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Major General Pat Ryder, Pentagon Press Secretary, Holds a Press Briefing

MAJOR GENERAL PAT RYDER:  All right, good afternoon, everyone.  Just have a few things to pass along and we'll get to your questions.

First of all, the department applauds the bipartisan passage in Congress of the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act.  This important legislation not only authorizes a 5.2 percent pay increase for service members and civilian employees of the Pentagon but directly invests in America's national security and military power projection to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

However, we continue to urge Congress to pass our urgent supplemental budget request to help stand by our partners and to invest in our defense industrial base.

Separately, as I previewed earlier this week, Secretary Austin will travel to the Middle East region on December 16th to meet with leaders in Bahrain, Qatar, and Israel. 

In Bahrain, the Secretary will meet with the Crown Prince and Prime Minister to thank him and discuss the important role Bahrain continues to play in enabling regional security, especially for maritime operations.  He will also underscore the combined maritime task force's vital role in protecting critical international waterways in the region.

In Qatar, Secretary Austin will meet with the Emir and the Minister of Defense to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to our bilateral security partnership and to express his gratitude for Qatar's efforts to facilitate the release of hostages from Hamas.

And while in Israel, the Secretary will meet with the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense to underscore U.S. enduring support for Israel's right to defend itself from terrorism, reinforce the importance of taking civilian safety into account during operations, and the critical need to increase delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Of note, Secretary Austin spoke to Minister Gallant last night, and a readout of the call has been posted to the DOD website.

Additionally, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General C.Q. Brown Jr. will join Secretary Austin in Israel for meetings with senior Israeli officials.  This will be General Brown's first trip to the Middle East as Chairman.

Shifting gears, Secretary Austin spoke with Philippine Secretary of National Defense Minister Teodoro yesterday to discuss the coercive and unlawful actions by the People's Republic of China in the South China Sea over the weekend.

He expressed U.S. support for the Philippines in defending its sovereign rights, in accordance with international law, emphasizing that the United States' commitment to the Philippines remains ironclad.  A full readout is available on

And finally, acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Sasha Baker met with the Republic of Kosovo's Minister of Defense here at the Pentagon earlier today to reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-Kosovo defense relationship.

Ms. Baker expressed her appreciation for Kosovo's contributions to regional stability in the Western Balkans and for their enduring support for Ukraine.  A full readout of the engagement will be made available on the DOD website.

And with that, I'll be happy to take your questions.  We'll start with Associated Press, Tara.

Q:  General Ryder, with both Chairman Brown and the Secretary going to Israel next week, just on the heels of the President calling Israel's bombing indiscriminate, do you -- does the Secretary agree with that assessment of this bombing?  And what more can they say to their counterparts to get Israel to take better caution with civilian lives there in Gaza?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Tara.  So as far as the President's comments, I know that the White House addressed this in -- in a press briefing, so I'd refer you to that.  I'm not going to speak for the President. 

And look, Secretary Austin has been in regular communication with his counterpart and continues to do so to not only again reaffirm our support for Israel in their right to defend themselves but also to underscore the importance of protecting civilians as they conduct their operations.

And so we will continue to have those conversations and we will continue to expect that Israel conducts its operations in accordance with the law of armed conflict.

Q:  Just as a follow-up on that, CNN has reported that a number of the munitions that have been provided to Israel have been dumb bombs that have been used instead of precision-guided munitions.  How does that square with the U.S. position to take greater care with civilian lives?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, I can't confirm the information in those reports.  Obviously, when it comes to IDF operations, I'd refer you to them to talk about that, but you know the American way of war, you know the way that we fight and the emphasis that we place on precision, and again, underscoring, since this campaign has begun, the importance of protecting civilians.

Secretary Austin talked about this during his Reagan speech, again, highlighting not only the moral obligation but also the strategic imperative, in terms of ensuring that civilians can be safe, that humanitarian assistance can get in, and that Israel can defend itself from future attack by Hamas.

Let me go to Jennifer.

Q:  General Ryder, I'm a little confused why you can't confirm this is an ODNI intelligence report on half the munitions being dumb bombs being used by the Israelis.  If you can't confirm it, is it not true or you just won't speak about intelligence?

GEN. RYDER:  Jennifer, I am going to have to refer you to the Intelligence Community.  I don't have information on Israeli operations, nor the rate by which they're using munitions and particular types of munitions.

Again, as it relates to this particular report, I just can't confirm whether it's accurate or not.

Q:  And then in terms of the Houthi threat to shipping, there's been another attack on a ship in the Red Sea.  Two former CENTCOM commanders say that there are things that the U.S. military could do to take out some of the missile launchers that are coastal in Yemen.  Why is that not being done at this point?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, as I've mentioned before, we are actively addressing this issue, and right now, the primary mechanism by which we're doing that is working with international allies and partners to further bolster the maritime task force that will address this problem.

I'm not going to speculate or forecast other actions that we might take as it relates to potential strikes against Houthi targets, other than to say again, first of all, we're going to take whatever necessary actions are required to protect our forces, and number two, we're going to continue to take this issue very seriously, cause as I highlighted earlier in the week, it's not just a U.S. problem, this is an international problem and it requires an international solution.

All of this is underscored by the fact that we recognize the tensions in the region right now, and we want to continue to stay very focused on ensuring that this does not broaden into a wider regional conflict.

Q:  But how many partners are there in this maritime task force who are dealing with the Houthi missiles in particular?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks.  I don't have anything to announce right now, but again, in the very near future, we'll have a lot more information to provide.

Let me go ahead and go to Lara and then we'll come back over here.

Q:  Just on one of the taken questions, the answer -- they said that the civilian harm mitigation response team is looking at the international -- the Amnesty International report about Israel using white phosphorous, I believe, and taking that into -- into their advice that they give to senior DOD leaders.  I'm wondering, is that team the one that is responsible for -- who is more broadly looking at this question of whether or not -- whether Israel is sticking to international humanitarian law, or is there another team that's in charge of doing that for DOD?

GEN. RYDER:  I think you're kind of conflating a couple things there, Lara, but really, the civilian harm mitigation response team, as we've talked about before, is standing up a center of excellence that will look at best practices, it will look at the body of knowledge, when it comes to civilian harm mitigation, and it will use lessons learned and also current operations to inform the types of advice and policy that the department will implement when it comes to civilian harm mitigation.

And so as it relates to the Amnesty International report, of course, that's part of the broader body of knowledge that's out there. Certainly again, there's not going to be a formal review but that will be one of many documents culled from the public information space, so to speak, to help inform their understanding of subject matter experts.

Q: So is there a team at DOD dedicated to looking at whether Israel is in line with international law in its operations?

GEN. RYDER:  Again look, I'm not going to speak for Israel and obviously they can talk to their own operations. We're going to continue to work closely with them to underscore the importance of civilian harm mitigation, and beyond that I don't have anything else provide. Fadi?

Q: Yes, thank you, General. I just want you to speak to the Department and the Pentagon, not to Israel or anyone else I guess. All our questions are addressed to the Pentagon, no to Israel. So again, does the Secretary agree with the assessment by the commander-in-chief, the president of the United States that Israel has been using indiscriminate bombing against the population again?

GEN. RYDER:  Well again, Fadi, I'd refer you back to what the White House said in terms of the president's comments. I'm not going to speak to the president's comments. The Secretary believes that Israel has an inherent right to defend themselves. You've heard him say that our support for them is nonnegotiable. They will continue to be one of our closest strongest partners and we will continue to help them defend themselves from future terrorist attacks.

Well, if you're going to let me finish answering, OK. And the other thing again, which he's underscored on multiple occasions is the importance of taking civilian safety into account into operations.

At the end of the day it's an Israeli operation to defend the Israeli homeland. So they are in the best position to talk about operational updates and details associated with those operations. That is not my role on the United States Department of Defense spokesperson not to give an operational update or give tactical details from this podium.

Q:  Yes, we're not -- I'm not asking about that. I -- I asked whether the secretary agrees with the president, the commander-in-chief.

GEN. RYDER:  And I provided -- right, no, I understand and I provided you with my response.

GEN. RYDER:  Again, I'm going to refer you to the White House for any comments by the president. Thank you. Matt. Let me -- let me go on.

Q:  Thanks, Pat. This administration has been critical of Russia for its use of so-called dumb bombs in Ukraine. So is the use of these unguided munitions intrinsically reckless in your view, or that the manner in which Russia has been using them? And without getting it into exactly how Israel is employing them right now, are there ways to use these types of munitions in a precise or otherwise justifiable way?

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, so first of all, I would say that the situation in Ukraine and Israel are obviously two different fights, one in which Russia invaded its sovereign democratically elected neighbor and has employed munitions in ways that are targeting apartment buildings, schools, critical infrastructure, civilian infrastructure in a way that has been indiscriminate.

In Israel you have a country that is fighting to defend itself against an adversary that has publicly said on multiple occasions that they want to see October 7 repeated over and over again and that it -- Israel should be eliminated as a country. Oh by the way, they're conducting those operations in a very dense urban environment with an adversary that has intertwined itself within the civilian population using them as human shields.

When it comes to munitions, you know, obviously every military -- modern military has a variety of tools and munitions at its disposal, and the way that it use those -- there are different ways to use those in a way that can help enhance precision right.

So again, I'm not can get into Israeli operations and talk about their tactics, techniques and procedures other than again, we have underscored the importance of civilian safety and they have told us that they are taking steps to mitigate civilian harm.

And again, the tough challenge that they have here is with an adversary that it's on its doorstep that has threatened to eliminate it. And by the way, again, going back to October 7 attacks, how do they root out that adversary and ensure that those kinds of attacks do not happen in the future when they have essentially shield themselves and the Palestinian people living in Gaza.

Thanks. Tony ?

Q:  On the task for the revised Task Force 153. Is there any thought of putting Marine sailor teams on board select vessels? You remember back in August this was a lot of the big issue when Iran was attacking commercial vessels is putting our US sailors and Marines on vessels task force 153 is protecting, is that an option right now?

GEN. RYDER:  So Tony, that's not something that we're currently doing. I don't have anything to read out today in terms of potential future operations or specific ROEs or tactics that we're looking at, other than to say again, we'll work closely with our international partners and allies to work together to preserve stability and security in those vital waterways.

Q:  On Ukraine spending you've got about 4.6 billion in authority for PDA packages. Is it accurate to say that the Pentagon basically parse that $4.6 billion out in small increments until the 4.6 is exhausted, a series of 100 and $200 million PDAs?

GEN. RYDER:  So, you know, we've talked about the fact that we need the supplemental funding to provide additional support to Ukraine as we go into 2024. We have got about 4.6 billion left -- 4.4 billion left, I think now, with the most recent PDA, in presidential drawdown authority and about 1 billion left in replenishment funds.

And so clearly as we get close to the -- you know the remaining replenishment funds, questions are do we exceed that and certainly we do retain the option to spend the full 4.4 but these are -- these are tough choices because ultimately at the end of the day we start to have to make decisions about our own readiness and about our ability to continue to support Ukraine in the way they need to be supported on the battlefield.

So again, this is why we're urging Congress to pass that supplemental as quickly as possible.

Q:  So, 4.6 billion in small increments until its exhausted.

GEN. RYDER:  That is an option but again, you know, ultimately we will make -- as we have from the very beginning, we will make decisions based on a variety of factors to include Ukraine's urgent battlefield needs as well as her own readiness. Thank you very much. Let me go to Tom and then I'll come back to you Janne. And then I'm going to go to the phone.

Q:  Thank you. Congratulations.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you.

Q:  During his call yesterday with Minister Gallant reiterated the need to protect civilians and you just said something from the podium. Is it the Pentagon's assessment that Israel is in any way shape or form listening to the Secretary visiting the US when it comes to avoiding civilian deaths?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, look I won't speak for the Israelis. I will say that, you know, we have seen them taking steps in terms of notifying civilians about pending operations. We've seen them helping to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza and we've also again seen them talking about taking civilians into account in their operations.

But at the end of the day, again, we understand the tragic nature of any civilian death in Gaza, which is why we are -- will continue to highlight the importance of taking that into account in operations and why we will also highlight the importance of continuing to ensure a steady flow of humanitarian assistance into the Gaza area.

Q:  ... the Pentagon assessment that Israel needs to be doing more?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, I'm not going to go beyond what I ...


GEN. RYDER:  I think, again, look, like I talked about, I mean, they're in a very tough environment.  The challenge before them is do you allow a terrorist group to continue to persist right next door when it's demonstrated that it can conduct what has been the deadliest attack on Israel in its history?  You know, over 1,200 people killed, over 200 hostages taken, many of whom are still being held.

So we understand that they not only have a responsibility, they have a duty to protect their people from this terrorist group.  So, we understand the difficult nature of that fight.  Again, we will continue to expect that they conduct their operations in accordance with the law of armed conflict.


Q:  Thank you, General.  The White House National Security Council office said that sharing of missile warning information between United States and South Korea, Japan will begin soon.  Then, if North Korea launches a missile, do three countries intercept it or?

GEN. RYDER:  I'm sorry, I didn't understand the last part there.

Q:  Yeah.  If  North Korea launches a missile, do U.S. and South Korea, Japan, those countries intercept North Koreans' missile?

GEN. RYDER:  I see.  I don't want to get into hypotheticals, Janne.  As you highlight, you know, we are intending to operationalize our trilateral sharing of missile warning data.  I don't have anything to add beyond what the NSC has already put out. 

I can tell you that -- that we are hard at work on delivering on those agreements.  We are on schedule to deliver by the end of this year.  So as we have updates, we'll make sure to pass it on.

Q:  ... within this year or how soon?

GEN. RYDER:  This year.

Q:  This year.

GEN. RYDER:  2023.  Thank you.

Q:  Thank you.

GEN. RYDER:  Wafa?

Q:  Thank you, General.  According to U.S. officials, it was reported by the New York Times the Biden administration is urging -- is urging Israel to stand down its ground military operations in Gaza.  Is the assessment within the administration or the Pentagon that these ground operations are not achieving the goal?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, it's not really my place to talk about whether or not Israel is achieving its operational objectives.  That's a question better addressed by Israel.  As it -- as you've heard the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan say, the topic of timing of operations is something that he will likely discuss with his counterparts, you know, when he visits Israel, but I'd refer you to NSC for any further discussion on that.

Q:  ... after, like, almost three months of fighting in Gaza, the goal of eliminating Hamas still achievable?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, look, again, it's up to Israel to talk about how -- its progress on its operational goals.  Clearly, Hamas represents an existential threat to the state of Israel.  And so understandably, they are going to do what they need to do to prevent them from doing what they did on October 7th.  And so we understand that, and again, I'd refer you to them.

Q:  One more -- Secretary Austin cannot discuss any timeline of the operations with the Israeli -- with his Israeli counterpart?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, we'll have a readout to provide after those meetings but I don't have anything to share right now.

Let me go to the phone here real quick.  We've got Idrees from Reuters.

Q:  Hey, Pat, two quick questions.  Firstly, do you have an update on the number of TBI cases in Iraq and Syria? 

And secondly, I'm just a bit confused.  So the current framework you're looking at in the Red Sea, how is that different from Task Force 153?  Cause -- cause don't you already have a construct in place?  So what's new that you're looking at?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Idrees.  So no new injuries to report, in terms of Iranian proxy attacks in Iraq and Syria.

As far as Task Force 153, I did talk about this a little bit a week or so ago.  And Task Force 153 provides the framework upon which to build this international maritime task force. 

So, if you think about the Combined Maritime Forces, it is a coalition of 39 nations that can come together to support various regional security and stability requirements around the region, to include safety of transiting the water -- international waterways in the Red Sea.  And so with that as a framework and because this is a coalition of the willing, it's up to individual nations to -- as to which parts of the combined maritime task force mission they will support. 

And so again, we're working through that process right now, in terms of which countries will be participating in Task Force 153, and specifically what capabilities and types of support they will provide.  And again, we'll have more for you -- more information on that in the near future.  Thank you.

Let me go to Jeff Schogol.

Q:  Thank you.  Can the Defense Department provide a breakdown of assets and personnel that will be involved in escorting Santa Claus on December 24th and 25th?  Thank you.

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, thanks, Jeff.  Unfortunately, that's controlled, unclassified information.


But I can assure you that we will ensure that Santa gets wherever he needs to go safely and securely. 

But all joking aside, I know that our teammates at NORAD/NORTHCOM will have much more information to provide on Santa's trip this holiday season.  So -- and I'm sure he'll be on time, on in place for Christmas.  So thank you.

All right, let me come back into the room here.  Carla?

Q:  Major General Ryder, you just told Jennifer -- and you've said this before -- that this department and the Pentagon is very focused on not broadening the wider regional conflict, but is there concern with the Secretary that in an attempt not to broaden the conflict, that he may not be properly deterring Iranian-backed proxies from striking U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria or striking commercial vessels in the Middle East?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, so again, look, we are very focused on those issues.  When we talk about deterrence, in terms of preventing this from broadening into a bigger regional conflict, what we're talking about here is the conflict between Israel and Hamas, right?  We don't want state or non-state actors to exploit that situation, to cause a broader regional conflict where it goes beyond Gaza.  And to this point, we've been able to do that.

Again, that's not to say that the challenges associated with Iranian proxies attacking U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria or Houthi rebels firing missiles at international shipping are not something we shouldn't take serious in -- serious and aren't creating instability in the region, but we will address those problems in the way that we've been doing and we will continue to stay very focused on not only deterring but also protecting our forces.

And so again, on the back -- on the backdrop of making sure that this does not turn into a wider regional war.  Thank you.


Q:  Thank you, General.  Iraqi government arrests some of the perpetrators for the attack of the -- this month that attacked U.S. embassy in Baghdad.  How do you see their effort?  And do you have any concern that the militant group is backed by Iran, that attacked U.S. facilities, great competence of the Iraqi government politically and militarily are effective?

GEN. RYDER:  Yeah, we -- a -- you know, as I've mentioned before, we do appreciate the support of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Security Forces, as it relates to preventing these kinds of attacks from occurring on Iraqi sovereign territory.

And so -- so we -- we're very appreciative of that.  We'll continue to coordinate closely with our Iraqi partners, as it relates to the safety of U.S. forces, which again, oh by the way, are there at the invitation of the government of Iraq.  And so we'll continue to keep those channels of communication open. 

That said, again, we reserve the right to defend our forces, and if they are threatened or attacked, we will take appropriate actions to ensure that those forces remain safe.  Thank you.

Let me go to Missy.

Q:  Pat, just wanted to follow up on -- on Lara's question and a couple other ones about the -- about international and humanitarian law, a question on Israel.  I think just in terms of -- is there any more you can say to help us understand what the Defense Department's role is versus other departments within the Executive Branch?  Is there any sort of legal analysis that's being conducted by OGC or within the Joint Staff or is there -- I know that the State Department is in charge of arms sales but is there any role that the Defense Department has because of information sharing with the Israelis via mil-to-mil channels, in terms of making an assessment of the law of armed conflict compliance?

GEN. RYDER:  Well, look, any time that we provide any type of security assistance to a partner, whether it's Israel or anyone else, there's an expectation that they're going to use those capabilities in accordance with the law of armed conflict.

And so, you know, again, I don't have anything to read out to you, other than to say that we are in close contact with our Israeli partners, we are confident that they are a modern, professional military that is fighting a very challenging adversary, in the form of Hamas, and again, you know, I'm not going to get into individual operations or strikes, other than to say that we will, again, have those conversations and ensure that they understand the importance of using those capabilities in accordance with international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict.  I'll just leave it at that.  Thank you.

Q:  I guess just to follow up, do you -- does the department believe that there's an obligation to conduct those more detailed or specific assessments prior to continuing arms transfers?  Cause that's -- you know, some legal experts will say that yes, that's the case.

GEN. RYDER:  Look, again, we are in almost daily contact with our Israeli partners, and again, you know, we are -- we fully understand and are confident that the Israelis have heard us.  They have said that they intend to continue to conduct operations to take civilians into account.  But right now, again, we understand the fight they're in and we're going to continue to support them.

Let me go to Luis.

Q:  Can I ask you about Jake's -- you've been referring to Jake Sullivan's travel to Israel.  John Kirby at the White House talked about how one of the messy -- one of the discussion points today was about the transitioning towards a lower intensity conflict.

You have Secretary Austin and now General Brown going to Israel in the near future.  Is that also a message that they are going to be bringing to their Israeli counterparts?

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, thanks Luis.  So again, we'll have more to provide after the meetings occur.  But again, as I highlight, you know, Secretary Austin will meet with his counterpart and with the prime minister and will have the opportunity to talk about the situation in the Middle East, the United States and our support to Israel.  And again, emphasize the importance of taking civilians into account.  But beyond that, I'm not going to be go into anything else.

Q:  Anything else on the timing and the fact that the top two of the top leadership of the Defense Department is going to be Israel, meeting with Israeli counterparts in the near future?

GEN. RYDER:  You know, again, this will be General Brown's first visit as the Chairman to the Middle East.  So, the secretary has been very engaged with his counterpart.  You know, he was there in Israel six days after the attack.  And again, wanted the opportunity before the end of the to be able to go and talk face-to-face with his counterpart.  So, thank you.  Let me just go to phone here for a couple more. 

Howard Altman?

Q:  Hey, thanks Pat.  A few things, so bear with me for a second.  First of all, do you anticipate that the -- this maritime taskforce addition will be announced during the visit of the -- of the secretary and chairman?  And do you have a comment about the Iranian Defense Minister's failed threats about that taskforce? 

And then separately, I'm wondering if you could provide any other details about the capabilities that are provided to Israel for its F-35Is, mission data packages and other capabilities?  And whether any of that has to do with harm mitigation, civilian harm mitigation?

Thanks a lot.

GEN. RYDER:  Okay, thanks, Howard.  So, again, I'll have more information in the near future, as it relates to our efforts in the Red Sea.  So again, nothing to announce today.  No comment to provide as it relates to any spokespersons, foreign spokespersons and nothing to provide on the F-35s that the Israelis are flying, again, I’d refer you to them.


Q:  Thank you.  The secretary called the Iraqi prime minister on Friday to discuss the attacks and that obligation for the Iraqis to protect U.S. forces there.  You highlighted you appreciate the support of the Iraqi government, but we're not at nearly 100 attacks.  Does the Pentagon believe the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces are doing enough to protect U.S. forces? 

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, thanks, Chris.  So again, look, we're going to continue to keep the lines of communication open with our Iraqi partners, you know, as it relates to the protection of our forces in Iraq.  And I'll just leave it at that.


Q:  Yes, staying on Iraq, thank you, General.  I'm not sure if you've seen the results of the investigation, but the Iraqi government announced that the recent attacks on the U.S. Embassy as well as the bases that houses the U.S. forces.  So, has the -- shared the very details of that investigation with you?

GEN. RYDER:  I'm not -- I don't have anything on that.  So, I'd have to refer you to Iraq.

Q:  In that investigation, what they announced that -- they said that they arrested some people, apprehended some people that they have connections with Iraqi security forces.  Does that concern you in any way, because you embedded your forces with the Iraqi security forces, in the same bases and the Iraqi security forces are responsible for the security of that bases?

GEN. RYDER:  Sure, I'm not really in a position to discuss an internal Iraqi investigation.  That's really something for them to talk about.  What we're focused on, again, for our forces in Iraq is conducting the Defeat ISIS Mission.  You have a situation in which Iranian-backed proxies are conducting rocket and drone attacks against those forces that are there doing that mission.  So again, we'll continue to take appropriate actions to protect those forces and also deter future attacks.

Now the following question is, well, they don't appear to have been deterred.  Again, I'm not going to talk about potential future actions or telegraph or speculate on what we may or may not do, other than to say we are taking it seriously and we will continue to do what we need to do to protect those forces.

Q:  Question, on the secretary’s visit to the Middle East, will he visit Iraq too or will he -- will he engage with Iraqi officials

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, I don't have anything to announce beyond what I've -- what I've provided.  So, we've got time for just a few more.  Tara?

Q:  I want to ask a follow-up on Missy's question.  Is there any sort of legal requirement on DOD that when it's evaluating whether to carry out and FMS, provide the weapons in an FMS sale, that there has to be some sort of agreement to use those weapons within the law of armed conflict?  Like if previous weapons have been determined to have been used outside of those boundaries, would it prevent a future sale from going through?

GEN. RYDER:  Again, my understanding is that any weapons or capabilities that we provide to any partner or ally is that those capabilities are used in accordance with the law of armed conflict.

Q:  But is that a requirement or just like some -- an expressed desire that the department -- an agreement that it comes up with these countries?

GEN. RYDER:  That's a requirement. All right.  Let me go just to one more.  Yes, sir?

Q:  Got a number of U.S. naval ships in the Middle East right now.  How long do you expect to be able to maintain that show of force, two aircraft carriers, a number of amphids?  And if I could also ask, when are reporters going to be allowed to embark on some of these vessels that are in the region so we can see firsthand what's going on?

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, on your latter question, again, as I've talked about, totally understand the desire and that's something that we continue to take into account, and we'll keep you updated on that front.

As far as U.S. naval presence in the broader EUCOM, CENTCOM region, you know, in addition to the forces that we have deployed there in support of our regional deterrence efforts, as you know, we maintain both fifth fleet and sixth fleet, so we already maintain a fairly robust presence.  And that's just the naval presence, right?  So, in the Central Command area of responsibility you also have Air Forces, obviously, Marine and Army. 

The important thing here is that we have the flexibility to be able to put forces where we need them, when we need them in order to support our operational and strategic objectives.  And so, shortly after Hamas conducted its attack, in support of regional deterrence efforts is when we flowed those forces into theater.

I don't have anything to announce in terms of redeployments and, obviously, I'm not going to talk about potential future deployments, redeployments.  But, you know, at the appropriate time, like any time, certainly we'll keep you updated.  So, okay. Thanks very much, everybody.  Appreciate it.