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Sabrina Singh, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary, Holds an On-Camera Press Briefing

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH: All right. Hello. Hi, everyone. Good afternoon. I do have a decent amount of updates to pass along at the top, so just bear with me while I read through some of this.

So today, the Secretary wraps up his trip, where he visited and met with the leaders in Djibouti, Kenya, and Angola. In his capstone, an historic speech in Angola, the Secretary discussed the strategic importance of Africa, our commitment to enhancing partnerships with our valued African partners, the power of democracy, and how we're looking to deepen defense relationships that are rooted in equality and mutual respect.

As Secretary Austin said in his remarks, quote, "Africa matters, it matters profoundly to the shape of the 21st century world, and it matters for our common prosperity and our shared security," end quote.

He also went on to emphasize that, quote, "we're joining hands with new partners and building new coalitions to oppose aggression and uphold sovereignty, and we're empowering our partners to pursue locally, nationally, and regionally-led solutions to the dangers that they face," end quote.

I would encourage everyone to take a look at his full speech, which is available at 

During his trip, the Secretary also visited with U.S. military personnel deployed to Djibouti and Kenya to voice his gratitude for their service and dedication to promoting peace, stability, and security in the region.

Also today, on the plane ride home from Angola, Secretary Austin spoke by phone with Crown Prince and Prime Minister His Royal Highness Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa to convey his condolences for the September 25th attack reportedly carried out by Houthi elements on the Saudi/Yemen border, which killed Bahrainian service members and injured others. Secretary Austin strongly condemned the attack, underscoring that these unacceptable attacks threaten the long period of calm since the War in Yemen began. 

I believe yesterday -- Secretary Austin also spoke with his Japanese counterpart, newly appointed Minister of Defense Minoru Kihara, earlier this morning. The Secretary congratulated him on his new position and they committed to further cooperation on the U.S.-Japan alliance priorities, including deeper and expanded multilateral cooperation in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region. And again, you'll be able to find that full readout on

Shifting gears, Secretary Austin has taken unprecedented action across the department to help improve quality of life for our service members. Today, as part of broader efforts to ensure we take care of our people, one of Secretary Austin's top priorities, he approved a campaign to prevent suicide in the military aligned to five lines of effort. Over the past two years and -- I'm sorry -- over the past two and a half years, the department has taken meaningful steps to counter harmful behavior in all its forms, including suicide. 

While we recognize that suicide has no single cause and no single preventive action, treatment, or cure will eliminate every individual suicide death, implementation of these actions demonstrates our unwavering commitment to promote the wellness, health, and morale of our total force and honor the memory of those lost to suicide. A copy of the Secretary's memo can be found on

Just a few more items here. Hello. 

Today, the Department of Defense also released its 2023 Strategy for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction. As many of you are aware, the United States faces a dynamic and evolving security environment characterized by competitors in possession of current and emerging WMD capabilities.

As a result, this strategy addresses current and emerging WMD challenges and threats and provides direction for tailored methods to address them. The department, working closely with the interagency and U.S. allies and partners, will account for WMD threats holistically to prevent, withstand, operate through, and recover from WMD attacks. This strategy and additional information can also be found on

Switching to tomorrow. Tomorrow, Secretary Austin will participate in an Armed Forces farewell tribute in honor of General Mark Milley, the 20th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and welcome General C.Q. Brown, Jr., as the 21st Chairman. General Milley has led the Joint Force in defense of this country admirably and selflessly, and we'd like to thank him and the entire Milley family for their selflessness and four decades long service to this nation.

Last week, the Senate moved forward on confirming three of our highly qualified nominees, as you know, but unfortunately, our list of nominees that needs Senate confirmation continues to grow. As of yesterday, Senator Tuberville's holds now impacts 371 nominations. 

You've heard me say it over and over again but I'll say it again -- these holds impact our national security, our military readiness, and of course our military families. The Secretary is committed to engaging with members of Congress in both parties until all of our well qualified, apolitical officers are confirmed.

And last item here, as I'm sure is on everyone's mind, the likelihood of a government shutdown. First, we urge Congress to work in a bipartisan way to avert a government shutdown and pass a budget. Our priority is always to make sure that we have an on time appropriations, and as bad as it could be to have a Continuing Resolution, which we always want to avoid, it's even worse for the defense of the nation to have a shutdown.

So what I can say is if there is a shutdown in just a few days, our service members would be required to continue working but would be doing so without pay, and hundreds and thousands of their civilian colleagues would be furloughed.

A government shutdown is a worst case scenario for the department, so we continue to ask Congress to do its job and fund the government.

And I know that was a lot, so with that, I will take your questions. I'm going to go to the phones first cause I believe we have Lita joining us remotely. So Lita, if you're there?

Q: Yeah. Hi, Sabrina. Thanks so much. I realize you may not be able to provide too much on this but on Travis King, can you give us an update on sort of what next for Travis King, since he arrived overnight in Texas, going forward? And then what concerns does the department have about anything King may have said to anyone in North Korea? And finally, do you have any more insight into why he left or why the North Koreans let him go? I realize that's a lot but thanks.

MS. SINGH: Thank you -- thank you, Lita. So just I guess taking the last question first. So in terms of why he left and motivations for why he crossed over into the DPRK, again, as you know, that's still under investigation, that's something that the Army is leading with UN Command as well. So I will, you know, let that investigation continue.

In -- in terms of details of what he is going through now -- so as you mentioned, Private King arrived late last night -- or apologies -- early in the morning to San Antonio, where he will be going through a reintegration program. How long he is there in this reintegration program is really dependent on each person that goes through, but what I can tell you is he'll be going through medical screenings, medical evaluations, and then he'll be meeting with professionals to assess his emotional and mental health wellbeing, and he'll be meeting with counselors. 

So this is something that you can't -- I can't really put a timetable on but he will be there going through the reintegration program for the immediate future.

And I'm so sorry, I'm -- I forgot your second question, if you could repeat that?

Q: Yeah, sure. The question was what concerns does the U.S. and the Pentagon have about what information he may have shared with North Korea?

MS. SINGH: Thanks, Lita, for reminding me. Well, during this process, he will be getting debriefed by U.S. military officials. So I don't really have more to share on that, as it's still pretty early. Right now, what we are focused on is his wellbeing. This was obviously -- Private King was in the DPRK for just over two months. So it's something that we're incredibly focused on, on making sure that his health -- that he is being able to -- to be reunited with his family, and also be able to go through the reintegration program.

And with that, I'd be happy to come in the room. Yeah, Will?

Q: Following up on that ... 

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: ... what, if any, disciplinary action is Private King facing at this point? I know he was -- he was scheduled to -- to face some -- some actions when he -- when he was supposed to come back to the States earlier. Is that still on the table? And when will that determination be made, if it hasn't been already?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, so I don't have any more for you at this moment on any disciplinary actions that would be taken. Right now, what we are focused on is making sure that he is healthy. I was told he was in good spirits when he was getting on the flight to return home. This is -- of course, going through the reintegration program is something that's going to take time. And so we're really focused on his health, reuniting him with his family, and when we have more details to provide, we'd be happy to do that.

Did you have something else? I'm sorry. OK. Yeah, Chris?

Q: Hi. Thank you, Sabrina.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: I have a question on the shutdown and its impact on the training of Ukrainian pilots. Will the training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16s in the U.S. occur if the government is shut down by the time they're ready to come over or will that training be delayed or otherwise negatively impacted in any way if the government is still shut down? Then I have a follow-up.

MS. SINGH: OK. In terms of shutdown impacts on training programs for Ukrainian pilots, first, as you heard me say in my topper, a government shutdown is the worst case scenario that the department can face. 

So you are going to have military uniformed personnel coming in, performing their duties, but as a result, you're going to have a majority of civilian personnel furloughed. So civilian personnel that are involved in the training of Ukrainian pilots, such as English language training is what we're talking about right now, absolutely there could be impacts to training.

We're still reviewing some of these details. Again, we're hoping that the Congress can work and -- and find a bipartisan, bicameral way to avoid a government shutdown, but there's still more details that we're working through on the impacts that programs will have.

What I will say is that you're going to have potentially trainers who, if, you know, three of them, let's say, are civilians and they're furloughed and you have only one person that's a military personnel -- and I'm just giving an example -- you're going to have that person doing the jobs of his or her other colleagues.

So it's definitely going to have an impact to training on whatever that might be, whether it's, you know, actual personnel in the room or, you know, if this continues to go longer, I -- I'm not sure, like, the -- how much training could be delayed for other aspects of pilot training, but at this point right now, I just don't have, like, more specific details to offer.

Q: Just to follow up ... 

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: That unit is also a Guard unit.


Q: So would that be functioning normally or would that be shut down?

MS. SINGH: Well, exactly. We're going through all of the details right now. Again, I don't have more to share at this exact moment. I can reiterate, and I will continue to do so, that a shutdown is literally the worst case scenario for this department. We really don't want to have to go through making painful decisions like this. And I'll just leave it at that.

And did you have a follow-up? That was your follow-up, OK. Liz? And then I'll come to Janne.

Q: My first question, so Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene had an amendment passed yesterday that Secretary Austin would only get paid a $1 salary. Your reaction to that?

MS. SINGH: Well, look, that's pending legislation, I don't really have a comment on that in particular. What I can say is that the Secretary is deeply focused on the mission here for the department, he's focused on defending our nation, protecting the interests of our allies and partners. And of course with a government shutdown, taking care of our people is one of his top priorities, and that's something that -- I know the Secretary coming off of his trip back here at home in the United States is really focused on the impacts of what the government shutdown means for our military service members. So I'll leave it at that.

Q: Great. My second question ... 

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: ... a group of senators just released a bill to make sure that service members get paid in case of a possible shutdown. Is that something the Defense Department supports? And what happens if service members aren't paid?

MS. SINGH: Well, to take the last question first, if service members aren't paid in terms of what? Like, during the shutdown?

Q: Yeah, during the shutdown, if they aren't paid on time.

MS. SINGH: So, I mean, if they aren't paid on time, what's going to happen is life continues to go on. So these service members have rent to pay, mortgages, childcare. You know, you think of the daily expenses that you make -- grocery bills -- and those bills are still going to incur for our service members, for our civilian colleagues, and they're not going to be receiving a paycheck during this time. So those bills are going to mount up. 

It's an incredibly stressful time for folks when there's any type of government shutdown. And so that's -- you know, they would -- that's just what's going -- that's the reality, unfortunately.

In terms of the -- I think you said it was a letter or legislation that's been introduced -- again, not legislation that has been passed, so would be -- don't want to get too far ahead of the ball here, but we shouldn't really be in this position. The fiscal year timeline deadline comes around every single year. This is not a surprise to anyone in Congress, that we need a -- we should be passing an on time appropriations bill. 

Of course, we would want our service members to be paid, so of course if that bill does pass, that's, you know, great for our service members, but we really shouldn't be in this position where we're talking about parsing out who gets paid and when, when the reality is -- is we have employees across the federal government that deserve an on time appropriations bill, an on time budget, and deserve Congress to work in their behalf to honor those deadlines.

Janne? And then I'll go to the phones and come back.

Q: Thank you, Sabrina.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: Regarding the unconditional release of Private King, do you believe that North Korea interrogated Private King and then expelled him because his evaluation has been devalued? And what kind of punishment awaits Private King?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, I wouldn't be able to speculate any more on his treatment in the DPRK. Again, he's going through the reintegration program. He will be interviewed with – or meeting with U.S. military officials. I just don't have any more to add.

In terms of any type of punishment, I think that got to what Will was asking earlier. Right now, we're focused on his health, we're focused on, you know, ensuring that he's doing OK. I can't imagine what it was like to spend two months in North Korea without, you know, access or without being able to be around your friends, your loved ones. And so we're making sure we're focused on his health and making sure that he is doing OK in San Antonio.

Q: North Korean Kim Jong-un specified nuclear force policy in the Constitution and announced that he would drastically increase the number of nuclear weapons. What is your stance on North Korea will -- not giving up nuclear development?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, that just adds to the incredibly destabilizing rhetoric that we've seen out of North Korea before. I don't really have a comment on changes to the Constitution, other than that, you know, we've seen North Korea try and do -- we've seen comments like this before, and I think I'll just leave it at that.

I'm going to go to the phones here really quick. Haley with CNN?

Q: Yeah, thanks, Sabrina. I'm wondering if you can talk about what the shutdown -- I know you just spoke a little bit about the impact on families not getting paid. I wondered if you could expand on that a little bit? 

I mean, I know -- I know that we know that service member -- a lot -- a lot of military families experience things like food insecurity already. I mean, does the Pentagon have any plans or putting anything in place to kind of take care of those families if they're going without paychecks or what is that going to look like on y'all's end?

MS. SINGH: Haley, that's a great point and thanks for the question. This is exactly why we shouldn't be in this position. We do have families that -- across our military force that are, you know, either -- it's food insecure or require access to childcare or whatever -- whatever it might be that they require. 

We really shouldn't have been in this position to begin with, when it comes to a government shutdown, because the shutdown is going to impact all of these families. Unfortunately, this is really up to Congress to decide what they are going to do when it comes to funding the government.

We are going to of course work to make sure our folks know that we are here for them, but in terms of actually funding, being able to pay our troops, that's something that Congress really needs to authorize and not something that's on the Department of Defense.

I'll take one more from the phones here. Briana Reilly, Roll Call?

Q: Yeah, thank you so much. A quick question about Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers. Today, he said that he would work to withhold funds for the SPACECOM headquarters following the administration's basing decision. I'm curious, to what extent would a lack of funding be an impediment for the Colorado Springs site, considering that SPACECOM has already nearly reached FOC?

And separately, if you have any update on the timeline for SPACECOM HQ to reach FOC, that'd be great. Thank you.

MS. SINGH: Thanks -- thanks so much for the question. I don't have a time -- I don't have any specifics on when Space Command will reach FOC. I would encourage you to reach out to Space Command for that.

In terms of withholding funding, I mean, look, this is a command that is on the forefront of protecting American interests and our allies all around the world and of course in space. And withholding any type of funds of course would be detrimental to the force but also the command in Colorado Springs.

I haven't seen the full comments yet, so I -- I don't want to go any further than that, but appreciate the question.

Great, I'll come back in the room. Ryo? Yeah.

Q: Yeah, thank you. Two questions.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: First, the -- Taiwan unveiled its first domestically produced submarine today. How much does the Pentagon assess this new capability might complicate China's invasion strategy or blockade strategy moving forward?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, I've seen the reports on that. I would refer you to Taiwan to speak more to that. I don't have any further comment.

Q: Secondly ... 

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: ... the Pentagon had a working level talk with the Chinese on cyber issues last week. Do you think the Chinese are now more open to military-to-military talks? And does the Pentagon focus more on the working level talk rather than Secretary level talk, as the Chinese Defense Minister is missing for months?

MS. SINGH: Well, we always encourage communication at the highest levels with the PRC. We're going to continue to push for that. As you just mentioned, the Secretary has not had a conversation with his counterpart. So we are going to continue to urge for that. 

We believe open lines of communication is the best way to avert any type of crisis. It is -- it's obviously good steps that we've seen with engaging at other levels but we still believe, at the highest levels, there needs to be mil-to-mil communication between our two governments.

OK, Konstantin? Yeah.

Q: Thanks, Sabrina. On the suicide prevention ... 

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: ... so of the 100-plus recommendations that the committee reviewed, it's not enacting, I believe, 16, including pretty much all of the gun control recommendations that the independent panel recommended. And some have intimated that was the heart of their -- you know, the main thrust of their recommendations. I mean, does that -- from the OSD's perspective, does that not sort of blunt the impact of the recommendations that the panel made?

MS. SINGH: And I -- thank you for the question. I just wanted to make sure I was looking at the right document here. Again, there was thorough evaluations. We appreciate the SPRIRC's committee review and the recommendations that they made.

That was something that -- while we didn't take up for this, it's not something that we wouldn't rule out, but it's something, you know, that we -- for this moment, we are focusing on the five lines of effort that we have under -- that will have different actions as a component. 

And just for awareness, the five lines of effort that are in -- that include enabling tasks, are aimed to foster support of environment, improve the delivery of mental healthcare, address stigma and other barriers to care, reverse suicide -- sorry -- revise suicide prevention training, and promote a culture of lethal means safety. So again, it's not something that's off the table but this is what we're focused on right now.

Q: OK. And a quick follow-up. So of the 100-plus recommendations, I believe 61 are subject to the availability of funds, so we're going to do them if we get the money.


Q: Is there any concern that the funds will not be there? Because, I mean, we're -- the recommendations say that they're going to be completed by 2030. So we've got a good amount of time before the last of these comes into play. Any chance the money just doesn't -- the money dries up?

MS. SINGH: Well, I -- I don't have a crystal ball, so I -- I can't predict the future, but look, the issue of suicide I think has received attention and support -- or I should say addressing the issue of suicide amongst our military members has received support on both sides of the aisle and in -- you know, in -- in both chambers of Congress. So we would certainly be hopeful that there would be -- that they would support our efforts and provide adequate funding for what we need to implement some of these recommendations. And again, I think on both sides, you're seeing a want and a need to address these issues that we're -- that we're facing.

Q: Thank you.

MS. SINGH: Yeah. Erin? 

Q: So while the Space Force was in Japan the other day, they stated they have been internally exploring the idea of establishing a communication hotline between U.S. Space Force and China. Has General Saltzman tried to communicate with his counterpart or any Chinese officials since he's been in the Space Force?

MS. SINGH: I would direct you to his office. I just don't have anything for you to read out here. Again, what I emphasized earlier is that we would of course encourage high level conversations and communications lines to be open between us and the PRC, but for more on General Saltzman's conversations, I would direct you to his office.

Q: Has anyone in U.S. Space Force? It's on -- it's been four years that it has been established -- almost four years.

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: Has anyone in Space Force tried to communicate with China?

MS. SINGH: And that's a great question for the Space Force.


Q: ... Voice of America here. I have a follow-up on the Ukrainian pilot training. So has it begun already? How many pilots do you anticipate to have? And how long will it take to -- for them to get -- move to the actual training in Arizona?

MS. SINGH: Sure. So English language training has started for several pilots. I don't have specific numbers for you on that. The English language training will vary, depending on proficiency and skill. So again, don't have an exact timeline of when folks will then move from that training to start pilot training, but yes, English language training has begun.

Q: On Abrams tanks -- so can you confirm their arrival in Ukraine? And how many tanks were in the first tranche? And when to expect the rest of them arrive in the battlefield?

MS. SINGH: So exactly what you said -- this is the first tranche of Abrams tanks that arrived. I believe the Ukrainians issued a statement that they had arrived, so I would refer you to the Ukrainians and what they said, but I -- I'm not disputing that.

Not going to get into more specific numbers or any further details of how many and when they're arriving. That's really up to the Ukrainians to announce when they're ready. And yeah, I'll just leave it at that.

Q: And the last one ... 


Q: ... the Russian Fleet Commander. So there are, like, reports that, yeah, he might have been killed in recent attack. Ukraine said he was dead - Russia denied it. So do you have any confirmation of these reports? What's your assessment?

MS. SINGH: I don't have any confirmation. I cannot confirm the reports at this time. I've seen the reports but can't confirm anything.

Yeah, in the back? And then I'll come back over here.

Q: Thanks, ma’am. Kimberly Underwood from SIGNAL Magazine. I wanted to ask about the suicide prevention campaign that you announced today and the five steps pertaining to one -- the -- one of the steps, the revised suicide prevention training. Does the Secretary have a specific milestone, plan, or timeline that he'd like to see from the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, as far as that revised curriculum?

MS. SINGH: You know, I would direct you to what's online right now. It's pretty extensive. I'm not going to put, like, timelines on anything. I think what we want to see here at the department is progress being made to reduce and ultimately end suicides. But again, I would direct you to for more information.

Q: ... I mean, obviously the -- that office is going to roll out the curriculum but kind of -- will that be brought in to schoolhouses across the department, or how does that kind of curriculum get rolled out, I guess?

MS. SINGH: I'm not going to get ahead of how it's going to get rolled out. I will let the experts do that. When I have more information, I'd be happy to get back with you, but at this time, I just -- we're excited about the recommendations and the rollout today. But I think those are great questions we might be able to answer at a future date.


Q: Thanks, Sabrina. You mentioned at the top the call between Secretary Austin and his Bahraini counterpart following this -- a drone attack on the Saudi/Yemen border area. Has -- you know, apart from a phone call, has the U.S. military taken any action to respond to this attack, even in a deterrent manner or sort of defensive manner, on behalf of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia?

MS. SINGH: No, we have not taken action. Again, we have urged for -- for calm, and of course we are dedicated to promoting peace and stability in the region. That's something that we're continuing to push for. But, you know, again, that's something that -- the Secretary was really calling to convey our deepest condolences, and I'll leave it at that.


Q: Hi. Thanks, Sabrina. So France, a few days ago, announced that they were pulling out 1,500 troops in Niger by the end of the year. Is that impacting any U.S. considerations of also pulling out troops for -- given the security environment in the country?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, right now, we're focused on moving our personnel and our assets, which continues to be ongoing, from Air Base 101 to Air Base 201. So that's our real focus right now. Again, given the constraints of -- of moving that -- and we know the French military of course left -- we're really focused on our own force protection at this moment, but I don't have anything more to add.

I'll take one more question and then we'll -- OK, and I'll come to you and then we'll wrap it up.

Q: Thank you, Sabrina. Regarding to the call between the -- Secretary Austin and his -- the Crown Prince -- Bahraini Crown Prince, regarding to Yemen, what's happened onto -- September 25th -- so how much you have concerns about this kind of actions could impact the long -- the longest period of calm since the war in the Yemen?

MS. SINGH: Well, that's certainly what we're concerned about. Again, this was, you know, a very long period of calm since the War in Yemen began. That's why we are urging that calm and urge stability in the region.

Really, the -- you know, again, the Secretary's call was to express condolences. We hope that we don't see an uptick in violence in any way, which is why he made that call today.

All right, I'll take one last question, then we'll wrap it up. Yeah?

Q: Thank you, Sabrina. So this is in regards to a 60 Minutes report from last week, and it showed that the U.S. funding in Ukraine has gone to things like buying seeds and fertilizer for farmers, paying the salaries and pensions of over 50,000 of, you know, their government employees, and even subsidizing small businesses.

So I -- you know, I think many Americans can understand providing humanitarian aid but a small business loan seems to take a step further than that. So I'm just -- wanted to ask you why are we paying for such things?

MS. SINGH: So that's actually a question for other agencies and departments here. We're -- we, here at the department, focus on military assistance to Ukraine. There are other departments across the agency that focus on -- whether it's USAID, State Department, Energy, that do provide assistance in different ways to Ukraine.

I think you can understand that in a war, your economy gets decimated, businesses get blown up, apartment buildings crumble. So of course there's other ways to provide aid to Ukraine that's not just through military assistance, but on those specific questions, I would direct you to the agencies that fall under their purview.

Q: OK, so DOD -- so no DOD funding goes to humanitarian aid, it's all military?

MS. SINGH: DOD funding -- I mean, you've been in this room, you've seen me announce presidential drawdown authorities, you've seen me announce USAI packages. We outline them as thoroughly as we can, of what is in those packages, that include weapons, systems, different capabilities, armor, winter coats, gloves. I don't know if you consider a winter coat humanitarian assistance but these are all things that are needed on the battlefield, and that's what the department is focused on providing.

Q: Thank you.

MS. SINGH: OK, great. I'm going to wrap it up there. Thanks, everyone.