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

BRIGADIER GENERAL PAT RYDER:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Just a few things and then I'll get right to your questions.

First, I am aware of the press reporting stating that the U.S. is considering providing Abrams tanks to Ukraine.  I have no announcements to make at this time, and when and if we do, we'll be sure to let you know.

As always, we continue to remain in close contact with the Ukrainians and our international allies and partners on Ukraine's most pressing security assistance requirements, to include their near-, medium- and long-term needs.

Separately, the U.S. and Israel began the Juniper Oak exercise yesterday, which is a bilateral, live fire exercise in Israel and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.  It's the largest and most significant exercise we have engaged in together and is intended to demonstrate that the U.S. commitment to Israel's security is ironclad and enduring.

Throughout the week-long engagement, more than 140 aircraft, 12 naval vessels, High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems will be used during this combined joint all-domain exercise, increasing our ability to interoperate on land, in the air, at sea, in space, and in cyberspace, which ultimately enhances our ability to respond to contingencies and underscores the U.S. commitment to the Middle East region.

In other exercise news, Exercise Obangame Express 2023, the largest multinational maritime exercise in Western and Central Africa, also began yesterday in Lagos, Nigeria, with 29 participating nations.  Conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa and sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, OE23 is the exercise's 12th iteration and designed to improve regional cooperation, information sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to support a more secure, safe, and economically prosperous maritime environment.  The exercise will run through February 3.

Also yesterday, Secretary Austin and Secretary of the Air Force Kendall spoke at a ceremony at Howard University, during which the Air Force announced that it has selected Howard as the first Historically Black College or University to lead a Department of Defense-sponsored, university-affiliated research center.

This center will focus on tactical autonomy for military systems and Howard will receive $12 million per year for five years to fund research.  DOD currently has 14 university-affiliated research centers, with Howard now being the 15th.  Such centers are responsible for providing dedicated facilities and sharing space with department officials and industrial participants to conduct based, applied, and technology demonstration research.

Finally, the Senate confirmed Mr. Brendan Owens yesterday as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment.  In this role, Assistant Secretary Owens is the principal advisor to the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment for all matters pertaining to environment, energy resilience, construction, housing, and local defense community cooperation.  He also provides budgetary policy and management oversight of the Department of Defense's Real Property Portfolio, which encompasses millions of acres and over 500,000 buildings and structures at more than 500 installations.

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

Q:  Hi, Pat, thanks for doing this.

Now, multiple news organizations have been able to match The Journal's reporting that the administration will be approving Abrams for Ukraine, and it seems like this has been in the works for a while.  What was the Pentagon's thinking behind the last week's worth of saying that Abrams won't work, they're not the right, you know, tool for the battle, they're too costly to maintain?  Is this not going to be a useful tool for Ukraine?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, I have nothing to announce today in terms of the M1s.

I think, as we've said all along, we continue to have a very robust dialogue with Ukraine and our international allies and partners to focus on what their immediate battle term — battlefield needs are now and in the near term, but we also have discussions about what they may need in the medium to long term.  And we'll continue to have those discussions.

And — and again, as I said at the — the top, when and if we have something to announce, we will.

Q:  As a follow-up to that, where could this training take place, if it does take place?

Would this be something that happens in Germany?  Is this something that happens in Poland?  Presumably, like with the Bradleys and the other systems, some extensive training would be needed?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  Again, I don't have any announcements, so I don't want to speculate or talk about hypotheticals.  But when and if we have more information that we're able to provide, we certainly will.  Thank you.


Q:  Taking aside whether Ukraine will or will not get the Abrams, you and others have spoken publicly about the logistics issues, right?

Again, aside — take aside whether they're getting them or not, how do you overcome giving tanks to a country when they don't have the logistics training; when they don't have (the fuel ?) with it?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, again, without trying to preview an announcement which, again, which I'm not sure if I was clear, but I don't have an announcement to make —


GEN. RYDER:  — today, you know, the — the M1 is a complex weapon system that is challenging to maintain, as we've talked about.  That was true yesterday; it's true today; it will be true in the future.  Again, without getting into hypotheticals, any time that we've provided Ukraine with any type of system, we've provided the training and sustainment capabilities with that.

So again, when and if we have something to announce about any new weapon system, we'll be sure to do that.

Q:  Once again, putting aside Ukraine, is it beneficial to give a country weapons that it cannot maintain?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals or speculate at this point in time.  Our focus has been, as, you know, at the Ukraine Contact Group this last week, has been focused on what is it that Ukraine needs right now to have immediate effect on the battlefield, given the situation there?

But, again, we've also been very clear, more broadly speaking, from a strategic and an operational standpoint, that we continue to have discussions with the Ukrainians and our allies and partners about what are the medium and long-term defense requirements for Ukraine?  And we'll continue to have those conversations.


Q:  Thank you, General.  I have a (inaudible) North Korea (more than ?) Taiwan.  (inaudible) North Korea is preparing for a large-scale military parade, as you know that.  At the same time, what kind of a readiness does the United States have in preparations for a contingence in which North Korea conducts a missile and seventh nuclear test?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, you know, you've heard us say it before, that we do remain concerned that North Korea is prepared to conduct a seventh nuclear test.  It would certainly be a destabilizing action in the region.  And so it's something that we continue to keep a close eye on.  And — and we will work closely with our partners and our allies in the region to be prepared in that eventuality.

QUESTION  Yes, and another one.  If China invades Taiwan, the U.S. (inaudible ) in Korea, where (inaudible) to Taiwan, and the United States will intervene?  Does the U.S., its pact with South Korea to be involved with this military actions at that time?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks — thanks for the question.  I'm not going to get into hypotheticals regarding a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan.  I — as you know, we maintain a variety of capabilities throughout the Indo-Pacific region, a variety of forces, not the least of which are approximately 30,000 U.S. forces stationed in South Korea, which are there to work alongside our ROK allies to protect and defend South Korea.

So we'll continue to work closely with South Korea and Japan and other allies and partners in the region to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific.  Thank you.

(Lara ?)?

Q:  Sure.  Dr. Kahl last week spent a good amount of time talking about how tank — now is not the right time to send Abrams and that Abrams is not the right tool for the battlefield in the immediate future.  So is that still DoD's position?

GEN. RYDER:  So as we talked about, and as Dr. Kahl has talked about, our focus has been on providing Ukraine with capabilities that it can employ right now on the battlefield.  I think we're all following along very closely the current situation there, as Ukraine tries to recruit, refit and prepare for continued offensive operations along the lines.  So that — that has not changed, as evidenced by the recent PDA announcements that we've made and as evidenced by the capabilities that you saw coming out of the Contact Group announced by many of our partners.

And so again, as we look at our security assistance relationship with Ukraine, we're going to continue to talk not only about their near-term needs, but also about their medium- and long-term needs, and that's — has always been the case and will continue to be the case.

Q:  Do we have Abrams tanks in an exportable version that would be readily available right now?

GEN. RYDER:  I — I don't have anything to provide on that.  Thank you.


Q:  Thank you, General.  So Der Spiegel is — is reporting that — that Germany will allow Poland and — and other nations to re-export Leopard to — tanks to (inaudible).  Has the general leadership communicated its decision with the — with the department?  And did the department play any role in convincing Germany to make this shift?

And on the technical — not technical — as part of your discussion with — with Ukraine, do you have an understanding how many tanks the Ukrainians think they need for this, maybe, offensive coming after the — the winter season?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, I won't — I won't speak for the Ukrainians.  They certainly voiced to the Department of Defense and other international leaders in terms of the security assistance requirements that they have in order to support their armed forces.  And — and as I mentioned, we continue to have those conversations.

In terms of Germany, Secretary Austin did have very productive conversations with his German counterpart when he was in Germany.  We issued a readout of that, which I — I would refer you to.  But in terms of decision-making on the side of Germany as to whether or not they will provide tanks or allow third-party countries to provide those tanks, I'd refer you to them.

Q:  Yeah, but I understand this point, but like, my question is has the German leadership, the (inaudible) leadership communicated any decision to the department on the Leopard?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, I'd — I'd refer you to the — to the Germans.  I don't have anything to provide today.  Again, we've had productive conversations.  We value Germany very much as an ally.  You heard Secretary Austin talk about this in his press conference.  Germany has committed a — a large amount of resources to Ukraine to assist in their fight, and we continue to value their — the relationship that we have with Germany, and we'll continue to communicate with them very regularly as one of our staunchest and strongest allies.

(Joseph ?)?

Q:  Yeah, just to go back on the joint exercise with the Israeli military, I understand there's sort of — there's a (dynamic force deployment ?) there, so what message is this sending to allies in the region, that the U.S. is going to get in — it has troops to be able to get in and get out, so that's still committed not only to Israel, but its other allies in the region?  And also, is there any message that's being sent to Iran in these exercises?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so to answer your — your last question up front, no, this is not meant to be oriented around any single adversary or threat.  As you know, the United States maintains many relationships in the Middle East region with many countries.  Israel is one of our closest partners in the region, and as I mentioned, this gives us the opportunity to work together to increase interoperability, to be able to respond to a variety of contingencies and threats so that should we need to operate together, we can do so seamlessly.

Q:  And in terms of messages to — to other allies in the region?

GEN. RYDER:  Well — well, again, I mean, just broadly speaking, it — it demonstrates the fact that the United States is a reliable partner, that we're going to continue to work together to ensure the security and the stability of the region.  As you know, we also conduct bilateral exercises with many other countries in the region, and so this one in particular is obviously the — the largest of its kind, and we look forward to working with Israel as we further increase our security relationship and our interoperability.


Q:  Sir, if I could just follow up on that.  On Juniper Oak, the exercise is to include midair refueling, and I believe, a live-fire drill encompassing, quote, "a full target engagement cycle, including the suppression of enemy air defenses, strategic air interdiction and electronic attacks," according to a senior defense official.  Is this indicative of a shift to a — to a deterrent posture by the U.S. with regards to Iran's nuclear program?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, this exercise is focused on interoperability and strengthening our security relationship in terms of working together.  And as evidenced by, you know, most recently, the counter-ISIS campaign, the ability to pull air forces together seamlessly and operate in a way that is going to be effective is vital, and so this is one aspect of that, although the exercise is obviously more than — than just about air power.  And so again, it's not intended to be focused on any one single adversary or threat; it's all about working together.  Thank you.

Let me go to Oren.

Q:  I just had a — I was wondering if I could follow up and get an update on the combined arms training, because that was, I think, planned for about a month for each group of 500.  Is the first group nearing the completion of that training?  Is there planning for a second tranche of — of Ukrainian troops to — to begin that?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so the training has begun.  It started mid-January, as — as we talked about.  And so again, estimate that the training will last about six weeks.  So once those — once that training is complete, obviously, those forces will go back into Ukraine.  We do maintain the capability to continue that program, so it's not a one-and-done type of program.  And so that'll be Ukraine's decision in terms of providing additional forces to go through that cycle.  We certainly expect them to do that, but at the end of the day, that's their decision given the situation on the ground.  Good.

Let me go to the phone here real quick.  Howard Altman?

Q:  Thanks, Pat.  I've got two questions, one the (inaudible) tanks, and one on the Ukrainian Air Force.  On the tanks, this is not a hypothetical question.  As you discussed providing Abrams to Ukraine, how much did the issue of the optics of seeing these things blown up in the battlefield play into any of the decision-making that the Pentagon has gone through?  That's my question on the tanks.

Want to ask you one on the Air Force.  The Air Force spokesman for Ukraine said this morning that — that the — the type of aircraft that the U.S. will provide to Ukraine has been determined.  Can you talk about that?  Has that been determined?  And — and if so, what kind?  Thank you.

GEN. RYDER:  Thanks, Howard.  So on — on your first question, again, I — I know it's not a hypothetical, but I don't have anything to announce in terms of M1s.  You know, the capabilities that we have provided to Ukraine and the capable — capabilities that we will provide to Ukraine in the future are not about optics; they're about combat capability and enabling them to have the best chance possible to be successful on the battlefield, whether it's defending territory or taking back sovereign territory.

And then in terms of the — the press reporting on the U.S. providing aircraft, again, I don't have anything to announce on that front.  I'm not aware of any Ukrainian pilots currently training in the United States to my knowledge, despite what those foreign press reports are saying, nor, again, do I have anything to announce when it comes to aircraft.

As we've said all along, we're going to continue to have a robust discussion with the Ukrainians on what — their defense needs.  That includes the near term, the medium term, and the long term.

Q:  Can you say whether the —


GEN. RYDER:  — me go to Patrick Tucker, Defense One.

Q:  Howard, you want to — do you want to finish real quick?

Q:  Yeah, just one — thanks, Pat.  I just — quickly, can you say whether the Ukrainian Air Force spokesman was wrong about that?

GEN. RYDER:  I — I'd refer you to the Ukrainian spokesperson.  I'm not going to speak on his behalf.  Thank you.

Q:  Thanks, Pat — thank — thanks, Pat.  So the question of maintenance has come up a lot in discussions about what the United States will send or — or won't send, and maintenance obviously goes better when you have contracted maintainers from actual manufacturers.  So right now in Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense is using Starlink for satellite communications and SpaceX has actual contractors on the ground, we know that.  They're using data visualization tools from (inaudible).  We know that (inaudible) has contractors on the ground, to my knowledge.  A lot of the great, big defense contractors that are providing kinetic or tactical things don't have contractors on the ground.

So understanding that every company makes their own decision on this, does DoD have a policy to encourage or discourage companies from sending just contracted employees for the purposes of maintaining equipment?  And — and second part, is that something that you're talking to defense contractors about, especially as the number of things you're sending grows more diverse?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Pat.  So I'm not aware of any DoD policy, per se, in terms of private companies and making decisions on whether or not to send contractors into Ukraine.  I'd — I'd refer you to the State Department, because certainly any time U.S. citizens are going to travel into a foreign country, particularly one that's an active combat zone, I have no doubt that they would reach out to State to get any type of guidance.

As you know, our focus has been on providing the remote consultations, in terms of maintenance considerations, with the Ukrainians doing the actual maintenance themselves.

Q:  Real quick, do you think it would help to have some of these companies, if they could figure out how to do it, send maintenance contractors in to help some of (these issues ?)?  Might that aid the discussions about what to send or — or how to even maintain this stuff?

GEN. RYDER:  I — I'm sorry, Pat, you kind of broke up there at the beginning.  Can — can you re-ask that?

Q:  Yeah.  Do — do you think it would help if some of these contractors, these defense companies, could figure out a way to send maintenance personnel or other technical experts into the country?  Do you think it would help the — the overall effort?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, that — that's really a decision for individual companies to make, in terms of the systems that Ukraine has purchased and how — how they maintain them.  Again, from a Department of Defense standpoint, our focus is on assisting with providing the equipment, and then again, providing remote tele support or support outside of the — the country, where it makes sense.

Let me go ahead and go to Liz and then we'll go to Travis.

Q:  Thank you.  So we've spent a lot of time talking about maintenance that the Abrams tanks would need.  So I want to ask you about what would they add to the battlefield?  What's good about them?  Why would the Ukrainians want them?  Why would the U.S. send them?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, without getting into hypotheticals, you know, the — the M1 is a very capable battlefield platform and it's also a very complex capability.  And so like anything that we're providing to Ukraine, we want to ensure that they have the ability to maintain it, sustain it, to train on it.

And — and again, I'm not making any announcements on — on any M1s or any other new capabilities today.

Q:  And just one follow-up on that — at the — after the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, Secretary Austin said that the U.S. — if the U.S. sends tanks, that's not related to if Germany chooses to send tanks.  Does that still remain true?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, I think you heard the German Defense Minister — I want to say it was Thursday and I — in — in an interview said that there is no linkage between Leopard tanks and M1 tanks.  There's certainly not from a U.S. or a DoD standpoint.

Germany's decision whether or not to send Leopards is a sovereign decision and we respect that.  Thank you.


Q:  Thanks, Pat.  Two questions.  First one's relatively simple.  How many M1 Abrams tanks are in the U.S. inventory?

And the second question is, is there any update on the Patriot training at Fort Sill?  I think the original estimate was it would take three or four months to complete that but I think there was a desire to compress that training and to do it more quickly, especially since Russia may be planning an offensive in Ukraine.  Is there any update on whether it could be accomplished more quickly?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so on your — on your latter question first, we've said that it will take several months, which is an expedited training program, right, so — given the fact that these are air defenders already with real world experience, given the fact that they're not going into the U.S. Army, per se, so there's certain aspects that can be tailored since they're not going into our formations.  And so that already is an expedited approach.

Again, we're not going to talk about the specifics on when that Patriot system will appear in Ukraine, other than to say, again, several months, and that's about as specific as I can be.

And then I'm sorry, your first question?

Q:  First question was how many M1s are in the U.S. inventory?

GEN. RYDER:  So I'd have to refer you to the Army on that.  I don't have any numbers right in front of me.  Thank you.


Q:  I have a couple of questions, they're not tank related.  When you're talking about discussions with the Ukrainians about the capabilities they can use right now — about two months ago — and it's part of the Ukraine security — security initiative — security package — you mentioned satellite — SATCOM terminals.  Weeks later, there's been no contract.  Where does that stand, since that's a capability they can use right now?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  Well, — and — and to be clear, they have satellite —

Q:  Right.

GEN. RYDER:  — communication capability right now, right?  So that was announced as a USAI package, which traditionally is going to be — have a longer lead term, in terms of announcing the intent to purchase this capability or this — contract this service, and then going through the normal acquisition process, in terms of making an announcement.

So to my knowledge, we have not announced the awarding of a contract yet.  When we do, as you know, we'll post that to

Q:  Okay.  And then I (had a ?) different region of the world, Afghanistan.  Nobody thinks about it now but the GOP members of the House have pretty much signaled they're going to have hearings on that — on the withdrawal.  That after action report that you guys classified (inaudible) to the — to the public.  Is there any steps not to declassify that, in anticipation that you're going to get requested, subpoenaed, or pushed by the GOP to — to give them that document?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so I don't — I have — any updates on the report — as you highlight, it was a classified report produced for internal purposes — but when and if we have any updates on that, we'll be sure to let you know.

Q:  Well, if — if you get a request from the Hill, I —

GEN. RYDER:  Certainly, we'll work closely with Congress to meet any legitimate requests for information that the — they provide.

Q:  Okay, fair enough.


Q:  Thank you, General.  General, President Zelensky has fired (some — several ?) top Ukraine officials because of corruptions.  On that (inaudible), as they are facing this corruption scandal that appears to be linked to Ukraine government's military supplies throughout the war, so how much that will impact on the military assistance in the middle of the war to Ukraine?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks for the question.

So, you know, when it comes to the internal personnel management of the Ukrainian government I'd refer you to Ukraine.  I would say from a Department of Defense standpoint we're not aware of any type of widespread issues regarding corruption that would — that would negatively impact the fight.

And I would also highlight, as evidenced by the situation on the ground and the progress that they made, Ukrainians continue to be very, very focused on deterring Russia, defending their territory and taking back territory where they can.

Q:  Can I follow that —

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, you can.

Q:  Thank you, sir.  President Zelensky said in a statement that Russia leadership are preparing for revenge and amassing forces.  Where do you think this is headed next?

GEN. RYDER:  Where do I think the conflict is headed next?  Well, I mean, Russia's been very clear that they're still committed to the strategic objectives that they set out for themselves at the beginning of their invasion, which is to completely conquer and eliminate Ukraine as a country.

So, the United States our allies and our international partners are focused on providing Ukraine with the security assistance they need to prevent that from happening.  And so, far Russia has failed in accomplishing its strategic objectives.  And so, we're going to continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.  Thank you.

Q:  And another question?


Q:  Thank you so much.  Could you confirm if the Pentagon has used its stockpile of ammunitions in Israel to keep the flow of weapons for the Ukrainians?

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, thanks, Joe.  So, for operation security reasons we're not going to talk about where particular equipment or material comes from that we used to replenish our own stockpiles.

Thank you.

All right, let me go to the phone here, Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose.

Q:  Thank you.  I realize you referred my colleague's question about whether Germany has informed the United States that it's sending Leopard tanks to the German government, but we live at the tyranny of time and distance and it's 7:30 p.m. there.  And trying to get ahold of a German government official after hours is difficult.

So, I would like to re-ask the question.  Has — does the Defense Department have any sort of notification from the German government that it intends to give Ukraine Leopard 2 tanks?

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, thanks — thanks, Jeff.  Despite the time difference, my response will remain the same, that I'm not going to speak for the German government.  We do, of course, maintain ongoing and robust dialogue with one another as allies.  But I don't have anything to announce from the podium here.  Thank you.

Let me go to Alex, Washington Post.

Q:  Hey, Pat, thanks.  You've said a few times now that you're focused on immediate battlefield needs.  But you've had some foot-stomping moment saying, you know, medium and long-term things to bolster their defense.  So, are you suggesting that M1s figure into the longer term USAI but kind of couple years out type of strategy?  And then I have a question about M1 capability.

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, thanks, Alex.  So again, when it comes to the M1, I don't have anything to announce.  You know, you've heard us talk in the past about the capability that the M1 brings to the U.S. forces.  You've also heard us talk about the maintenance and training associated with it, the complex maintenance associated with it.

But you've heard us, also, talk about other capabilities and that when it comes to their — the medium and long-term defense of Ukraine, that we're going to keep all options on the table.  So, nothing to announce today.  And when and if we do, we'll be sure to let you know.  Okay?

Q:  And I had a question —

GEN. RYDER:  And you had one more, I'm sorry.

Q:  Yeah, you know, Colin Kahl and — and others have talked about the — the fuel burden, specifically because it takes JP-8.  So the — the system is a — is a multi-fuel system, so I — I'm kind of curious if you can clarify if this is a — a type of fuel problem or is that — it's just a fuel burning in general issue?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, I'm not — I'm not going to get into specifics on a system that we haven't said that we're providing to Ukraine or — or hypotheticals, but like — we just take a step back here and look at the situation on the ground right now in Ukraine and — and our focus, you know, as — as we talked about, coming out of the Contact Group on the kinds of capabilities that Ukraine needs in the immediate term to be successful on the battlefield going into spring, particularly as Russia continues to recruit, refit, and reenergize their efforts to conduct a — a — an — an offensive.  So that — that will still remain a — a — a very important focus.

But we also have said that we're going to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.  And so we're going to continue to have those discussions with Ukraine and our allies and our partners on — on — on how best to support them for the — the near-, medium-, and long-term.

All right, let me go to Kasim.

Q:  Yeah, General, a (inaudible) has reports, says that the current stockpiles of the United States would not be sufficient for a wartime environment, specifically mentioning — as — as such as war with China in Taiwan Strait, the U.S. (inaudible) would likely exceed the current stockpiles of the U.S. Department of Defense.  Do you have any comment on the report and can you say that the U.S. military is still ready to fight two major wars in two different geographies and sustain the wars (inaudible)?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, no — no comment to provide on the report.  You know, the Department of Defense is a planning organization.  If you look at the National Defense Strategy, it makes it very clear in there that China will continue to be the pacing challenge by which we develop our budgets, by which we design our doctrine, and conduct our training.

And so yes, I am confident that, regardless of what the situation is worldwide, as we've done for a very long time, the United States military will be able to be prepared to support whatever requirements we're asked to — to support.

Q:  And also, of course, you have been saying that you are — in a robust discussion with the — Ukraine and your other partners to — to meet the needs of Ukrainians, and Ukrainians are saying that they are — they need tanks right away, right now, in the — to — to — for the war.  Will you — we have seen that you are pushing back against tanks, mentioning maintenance, mentioning sustainment, but at the same time, we see that the — the — this — this pushback is — has softened a little bit or — did it — has — has anything changed or — in — in — in the war or was it more of a political discussion and political decision was — need to be made actually?

GEN. RYDER:  No, again, I mean, as evidenced by the — the $26 billion that the United States has provided to Ukraine in security assistance, significant security assistance that has helped them to make progress on the battlefield, those are — that is the result of discussions that we continue to have with their leadership and discussions that we continue to have with our allies and partners, in terms of what can we provide to Ukraine to enable them to quickly succeed on the battlefield.

And I think the results speak for themselves.  If you go back to the beginning of the campaign when Russia was on the outskirts of Kyiv and you look at how far back Russia's been pushed and the fact that Ukraine is still standing in this fight and that they're poised to continue to be successful.

And so again, we'll continue to have those conversations.  We just came back from the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein with nearly 50 nations represented.  It was the largest tally of support so far, which I think demonstrates that the international community is still unified and resolved to support Ukraine in their fight.  Thank you.

Take a couple more.  Matt, and then Ryo.

Q:  Without getting into any possible announcements regarding tanks for Ukraine, can you talk at all about the process by which the department requests new Abrams tanks from industry and how long that takes?  How long does it take for the department to get a new Abrams?  How long would it take to get, I don't know, 30 to 50 (inaudible)?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah.

Q:  Could you speak to that at all?

GEN. RYDER:  Matt, I appreciate the question.  At this point, that's a — a hypothetical, and I've got no announcements to make today regarding M1s, so thank you.  Appreciate it.

Last question, (inaudible), and then I'll go — I'm sorry.  The last question would (be Joe ?).  Thanks.

Q:  Thank you.  The secretary will travel to the Philippines in the coming weeks, but could you tell us about the strategy in (inaudible) over the Philippines from the (inaudible) perspective to (inaudible) with Taiwan's (inaudible) contingency in the future?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Ryo.  So in terms of a potential Taiwan contingency, again, I'm — I'm not going to get into — to hypotheticals.  I will say when it comes to the Philippines, they're one of our oldest and strongest allies in the region.  We have a, as you know, a very proud history of joint and allied training with our Philippine allies and — and exercises.  And so this alliance plays an indispensable role in upholding a rules-based international order and promoting the common values of American and Filipino people.

So the Secretary is looking very forward to his upcoming visit.  We'll have more information you provide on that in the very near future.  Thank you very much.

Thank you very much, ladies — oh, Joe, last one.  Sorry.

Q:  Thanks.  Just to follow up on Kasim's question about the CSIS report and some of the question that it raises, given the — the sheer numbers of munitions that are being expended in — in Ukraine, has — does the Pentagon — has it — has it changed its assumptions at all about the way that the numbers of munitions that it needs?  And — and have those assumptions affected any operations plans?  Has — is the Pentagon revising operations plans based on what's happening in — in Ukraine and the numbers of munitions being expended?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks — thanks for that.  So let me — let me just kind of start big picture here.  So when it comes to operations, plans, for operations security reasons, classification reasons, I'm — I'm not going to discuss those kinds of specifics other than to say — and you've — you've heard me talk about this before — we're not going to do anything that's going to affect our readiness or our ability to meet our national security requirements.  And so when it comes to being able to ensure that we can support Ukraine, but also meet our own readiness needs, there are ongoing and active discussions as part of this process to ensure that we have what we need and that we can continue to replenish our stocks.

And so if you go back in time, a year ago before this invasion, certainly, I mean, President Putin himself said that they were not going to invade Ukraine, and — and then he did.  And so you saw very quickly the U.S. and the international community come together to be able to you — meet Ukraine's needs.  And so that then by default requires a reevaluation of certain assumptions about capacity, production, et cetera, which is why you've seen the — the DoD, Dr. LaPlante, for example, helping to lead the National Armaments Directors meetings to look at exactly those types of questions.  What are the things that we need to do?  What are the assumptions that we made?  What are the things that we need to do to work very closely with industry, but also with one another to ensure that we can replenish our stock, produce to make sure that we can continue to support Ukraine, but also replenish our stocks and meet our readiness needs?

So the Ukraine Contact Group, again, not to — to belabor the point, but this has been an absolutely essential forum by which to do these kinds of things instead of bilateral relationships between individual countries and Ukraine, and Ukraine having to figure it all out.  The Contact Group has — has proven to be an incredibly successful mechanism by which to bring these countries together to look at Ukraine's needs, to identify how we can best support, and then as quickly as possible, get them the security assistance they need concurrently with looking at what our materiel and resource requirements are and how we can best leverage the international networks and global industrial base to meet those.

And so again, Secretary Austin is very confident that we're doing the right things to ensure that we can sustain readiness both now and into the long-term while at the same time, supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes.  Thank you.

All right, thanks very much, everybody.  Appreciate it.