An official website of the United States Government 
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh Holds a Press Briefing

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

So earlier today, the secretary met with his -- with Bahrain's crown prince and prime minister, his Royal Highness Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa at the Pentagon.  Secretary Austin congratulated the crown prince on signing the Comprehensive Security Integration and Prosperity Agreement which deepens security and defense cooperation, expands trade and mutual investments in global supply chain infrastructure and promotes the development and deployment of trusted technologies.  Secretary Austin recognized Bahrain's role as a leader in regional integration and maritime security.  He also affirmed -- reaffirmed the enduring U.S. commitment to Middle East security and the strength of U.S. bilateral defense partnership with Bahrain, a major non-NATO ally of the United States.  A readout will be available later on our website this afternoon at

Also today, the department released a combined response to the Fiscal Year 2022 NDAA requirement for a space policy review and the Fiscal Year 2023 NDAA requirement to make publicly available an unclassified strategy for the protection and defense of on-orbit assets.  Informed by the 2022 National Defense Strategy and other department and national-level guidance, the response to Congress communicates the strategy of the department to defend its national security interests in space from the growing scope and scale of counterspace threats by assuring critical space-based missions, by accelerating the transition to more resilient architectures and by protecting and defending critical systems against counterspace threats; strengthen -- two, strengthening the ability to detect and attribute hostile act -- acts in, from and to space; and three, protecting the Joint Force from adversary hostile uses of space.  The strategy and all additional information can be found on

Shifting gears a bit, tomorrow marks the two-year anniversary of the United States, U.K. and Australia establishing the generational partnership known as AUKUS.  Today, I want to share that all three countries continue to work tirelessly together to advance this ambitious program with a shared goal for free, secure and open Indo-Pacific region.  And just this summer, you saw the first U.S. port visit to Australia as part of -- as part of this program, and as each future anniversary passes, I think we'll continue to see the increasing potential, growth and capability of this groundbreaking partnership.

And last -- and last item: Finally, looking to next week, Secretary Austin and Chairman Milley will travel to Ramstein, Germany on September 18th to host an in-person meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.  This will be the 15th meeting of the UDCG since Secretary Austin formed the international group in April, 2022.  The secretary and chairman will join ministers of defense and senior military officials from nearly 50 nations to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and the continued close coordination by the international community to provide the Ukrainian people with the means necessary to defend their sovereign territory.

And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions.  I believe we have A.P. on the phone, so Tara, are you with us?

Q:  Hi, Sabrina.  Thanks for doing this.  I have a question on Niger.  Yesterday at the Air and Space Forces Association, General Hecker, in response to a question from us, said that counterterrorism surveillance missions had continued -- had resumed from the two bases in Niger.  You know, for a while they hadn't been doing anything, and they're now getting to do a large amount of the missions they'd been doing previously.  I understand there may be some confusion as to what exactly those missions are, but can you for certain say that the U.S. is not monitoring any of the terrorist groups that you've been keeping close watch on in these missions such as Boko Haram, Al Qaeda or ISIS?

MS. SINGH:  Thanks, Tara, for the question.  So to clarify, the United States has not restarted counterterrorism operations or any security force assistance training with Niger.  We can confirm that the U.S. forces in Niger commenced I.R. -- ISR flight ops to monitor for threats and for force protection.  We have secured these approvals with the appropriate authorities, and the U.S., I will say, always reserves the right to conduct operations to protect our forces and personnel, if required.  But beyond that, I just won't be able to provide any additional information.

Okay, I’ll come into the room. Yeah, Janne.

Q:  Thank you.  Thank you, Sabrina.  I have two questions on Russia and North Korea.

Q:  Russian Defense Minister Shogol acknowledged the possibility of joint military exercise with North Korea, and he also said that he would engage in military exercise with North Korea in the future.  Do you think this intended to keep the U.S. and ROK joint military exercise in check?

MS. SINGH:  So I can't speak to what their intention is behind the joint military exercise in terms of a message to us.  I don't think that deters any type of exercises that we would engage with, with the ROK or Japan or any trilateral exercises.  You saw some exercises recently -- as recently as earlier this month, or earlier this year, I should say, and we continue to deepen our partnership with Japan and ROK with, you know, following the Camp David Summit.  You've seen a commitment by all three leaders of each country to continue to engage and support each other.  So I don't think any type of exercise between the DPRK and Russia would deter our own advances and our own relationships within -- with -- with ROK or Japan.

Q:  Yes, ok.  Another one -- Kim Jong-un promised with Putin that he would give a priority to sending -- to stockpile ammunition to North Korea.  Do you think this will prolong the war in Ukraine?

MS. SINGH:  Well, we've certainly seen Putin and Russia to be -- continue to be more isolated as the war progresses in Ukraine.  And so what we're seeing right now is Russia in a quite a desperate mode and seeking support from North Korea, when it comes to ammunition.  I -- I -- I haven't seen a formal agreement announced from either country but it's something that we're certainly monitoring and - and would expect.

And I think that any country that supports Russia in its unprovoked war in Ukraine is of course going to not only prolong the conflict but is directly engaging in the killing of innocent Ukrainian civilians and -- and officials and -- and those on the battlefield.

So we have been very public about our warnings to North Korea.  Providing any type of arms to Russia would, again, violate the UN Security Council Resolutions that Russia itself voted for.  So we would encourage that North Korea, you know, not pursue a deal with Russia, but yes, providing any type of ammunition would further continue the war.

Yeah?  Great.  Yeah?  Hi, Chris.

Q:  Hey.  Thanks, Sabrina.  To clarify on Niger ... 

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  ... what do you define as a counter-terrorism operation?  Is that a kinetic operation?  Cause presumably some of the threats you are monitoring with ISR platforms could be terrorist groups.  So I just want to clarify ... 

MS. SINGH:  So that -- that -- that's a great question but that does get into just some more in-depth, greater questions on our operational security, and for that and for the protection of our members of the military that are in Niger, all I can say right now is that we have not restarted counter-terrorism operations.  We are just in -- flying ISR in order to monitor for any threats.  

And of course, we -- as I mentioned last week, we are moving personnel and equipment from Air Base 101 to 201, and during that process, of course we are wanting to make sure that our -- our troops and our equipment is safe.

Yeah -- yeah?

Q:  So can I follow up on that ... 

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  Thanks -- thank you, Sabrina.  In response, you -- you said just now you're not doing any counter-terrorism operations, and earlier, you said ... 

MS. SINGH:  I said I -- we've not restarted any counter-terrorism operations.

Q:  ... with (Niger ?).  That led me to think that there might be some other -- but you're saying there is no counter-terrorism operations occurring?

MS. SINGH:  That's right.

Q:  OK.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.

Q:  I just wanted to clarify.  Thank you.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah, Oren?

Q:  Just a quick follow on Niger ... 


Ukraine question.  Can you say when the ISR missions restarted?  And -- and are they flying as frequently as they did before July 26th?  

And then a second question on the -- on a different topic... 

MS. SINGH:  I won't get into timelines and how frequently they're flying.  All I will say is that they are there and commenced to monitor any threats to our troops and -- and are just there for force protection, but in terms of putting a timeline on it, I just won't get into that.

Q:  And there is coordination with the Nigerian military on these?

MS. SINGH:  We have sought the appropriate authorities in order to fly -- or to operate these ISR flights, but beyond that, I just won't get into more.

Q:  And then a -- a quick question on Ukraine.  On Monday, I had asked and the -- the question, I think, was taken.  Has the language training started at Lackland?  And was just wondering if there was a -- an answer on that yet.

MS. SINGH:  The language training has not started yet.  We expect language training to hopefully start later this month but I don't have a -- a specific date or more specifics when it comes to that.

Yeah, Lara?

Q:  Just a follow-up on Niger.

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  What was the -- was there a specific reason or trigger that made -- that enabled you to start the counter-terrorism ISR operations again in Niger?  I know they've -- it's sort of on and off.  Was there something that happened that caused you to -- to seek this authority?

MS. SINGH:  So just to clarify -- so we're not doing any counter-terrorism -- just ISR?  So just -- I won't get into more specifics on when we started but it is -- we are flying ISR for force protection purposes and that's it.  I will say that, as I mentioned I -- I believe it was last -- last week, that we are starting to move personnel and equipment from Air Base 101 to 201 and felt it was appropriate to make sure that our -- our forces are protected, but that's all I'll say on that front.

Q:  Have additional people, personnel left Niger?

MS. SINGH:  I'm not aware of any right now that have left since we last put out I think a -- a -- information on that late last week.  I'm not aware of any more that have left at this time.

OK, great.  Yes, Tom?

Q:  Thanks, Sabrina.  My question, I think it follows up on a story that Lara had earlier this week about the hold that Senator Tuberville has on 300-plus individuals.

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  Lara, you can correct me if I'm wrong.  I -- I -- I -- she -- I think she said that some of those individuals were on a 30 day clock -- 30 month clock, excuse me, that once they're recommended for promotion, they have to be promoted within that period of time or else it goes back to the promotions board.

MS. SINGH:  Yep.

Q:  At some point, do you think the Pentagon could provide us with a breakdown of how many of those individuals are among the 300-plus?

MS. SINGH:  I -- I -- like, how many are coming up on their 30 month mark?

Q:  ... none of them would be coming up on 30 because the clock started in February and that's a couple of years but ... 

MS. SINGH:  Right.

Q:  ... I've been asked this question a couple of times ... 

MS. SINGH:  To provide a list of how many of -- are up for promotion?

Q:  ... 300-plus individuals, of those, X number of those fall under that 30 month clock, or do they all fall under that 30 month clock?

MS. SINGH:  Oh, they would -- I mean, every one that's up for promotion would all fall under that 30 month clock.  Sorry, I did not understand.

Q:  ... might be nominated, you know, to be Chair of the Joint Chiefs or someone like that?

MS. SINGH:  Correct.

Q:  OK.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah, that's right.  Yep.

I'm going to go back to the phones here.  Ryo?

Q:  Hi, thank you very much for taking my question.  The -- the Japanese and the South Korean Defense Ministers were replaced this week, a week after the Secretary has a trilateral call with them.  Is there any concerns within the Pentagon that those replacements might affect or delay the ongoing trilateral defense cooperation?  And is the Secretary planning to speak with new Defense Minister soon?  Thank you.

MS. SINGH:  Thanks, Ryo.  In terms of a call, I don't have anything to read out today but we'll keep you updated when and if a call happens.

I think as I was explaining to Janne earlier on her question, I think you've never seen a stronger alliance right now between ROK and Japan and the United States.  And as you've -- saw at the Camp David Summit, our leaders charted a very ambitious course for our mutual defense and for our security of our people.

And so right now, we're working more closely than ever, when it comes to the ROK and Japan, in support of a common goal, which is a free and open Indo-Pacific.

So yeah, I'll just go ahead and leave it at that and come back in the room.  Brandi?

Q:  Thank you, Sabrina.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.

Q:  Earlier this morning, NASA's Independent UAP Study Panel presented their final report, and in it, they said that there's still currently no standardized system for making civilian UAP reports, resulting in sparse and incomplete data, and that NASA should play a key role in assisting AARO in the development of this federal system, which is different than what you recently announced for pilots' military-specific reporting.  And that NASA should support AARO in this whole-of-government framework that they're creating.  

And so I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about if that's something OSD is supportive of and just broadly how are AARO and NASA going to be leaning on each other going forward.

MS. SINGH:  Look, I won't speak to what -- NASA's comments.  I would direct you back to them.  I think we've put out a -- as you said, we put out a website earlier this year that allowed folks to access and be able to report sightings.  We continue to work on -- on this issue.  But I don't have any further comment in terms of what NASA said earlier today.  

Q:  OK.  Can we get a clarification though between the repository and system that you guys, AARO, has put out specifically for military pilots and this required federal system for all reporting?  What's the status of that?  

MS. SINGH:  I would direct you to the website.  There's more information there, and the AARO reports.  So I would direct you there.  And, you know, we can obviously continue the conversation.  But no, I'm not going to take the question.  


Q:  OK, one more question.

MS. SINGH:  Sure.  

Q:  Just earlier today the Department of Homeland Security said that illegal drugs produced in Mexico, like fentanyl, is the top national security threat to Americans.  

MS. SINGH:  Yes.  

Q:  Here at DoD, do you see this as something that falls into DoD's purview?  And if so, what is DoD to do about it?  

MS. SINGH:  Look, we work with the Department of -- we work with DHS on a range of issues.  I would let DHS speak to the issues that are confronting national -- our national security and our interests at the border.  I would -- I would defer to them on that.  

I think it's certainly an issue that you've seen growing within the United States and an issue that this administration takes seriously.  But it's not really for the Department of Defense to comment on unless we are being asked to weigh in or to assist in any way.  But right now there has been no request.  So I'll just leave it at that.  

Q: So, you don’t see, this isn’t something the Secretary sees as in his purview?  

MS. SINGH:  Well, I think it is under DHS's right now.  I mean, they are the -- the agency responsible for maintaining and -- and monitoring what's happening at -- you're referencing what's -- coming across and over the border.  But we certainly are supportive of their efforts.  And I think this administration has taken the issue of drugs and -- and the usage of, you know, narcotics and other materials coming over the border very seriously.  But I would direct you to DHS for -- for more information on that.  

Yes -- sorry.  And then I'll come to Liz. 

Q:  Thanks, Sabrina.  Earlier this morning, Admiral Lisa Franchetti...

MS. SINGH:  Yes.  

Q:  ... at her confirmation hearing mentioned that, from her perspective, the hold by Senator Tuberville would take years to recover from.  

MS. SINGH:  Yes.

Q:  I'm assuming that those remarks were made, you know, her speaking to the Navy.  But is -- is that true DoD-wide?  Is this...  

MS. SINGH:  Yes, I mean, her comments are absolutely right.  What you are going to see is, I mean, as these promotions continue to get delayed, that pushes back other promotions, which is going to cause, you know, other of our officers, our senior-level officers to consider whether they should retire.  And you're going to really see potentially a hollowing out of our military.  So this absolutely has hugely consequential -- consequential impacts for years to come.  

And, of course, as she was speaking on behalf of the Navy, completely agree with that across all military services.  And so I know General Ryder spoke about this a little bit more at the podium earlier this week.  But we've been constantly engaging with the Hill, with members on both sides of the aisle, urging Senator Tuberville to lift these holds.  They're incredibly damaging.  I think we've laid out in pretty great detail just the impacts to readiness and national security and also to our military families.  And so absolutely, what the Admiral said is -- is -- is right.

Q:  Thanks.

MS. SINGH:  Liz, do you have something?

Q:  Yes. The -- there's a report out that the U.S. is looking to redirect $55 million from Egypt to Taiwan.  Is that true?

MS. SINGH:  I have not seen the report, so I -- I would just -- haven't -- I haven't heard anything about that.  I'd have to take a look at that and get back to you.

Q:  Okay. And then just to follow up on Tuberville ... 

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  ... there is a report out -- it just came out a few minutes ago -- based on General Flynn's comments yesterday to reporters, and the Tuberville press release is citing Flynn as saying it's not a huge deal, it's not really impacting the readiness of his forces.  Your response to that?

MS. SINGH:  Look, I would say that you've heard from many people in military uniform and our civilian leadership here on the incredible impacts that this has up and down.  The Chairman has spoken about this, you've heard General Brown speak about this, you've heard our acting Commandant of the Marine Corps General Smith speak about this in detail, and just today, Admiral Franchetti at her testimony.

Look, I think the military and I think what General Flynn is referring to is that we are taking incredibly bold steps to mitigate what we can from these holds and -- and our nominees being impacted.  We are doing everything we can to mitigate risk and to ensure that things can continue to operate.

It's not like our -- you know, our commanders of the Fifth and Seventh Fleet who are up, it's not like those fleets stop sailing and operating where they are.  Of course the military is going to keep doing its job.  But you're putting an incredible amount of strain on our leadership.  You have the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs retiring at the end of the -- the month, which means Admiral Grady will be in an acting Chairman role, wearing a dual-hatted role of both the Vice and the Chairman.  

And so in a time when you have Russia and China and growing threats from Iran and North Korea, you really need your leadership -- your -- your Senate-confirmed leadership in place.  And so while we are taking steps to do what we can to -- to mitigate our impacts, it's having an impact.

Yeah?  Yes?

Q:  Thank you, Sabrina.  Taiwan's Defense Ministry said that it had detected (inaudible) Chinese Air Force aircraft entering the island's air defense zone and warships.  How concerned are you about any potential conflict could be with China, between the ... 

MS. SINGH:  Well, we certainly are -- continue to monitor what is happening in the Indo-Pacific.  Our goal is not to see conflict arise there, and, you know, we continue to engage for de-escalation, but I think we've been very clear that we don't -- we certainly don't seek conflict with the PRC, we don't want the PRC to engage or seek conflict in the region, and I'll just leave it at that.

Did I see -- sure, right over here.

Q:  Thanks, Sabrina.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.

Q:  A Japanese outlet reported today that the U.S. is looking to establish a U.S. Space Force Japan, which will, among many things, help with information sharing of DPRK missile launches.  Is there anything to that reporting?

MS. SINGH:  I don't have anything for you right now.  I would direct you to the Space Force for -- for more information.


Q:  Hi, thank you.  So tomorrow's National POW/MIA Recognition Day.  Is the Pentagon confident, given communication issues with North Korea over repatriation of remains and also other things that have been happening with the country, that it can restart its recovery operations soon in North Korea?  And is there anything else you'd like to share to families that are still waiting to recover lost loved ones?

MS. SINGH:  Well, in terms of the families, I mean, certainly our -- you know, our deepest thoughts go out to them and it's obviously a very painful process to wait and to continue to keep waiting.  

You know, we continue to do what we can -- I would direct you to the POW Agency just for more information -- but I don't have anything -- any more details to provide at -- at this time.

Yeah, I'll take one last question.  Yeah?

Q:  Thanks.

MS. SINGH:  Oh, I'm sorry, you had a question too.  I'll come back to you.

Q:  So this is just a quick clarifying one.  This was in Newsweek last month, and it -- it reported that there's a U.S. citizen who -- this transgender woman is -- is an -- allegedly a spokesperson -- an official spokesperson -- person of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.  I just wanted to see if the DOD could confirm that cause I haven't been able to, other than that Newsweek article.

MS. SINGH:  I am not sure, but I'm not sure what someone's gender has to do with being a spokesperson.

Q:  ... that -- that was just to identify her.  Her name is Sarah Ashton-Cirillo.  She -- she ... 

MS. SINGH:  I'd direct you to the Ukrainians for that, but again, I don't understand what someone's gender or who -- how they identify just ... 


Q:  ... it was surprising to see an American be ... 

MS. SINGH:  I cannot confirm that.

Q:  ... I didn't know if it was true or not, so.

MS. SINGH:  Can't confirm that.

Q:  No worries.

MS. SINGH:  Yes?

Q:  Just turning back to the Hill ... 

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  ... clock ticking, it's looking, best case scenario, Continuing Resolution, potential of shutdown increasing.  Can you discuss any steps the department is taking to kind of gird for a potential shutdown?

MS. SINGH:  In term -- in terms of the shutdown, I mean, right now, as far as we can tell in our conversations with the Hill, conversations continue to be ongoing.  So we're not going to insert ourselves into those conversations.

I think everyone, including on -- on both sides of the aisle, wants to avoid a -- a shutdown as much as possible.  So do we.  That said, if there is a shutdown, we will take the proper measures in order to ensure that, you know, we can keep operating, we can still ensure our readiness, that our national security interests are still protected and intact.

But I don't want to get ahead of anything that hasn't happened yet, and so I will just leave it at that and let Congress, you know, continue to work through the -- the process, when it comes to any potential shutdown.

Great.  One more?  OK, one more.

Q:  ... a quick follow-up on that.  How do these CRs affect readiness?

MS. SINGH:  So the CRs are just short-term, essentially band-aid solutions.  They don't allow us to start up new programs, they keep funding levels the same.  So it's never a good thing to continue operating under a CR.  We hope that's not the case.  We've done it before.  

It's certainly not the path that we would choose, but again, this is a -- something that needs to work -- be worked out through legislation, this is something that has to be worked out in Congress.  And, you know, I don't want to get ahead of anything that hasn't happened, and hopefully we can avert a -- a -- a CR or a potential shutdown.

OK, great.  I'll leave it at that.  Thank you all.