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Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder Holds a Press Briefing

BRIGADIER GENERAL PAT RYDER: Good afternoon, everybody. Just a few things here at the top, and then we'll get right to your questions.

Today, the Department of Defense announced a new security assistance package to reaffirm steadfast U.S. support for Ukraine, including to bolster its air defenses and sustain its artillery ammunition needs. This package, which totals up to $1.2 billion, is being provided under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. This UAI package underscores the continued U.S. commitment to meeting Ukraine's most urgent requirements by committing critical capabilities such as air defense systems and munitions, while also building the capacity of Ukraine's Armed Forces to defend its territory and deter Russian aggression over the long-term. This includes procuring additional 155 millimeter artillery rounds and sustainment support to enable Ukraine to better maintain its on-hand systems and equipment. The capabilities in this package include additional air defense systems and munitions equipment to integrate Western air defense launchers, missiles and radars with Ukraine's air defense systems, ammunition for counter-unmanned aerial systems, 155 milliliter artillery rounds, commercial satellite imagery services and support for training, maintenance and sustainment activities.

The United States will continue to work with our allies and our partners to provide Ukraine with capabilities to meet its immediate battlefield needs and longer-term security assistance requirements.

Separately, Secretary Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Milley will testify Thursday before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Defense to discuss the President's Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request for the department. As always, the secretary and the chairman look forward to working with Congress to provide our service members serving around the world with the resources they need to accomplish the Department of Defense mission and strengthen America's national security for the 21st century and beyond.

In other news, the DOD today released the unclassified version of the National Defense Science and Technology Strategy, or NDSTS. Guided by the National Defense Strategy, the NDSTS articulates the DOD's science and technology priorities, goals and investments and makes recommendations on the future of the defense research and engineering enterprise. The strategy will be implemented along three primary lines of effort, which are focus on the joint mission, create and field capabilities at speed and scale and ensure the foundations for research and development. The department will continue to leverage the broad innovation ecosystem across academia, federally-funded research and development centers, university-affiliated research centers, DOD laboratories, national laboratories, nonprofit entities, commercial industry and other government departments and agencies. The unclassified version of the strategy can be found on the DOD website.

And finally, Secretary Austin will travel to North Carolina this weekend where he'll deliver remarks during the Fayetteville State University Commencement to highlight the departments focus on the value of service to our nation.

And with that, we'll take your questions. We'll start with Associated Press, Tara Copp.

Q: Hi, General Ryder. I wondered if you could give us an update on the troop deployments to the border confirming reports that the first tranche of soldiers are arriving at the border now, and any sort of update you can give us on their bed-down, what roles they'll have.

GEN. RYDER: Thanks, Tara. So my understanding is that those troops, an element of those troops should begin arriving soon. I'd refer you to NORTHCOM for the specific timing of that.

In terms of the types of activities, we've talked before about, they'll be providing additional ground detection monitoring capability, warehouse support, data entry. Again, they'll be there in support of Customs and Border Patrol. They will not be conducting any type of law enforcement activities. My understanding is that some of those troops will be operating near El Paso, Texas, but again, I'd refer you to NORTHCOM for any additional details. And -- and a key point there is that they will be there in support, again, of CBP. So really, CBP are going to be the ones to ultimately determine the disposition of those forces because they're there in support.

Q: And just a further clarifier, because there is some interest in this. They will have no role at all in interacting with migrants? And then as far as a ballpark number of this first tranche, in the hundreds?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, that is correct. They are not there in any way to be interacting with migrants. We are talking hundreds in terms of the first tranche, but again, NORTHCOM will be able to provide additional details.

Let me go to Jen.

Q: Thank you, General Ryder. Do you expect that the 90-day window that has been given for these troops to go to the border is going to be extended? Has there been a request from DHS to extend that window? And do you expect more troops, more than the 1,500 to be either requested or on their way to the border?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, as of right now, no change to what we've previously announced, in terms of a 90-day temporary deployment. As always, we maintain ongoing discussions within the interagency, with DHS. I'm not aware of any additional formal requests at this time, but again, you know, we'll continue to stay in close contact, but yes, right now, it is 90 day temporary deployment in support of DHS.

Q: And what is the message that these troops are sending to those on the other side of the border who may consider crossing in the coming days?

GEN. RYDER: Well, again, when it comes to border security, DHS has the lead for the federal government. So in this case, as we've talked about before, they needed assistance performing some of those back shop-type requirements so that they could focus on the law enforcement aspect of this. Thank you.


Q: I want to go back to the Ukraine announcement. Can you -- as clearly as you can, can you let the public know that this $1.2 billion has nothing to do with the upcoming spring offensive that the Ukrainians are hoping to launch?

GEN. RYDER: Well, Tony, as we -- as I highlighted at the top of my remarks, USAI is a -- is a authority which exists for us to procure capabilities from industry or partners versus drawing down from our immediate stocks. So the next step in this process will be to look at funding additional capabilities, what's out there in order to meet Ukraine's longer term needs.

Q: So these are -- to be for -- used for contracts to be signed at some point in the future?

GEN. RYDER: That is correct.

Q: Okay. So you've got $18 billion that Congress appropriated for this -- this fund. Congress -- it's -- the Pentagon to date has awarded $5 billion in contracts. This is another $1.2 that you're going to -- potentially going to award. Is the Pentagon going to accelerate somehow the contracting of these dollars that Congress appropriated for you last year?

GEN. RYDER: Thanks, Tony. So we continue to try to leverage the full range of contracting vehicles that we have at our disposal to expedite getting needed security assistance to Ukraine, to include vehicles that allow us to start work immediately, in terms of some of those capabilities, before waiting for final contracts or broader contracts to be signed.

So again, this is something that we'll continue to -- to keep after, cognizant of the fact that this is part of a broader effort, U.S. and international effort, to ensure that Ukraine has the assistance it needs -- the security assistance its -- needs to defend its country.

Q: Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Thank you.

Go here and then we'll go back to Will.

Q: Thanks, General Ryder. You mentioned the commercial satellite imagery services in the Ukraine package. Can you say which companies DOD is planning to contract with for these services? And just more broadly, can you talk about why DOD is kind of leaning on the commercial sector for this rather than just providing its own imagery to the Ukrainians?

GEN. RYDER: Again, I don't have anything specific to announce today, in terms of particular companies that we may or may not be contracting with through this USAI effort. That will be work that's ongoing, certainly as we look at options on how best to support Ukraine. And so when we do have something to announce on that front, we certainly will. Okay, thank you.


Q: Thank you. Another USAI question -- it -- it mentioned -- the announcement mentioned air defense systems and munitions. Have the specific systems been selected yet or is that something that -- that still is -- has not been done? And also, is there any timeline on these items, especially the air defense (inaudible) 155s, given the -- kind of the urgency of the need for those capabilities in Ukraine?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, sure. So a couple of things there. So again, on today's announcement about the USAI, just to -- and not to belabor the point here, but again, a key difference between that and the presidential drawdown authorities is that the USAI is an authority under which the United States can procure capabilities from industry or partners versus, again, drawing from existing stocks.

So this -- today's announcement is really focused on -- or represents, rather, the beginning of a contracting process to provide additional priority capabilities to Ukraine, which will entail exploring options as how to best support them.

When it comes to providing nearer term support, you've seen us use the PDA to drawdown on existing capabilities and rush those capabilities to Ukraine. So when it comes to things like air defense, for example, you've seen us provide Patriots, NASAMS, we've provided HAWKs. Our allies and partners have provided things like SAM-T, Avengers, counter-UAS.

So we're not waiting to provide Ukraine with air defense capabilities now. The USAI gives us the ability to leverage the power and the capabilities of the private sector in order to support Ukraine's medium and long term security assistance needs.


Q: One quick follow-up on that. So just to -- just to confirm though that -- but the specific systems that are -- that are under -- are mentioned in this announcement have not been determined yet?

GEN. RYDER: Correct. So that is -- that is something that we'll be exploring, and again, when we have something to announce, we will.

Let me go here to Janne and then we'll come back across over here to Carla.

Q: Thank you, General. Do -- U.S. and South Korea and Japan will conduct maritime interdiction exercise to block North Korea's illegal trans-shipment. Can you provide more about this?

GEN. RYDER: Thanks, Janne. So I -- I have seen some press reports talking about potential future exercises. I don't have anything specifically to announce today, other than to say that the United States and the Republic of Korea do conduct exercises on a regular basis. As you know, those exercises are meant to be defensive in nature and to help us to exercise our interoperability and to signal again our commitment to working with one another to promote peace, stability and security in the region.

Q: How do you anticipate the clash with North Korea during this exercise? Because North Korea is objecting to this exercise.

GEN. RYDER: Certainly aware of that. That's not the first time they've objected to exercises, but again, these are defensive -- any exercises we do are defensive in nature and meant to promote interoperability, with, again, our primary focus being on promoting peace, security and stability in the region. Thank you.

Let me go here to Carla and then Oren.

Q: On the (inaudible) officials are saying that he had served three months in U.S. Army training but he was dismissed due to mental health issues. It looks like the Department of Veterans Affairs would not classify him as a veteran based on Title 38. What does the Pentagon classify him as? Is he a veteran?

GEN. RYDER: He is not a veteran. Again, as -- as you highlight, from the Department of Veteran Affairs, according to federal regulations, this individual, in terms of the time of service, would not qualify as a veteran. Thank you.

Let me go to Oren and then I'll go to Ryo.

Q: Two related questions. Ukrainians say they used a Patriot missile to intercept a Russian Kinzhal, or Killjoy, missile. Was the U.S. able to confirm that? And what did you learn from the intercept of what Putin has called an impossible to intercept missile? And then what is the -- how much concern is there about Ukraine's current stock of air defense munitions? Do they have enough, given the continued Russian barrages?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Oren.

So first of all, when it comes to Ukraine's readiness, its inventory or details of missile intercepts, I'd -- I'd refer you to them. I can confirm that they did down a Russian missile by employing the Patriot missile defense system. As you know, that -- that system is part of a broader range of air defense capabilities that the United States and the international community have provided to Ukraine. I listed out some of those, you know, as part of their multilayered integrated air defense capability. 

And so as Secretary Austin highlighted about three weeks ago at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, the U.S., our allies, our partners, we're going to continue to rush ground-based air defense capabilities and munitions to help Ukraine control its sovereign skies and to help Ukraine defend its citizens from Russian cruise missiles and Iranian drones. And again, as evidenced by today's USAI announcement and the procurement of additional air defense systems and munitions, this is something that we're going to keep after both in the near term and the long term. Thank you.

Let me go to Ryo, and then I'll go to Tom.

Q: Thank you very much. Two questions. First, the Taiwanese defense minister said the United States is planning to send $500 million military aid package to Taiwan using the presidential drawdown authority. Are there any particular weapon systems or ammunitions that the Pentel -- Pentagon wants to expedite the delivery of to Taiwan?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Ryo. So I don't have any specific announcements to -- to make today in regard to a Taiwan PDA. I would highlight for you, however, that last year, Congress authorized up to $1 billion in presidential drawdown authority for Taiwan in order to deliver vital security assistance in support of Taiwan's self-defense. And as you may recall, in February, Secretary Austin testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that DOD intended to make use of this authority. But again, I don't have anything specific to announce today.

I would also emphasize that our approach remains consistent with long-standing U.S. policy as outlined in the Taiwan Relations Act, the three joint communiques and the six assurances, and as you know, we remain hard at work in fulfilling our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act, and we're going to continue to do so.

Q: Separately, the White House announced today the president will visit Papua New Guinea later this month. I wonder how important Pacific nations are for the Pentagon to compete with China in the region. Is the Pentagon seeking new access to military bases or military facilities in the South -- in the South Pacific?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Ryo. So as you probably heard the White House say, the U.S. is a Pacific nation and we have deep historical and people-to-people ties with the Pacific islands. And I'm not going to get ahead of the president's meeting. I -- I think his press secretary said today that the president will discuss ways to deepen cooperation on challenges that are critical to the region, but I can assure you that we will continue to work closely with our international allies and our partners to enable and sustain security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, as I highlighted a little bit earlier. And as always, our goal is to promote peace in the region and preserve the international rules-based order that has largely kept the peace in that region since World War II. Thank you very much.


Q: Thanks, Pat. You were pretty clear in defining the role of the active-duty forces going down to the border, that Customs is the lead. Can you clarify to the best of your knowledge please any type of restrictions or cooperation that could work with the Texas National Guard that's being boosted, their numbers, to the border between our active forces and them? Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so -- so the active-duty forces that we're deploying to the border are going there to support the Department of Homeland Security in response to a request. Again, those forces will be supporting CBP and performing essentially back-shop-type of support.

When it comes to -- and if I think I understand you correctly, are you talking about Texas National Guard that are under state orders?

Q: Correct, sir.

GEN. RYDER: OK, two separate missions, and so really, when it comes to the Texas National Guard under state orders, that's really a question for the state of Texas to discuss.

Q: So they won't coop -- I mean, there's no plan to cooperate with them?

GEN. RYDER: Two -- two separate missions.

Q: Yeah, OK.

GEN. RYDER: Correct. Thank you.

Q: Thanks.

GEN. RYDER: Go back here.

Q: Thank you, General. There are -- regarding to the tension in the Middle East, today, the Syrian forces launched air strikes on Gaza. So does the DOD have any communications with their counterparts in Israel regarding to this situation? And do you have any concerns about that escalation maybe will be -- rise up, especially in the region? Thank you so much.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks for the question. So you know, when it comes to Israeli airstrikes, really, that -- that's something for them to talk about. Clearly, we -- we do have concerns about tensions in the region, and you've heard us a call for all sides, the Palestinians and the Israelis, to work together to reduce those tensions. But in terms of any Israeli Defense Force operations, I'd have to refer you to them. So thank you very much.

Let me go back to this side of the room. Let me go here, and then back to Kasim .

Q: Thank you, General. There are reports that are saying that the DOD leaked the command, revealed that Iran and some of its backed groups in Iraq, they moved swiftly some weapons and military equipment through the humanitarian aid in February to Syria through Iraq. Do you confirm this? And are you going to prevent Iran or also the proxy groups to send weapons, and also, military equipment from Iraq to Syria, and also from Iran to Iraq?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so a couple of things there. So in terms of any, you know, alleged classified documents or unauthorized disclosure documents, I'm just not going to get into talking about any aspect of those or confirming or not confirming any potentially sensitive or classified information.

When it comes to Iran and their proxy groups, we've talked a lot about the fact that throughout the region, we've seen illicit activity by Iranian-sponsored groups in terms of moving weapons and ammunition, and I think we've all, for example, followed the situation in -- in Yemen for many years, for example. And so, you know, in -- in accordance with international law and working with our allies and our partners in the region, we will continue to do what we can also working with the broader U.S. government in terms of the interagency to do what we can to stem the tide of the illicit shipment of -- of illegal arms and weapons. Again, this just points to Iran's malign activity in the region and a challenge which I think the U.S. and many of our allies and partners can agree on. And I'll just leave it at that.

Q: My -- my second Q: The DOD officials has always said that the threats of ISIS in Iraq is exist, and we are there to support the local forces to do -- to Defeat Enduring ISIS (sic). Then would you be able to give us what's the level of threats of ISIS in Iraq and the kind of support that you are giving to the Iraqi Forces, and also, the Kurdish Forces to accomplish the mission, Enduring Defeat ISIS (sic), in the region?

GEN. RYDER: Sure, absolutely. So we have about 2,500 U.S. forces in Iraq under Operation Inherent Resolve that are supporting the Iraqi Security Forces in terms of training, advising as they conduct their own operations. And -- and I'm sure you've been following this for a long time -- Iraq has made great progress in terms of its counter-terrorism capabilities and its ability to fight ISIS within Iraq.

In Syria, of course, the United States does maintain a -- a -- a number of forces there that are working with partner forces to -- to fight, as well, to eliminate ISIS and focus on the enduring defeat of that terrorist organization. Thank you.

All right, let me go here to Kasim and then come back over here. I'll get you, Will.

Q: General, last week, CENTCOM announced that it has launched a strike on a senior Al-Qaeda leader but we never heard back from CENTCOM who the Al-Qaeda leader was, and conversely, we also saw local reports that a shepherd was killed during that strike. CENTCOM, I believe, is investigating that -- the civilian casualties but is there a specific reason that the U.S. military holds the name of the senior Al-Qaeda leader that it targeted in Syria? And can you update us on the investigation?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks. So as you highlight, Kasim, that is something that -- that CENTCOM is looking into, those allegations, so they're really in the best position to -- to talk about that. Thank you.

All right, time for a couple more. Let me go to Tara and then Jim.

Q: Hi. I just wanted to ask -- oh -- a couple of follow-ups on the border deployment. For the active duty troops that are going down to the border, where will they be housed? Are -- are you making agreements with area hotels? Because it seemed like some of those hotel rooms are already taken up by National Guard deployments.

And then secondly, there was a caveat in sending any more -- additional DOD support, that DHS was going to have to figure this out by the end of F.Y. '23. You know, we're four months away and three of those months are going to have active duty troops now deployed to the border. Are you confident that this won't be extended and, you know, we'll go into the next fiscal year and troops will still be at the border cause there's still a migrant problem?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. So a couple of things. In terms of the housing, I'd refer you to CENTCOM. Again, they'd -- they added more granularity as they -- I'm sorry -- NORTHCOM -- got CENTCOM on the mind. Thanks, (Kasim. Refer you to NORTHCOM. They'd have more granularity -- of course, working with CBP on that front.

In terms of the disposition, active duty troops versus the long term, as -- as you've heard us say, again, this was to meet an urgent request from DHS while they explore options, how to support this long term. It -- we've also said that we are exploring options on whether or not there are opportunities to, in stride, replace the active duty forces with forces from the Reserve component or contracted capability.

So again, right now, we're focused on the 90 day temporary deployment of these active duty forces, and that's where things stand at the moment. Thanks.


Q: Thanks, General. Back to Ukraine, last week, I think it was the Ukrainian official said that -- that nine BCTs -- nine Ukrainian BCTs have been trained. I'm just curious, does the -- does that mean that the training that the U.S. was providing has finished? And more broadly, what's the status of the U.S. training effort to -- for the Ukrainian forces?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so -- great question. So training does continue at Grafenwohr, combined arms training, and I -- I'd refer you to U.S. Army Europe and Africa to provide you with the exact numbers, but it -- I do know that -- that we have upwards of a couple thousand that are going through training there right now.

And again, we will be able to maintain that support and that capability to train Ukrainians as long as the demand is there. So we continue to discuss that with our Ukrainian partners, in terms of sending additional forces.

As always, a consideration as they do that is how many forces do they keep in the field, vice getting trained, but I think, going back to what we've talked about all along during this conflict, is that providing equipment along with training gives the Ukrainians a capability, vice just having equipment. Part of that capability includes the maintenance and sustainment of those capabilities. 

And so we are very eager to continue working alongside our allies and our partners to provide that type of training to the Ukrainians going forward. Thanks very much.

All right, let me go back here and then I'll get the last two over here.

Q: Thank you. Thank you for taking my question. My question is about National Defense Science and Technology Strategy just released today. Could you talk a little bit about how the new strategy enhanced the science and technology cooperation with allies and partners? Is there a particular area that you expect to enhance the cooperation? Thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks. So what I -- what I'd ask you to do is take a look at the strategy, which is on our website, and then once you've had the opportunity to do that, be happy to answer any follow-on questions that you have. Thank you.

Q: I just wanted to double check -- you -- you did confirm -- you did confirm that a Patriot downed this Kinzhal missile ... 

GEN. RYDER: Correct.

Q: ... did I hear that right?

GEN. RYDER: Correct.

Q: Was this a U.S.-provided Patriot or one of the -- from the Dutch or Germans?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, in terms of those kinds of operational details, I'd refer you to the Ukrainians.

Q: You can't confirm if the U.S. Patriots are now over there?

GEN. RYDER: The U.S. Patriot is over there.

Q: It is? So you're confirming that ... 

GEN. RYDER: I'm confirming U.S. Patriot system is in Ukraine, but in terms of which specific battery they employed, whether it was a U.S.-provided, Dutch-provided, I'd refer you to the Ukrainians.

Q: OK, that's fine. Thanks.

GEN. RYDER: OK, thanks. And last question, we'll go to Will.

Q: Also, I just had a quick follow-up on the -- on the Kinzhal. Is -- is this the first time -- or the first intercept of a hypersonic missile in combat? And do you have the date of the intercept?

GEN. RYDER: I don't, and I -- and I -- again, I'm not going to get into the specifics or trying to characterize it, other than, again, to say we can confirm that the Ukrainians took down this Russian missile with a Patriot missile defense system.

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