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

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH: Hi. Good afternoon, everyone. I just have a few items at the top here to pass on and then I'd be happy to take your questions.

So getting started right at the top, as you probably have seen, the Department of State's mission in Sudan is evolving, which means that the Department of Defense and U.S. Africa Command's (sic) support to the mission will also change. We will make decisions about how and when to move U.S. forces when the conditions are right to do so, and while I don't have any specific announcements to make right now, we are still prepared to support if asked.

Being responsive and having the ability to surge capacity and capability when it is needed is a key tenet of military readiness. In the AFRICOM area of responsibility, the U.S. military routinely coordinates with the Department of State and our Ambassadors in Africa, and we will continue to be engaged as this situation evolves.

Yesterday, the Secretary hosted President Marcos of the Philippines. They discussed the remarkable strides the U.S. and the Philippines have made to expand and modernize bilateral defense cooperation, including an increased tempo of combined maritime activities.

Secretary Austin commended President Marcos for successfully hosting the largest ever iteration of the annual U.S.-Philippines Exercise Balikatan last month, which included more than 17,000 participating troops and leveraged, excuse me, three Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, or EDCA, sites.

In addition, Secretary Austin and President Marcos discussed plans to operationalize the four new EDCA sites, and these sites will enable combined training exercises and other cooperative activities, including to support the U.S. and Philippines Armed Forces' maritime security, maritime domain awareness, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities.

Also yesterday, the department announced the 37th presidential drawdown in security assistance to meet Ukraine's critical security and defense needs. The package included additional ammunition for U.S.-provided HIMARS, additional howitzers, artillery and mortar rounds, and anti-armor capabilities.

And last, switching gears, U.S. Sixth Fleet and Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO will kick off the biannual Exercise Formidable Shield 2023 next week. The exercise will take place from May 8th to 26th and it involves 13 NATO allied and partner nations, more than 20 ships and 35 aircraft. This long-planned exercise encompasses live fire rehearsal events in a multi-domain environment against subsonic, supersonic, and ballistic targets.

This three week exercise demonstrates the unprecedented cohesion of the NATO alliance, our unmatched capacity and capability, and our combined commitment to deterrence and defense of the Euro-Atlantic area and the High North.

And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions. Start off with Lita.

Q: Thank you.

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: A quick Sudan question and then border -- at this point, are there any additional ship transits planned by the U.S. out of Sudan currently?

MS. SINGH: So right now, the Brunswick continues to operate near the Port of Sudan and is currently transporting approximately 200 people over to Jeddah. Our force posture remains the same and hasn't changed. So the ships that were on their way that we had announced at the -- I believe last week, are continuing to make their way.

Q: Right, but is -- do you expect this is the last transit or will -- would they be -- do you have plans for more?

MS. SINGH: As of right now, I have nothing more to announce. Our force posture just hasn't changed on that front.

Q: Now -- and on the border, do you have any additional details at this point on the border deployment? How many Marines? How many Army? What states do you expect them to be deployed to? And where do you expect they will be coming from? Thank you.

MS. SINGH: Sure. Great question, Lita, and I'm sorry, this will be a wholly unsatisfying answer for you. I would refer you to the Services for that, for their numbers of where they're pulling their units from to go to the southwest border. We are anticipating an initial arrival around May 10th but I would refer you to the Services for more information on that.

Q: Just for the record, could you tell the services --


MS. SINGH: Sure. Yes?

Q: -- just don't have the answers, which is why I was asking.

Q: They just say --

MS. SINGH: Got it. Yep, I will -- I will -- I'm happy to -- happy to -- happy to do that. I believe they're also in the process of notifying those units, and that is -- you know, of course they're -- they're doing that on their own timeline, but I'd be happy to circle up with them as well. Great.

Yeah, Natasha: Can I hand you this, Roger? Sorry, one second.

Q: Thanks. Just one on the drone attacks on the Kremlin. Has the Secretary spoken to his Ukrainian counterpart about that specific incident and/or have Ukrainian military officials been in touch with Pentagon officials about it? And one follow-up.

MS. SINGH: Yeah, sure. I don't have any conversations to read out that the Secretary has made. I'm not aware of any calls that he's made to Minister Reznikov today.

Q: And then can you give us an update on the balloon that was spotted over Hawaii? Where is that right now? Have there been any other balloons that have been spotted in recent days or weeks?

MS. SINGH: So no -- in terms of any other balloons or unidentified objects, I don't have anything to announce today of anything that's been spotted.

In terms of the location of the balloon, all I can say is it's not near U.S. territory or U.S. airspace, and I just have to leave it at that.

Sorry. Thanks. Yeah, any other questions? (Mike ?), yeah? Right over here. Oh, one sec.

Q: Hello. Can you -- this -- this drag queen recruiting initiative, is that strictly a Navy project or are you going to have the other services also get involved? Is there going to be an Army drag queen, Air Force drag queen, that sort of thing? Is it strictly a Navy project or what?

MS. SINGH: Well, I would say first -- at the top, just looking at this holistically -- we are incredibly proud of those who decide to serve, and that's every young American who decides to serve and to take the oath, to put their (life) on the line in defense of our country.

Again, the program I believe that you're referring to was the Navy Digital Ambassador Program, which was a pilot outreach effort, it was not a recruiting effort. For more information on that, I would direct you to the Navy, but this pilot program has concluded and the Navy is evaluating the program and how it exists in the future.

Ryo, yeah?

Q: Yeah, thank you very much. One question on Japan and South Korea. Last week, the U.S. decided to take additional steps to make extended deterrence to South Korea more credible. So do you assess the U.S. has to do -- take some similar steps for Japan as well, who is also threatened by North Korea's nuclear and missile arsenal?

MS. SINGH: Sure. Well, I don't want to get ahead and get into any hypotheticals, but what I will say is that the alliance between the United States and Japan is stronger than ever. We obviously share common areas of focus and values. And so when it comes to promoting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, that's something that the U.S. shares with Japan, and we will continue to keep those conversations open and always welcome those regarding our national security. But I just don't have anything to announce.

Yeah? Tom?

Q: Hi.

MS. SINGH: Wait -- one sec.

Q: Hi, Sabrina. Good afternoon. Thank you.

MS. SINGH: Good afternoon.

Q: Is Secretary Austin satisfied with the Army's decision to stand down the Caisson unit at Arlington National Cemetery as a way to further review the treatment of the horses there? Thanks.

MS. SINGH: So I know what you're referring to. I just don't have more information on that. I'd be happy to take that question and get back to you and provide an answer.

Q: Thank you.

MS. SINGH: Yeah, no problem.

Wow, it's -- everyone's really quiet before the weekend. Yes?

Q: Thank you. I have a quick question on Ukraine and Bakhmut. In February, Gazprom, the Russian oil company, was said to have created a private military to assist in Russia's war efforts in Ukraine. And well, I was wondering if there was any update on that information. And then also, this week on May 1st, the Ukrainian land force commander said that assault groups of Wagner and fighters of other private companies are parti -- like, are attacking in Bakhmut, and I was wondering if you -- the reference to the private companies was a reference to the Gazprom private military.

MS. SINGH: I'm not aware of a Gazprom private military. I'm not aware of the reports that you're referring to, so I'd have to take a look at that. I'm just not aware of anything.

In terms of Bakhmut, I mean, we've seen the Wagner force is continuing to entrench themselves within the east there. Bakhmut remains a contested region, but we've certainly seen an increase in Wagner presence. But in terms of private companies, I'm just not aware of any other additional support that Wagner has other than Wagner itself being a private, you know, company that works with the Russian military.

Travis? Got anything? No? This is going to be a really short briefing if we want it to be today.

Q: (inaudible).

MS. SINGH: Sorry?

Q: (inaudible) it's Thursday.

MS. SINGH: It's -- did I say Friday?

Q: I thought it was Friday.

MS. SINGH: No, I mean, anything else, I'm happy to take any others, otherwise, we can make it a really fast briefing today.

Yeah, Lara, go for it.

Q: (inaudible) if you have any sense of the timing for when an announcement is going to come on the location of Space Command Headquarters?

MS. SINGH: I don't have an -- I don't have a timeline on that. I would refer you to Space Command for any additional announcements that they are going to be making, but I just don't have a timeline on that.

Oh, we got Tom. I'm going to go to Liz, and then I'll come (inaudible).

Q: On the border, when were the services formally notified that they would be sending troops to the border?

MS. SINGH: In terms of when the actual units, or the -- like, when the department?

Q: Like, when did the Department of Defense notify the Army and the Marines that they would be sending troops and units?

SING: So on April 29th is when the Department of Homeland Security requested the additional support, and that would be 1,500 military personnel to supplement efforts at the border, and on May 2nd is when the Secretary approved that request. Again, as you know, this is a 90-day temporary deployment of our military personnel at the border. They will not be conducting any law enforcement activities. Their role and responsibility will really remain back-of-house, including data entry and helping with any ISR capability and monitoring. But again, no this -- their mission is not in a law enforcement capacity.

Q: (inaudible) --

MS. SINGH: Sorry. Liz has one more follow-up, and then I'll come back.

Q: So --

MS. SINGH: One sec, one sec.

Q: So they were notified when Secretary Austin signed it?

MS. SINGH: I would say when the secretary approved the temporary increase is when services started to be notified. But I -- you know, in terms of individual units, I would defer to each service of when that happened.

Q: Okay, thank you.

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

I'll go to Tom, and then come back to Mike.

Q: Thanks again, Sabrina. I'm asking this question knowing that it's going to violate -- it's calling on you to speculate, calling on you to offer perhaps intelligence matters, and to offer a timetable. I'm asking this on behalf of Mr. Glen, who clearly is calendar-challenged, since he thinks this is Friday. This is, however, the month of May, and we were told at one point that we would be going back to the PBR in May, which I think is this month. So if you could possibly speculate when we may be back, we'd be grateful. Thank you.

MS. SINGH: I believe there's a sign outside the PBR that says when we're tentatively scheduled to return.


MS. SINGH: I will just say that our team had done an amazing job creating this space for everyone while we are going through a transition of modernizing and upgrading our press briefing room. I'm expecting the end of May. I don't remember the exact date off the top of my head, and I'm not taking that question.


Mike, go ahead.

Q: Yeah, you said the military's not going to have a law enforcement role, but are they going to have any other kind of role where they're actually engaging with the migrants coming over in a support-type, or helping them out-type or anything, or is it's -- because I understand there's a difference between law enforcement-type and -- so is it going to be any interaction between them and the migrants at all?

MS. SINGH: So there's not an anticipated interaction between our personnel that are going down and the migrants there. Their responsibilities are strictly back-of-house, or mainly back-of-house, or back-of-warehouse, I should say. They'll be doing data entry and monitoring and helping with surveillance capabilities, but the intention is not for them to be interacting with migrants. For that, that would be more of a DHS role, and I would refer you to, you know, Customs, Border Patrol and also DHS just for more specifics on what they do when interacting with migrants.

Yeah, Travis?

Q: I just wanted to check to make sure that there aren't any outstanding requests from other agencies for military assistance at the border, and whether there is an anticipation that there will be a need for more U.S. troops to go down there.

MS. SINGH: At the moment, I'm not aware of any other requests for DOD support at the border. I mean, it'd mainly come through DHS, and of course, they made that request. This is a temporary positioning of our service members down there. Of course, if DHS requests more or re- -- requests an extension, we would certainly review that option, and haven't ruled anything off the table. But for right now, that deployment is just for those 90 days. Yeah.

Yes, in the back?

Q: (inaudible) been claimed that they're going to launch satellite as their schedule, so do you have any indication if Korea prepared a launch satellite?

MS. SINGH: I don't have any -- I don't have anything more to share on that front. Sorry.

Yeah? Yes, Ryo?

Q: Yeah, thank you very much again. I want to ask a question about the trilateral cooperation with Japan, South Korea and the U.S. The three countries has been working to share real time intelligence of North Korea's missile data -- this -- to respond swiftly to North Korea's missile launches.

So do you have any timeline to complete the process to share real time intelligence among the three countries? How much do you think the recent President Yoon's visit to the U.S. would be helpful to expedite the process?

MS. SINGH: Well, we are certainly in touch with our allies and partners in the region. I'm -- wouldn't get ahead or share any of what our conversations, in terms of intelligence that we share. We continue to monitor the destabilizing activities and continued test launches that the DPRK engages in but I just don't have anything more to read out about our conversations with allies and partners. Okay?

We can make this a short briefing. Just want to say thanks and happy Thursday to everyone. Great.