DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH: OK. Hi, everyone. good afternoon. I have a few items to pass along at the top, and then I'd be happy to take your questions.
So first, on Sunday, Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks departs on travel to Alaska to visit Eielson Air Force Base, Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. At each installation, the deputy secretary will hold round-tables with servicemembers to discuss quality-of-life issues, access to mental healthcare and suicide prevention efforts. She will also meet with senior leaders and tour housing, barracks, childcare, commissaries, healthcare and recreational facilities to see firsthand how the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force are working to improve quality of life and making sure that we are taking care of our people serving in the Arctic.
The deputy secretary will also visit two Army cold-weather research facilities in Fairbanks and the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies in Anchorage to learn more about the effects of climate change on military readiness and research programs focused on improving resilience in the Arctic.
Another item: On May 26th, Secretary Austin will deliver the commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy's 2023 Commencement Ceremony in Annapolis. If you would like to attend this event, please contact the Naval Academy Public Affairs. This event will also be live-streamed on defense.gov.
And switching gears, last item here: Marine Corps Exercise Burmese Chase '23 is ongoing now in North Carolina. Burmese Chase is a long-standing annual exercise conducted between the Marine Corps and allied partners to increase readiness and interoperability, while employing indirect fire and air strikes. This year's exercise is being held at Camp Lejeune and includes participants from the Marine Corp Second Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, also known as ANGLICO and forces from France, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, the U.K. and Sweden. There will be a media day on May 24th, so if you're interested, please contact Marine Corps Public Affairs for additional details.
And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions. I don't see we have A.P. here today, so yeah, go ahead.
Q: Thank you.
MS. SINGH: Yeah.
Q: The first on -- on the Teixeira case. So there's a -- there's a paper trail showing that Jack Teixeira received multiple warnings about abusing his access to classified info. While there is an investigation into this ongoing, more generally, is it reasonable, in the opinion of DOD, for anyone to maintain access to their clearance under those circumstances?
MS. SINGH: I'm sorry, repeat your question from the top...
MS. SINGH: ... that he still maintains access?
Q: Well, he maintained his access, despite multiple warnings.
MS. SINGH: OK, because he doesn't maintain his access currently right now.
Q: Right, yeah, sure.
MS. SINGH: So again, as you mentioned right at the top, this is an ongoing investigation not just by the Department of Justice, but the Air Force has also launched their own internal investigation, so that is what we're waiting for. That's exactly what this investigation will uncover as you mentioned, there were reports filed by others in his unit citing some of these violations. And so what didn't happen when -- that's part of what the report will uncover.
Q: And then second, on the -- on the Patriot system in Ukraine...
MS. SINGH: Yeah.
Q: Is there any update as to the type of projectile that hit the battery and -- or the state of the system at this point?
MS. SINGH: So for more specifics on the Patriot itself, I would refer you to the Ukrainians. What I can confirm is that one Patriot system was damaged, but it has now been fixed and is fully back and operational. But for anything additional, I'd refer you to the Ukrainians. Thanks, Phil.
Q: Hi, Sabrina. Nadia Bilbassy, Al-Arabiya. Can you give us a current assessment of Iran supplying the Houthis with weapons? In other words, has it decreased or increased after signing the agreement with Saudi Arabia? And also, can you elaborate on the drugs are being confiscated in the Arabian Gulf? Thank you.
MS. SINGH: Sure, so in terms of anything from the agreement, I just have nothing new to announce regarding U.S. policy towards Yemen or support to the Saudi-led coalition. What we've said before not just from this podium, but across this administration is that Iran's transfers of weapons to the Houthis violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, and the support for armed groups throughout the region continues to undermine international and regional security, and you know, hurts our allies and partners in the region, and I'll just leave it at that.
I'm going to go ahead with Carla.
MS. SINGH: Yeah.
Q: What -- what's the Pentagon's latest position on F-16s to Ukraine? There are reports out there. They're saying the -- the U.S. is opposed to even the training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16s right now.
MS. SINGH: I have nothing new to announce on F-16s at this time.
Q: So -- so does the Pentagon -- does the Pentagon agree that the Ukrainian pilots should be trained on F-16s? Are -- are you actively saying no to Western nations? Because we know that the Pentagon has to approve before they can be sold and transferred, but what about the training?
MS. SINGH: So again, I mean, you've seen that we've rolled out multiple presidential drawdown authorities and including USAI assistance. Our priority remains on supporting Ukraine with what it needs and for whatever it takes and forever how long it takes.
Our priority has been giving Ukraine the air defense systems that they need, and also their other priorities include armor and artillery. That's what we've been focused on with our packages but it -- when it comes to F-16s, I just have nothing new to announce today.
Q: OK. And what about the transfer authority? Anything to update on us there? Politico is reporting that the administration is not opposed to transferring -- a -- a third party transferring its F-16s to Ukraine.
MS. SINGH: I've seen those reports but I have nothing to add at this time.
Q: All right.
MS. SINGH: Thanks.
Q: Where do the department's efforts related to extremism stand? A new DOD instruction was released back in December of 2021, along with some immediate actions, but there were medium and long term efforts, yet we've heard little, if anything, about where the implementation of those longer term efforts stand. Is DOD still following through on those recommended actions? And -- when will we get an update on -- to the implementation of those?
MS. SINGH: So one piece that has been -- or has already started to be implemented is the training piece but the countering extremist activity working group developed -- I believe it was six recommendations and actions across four lines of effort, which include military justice and policy, support an oversight of insider threat program, investigative processes and screenings capability, and education and training.
And so one portion of that, the training piece, has been implemented and it continues to be implemented across the department. Again, all recommendations have been assigned are with the appropriate principal staff, but at this time, I just have nothing more to announce.
Yeah, Kasim in the back? And then I'll come up to the front.
Q: Sabrina, I was wondering about the Patriot system. How -- do you -- do you have any insight how the Patriot system failed to intercept the incoming missile?
MS. SINGH: I'm sorry, could you repeat your last part?
Q: Yeah, the -- do you have any insight how the Patriot system in -- in Ukraine failed to capture or to intercept the incoming missile...
MS. SINGH: I would refer you to the Ukrainians to speak more on how they're operating the Patriot. All I can tell you is - if you're referring to the Patriot that was damaged, you know, it was -- it was temporarily or there was minor damage to the Patriot. It has been repaired, it is fully back online and operational, but for any more specifics on that, I would refer you to the Ukrainians to speak to that.
Q: Do you (know ?) if -- if the Patriot system was the target of that missile or somehow it was a part of the collateral damage of the missile? Do you -- do you know?
MS. SINGH: I wouldn't be able to speak to that. That would be a question for the Ukrainians to speak to.
Q: Thank you very much. Two questions.
First, the President canceled a trip to Papua New Guinea. How much are you concerned that his cancellation might affect the ongoing defense cooperation with Pacific Island nations, including the signing of the defense cooperation agreement with Papua New Guinea?
MS. SINGH: Well, you probably heard from the White House on this, but the U.S. is a Pacific nation and we have deep, historical ties to the Pacific Islands. Now, while the President canceled his trip, we know that the Secretary Blinken is continuing on and will continue the trip, and we look forward to the results of that meeting.
But we know, we understand that this is an important relationship and we will continue to work closely with our international partners and allies in the region when it comes to sustaining the security and stability within the Indo-Pacific.
Q: OK. Secondly, the Chinese military aircraft and Chinese ships are operating actively around Japan over the last one week. Do you assess the Chinese are demonstrating their opposition to the G7 defense -- G7 leaders meeting in Hiroshima?
MS. SINGH: Well, I wouldn't be able to get into the mind of the PRC. You'd have to ask them for their intention. The President and other leaders are there for the G7 and they're there to discuss an open and free Indo-Pacific but I would refer you to the PRC for comment on their actions specifically.
Yeah, I'll come right here in the front.
Q: Thanks, Sabrina. (Constantine) with Military.com.
MS. SINGH: Yeah, nice to see you.
Q: Thank you. Just to follow up on Oren's question, are you able to talk a little bit more about the extremism training that you say has now been implemented across the department?
MS. SINGH: I would have to get back to you a little bit more on the specifics of that training. So I'm happy to take that question and get back to you.
Q: Thank you.
MS. SINGH: No problem.
What about right here in the front? Yeah.
Q: Thank you. Have any contracts been awarded yet for the commercial satellite imagery services that were a part of this latest USAI package for Ukraine?
MS. SINGH: The USAI that was rolled out just a few -- two weeks ago?
Q: Yeah, (inaudible).
MS. SINGH: Yes, I believe -- no, I'm sorry. I don't know that any contracts have been awarded, only that we've announced that we plan to contract, but in terms of actual contracts that have been awarded, we'll keep you updated on that but I don't have an announcement on that.
Q: OK. You don't have any timeline for when you expect that?
MS. SINGH: I don't, not at this time. Yeah.
Over there in the back, green shirt?
Q: Thanks for taking my question -- thanks for taking my question. Are there any DOD policy...
MS. SINGH: Do you mind speaking up a little bit? I'm sorry.
Q: Are there any DOD policy changes that have been made regarding the handling of or access to classified information in the wake of the leaks?
MS. SINGH: Well, pretty immediately, we did -- and I think a few of us have spoken to this. When the leaks first came to light, one of the things that we did was immediately cull down our e-mail distro lists and updated those to make sure that there were active participants on that list and -- but also to make sure that the people who needed access to that information had that it was the right person part of those lists.
We've also taken steps to limit printing capabilities. We've started to re-educate people on what it means to work in a classified space and handle classified information. For example, every time I open my computer right now, I get a notice that says you are in a classified space and therefore you should, you know, abide by handling this information in the way that you've been trained to. So yes, there have been immediate steps.
One of the benefits that we have is that there is an ongoing investigation with the DOJ and also the Air Force. So as the investigation continues and we get those results, of course we could make more adjustments, and that's sort of what leads to better practices in the future. Great.
Yeah, in the hat?
Q: I thank you. What is the status of the Army's investigation into last month's Apache collision in Alaska? And will the Deputy Secretary's visit to Alaska involve any discussion or inspection on the issue?
MS. SINGH: I'd have to refer you to the Army on more specifics on that. I just don't have any update on the collision itself or where the investigation stands.
And then in terms of what the Deputy Secretary will be seeing, I'll let her team speak to that. I'm sure that will be part of the conversation, among many other things that she'll be going up there to discuss.
Q: Just to follow up on that...
MS. SINGH: Sure.
Q: ... Senator Gillibrand has requested that the DOD commit to a review of fatal rotary wing aircraft training incidents in the last -- at least over the last year, of which there's been at least three in the last five months. Is -- do -- the department considering doing that...
MS. SINGH: I just don't have an update for you at this time on that.
Yeah -- yeah, right here?
Q: Secretary Austin, in his testimony earlier this week, said that there was a presidential drawdown that would be announced, I guess, relatively soon for Taiwan. Without getting into the specifics of that, could you elaborate on the -- on the detail -- on -- on the types of weapons that could be in that or the -- or a timeline?
MS. SINGH: I just don't have right now more specifics to add than what the secretary laid out at his testimony. As he mentioned, that a package will be coming soon, and this is part of our long-standing obligations that we have to Taiwan. But in terms of what's going to be included in the package, I just don't have anything to preview right now.
Q: OK. And just secondly, could you update us on the status of the investigation into the drone strike that targeted a U.S. convoy in Iraq, I guess it was a little over a month ago now?
MS. SINGH: Yes, I know, sorry. I don't have any further update at this time. I'd refer you to CENTCOM for more details.
Yeah, right here.
Q: Thank you, Sabrina.
MS. SINGH: Yeah.
Q: Regarding to F-16, to my colleague's question, do we understand that the DOD still believe that the F-16 are not what Ukraine needs for the stage of the conflict?
MS. SINGH: We believe what Ukraine needs is what Ukraine has asked us for and has prioritized, which are air defense systems which we continue to give, which we continue to provide either through present -- presidential drawdown authorities or through USAI packages. But air defense systems is something that we've prioritized and -- something that the Ukrainians you see employing on the battlefield every day. And then it's also artillery and armor. Those are their -- not necessarily in that order, but their top three requests. Those are some things that we continue to honor with each package and we continue to prioritize.
The Ukrainians are being incredibly creative on the battlefield using different systems provided by countries all across the world, and what you're seeing is a layered air defense system, not just using the Patriots. Patriot is one aspect, but they're using NASAMS and other capabilities to combat against Russian aggression. So we feel confident in -- in what we've provided. Yeah.
I'll go to Tom. Yeah.
Q: Thanks, Sabrina.
MS. SINGH: Yeah.
Q: Good afternoon.
MS. SINGH: Afternoon.
Q: I have a couple very quick follow-ups to questions already asked during this briefing. One, in the repair of the Patriot system, to the best of your knowledge, did U.S. help remotely? You know how we've talked about sometimes the U.S. would provide maintenance and stuff, suggestions? And do you know if they -- if the U.S. was able to provide assistance to repair the Patriot remotely?
MS. SINGH: We have been able to provide assistance in the past with different capabilities. That's something that we've offered in training, and I believe the United States did provide some assistance when it came to the repair of the Patriot.
Q: And on the follow-up on the extremists questions that have been asked, two subset questions quickly. One is that in the ensuing investigation, if there is one, of possible superiors who may have known of the alleged actions by Teixeira, it wouldn't be a DOJ investigation, right? That would be either Air Force or DOD?
MS. SINGH: I'm sorry, can you repeat the question exactly?
Q: Certainly. The investigation of Teixeira is a DOJ and Air Force. We know that. But in subsequent investigations to find those adjustments that you referred to earlier in the briefing, would that be a DOD investigation as to why those in the Air Force did not properly respond to comments by Teixeira's coworkers that this was happening? Would that be purely a DOD or Air Force investigation, or would that be also DOJ?
MS. SINGH: I think you might be parsing it a bit too much in trying to...
Q: I'm looking -- I'm looking at...
MS. SINGH: OK, well then maybe I'm not understanding the question properly, but I'll try.
MS. SINGH: So both investigations are running in tandem with each other, but they're separate. Each investigation will have its own findings that we -- that the department will be able to use to inform better practices going forward. So for instance...
Q: Oh, you answered it. You just did. Thank you.
MS. SINGH: OK.
Q: So they're in tandem. In other words, the Air Force investigation is...
MS. SINGH: Correct.
Q: ... by itself. It's not working with the DOJ.
MS. SINGH: That's correct.
Q: OK. That -- thank you. And then the final one is, in -- in the adjustments that are going on in regards to classified information, there are three active-duty Marines who were charged in regards to January 6th activities on Capitol Hill, one of which had a hearing yesterday, Wednesday. All three of those are involved in intelligence collections, and is still on active duty doing intelligence collections. Would this be some area -- take -- stepping aside from these three Marines, on a -- broadly speaking, would this be one of the adjustment areas that would be looked upon, that people who were charged with incidents like January 6th or still have access to intelligence who are linked to the extremism?
MS. SINGH: It certainly could be something that we look into, but again, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. This is a case that's going through the court.
Q: But guilt -- yesterday (inaudible)...
MS. SINGH: I'm going to just finish right here. So again, this is a case that's going through the courts. I'm not going to comment on an ongoing litigation. But we will take any piece from the investigation both either the Air Force or what is happening at DOJ to inform our best practices moving forward, when it comes to handling classified documents or accessing classified systems. Great.
Q: Yeah, when you said (inaudible)...
MS. SINGH: One sec -- hold on, Mike. Yeah.
Q: When you said the U.S. provided, quote, "some assistance to Ukraine" regarding the Patriot repair work, is that on the ground there in Ukraine? Because that's where the repairs were done. Or was it done remotely or -- can -- could you be sort of -- specify a little bit about how -- what the level of assistance you guys provided?
MS. SINGH: I'm not going to get into more specifics on the assistance that was provided, only that we did offer our support and provide assistance. But this is not just, you know, one case. We have done this before with other U.S.-provided systems. And again, we have offered training to the Ukrainians that you are aware of both at Fort Sill and in Grafenwoehr that helps them maintain these weapon capabilities on the battlefield.
Great. Yeah, Oren?
Q: Is the Defense Department aware of any other cases in which a servicemember has been reprimanded one or more times for inappropriate handling of classified info, and yet has retained access to that information? Would that be common?
MS. SINGH: I'm not aware of that. I would have to check -- I mean, that would be a question for each service, and I just don't know the answer off the top of my head on that one. OK? Great.
Anyone else? All right, we can call it a day. Thanks.