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

BRIGADIER GENERAL PAT RYDER:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Thanks very much for your patience.  I do have quite a bit to pass on at the top today, so once again, appreciate your patience, and then I'll be happy to take your questions.

First I'd like to begin by offering the department's deepest condolences and our empathy to the people of Maui in Hawaii who have lost loved ones and family members, along with those who have been affected by the tragic wildfires there.

As of this morning, the National Guard has activated 134 National Guard personnel, 99 from the Army National Guard and 35 from the Air National Guard, to assist with the Hawaii wildfire response.  This includes liaison support to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, support to local law enforcement and two Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters to support wildfire response operations and search-and-recovery teams.

In addition, the Army's 25th Combat Aviation Brigade has deployed two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and one CH-47 Chinook to Hawaii to assist with firefighting operations.  Plus, Navy Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 37 sent two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters to help the U.S. Coast Guard with search-and-recovery operations as well.

Also, as testament to their motto, "Semper Paratus," "We're always ready," a U.S. Coast Guard 45-foot response boat-medium crew from U.S. Coast Guard Station Maui and a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Barbers Point rescued 14 survivors who had taken shelter from fire and smoke in the ocean.  The U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Kimball and Joseph Gerczak remain in the area to provide additional support capacity.  Again, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Maui at this time, and the department will continue to work closely with the state of Hawaii and officials there as we work together to protect lives and battle these terrible wildfires.

Elsewhere within the Indo-Pacific region, as part of U.S. emergency assistance to support Papua New Guinea in the wake of the Mount Bagana volcanic eruptions there, the Department of Defense, in coordination with USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance will send the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS America to help deliver critical relief supplies to remote locations in the autonomous region of Bougainville.  U.S. Marines from the unit will support USAID emergency assistance efforts by providing transportation via MV-22 Ospreys, CH-53E Super Stallions and with support from U.S. Navy SH-60 Seahawks.  The flexibility and rapid response capability of the Marine Expeditionary Unit team will allow for the delivery of immediate and much-needed emergency assistance during this crisis.

Additionally, highlighting the value that ongoing security cooperation activities bring to real-world operations, approximately 200 Marines who are already in Papua New Guinea as part of Task Force Koa Moana 23 stand ready to support, if asked.

Shifting gears, the Department of Defense announced today the establishment of Task Force Lima, which will assess, synchronize and employ generative artificial intelligence across the department. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks directed the organization of the task force to minimize risk and redundancy while the department pursues generative A.I. initiatives, including large language models.  Led by the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office, Task Force Lima reflects DOD's commitment to responsibly harness the power of artificial intelligence, and will ensure the department remains at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies while safeguarding national security.  The memo establishing Task Force Lima and associated press release will be available on

Finally, as you are aware, President Biden signed an executive order yesterday on addressing United States investment in certain national security technologies and products in countries of concern.  This order allows the United States to regulate investments flowing into countries of concern for entities involved in three areas of sensitive national security technology: semiconductors and microelectronics, quantum information technologies and artificial intelligence.

I'd like to take a moment to emphasize how important this action is from a DOD perspective, which is why the department played an active role in the interagency development of this executive order.  You have no further than to look at our annual China Military Power Report, which has documented how the PRC has made major investments to fuse its security and development strategies and acquire advanced dual-use technology for coercive actions.  It's no secret that the PRC has a stated goal to acquire and produce key sensitive technologies that directly support the PRC's military modernization and related activities, and it's no secret that the PRC exploits U.S. capital and expertise to help develop its military and intelligence capabilities.

Specific implementation and enforcement of the executive order will be managed by our Treasury Department colleagues, but the bottom line is that this is a real concern for our national security and the executive order will be an important component in addressing the PRC as DOD's pacing challenge.

And with that, I will be happy to take your questions.  We'll start with A.P., Lita Baldor.

Q:  Thanks Pat.  On aid to Ukraine, can you address -- I'm guessing you don't want to talk much about the supplemental yet, but can you address the aid looking forward?  Is the $6 billion that you have as part of the carryover enough to get the U.S. through the end of this fiscal year as far as aid to Ukraine goes?  Or do you think that will run out more quickly than the end of September?  And looking forward also, are there things that you think the military needs to do right now to aid Ukraine that you are unable to do without any solid funding solution that's all -- that's in place?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Lita.  So as it relates to supplementals, you're correct.  I'd -- I'd refer you to -- to OMB for any questions on that.  I -- I don't have anything to provide at this time.

When it comes, broadly speaking, to support for Ukraine, I would say that as we have said in the past, we will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.  In terms of the kinds of capabilities that they will need going forward, that will be a continuing discussion that we have with the Ukrainians and -- and with our allies and partners.

As far as funding goes out, we currently have, as you know, restored and are able to use $6.2 billion in pre- -- PDA that was previously committed, and so that money is available to us beyond the fiscal year, going into the next fiscal year, as are approximately $600 million in remaining USAI funds, which again, is a -- a two-year funding stream.

So the bottom line in all of that is we will continue to work very, very closely with the interagency and with Ukraine to ensure they get what they need.

Q:  Is that $6 billion enough to get you through the end of this fiscal year?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, I'm not going to get into a -- a -- a line item in terms of what and how we may use that funding other than to say, again, we remain confident that we'll be able to continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.  Thank you.


Q:  Thanks, General.  North Korean military command announced that it will launch a reconnaissance satellite at any time very soon.  What is the U.S. response posture to North Korea's certain provocation?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, you know, we've -- we've been we been very clear about our concerns when it comes to provocations and potential provocations by the -- the DPRK.  I'm not going to, again, speculate or -- or talk about any potential future actions by the -- the DPRK other than to say we have been and will remain in close contact with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to ensure that we have a -- a common understanding of the situation in the region, and that we can continue to work together to ensure peace and stability.

Q:  What are the limitations of the U.S. extended deterrence on South Korea?  Can South Korea participate in the U.S. use of nuclear weapons?

GEN. RYDER:  I think we've been very clear in terms of the tenets of extended deterrence, and that we've also been very clear that we are going to continue to have South Korea's back when it comes to defense.  I don't -- I'll leave it at that.  Let me move on.

Yes, ma'am, (inaudible).

Q:  I have a question on the executive order on the restriction on U.S. investment in China.  So thank you for sharing your notes, and you mentioned that the Pentagon has played a role in this executive order, and could you please elaborate how Pentagon was involved in this discussion to draft the executive order?  So was it to target the specific technologies or programs?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  And -- and just to make sure I -- I understand your question, you want to know the role that DOD played in terms of helping?  Sure.  So -- so really, as the executive order was being put together, we played a key role within the U.S. interagency process, in terms of the potential military use of the kinds of technologies that I highlighted.

So protecting our national security means protecting technologies that are critical for the future of military innovation.  And so the types of things that this executive order does will help make sure that American taxpayer dollars don't inadvertently support the PRC's military modernization and technologies that really do matter for our national security.  Thank you very much.

Let me go to the phone here real quick and then I'll come back in the room here.  Howard Altman?

Q:  Hey, thanks, Pat.  I've got a couple of questions about ongoing situations in Ukraine.  One regards the advance of Ukrainian forces across the Dnipro River into Kherson Oblast, around the Kozachi Laheri area. The second regards Kupyansk in -- in Kharkiv Oblast.  Has announced a mandatory evacuation as Russian forces were approaching.  Can you say how concerned the Pentagon is about the Russian approach towards Kupyansk and -- and towards -- deeper into Kharkiv and how that might affect the counter-offensive?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Howard.  So when -- when it comes to Ukrainian combat operations, I'll defer to them to talk about the specifics.  More broadly speaking, when it comes to the situation in Ukraine, you know, we've been concerned for a very long time, in terms of Russia's activities and their efforts to hold and occupy Ukrainian territory.

And so that is why you see us continuously working very hard with Ukraine and our allies and partners to ensure that -- that the Ukrainian Armed Forces and that the Ukrainian people have the means to defend themselves and take back their sovereign territory.

GEN. RYDER:  Let me go to one more here on the phone.  Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose?

Q:  Thank you.  Sorry about the delay.  ECOWAS has apparently mobilized or is starting the mobilization of its stand-by force for a possible intervention in Niger.  Is -- does this affect the disposition of the roughly 1,100 U.S. troops in Niger?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Jeff.  So I -- I've seen the -- I've seen the reports about that.  I don't have anything to provide in terms of ECOWAS.  I will tell you, as it relates to Niger, right now, we are continuing to closely monitor the situation.  There has been no change to the U.S. military force posture in the country and as has been the case, the U.S. government focus remains on a diplomatic solution.  Thank you.


Q:  Oh, thanks.  Just to follow up on Niger -- so I know you just said that -- concern in ECOWAS, but just in general, what's the status?  Has -- have any U.S. troops moved out since our last briefing?  Have there been any CT operations since our last briefing?  And then I have a follow-up.

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, again, as it -- as it relates to U.S. forces, there's been no force posture change of our forces there.  And your follow-up?

Q:  So the junta, as I understand, they came into power saying that they could do a better job protecting the people from these Islamist extremist groups.  Should the junta refuse mediation attempts to reestablish the democratically elected government, what will that mean for the U.S. military?  Will the U.S. military continue to support their battle with groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so at this stage, Carla, I really don't want to speculate or get into hypotheticals.  As I mentioned, our focus remains on a diplomatic solution and restoring Niger's hard-earned democracy.  And so that will continue to be our focus. Certainly, as this -- as this situation evolves and develops and if there are updates to provide, we'll be sure to pass those along.  Thank you.

Q:  How long is this situation going to be in limbo?  I mean, it's been two weeks at this point since the junta took over and the U.S. position has remained the same.

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, again, I -- I'm not going to speculate on that.  Thank you.


Q:  Thank you.  Earlier this week, Gold Star families of 13 service members killed in the Abbey Gate bombing held public testimony and they are looking for answers on why their sons and daughters were killed.  I'm wondering, was the Abbey Gate bombing preventable?  And what mistakes were made leading up to the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal could have been prevented?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah.  So first, let me just say upfront, you know, we -- we obviously send our, you know, deepest condolences and thoughts and prayers to the families of -- of those 13 fallen.  Any -- any time we lose one of our warriors, it's not an easy thing, and we understand the implications that it has on -- on family members, going well beyond immediate family.

As it relates to the Abbey Gate bombing, as you know, Central Command did do an investigation on those.  And so I'd -- I'd refer you to those reports.  But again, I think we all watched the situation in Afghanistan and -- and those closing days and it -- it was a mix of both, you know, grief for the loss of our -- our fallen comrades but also a -- a deep appreciation for the service members that were able to continue to operate in such a professional and disciplined fashion in a challenging situation and evacuate more than 124,000 Afghans from the country in -- in those -- those final days of the U.S. presence there.  Thank you.

All right, Chris?

Q:  Hi.  U.S. military medical officials found some harmful and potentially carcinogenic materials at ICBM facilities in Montana, and Senator Tester has sent a letter to the Pentagon expressing his concern and -- and asking for answers from the Pentagon. Is Secretary Austin -- does Secretary Austin plan to have any conversations with folks at Malmstrom, with the Senator, or is this going to remain an Air Force investigation, now that this has shown up…

GEN. RYDER:  Well -- well, certainly any congressional requests for information, as we always do, we will respond accordingly to that.  Secretary Austin is -- is of course being kept up to date on the situation and is confident that U.S. Strategic Command and -- and the Air Force are taking this seriously.

You know, I'd -- I'd refer you to the Air Force for the specifics but do know that Air Force Global Strike Command, the Commander and his staff, are -- are taking this very, very seriously.  And so no doubt that they will continue to do so.  Thank you.

Yes, sir?

Q:  Thank you, General.  So this one is on Niger.  So for the last couple years, the -- the military there has participated in -- in Flintlock, which is an AFRICOM training exercise.  And so I'm just wondering if the Pentagon has any knowledge of whether leaders in the current military junta may have, you know, received U.S. training in the past, whether it's -- whether it's Flintlock or another exercise?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, we -- we do know that several Nigerien military personnel associated with the events there have received U.S. training in the past.  There is no correlation between the training that they received and their activities.  Any training we provide, whether through National Defense University or others or exercises, always adheres to the principles of democratic governance, civilian rule of the military, rule of law of military-civilian relations.  And so I'd just leave it at that.  Thank you very much.

Yes, sir?

Q:  Thank you, General.  The military leaders in Niger declared that there is a -- a new government.  So how much that this (inaudible) that diplomacy solution in a tough way?  And was there any communication between the leaders of U.S. troops in Niger and the Niger military?  What -- what kind of communications, if there is any communication between them?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks for the question.  Well, as I -- as I mentioned, again, from a U.S. standpoint, we are going to continue to focus on a diplomatic solution to this situation in Niger.  I think our colleagues at the State Department have talked about some of those efforts, in terms of communication.

In the meantime, our forces remain.  No change to force posture.  They're on the bases there, they're -- they're cooperating with Nigerien officials there to keep those bases operating and -- and keep services running.  Niger has -- as I mentioned, had a hard-earned democracy.

And so we're going to continue to stay focused on -- on working toward that end, but again, the situation remains fluid and we'll continue to monitor.  And -- and when we have more to provide, we'll do that.  Thank you very much.

Let me take a couple more from the phone here and I'll come back into the room.  I've got George Castle.  George, are you there?

Q:  Yes, sir.  Sorry about that, Brigadier General.  My question is mainly on the U.S. side of -- protecting the U.S. -- United States.  We have military bases around here and they're allowing the Chinese government to purchase up land that is located near these Air Force bases.  Why isn't the DOD concerned about them purchasing these lands near our Air Force bases?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks very much.  I'm not sure specifically what -- where you're at or -- or which base you're talking about but I -- I do know that this is something that the department does take seriously.  Really, Department of Commerce are the right folks to talk to, in terms of a policy standpoint, when it comes to foreign investment or foreign purchase of property in the United States. But -- but look, at the end of the day, the United States military, when it comes to our bases, we will take appropriate measures to safeguard our facilities, as -- as we always do, but when it comes to the -- the potential for any foreign government to purchase property, I'd -- I'd refer you to Department of Commerce for more details on that front.  Thank you very much.

Q:  Okay.  Heather Mongilio, USNI?

Q:  Thanks so much.  Today, Ukraine -- Ukraine's naval forces that there will be some temporary routes in the Black Sea to allow civilian ships to leave.  Just wondering if you have any additional information about these routes or what's going on in the Black Sea, in terms of the grain deal?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Heather.  I -- I don't have any additional details to provide.  I've seen those reports.  Clearly, from a U.S. government standpoint, we would call on Russia to -- to honor the grain deal, recognizing that -- that the impact goes well beyond Europe, into places like Africa, where people are relying on that grain to be able to feed themselves and -- and feed their families.  Thank you.

We'll take a couple more here in the room.  Yes, sir?

Q:  You mentioned, in Niger, you're hoping for a diplomatic solution, but what the ECOWAS mobilization -- are -- is there military-to-military communications with those countries' forces -- what -- between the United States and them?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, again, look, I'm not going to speak for ECOWAS.  The United States military, through U.S. Africa Command, maintains a range of relationships throughout the continent, but again, not to belabor the point, but when it comes to Niger right now, from a U.S. government standpoint, our focus will continue to remain on identifying a diplomatic solution.  If anything changes, we'll certainly be sure to let you know.

Q:  Does that include asking them to hold off?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, I'm not going to get into diplomatic discussions.  I'd refer you to State Department for that.

Mike?  Mike?

Q:  Okay.  Pat, thanks.  I want to talk about the -- or ask about these reports that the -- Ukraine is sort of reverting back to the style of fighting that they've been -- that -- that they are -- have much practice with, this sort of heavy artillery focused or Soviet style.  My question is, in -- in retrospect, was it really realistic to expect that they could master the style of maneuver warfare that the U.S. has spent decades learning over such a short period of time?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thank you.  So let me kind of approach that from a couple different angles, if you'll bear with me here.  So -- so first of all, when it comes to the Ukrainians and the fight that they're conducting right now, you know, I'm not going to stand here at this podium and second guess a front line commander in the -- in the Ukrainian military.

They're in a tough fight.  We've known, they've known from the beginning that, regardless of when any counter-offensive started, it was going to be a tough fight.  So that -- that's why you hear us say and it has the benefit of being true that we're going to continue to work with them to provide them with the capabilities they need, to include training.

When it comes to that training and the kinds of training we're providing, so first of all, you know, let's take a step back here and recognize that this is a less than ideal situation.  Nobody in their right mind ever would have wished that Russia would have invaded Ukraine but they did.

And the Ukrainians, against all odds, were able to push the Russians back into a position -- a defensive position, which in and of itself is -- is miraculous, given the state of the Ukrainian military as Russia invaded.  And so you've seen a, you know, outpouring of support from around the world to provide them with incredible and significant combat capabilities and training.

So all things considered, I think it's important to put it in a perspective, in terms of the capabilities that they have been able to develop and been able to execute in a very, very short period of time.  So outstanding results in a less than ideal situation. Going forward, we're going to continue to consult with them, we're going to continue to provide them training so that they can take back sovereign territory and ultimately win this fight.  Thank you.

Yes, ma'am?

Q:  I wanted to follow up on cluster munitions.  On Monday, Army Acquisition Chief Doug Bush said that the 155 millimeter rounds production won't be up to full capacity that they're hoping for until 2025.  And I know that the cluster munitions are supposed to be kind of a -- a bridging capability for that.  Are the cluster munitions something that are going to have to be a bridging capability until 2025 or is the Pentagon weighing other capabilities that can also do that job?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure.  So in -- in terms of 155, we provided to date over two million 155 mm ammo rounds to Ukraine since the start of the fight.  We've also enabled a rapid increase in 155 ammo production.  So from 14,000 a month in February of '22 to approximately 24,000 a month currently, and we plan to be at over 80,000 a month over the following year.  And so while these stockpiles are not unlimited, we are comfortable that where we're at right now with our stockpiles and we are comfortable that we'll be able to continue to work closely with allies and partners around the world on that front.

The -- on -- on the DPICMs, again, this right now has provided the Ukrainians with the capability to continue to take the fight to the enemy.  We have all indications that they're employing those weapons properly on the battlefield, as -- as they indicated they would.  But 155 aside, whatever they need, we're going to continue to work closely to ensure that they have what's necessary to continue the fight and to take back sovereign territory.  Thank you.

All right, take one last question, and then we'll go.  Yes, Liz.  Yeah.

Q:  One more question on Ukraine.  It's being reported that the Biden administration's going to ask for 13 more billion dollars to send to Ukraine, and given that reporting, what weapons are taking precedent now in the fight in Ukraine that the U.S. would want to send in the future?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thank you.  Again, as I mentioned earlier, anything regarding supplementals I'd -- I'd refer you to OMB.  I'm just not going to have anything to provide at this time.  Thank you.

Thanks very much, everybody.