internal proceedings, and again, I'm just not going to comment on it.

Thank you.  Janne?

Q:  Thank you.  Happy New Year.  I have a quick question.  On the North Korea's drone provocations, how are the USA and South Korea cooperating to respond to North Korea's drone provocations?  And has the United States detected any North Korean drones that have invaded South Korean airspace listening?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  Thanks, Janne.  So, in terms of the drone flights coming from North Korea into South Korea, I'd refer you to the Republic of Korea, to the Ministry of Defense, to talk about those specifically.  We certainly have been very clear from here about the threats posed by the DPRK, as well as our commitment to working closely with the ROK, Japan, and other partners in the region to uphold regional stability and security.  And so, we’ll continue to closely coordinate closely with the South Korean government and Ministry of Defense as those threats continue to exist.  But, again, they would be in a better position to talk about the specifics.

Q:  Have some detected this time, for this time, you know, North Korea invasion?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, I'm not gonna go into specific intelligence about what we may or may not be tracking.  Certainly, we have intelligence capabilities throughout the region, but I'm not prepared to go into details.  Thank you, ma'am.

Q:  But Kim Jong-un said he had mass production of nuclear warheads and military confrontations.  Can you share your comment on this?  Why he has declared this?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, well, we, you know, we continue to be concerned by the comments coming out of North Korea.  And, again, it just demonstrates the destabilizing impact that these kinds of comments and the actions have.  And so, our focus as the United States continues to be on working closely with our partners in the region to include South Korea to ensure a free and open Indo Pacific and a secure and stable Indo Pacific.  As you've heard the DOD and others say, we are open to discussions and communication with North Korea with no strings attached.  But, at this point in time, North Korea has chosen to not do so.  And so, we will continue to work very closely to try to ensure the safety, and security, and stability of the Indo Pacific region.  Thank you.  Let me go to Will.

Q:  So, two questions, if I may.  On the Bradleys, I understand that most of the details are going to come out tomorrow.  But is it possible to say at this point how they're going to be armed?  Will they have the 25-millimeter cannon, the TOWs, all that, or…?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so at the at the risk of getting ahead of the announcement, we’ll provide more details later on that.  Again, I can say broadly speaking, this will be an armed capability that will be able to carry mechanized infantry into battle, and again, afford protection on the battlefield under combat conditions.

Q:  And a second question.  Has the U.S. noticed or tracked any kind of buildup of Russian forces in Belarus?  And, if so, does that -- is that a threat of a potential new front in the war?

GEN. RYDER:  So, you know, we continue to monitor Belarus very closely at this time.  You know, again, without getting into specific intelligence, it's our assessment that there are there are no indications that, right now, that will be, or that the Russians are intending to use that as another front.  But again, we'll continue to monitor that that very closely, as I know the Ukrainians are as well.

Thanks.  Carla.

Q:  Thanks.  Just to follow up on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call for a ceasefire.  What does this building think about that Orthodox Christmas ceasefire?  Is it a credible call?  Do you see any indications that they are going to honor that and then they will potentially extend it?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah.  Well, we've certainly seen the press reports, and we'll see.  Understandably, I think that there's significant skepticism both here in the U.S. and around the world right now, given Russia's long track record of propaganda, disinformation, and its relentless attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians.  So, of course, from our perspective, if Russia was truly interested in ceasing the violence and the bloodshed that they have brought to Ukraine's people, they would pull out of Ukraine immediately.  And this war will end together right now, but it appears that will not be the case.  So, our focus will continue to be on supporting Ukraine with their security assistance needs, as they fight to defend their country.

Q:  And when you say skepticism, is the skepticism that they will honor it?  Or is it skepticism that they will use that to reinforce their troops and to build up?  Or is it a little bit of both?

GEN. RYDER:  I'll just say that, you know, while Russia seems to be pretty good at exporting violence, they don't seem to be pretty good at exporting the truth.  And so, we'll see.  Thank you.  All right.  Matt.

Q:  One more question on the Bradleys.  U.S. officials in the past have cited potential logistical challenges that might come with providing advanced armored capabilities.  Is there something that has changed?  Or does this announcement indicate that the U.S. is at least quite confident that the Ukrainians will be able to make use of these, and sustain them in the field and be able to project the fuel and other things necessary to keep them in the fight at this point?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  Well, you know, we've said all along that we're going to continue to work closely with Ukraine and our international allies and partners to discuss Ukraine's needs as the situation on the battlefield evolves.  And we've also been clear that we're going to continue to adapt to the challenge and keep all options on the table, both in the near, medium, and long term when it comes to Ukraine's defense.  And so, as I mentioned to Lita, operations and maintenance are aspects that will be incorporated into providing the Ukrainians with this capability.  They are significant aspects of considering any type of weapon system or equipment that we give to Ukraine.  And so, in the case of the Bradleys, as I mentioned, that will be something that we that we do and support.  And again, we'll have more details in the coming days on that.

Q:  Is the timing significant?  Is this being decided on now is because it's deemed that it'll be particularly helpful in the winter or anything like that?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, again, as I -- as you look at the battlefield and you look at how this fight has evolved from the early days, you know, of the artillery barrages to air defense, to largely being static along that front line, providing this capability provides both an offensive and a defensive capability to the Ukrainians to be able to change the equation on the battlefield.  And so, we are going to continue to talk closely with them about what they need, we're going to continue to look at the situation on the ground and do what we can do that's going to help them the most to defend their nation.  Thanks.  Sir.

Q:  A White House statement this afternoon said that Germany was going to donate an additional Patriot system to Ukraine.  Should we be looking for, or is there an anticipation that there'll be additional Patriot systems from either the U.S. or other allies going to Ukraine in the near future?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, we certainly welcome that news.  Again, the United States and, as evidenced by Germany's announcement, are all committed to providing Ukraine with air defense capabilities that are going to help them protect their population, protect their forces as they defend against Russia.  In terms of any additional Patriots, I don't have anything to announce right now.  Again, we'll continue to have those discussions.  As you know, we've already provided and will continue to provide a significant amount of air defense capability to Ukraine.  But as far as other countries go, we'll -- we'll let them make those announcements on their own.  Thank you.  Sir.

Q:  Can you give us an overview of U.S. training, maintenance, sustainment, help to the Ukrainians for their weapons system?  How many U.S. troops are involved?  How many facilities in Europe?  Is it just a Grafenwöhr?  And are the other places?  How many Ukrainians are we training?  And do you expect an increase in U.S. presence to help train Ukrainians on the Bradleys?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so there's a lot there, so let me try to break it down as best I can for you.  So, on the U.S. side, as you know, prior to our announcement last month, our training focus since the invasion has been on providing training for equipment and the specific equipment and the systems that we provided to the Ukrainians.  And so, on that front, we've trained approximately 3,100 Ukrainians so far since April.  Writ large, when you look at the international effort to train Ukrainian forces, I would estimate about 12,000, across internationally when it comes to training Ukraine on a variety of things to include collective training in other countries.  So, break-break, now with the U.S. stepping up its combined arms and Joint Maneuver Training, which will begin this month, likely in a couple of weeks in Germany, we will train approximately 500 Ukrainian forces at the battalion level each month.  So, again, we'll continue to keep you updated as that program develops.  But that is going to provide them with advanced training, again, training that we had been providing before the invasion that we had to stop doing because of the invasion.  But this will give them enhanced capability to operate at the battalion level and combined arms, which again, will give them an advantage on the battlefield.

Q:  Great.  Thank you.  And if I could just follow up at a couple of questions about the Naming Commission.  Are you -- Is the Pentagon confident that it can meet that deadline?  You have like less than a year now to rename these bases like Bragg and these other properties, and can be more complicated than when it first appeared?  And, secondly, is there a cost figure associated with the entirety of renaming all this stuff?  Does DOD have its own figure?

GEN. RYDER:  Thanks, Travis.  So, we will come back to you on the -- on the total cost.  I don't have that in front of me here.  Let me just check.  Yeah, I don't have that in front of me here.  So, we'll come back to you on that.  In terms of the -- the confidence, yes, I think we are confident, you know, each of the services has clear instructions in terms of what it is that they need to focus on, and where the Secretary is confident that the services are and will continue to take that seriously.  So, as things progress certainly, I would encourage you to maintain contact with the individual branches.  And certainly, we'll do our best to keep you updated as well.  Thank you.

Q:  Thanks, General.  Ukrainian defense officials have been really raising the point for months that if the United States sent tanks, other heavy armor, allies, like Germany likely would follow suit.  Now we see the Bradley announcement and, in short order, we see Germany and France announce similar systems, or at least complementary systems, also going.  Can you speak at all and flesh out a bit the sort of the larger puzzle here in terms of how these systems work together, how these systems are likely to kind of form a larger constellation that'll assist the effort?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure. I think, you know, bigger picture, as you look at this campaign continue to evolve -- and you've heard Secretary Austin talk about this -- the leadership role that the United States has played in helping to work closely with NATO and our international allies and our partners, on looking at what Ukraine's needs are, looking at how we can best support as an international community, and doing that in a way that is more comprehensive and more integrated vice just individual pieces and parts being provided.  And so, the Ukraine Defense Contact Group has played an important role in that regard, which brings nearly 50 nations together on a near-monthly basis to look at Ukraine's needs to figure out what are the most urgent needs in the near term, but then also, as I mentioned, discussing the medium to long term.  And so, all of this at the end of the day comes when, we're talking about the Ukrainian Armed Forces comes back to, in addition to the air defense aspect, but also the Combined Arms capability to be employed on the battlefield.  So, integrating ground and air capabilities to -- to not only defend, but also to take back territory.

Q:  I think a logical follow-up question that a lot of our readers have is, what took so long.  Not to put too fine of a point on it, but can you explain a bit like what the inflection point is here in terms of why now when you know, this has been sort of a standing request for months?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, well, I think if you go back, I mean, understandably, if you look at the requests, we're going to continue to work closely with Ukraine based on the situation on the ground, what are the most urgent needs, and what can we as the United States and the international community get to them?  Things like the Bradleys, things like the Patriot, which are complex systems, are going to require a training and an operations tail.  And so, I think, you know, clearly we're at a point in this battle where we're going to be able to provide that kind of training, to enable Ukraine to sustain those kinds of systems, so that they can focus on defending their country and taking back territory.  Early in this campaign, when Russia was on the doorstep of Kyiv, a much different situation.  Things like long-term sustainment and logistics would be a much more complex undertaking.  And so, again, we're talking about sovereign decisions by individual countries around the world coming together to support Ukraine, and making those decisions.  But we're doing it in a way that is unified, and -- and coordinated to give Ukraine the best chance possible in defending their homeland.  Thank you very much.  Sir.

Q:  Thank you, General.  So, on a phone call yesterday between Secretary Austin and his Israeli counterpart.  Why did the Secretary feel the need to basically communicate to the Israeli Minister of Defense?  The need to avoid policies, as the statement said, that could undermine security and stability in the West Bank.  Are there any specific policies that he raised with Minister Galant?  If you can give us some -- some details.  And on the Ukraine, any update on the Patriot system, especially on the training for the framing forces?  Thank you.

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  So, on the call with the minister, I'm not going to have anything to provide beyond what we've included in our readout.  Certainly, we understand Israel's self-defense needs.  And, you know, our focus is on continuing to work closely with them to ensure stability and security in the region.  But I would refer you back to the readout.  In terms of the Patriots, the details on the training of the Patriot missile systems are still being worked out in coordination with our Ukrainian partners.  I can tell you that we're exploring a variety of options to include potential training here in the U.S., overseas, or a combination of both.  So, we'll continue to keep you updated, and as we have new information to provide, we'll be sure to do that.

Q:  Follow up on your answer for the first question.  I wasn't asking you about -- the statement was clear on not only understanding Israel's need, but the ironclad commitment for its security.  This is something different.  I'm asking specifically about something that the statement put out there, that the Secretary communicated clearly to his Israeli counterpart, the need to avoid any policies ... any policies that would undermine security instability in the West Bank.  I'm assuming we're talking about Israeli policies that could lead to this, right?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, I think the -- the words speak for themselves.

Q:  So, you don't have any additional, like in terms of what policies specifically though?

GEN. RYDER:  No.  Yeah.  I think they speak for themselves.  Sir.

Q:  Thank you.  Do you have any more, a little bit more detail on the [Inaudible] on the 2+2 and the minister meeting, like expectations for discussion, especially on the topics like China, Taiwan, or North Korea?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks for the question.  So, again, we'll be be sure to provide additional information following the event.  I don't have much more to provide beyond what I what to you in my opening comments.  Again, we consider Japan to be one of our very closest allies in the region.  The Secretary looks very forward to engagements with his Japanese counterpart.  And so, again, we'll be sure to provide you with more information once we have that available.  Thank you very much.  Mike.

Q:  Yes, sir.  Is there any connection between the Administration announcing the Bradley security package and the French president earlier announcing that they would be sending the AMX-10 tank to Ukraine?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, I'm not gonna...

Q:  (OFF MIKE) one thing to come right after the other.

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah. I mean, again, I think what you're seeing Mike is, again, the -- the international effort and the international desire to support Ukraine.  Clearly, we communicate regularly with our allies and our partners.  And so, I'll allow France and Germany to speak for themselves in terms of the specific timing.  And again, more to follow in terms of our security assistance package announcement.  Thanks very much.  

Let me go to the phone here.  I've been remiss in talking to our friends on the phone here.  So, let me first go to Jamin Anderson from Radio Free Asia.

Q:  Thank you for taking my question.  I'd like to ask if there's an update on North Korea selling arms to Russia.  Has there any, has any further transactions been observed?  And is there any new activity?  Thank you.

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks.  No updates to provide beyond what we've already talked about.  Again, we have seen Russia's intent to acquire artillery and ammo from North Korea, but no new updates to provide on that, that front.  Thank you.  Let me go to Ryo Nakamura, Nikkei.

Q:  Thank you very much for taking my question.  The National Defense Authorization Act establishes a new security assistance program to help Taiwan procure U.S. weapons systems and equipment.  Are you confident the U.S. can deliver new weapons systems and equipment quickly and in a timely manner, despite the fact that there are many items that have not been delivered to Taiwan yet, even at this moment?  Thank you very much.

GEN. RYDER:  Thanks, Ryo.  So, in terms of the specifics and timelines on foreign military sales, or foreign military financing, as it relates to Taiwan, I'd refer you to the State Department for that.  We do at the DOD appreciate Congress working closely with us to support Taiwan and its self-defense in line with our long standing commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act, and our efforts to reinforce deterrence across the strait and build Taiwan's resilience in meaningful ways.  As you highlight, the NDAA and the Omnibus Appropriations Bill do reflect that support for Taiwan remains rock solid and bipartisan.  So, we'll continue to keep you updated in the days ahead.  But beyond that, I'm not going to have any additional information.  Let me go to Lara.

Q:  Just going off of Dan's question earlier, is any how much of this is a reaction to the concerns that Russia is preparing a second wave of mobilization and a new assault on Kyiv in the coming weeks and months?  And then related to that, can you just comment on those concerns?  Is that something that you've seen evidence of?

GEN. RYDER:  So, I would say we just need to take a step back and look at this in response to Russia invading Ukraine.  And we said all along that we were going to support Ukraine in their fight to defend their -- their territory.  And so, this is another step in a very long series of actions, or large number of actions, rather, that we've taken to support Ukraine.  In terms of offensive operations on the part of Russia, I mean, the offensive operation that they took, again, was that invasion of Ukraine.  And so, they've been very clear that their goals remain, and they're going to continue to try to take and hold Ukrainian territory.  So, until they decide to depart Ukraine, we will continue to support Ukraine in their flight.

Q:  So, just -- just a follow up and to press you on that.  It's been a lot in the last couple of weeks.  We had the Patriots, Bradleys, you have the AMX-10s that the French are sending, and some German vehicles.  It's a lot at once, whereas before we were sort of doing this incrementally.  So can you speak to that shift?

GEN. RYDER:  I mean, I guess that's just a matter of perspective, right?  So, again, we are going to continually look at what their needs are.  We're going to look at the situation on the ground.  We're going to look at what's available in our stocks, what's available throughout the international community, and we're going to make decisions based on a variety of factors and how best we can support them.  So, sometimes you're going to see those security assistance packages fluctuate in terms of the level of equipment or the quantity of equipment that we provide.  So, thanks.  Oren.

Q:  Two different questions.  First, although there's no Congress quite yet, Republicans have made it abundantly clear they intend to investigate the Afghanistan withdrawal, Ukraine aid and oversight there, and other topics.  What steps is the Pentagon taking to begin preparing for these investigations?  And do you intend to comply with subpoenas from the oversight committees?  And then completely separately, has the Administration's position shifted on tanks, on Abrams, given the Bradley advancement?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so on the -- on your last question first.  Again, I don't have any additional announcements to make right now.  Again, we'll, when we when we're ready to announce the security assistance factors tomorrow, we'll certainly have more information to provide.  We're going to keep all options on the table, again, both in the near, medium, and long term.  In terms of efforts to prepare for congressional oversight as you highlight, I would tell you that DOD respects Congress's important oversight rule.  And always, as always, we'll continue to work closely with Congress and respond appropriately to legitimate congressional inquiries.  But beyond that, I'm not going to have anything else for you.  Time for a few more.  Yes, ma'am.

Q:  Thank you for taking my question.  I do have to follow up on upcoming U.S.-Japan 2+2 meeting.  So, last month, Japan released new strategic documents, including adopting counter strike capability and establishment of new joint command in Japan.  So, during the U.S.-Japan 2+2, what kind of discussions do you expect in order to modernize the U.S.-Japan alliance and integrate U.S. forces and Japan Self Defense Force?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  Again, we'll have much more detail in the days ahead.  I think, as I highlighted, the focus will be looking at where we can work closely, as always, with Japan to modernize the Alliance to take into account the regional security situation as it relates to China, but also as it relates to working closely with other partners in the region.  As we have said many times before, our focus is on a free and open Indo Pacific region and working with likeminded nations like Japan to ensure that countries can sail the seas, fly the skies, and operate wherever international law allows.  And so, again, much more to come in the coming days.  But we look very forward to those discussions have let me just do a couple more.  Sir.

Q:  On the F-35 deliveries of both the aircraft and the engine had been halted after the mishap in December.  And additionally, this is the second time in a couple of months deliveries have been halted on the F-35.  So, does the Pentagon have any readiness concerns about your ability to reliably procure these aircraft without issues?

GEN. RYDER:  So, as you know, the -- the Joint Program Office did release a statement [that] they have agreed with Pratt and Whitney to delay the scheduled delivery and acceptance of F-135 engines until further information from the investigation is known and safety of flight can be assured.  In the meantime, our F-35s that are in the operational fleet continue to operate.  So, you know, we'll keep an eye on that and, you know, continue to keep you updated.  Thanks very much.  Tony.

Q:  Got a couple of quickies.  Back on the Bradleys, fast, can you confirm that 50 will be sent over and will they be from U.S. stocks in the U.S. or from Europe?

GEN. RYDER:  Yep.  Thanks, Tony.  We'll be sure to provide you with more information once we're -- once we make an official announcement.

Q:  OK.  About a month ago, you and I had a colloquy about the abuse and overuse of Controlled Unclassified Information.  You said at the time you couldn't comment on pending legislation, which, OK. The President signed the NDA and then the spending bill.  These are the guys who signed your check, warned of excessive use of CUI was going to result in less oversight and transparency and accountability. They asked the Deputy Defense Secretary, within 30 days, to come up with a report on whether things were being overly overdone here.  Can you give me a sense of where that stands?  And can we expect you to release that review once it's completed?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  So, yes, we will conduct a review in accordance with the – the act that you highlighted.  I’m not going to comment on the review prior to it being completed.  The Deputy Secretary, of course, is tracking that.  And we will once we present the findings to Congress, we'll be in a better position to be able to talk about, you know, what that review will find.  I will say, broadly speaking, when it comes to information, we do remain committed to transparency, to promote accountability and public trust.  And we have to balance that also with protecting critical and sensitive nonpublic information.  And, you know, again, reflecting back on our previous conversation now that it is not pending legislation, I would just point out a couple of things just to put this into broader context.

So, context.  So, first of all, the classification of CUI, as you know, is not something new.  This was actually enacted in 2010 by Executive Order.  It was in March of 2020 that the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security provided implementation guidance for the department.  And in that policy, it specifically prohibits several things, specifically prohibits designating information as CUI under certain conditions to include concealing violations of law, inefficiency or administrative error preventing embarrassment meant to a person organization or agency, preventing open competition or controlling information that's not required under protection of law, regulation or government-wide policy.  So, what examples of CUI information would include pre-decisional DOD policy information, meeting minutes, and communications describing pre decisional DOD policies, future calendars of DOD executives, leaders, and commanders, and current and future DOD operational information.  You know, we work very hard every day to try to be as transparent as we can, again, while balancing sensitive nonpublic information.  And I would like to think that, in any large bureaucracy, you're going to be challenged sometimes.  But we will work very hard to try to be as transparent as we can when it comes to public information related to the DOD.

Q:  I want to push back a second here.  You've been in the building quite a while here.  Has it been overused in your -- in your view?  You laid out all these words, you can probably use it, but it seems like it's been a security blanket that people have rolled themselves up in.

GEN. RYDER:  Well, again, I can't speak for every single person that works in the Department of Defense.  I can say my -- my personal view on it is like, again, like any large bureaucracy, you're going to have situations in which there is information that could potentially be overclassified.  And again, we'll -- we'll take this review very seriously, and we'll take the request from Congress very seriously.  We are all in DOD required to take training on proper use of classification, proper protection of information.  And so, I would say that, again, the points that I outlined in terms of when classifying something is prohibited, I would say throughout my own career, has been a wipe away point, a North Star in terms of whether something can or cannot be classified.  But again, you know, it's a large, large bureaucracy.  We're not perfect, and we're going to continue to try to be better.  Thank you.  All right, take a couple more.  Let me go to the phone here real quick.  We've got Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose.

Q:  Thank you.  At the risk of opening up Pandora's Box, could you please describe the difference between a Bradley fighting vehicle and a tank?  Thank you.

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  So, you know, I won't attribute it to a certain name, but I saw somebody on, in the media, who I thought did a pretty good job describing it.  It's not a tank, but it's a tank killer.  A Bradley is an armored vehicle that has a firepower capability that can deliver troops into combat.  So, again, it will provide a significant boost to Ukraine's already impressive armor capabilities.  And we're confident that it will aid them on the battlefield.  All right, sir, last question.  And then I'll go to Courtney.

Q:  Thank you, sir.  First off, Happy New Year.  Just two quick questions.  One, how dangerous is TikTok for the DOD?  And, second, as far as Afghanistan and Taliban are concerned, according to many experts, and also people in Afghanistan, Taliban said they are doing what they promised to the U.S. and to the global community.

GEN. RYDER:  OK, so I think that your first question was, how dangerous is TikTok to the DOD?  You know, I'm not going to make a blanket statement about whether it's dangerous or not.  We're certainly aware of some of the security concerns associated with TikTok when it comes to official government networks?  And so, you know, I think we've been very clear in terms of what our policy is in regards to that.  And then, I'm sorry, your last kind of was...

Q:  The Taliban.  If they are paying, according to many experts here in the U.S., and also people in Afghanistan, what they promised to the global community and to the U.S.

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, I mean, look, I think the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, in terms of what we've seen, from the Taliban, speaks for itself.  And I'm, you know, I'm a DOD spokesperson.  I'm not going to get into diplomatic relations as it relates to the Taliban, but it's certainly very disappointing to see in terms of some of the human rights violations and the way that people, in particular women and children, are treated.  So, we'll leave it at that.  Courtney.

Let me go on to Courtney.

Q:  Just a quick one on the COVID vaccine mandate repeal for the NDAA.  So, can you, number one, is there any guidance on that yet?  And can you clear up?  Congressman Waltz last night at a press conference said that he -- it's his understanding that the National Guard isn't … this doesn't apply to Guardsmen -- Guardsmen and women?  Can you clear that up?  Is it your understanding that this is gonna apply to all service members, active duty, Guard, Reserve, everyone?

GEN. RYDER:  So, on your last question, Courtney, let me take that back because I'm not aware of the comment.  So, I don't want to necessarily misspeak.  You know, again, my understanding is that what we're looking at here applies to DOD members, right?  So, just in terms of where things stand, so just a level set.  As you know, the NDAA requires that not later than 30 days after the enactment, that the Secretary of Defense will rescind the COVID 19 vaccination mandate.  So, subsequently, we have rescinded the mandate.  We're currently in the process of developing further guidance for the force, and while that process takes place, we paused all actions related to the COVID 19 vaccine mandate.  So, we'll be sure to keep members of the force, we’ll keep you, and keep the public updated, as we have new information available to provide.  I will say that we will continue to encourage all of our service members, civilian employees, and our contractor personnel to get vaccinated and boosted to ensure the readiness of our force.  And as we've said, as I've said, the health and readiness of our force will continue to be crucial to our ability to defend the nation.

Q:  So, just to be clear when you say so that you've stopped all actions, so no one's being kicked out for refusing at this point, right?  And that, but that's, again, just for active duty and for DOD civilians.  It's -- at this point, you can't say that for the National Guard.  Is that...

GEN. RYDER:  My understanding is it apply -- again, we'll -- we'll double check.  My understanding is it applies to the total force, so Guard, Reserve, National Guard.  But let us go back and we'll get your clarification on that.

All right. Thank you very much, everybody. Appreciate it.