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Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh Holds a Press Briefing

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

So earlier today, Secretary Austin spoke with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov to discuss security assistance to Ukraine and to receive an update on operations in advance of tomorrow's Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting. A full readout of that call will be posted. Hopefully, you've already gotten it in your email, but it should be online at

And just to reiterate, speaking of UDGC, Secretary Austin and Chairman Milley will host a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group tomorrow morning. They will join ministers of defense and chiefs of defense from nearly 50 nations from around the world to discuss Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine and continue close coordination to provide Ukraine with the security assistance they need to protect their people and defend their country.

Shifting to the CENTCOM Area of Operations, in response to a number of recent alarming events in the Strait of Hormuz, the Secretary of Defense has ordered the deployment of the destroyer USS Thomas Hudner, F-35 fighters and F-16 fighters to the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility to defend U.S. interests and safeguard freedom of navigation in the region.

As you'll remember, on July 5th, the Iranian Navy attempted to illegally seize two merchant vessels in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman. One attempt included an Iranian Navy ship firing upon the merchant vessel. In light of this continued threat and in coordination with our partners and allies, the department is increasing our presence and ability to monitor the strait and surrounding waters. We call upon Iran to immediately cease these destabilizing actions that threaten the free flow of commerce through this strategic waterway of which the world depends on for more than one fifth of the world's oil supply.

And finally this week, Air Mobility Command is participating in Exercise Mobility Guardian, involving more than 15,000 U.S. and partner and allied forces across the Pacific. We'd like to highlight a moment of real-world heroism during the exercise. U.S. and coalition forces saved 11 lives last week in response to a civilian distress call off the coast of Rota, Northern Mariana Islands. A French A400M Atlas crew launched from Anderson Air Force Base Guam in less than 10 minutes and located the disabled vessel in dangerous seas using night-vision goggles. The Atlas team was relieved by a Canadian CC-130J Hercules also from Mobility Guardian until a U.S. Navy MH60-Knighthawk helicopter could safely recover the passengers. This level of integration is second to none in the world, and it's what allows us to represent and to respond to any crisis anytime and anywhere. And for more information on that, please reach out to Air Force and Air Mobility Command.

And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions. Go to Tara.

Q: Hi, Sabrina.


Q: Just one on Ukraine, one on another subject.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: Do you have any updates on the Crimea bridge attack, and whether or not you've been able to discern whether Ukraine forces had a role in it? Secondly, with Russia's announcement on the -- suspending the ability for grain to move freely through the Black Sea, with the Contact Group tomorrow, are there any possibilities for finding additional ways that Ukraine can help -- help Ukraine get its grain out?

And then on a separate topic --

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: The -- there were reports in The Guardian that several thousand emails -- military emails ended up going to Mali because it was .ml instead of .mil, and just wondering what sort of mitigation efforts you have planned.

MS. SINGH: Sure. So I'll take Ukraine first and work my way down.

So in terms of the bridge and who's responsible for that attack, I can't verify one way or the other on claims. Crimea is part of Ukraine. We'll leave it to the Ukrainians to speak to their operations, but in terms of I'm confirming anything on that attack, I just don't have more for you at this time.

In terms of the grain deal, what I would say on that is, you know, we've seen Russia now pull out of this deal that was brokered months ago. This has impacts far-reaching beyond Ukraine and Russia. This impacts countries all around the world, millions of people all around the world that depend on this grain, the global south and others. And so we certainly urge Russia to, in good faith, reengage and allow these ships that are carrying grain to pass freely. But I think the focus of the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group tomorrow is going to be really on the counteroffensive, making sure that partners and allies, that we're all talking together on what Ukraine needs, which we know - their priorities are air defense and more artillery. And so that remains the focus of the UDCG, which will be meeting tomorrow, and I'm sure while the grain deal -- or the stall -- halting of the grain deal could come up, the real focus is just on making sure Ukraine has what it needs for the counteroffensive, and then of course, the long term.

More in terms of, you had asked about the emails, we're aware of these unauthorized disclosures of controlled national security information. We, I mean, as you've seen from when we had our first unauthorized disclosure from earlier this year, we've implemented policy and training mechanisms and put them in place. And in terms of what we have here on the DOD systems is that when you send an email from a DOD email address, and you send it to a .ml email address, it will bounce back. So a DOD email address will not be able to send to that email address.

We can't control how other domains and how other websites send information. So if an email was sent from a personal Gmail or Yahoo account that did likely go through to the .ml account, all we can do is account for our DOD assets, and ours remain intact.

Q: For the .ml limit, when was that -- I guess when was that fix put in place or has it always been a .ml can't be forwarded on -- or can't be, I guess, typed in and sent out?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, I'd have to check. I mean, I will say that, just from working here in this building, if you do have a misspelling of an email address, it does immediately bounce back, but I'd have to - I don't know the exact date or month or year or -- on when that went in place, so I'd have to take that and get back to you.

Yeah, Liz?

Q: Thanks. Just to follow up on those questions, is there any updated guidance or any sort of training for people that work for DOD not to use their personal emails?

MS. SINGH: Well, we always discourage people from using their personal emails. Official work should be done on official channels and under official emails. That's also part of -- ensuring that, you know, maintains official communication remain on official channels. So that's something that we've always emphasized.

And again, when using DOD accounts, you are not able to send to .ml addresses. So there was that protection put in place from the beginning -- or from -- when it was put in place.

Q: -- the guidance not to use personal emails be increased after this report?

MS. SINGH: Well, we can keep reiterating not to use personal email addresses. I think we'll certainly reiterate that again. That's something that, again, when we went through the unauthorized disclosures that happened earlier this year, we saw personal social media accounts being used to disseminate classified information. We've certainly repeatedly said time and time again, you know, we've discouraged using personal accounts for that.

Q: And then just one quick question on a different topic.

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: There are families of service members, who were killed in the Abbey Gate bombing, on Capitol Hill today, and this is following testimony from a Marine saying that he had the Abbey Gate bomber in range but was told not to shoot. Do you have any reaction to them being on Capitol Hill? Do you think that there should be another investigation into the Abbey Gate bombing?

MS. SINGH: I mean, I think it's perfectly acceptable for members of the public to meet with members of Congress to express their concerns or thoughts to members, and I'll just leave it at that.

Great. Travis?

Q: Thanks, Sabrina. On the F-16s and F-35s heading to the Middle East, when are they expected to arrive in the region? And also, what's the duration of this deployment or is it open-ended at this point?

MS. SINGH: So in terms of duration of deployment, no timetable yet. The Secretary, along with his commanders, are always assessing how long assets would be needed in the region but I just don't have a timetable for you.

In terms of when -- I think you said when will they arrive? I'd refer you to CENTCOM to make that announcement. I believe some are enroute but I'd leave it to CENTCOM to announce when they actually arrive.

Q: Can you say where they'll be coming from?

MS. SINGH: I can't yet. I would let CENTCOM speak to that or the services. If you have questions about individual assets, I'd let them speak to that.

Q: Thank you.

MS. SINGH: Yeah. Oren?

Q: Just to follow up -- excuse me -- just to follow up on that, you have A-10s there and F-16s. What -- what else are the F-35s there for? Is this -- is this just enhanced maritime patrol or -- or what -- why bring them in above and beyond the capabilities you already have?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, they're joining another -- a number of assets already in the region for securing those vital waterways. It's just an additional asset to help, again, with we've seen Iran continuing to engage in destabilizing activity. So this was a decision that the Secretary, along with the CENTCOM Commander, made, in terms of sending assets to the region, that they felt it was important to do at this time.

Great. I'm just going to go to the phone and then I will come back into the room. Lara Seligman, Politico?

Q: Hi, Sabrina. Thanks for doing this. Two questions.

First of all, just a follow-up to Tara's question about the leaked emails. So when you said that the misspelling does bounce back, does that mean that none of those emails that were leaked came from a DOD email address? I'm just a little bit confused about that. And --

MS. SINGH: -- none of the leaked emails that were reported came from a DOD email address.

Q: Oh okay, so it was only going to the ones that were intended to a .mail email address that didn't go through that were leaked? Is that right?

MS. SINGH: -- (inaudible) from a DOD email address -- an official DOD email address went through to a .ml address. The only thing that went through would be something like a personal account, like a .gmail, .yahoo. Those are just some examples that I can think of off the top of my head.

Q: Okay, I see.

MS. SINGH: And you had a second question?

Q: Yes. My second question, just on the -- the hold by Senator Tuberville, I wanted to know if you had any comment about what impact this will have on the Pentagon after Dr. Kahl's departure? How long -- is this going to impact the -- the confirmation of a replacement? And how long can Sasha Baker and Mara Karlin fill those roles they have moved on -- up to on a temporary basis?

MS. SINGH: A few questions there, and thank you for that.

I would say Sasha Baker and Mara Karlin are incredible women and going to be doing an amazing job as they split this responsibility with leading our policy department. You know, I would let Senator Tuberville speak to any additional holds he has. Right now, as far as we know, his holds just pertain to general and flag officers, and as of just last week, there are more than 275 general and flag officers that have been held up by the Senate.

And if -- again, we have emphasized this here from this podium and you've heard others in the administration speak to this -- these holds jeopardize our national security and our readiness. You already are seeing that with an acting Commandant of the Marine Corps, something that we haven't experienced in over a century. We have one person doing the job of two. And if these holds continue, you're going to see many more positions in which people are performing dual-hatted roles, and that does impact our readiness and also certainly impacts our relationships with allies and partners all around the world.

So we continue to urge Senator Tuberville to lift his holds. The -- as you are well aware, the Secretary had a brief conversation with Senator Tuberville just last week and they committed to engaging again this week. And no, I don't have a date or time for when that call is scheduled, but when I do, I will let you know.

Okay, we'll take one more question from the phones. Howard Altman, War Zone?

Q: Hey, thank you so much, Sabrina. I've got a question about -- in Kupiansk, the Ukrainians are saying that Russia's massed about 100,000 troops, and I wanted to know if the Pentagon -- what is the Pentagon's assessment of Russia's ability to mount and sustain its own counter-offensive? And how dangerous would that be to Ukraine's ongoing counter-offensive? Thanks.

MS. SINGH: Well, I -- we don't see signs of the Russians slowing down. I mean, we've seen the Russians have certainly dug in in the east and in the south, with the laying of minefields. We know that this is a true and very real artillery fight. That's why we are -- have been prioritizing getting more 155 unitary rounds to Ukraine through the course of many different presidential drawn down packages.

And that's what we continue to emphasize. And this -- the UDCG, the Ukraine Defense Contact Group comes at a critical time tomorrow as the counter offensive is underway. It's another opportunity for allies and partners to meet -- to meet with the secretary to discuss the ongoing needs that Ukraine will need on the battlefield.

And you know certainly this war could end today if Vladimir Putin chose to call his troops back to Russia. But we don't see any sign of that right now unfortunately. And so we are, as you've heard the president say and the secretary say, we are with Ukraine for as long as it takes and we're going to keep that commitment too.


Q: -- Russians


MS. SINGH: All right. I'm going to come back in the room. Yes, you're on.

Q: Yes, so according to the Japan/U.S. committee, the U.S. military (MP22 ?) in Japan will be conducting flight training now at the altitude of 200 feet instead of 500 feet.

And in the mountains, the mountain edge region of Japan, only so it -- that does not include Okinawa. Is there a reason it does not include Okinawa?

MS. SINGH: That is a very specific question. As you know, Japan is one of our strongest allies and our air assets are a crucial component and peace of our mutual defense capabilities. We continue to work together to improve our exercises, our training and our readiness. But for more specifics on that, I'd refer you to the Marine Corp or U.S. forces Japan to just discuss the specifics of the flight operations. 

Great. Yes. Right over here.

Q: Thank you, ma'am. Kimberly Underwood from SIGNAL Magazine. I wanted to ask a question about the graphite mining agreement that was announced this morning. Do you have any plan -- or does the secretary have any plans about pursuing any other agreements for other minerals in this fiscal year or next fiscal year like that graphite agreement?

MS. SINGH: I don't have anything to announce today. Yes, in the back. Yes, hey.

Q: Two quick follow-ups.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: One on the emails. Has DOD been working with other agencies, whether it's State Department or the White House, to put in a similar fix where it can't go to the ML address and when -- if so you when? And then on Tuberville, is there plans to brief the SASC this week and to have any details of the message that you're going to be presenting to the SASC?

MS. SINGH: Sure. So on the first part, we're always coordinating with the inner agency and working together on best practices. I don't have anything specific when it comes to this case on the dot ML address. All I can really speak to is what the DOD is doing. So I'd refer you to different agencies that you're interested in if they have more information.

There -- yes, there will be a briefing -- I'm sorry. To your question on the SASC and briefings on the Hill. There will be a briefing later this week that SASC membership requested on the DOD's policy when it comes to reproductive health. That will be coming later this week and I believe that's a closed hearing. It's just to give members who had any further questions about our policy to really talk to the experts. 

So yes. 

Q: Who will be doing the briefing?

MS. SINGH: I -- I don't have that list in front of me but happy to get back to you. Yes, in the back here and then I'll come to you. Yes.

Q: Thank you, Sabrina.


Q: According to (inaudible) the Syrian forces that Iraqi states is considering a personal military (options ?) to spend the Russia military (places ?) in Syria. Are you seeing his (inaudible) question, do you still have the communication lines between military to avoid any conflict could (inaudible) third parties? Thank you.

MS. SINGH: I haven't seen the report you're referring to. We have seen continued harassment from Russian aircraft in Syria when it comes to our own air assets. But I haven't seen the particular report you're referencing.

And I'm sorry -- your second question?

Q: Do you have (inaudible) -- do you still have the communication lines between the two military to avoid any conflict? I mean, you know, (inaudible) in Syria.

MS. SINGH: We always maintain -- and try to maintain open lines of communication. We encourage that the Russians use that, but at least the secretary's level, that -- that has not remained open.


Q: Hey, Sabrina. On Tuesday is the first meeting of U.S.-ROK Nuclear Consultative Group, NCG, will be (inaudible), so -- and I have two questions. First, what kind of agendas do you expect on this first meeting? And second, how much do you expect NCG to make (inaudible) in (inaudible) U.S. nuclear operations?

MS. SINGH: Look, so as you mentioned, tomorrow will be the inaugural U.S.-ROK Nuclear Consultative Group. So the goal of that meeting is to begin implementing the Washington Declaration, the groundbreaking agreement between the president and President Yoon during the ROK state visit in April, which reaffirms our joint extended deterrence in the region. The meeting will be cochaired by U.S. National Security Coordinator for the Indo Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, and I would refer you to the NSC for just more specifics on that.

Yeah, (inaudible)?

Q: Hey, thank you for -- for doing this. So Congress is allegedly holding up department's (inaudible) programming requests due to concerns the Air Force hasn't yet made a basing decision for Space Command. So has -- excuse me. Has DOD formally notified that it's on the (inaudible) programming request, which was sent to Congress on June 30th, is on hold? And is the department concerned about the impact that hold could have on key modernization efforts, (inaudible) and (inaudible)?

MS. SINGH: Well, we're certainly concerned about what any hold would do on any of our programs, and I think hold is blanket here. We're seeing holds in the Senate. We're seeing holds, you know, being put on in the House. It certainly impacts our own readiness. It impacts, as you mentioned, our modernization efforts. You know, we're hoping that there can be a resolution that comes quickly, but I just don't have more to speak to at this time on that specifically.

OK, Mike?

Q: (inaudible) why -- was France and Britain's decision to send the SCALP (inaudible) and the Storm Shadow missile to Ukraine with -- not causing any escalation there? Why is the U.S. dragging its feet on the ATACMS missile?

MS. SINGH: Well -- sorry. Did you have a question on the first part, or just on the ATACMS?

Q: They're all -- yeah.

MS. SINGH: So on the ATACMS, again, I wouldn't say that we're dragging our feet on anything. We've been providing Ukraine a steady support of security assistance from the beginning of the war. We rolled out our 42nd package just last week; have committed over $40 billion to Ukraine. They have the combat power to be successful on the battlefield. They have what it needs to take to be successful in the counteroffensive. We are incredibly grateful for what other nations and other partners and allies have committed to Ukraine.

But in terms of ATACMS, we haven't taken anything off the table, but right now, we are continuing to move forward with what we have been supplying to Ukraine, and tomorrow, there's another Defense Contact Group where allies and partners will discuss what more we can do to provide Ukraine in terms of some of their priority needs, which we know are air defense and artillery.

Q: But why not ATACMS?

MS. SINGH: Well, I...

Q: Why is there -- why that particular -- why is that just a -- if not off, it's definitely not on the table, if it's not off the table.

MS. SINGH: Well, I wouldn't say that. Again, I would say that nothing is off the table, but again, we are confident in the capabilities and the weapons that we have been able to provide Ukraine to be successful on the battlefield. 

OK, yeah, across the table?

Q: So on the assets moving to the Straits (sic) of Hormuz, so I think the last major sort of announcement of Iran -- Iranian harassment was earlier this month, July...

MS. SINGH: Yeah, (inaudible).

Q: ... by July 6th. You know, it's July 17th that we're seeing this. Is there a reason why this -- either this announcement or this decision is coming so far after the harassment?

MS. SINGH: That's not too far, I would say. You know, the department regularly makes posture adjustments based on current and future operational needs. We've seen Iran continue to harass vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, and so the secretary and CENTCOM commander felt it was appropriate to move more assets into the region to, you know, help bolster what they needed there.

Q: And...

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: And just to -- to follow up, the -- the decision -- the -- this decision I'm assuming was made recently? The actual decision between the secretary and the CENTCOM commander?

MS. SINGH: I'm not going to get into a timeline of when decisions are made. All I can say is when it was announced, and that's today, and I'm sorry. That's all I've got for you.

Q: OK, thank you.

MS. SINGH: All right, OK, short briefing today. Thanks, everyone. We'll be back tomorrow with the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.