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Pentagon Press Secretary Major General Pat Ryder Holds an Off-Camera, On-the-Record Press Briefing

MAJOR GENERAL PAT RYDER: All right, thanks very much for your patience. So I'm sure you can appreciate we're trying to make sure we get you the latest information.

So what I want to do first is address some of the timeline questions that many of you have, and then I'll provide a status update on the secretary's condition with the caveat that as we get new information later today, tomorrow, we'll continue to keep you updated, and then we'll get to your questions. So just bear with me here. For the sake of accuracy, I'll just briefly read through this. 

On Friday, December 22, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III underwent an elective medical procedure at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. During his procedure and during his hospital stay, he transferred certain operational authorities to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. He was then discharged on Saturday, December 23 and continued to work from home through the holidays.

On the evening of January 1, he began experiencing severe pain and was transported by ambulance to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. He was conscious but in quite a bit of pain. That evening, he underwent tests and evaluation by the doctors.

On the afternoon of January 2, due to the Secretary’s condition and on the basis of medical advice, certain authorities of the Secretary of Defense were transferred to the Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. The Secretary and Deputy Secretary’s staff as well as the Joint Staff were notified that the transfer had occurred through regular email notification procedures.

The Deputy Secretary and National Security Advisor were notified of the Secretary’s hospitalization by the Secretary’s Chief of Staff on January 4. The Secretary of Defense’s Chief of Staff had been out sick with the flu, which caused a delay in these notifications. We are currently reviewing how we can improve these notification procedures, to include White House and congressional notifications.

On the afternoon of January 4, the Deputy Secretary and Secretary of Defense’s Chief of Staff immediately engaged on the drafting of a public statement and congressional outreach. The Deputy Secretary also began to make contingency plans to return to Washington, DC on Friday. However, she was informed that same afternoon that the Secretary was preparing to resume full communications capability and the associated operational responsibilities on Friday. She therefore remained in place to ensure the best communications posture in the interim.

Consistent with 10 USC 132, Deputy Secretary Hicks made some routine operational and management decisions for the Department over this period and was fully authorized and ready to support the President on other military matters, should the need have arisen.
Secretaries of the Military Departments and other Principal Staff Assistants were notified by the Secretary of Defense’s Chief of Staff on the afternoon of Jan. 5.

Secretary Austin resumed his full duties on the evening of Jan. 5.

The Secretary currently remains hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and is recovering well and in good spirits. He is no longer in the Intensive Care Unit but is recovering in a more private area of the hospital. He continues to experience discomfort but his prognosis is good.

Since resuming his duties on Friday evening, the Secretary has received operational updates and has provided necessary guidance. He has full access to required secure communications capabilities and continues to monitor DoD's day-to-day operations worldwide.

He has also been in contact with Deputy Secretary Hicks, Chairman Brown, and his senior staff.

Today, he will receive his Presidential Daily Brief (PDB), as well as operational updates. I expect him to be in contact throughout the day today with the senior leadership of the Department and the White House even as he focuses on his own recovery.

While we do not have a specific date for his release at this time, we will continue to provide updates on the Secretary's status as they become available.

We in the Department, of course, all wish him a speedy recovery.

I want to underscore that Secretary Austin has taken responsibility for the issues with transparency. And the Department will be taking steps to improve our notification procedures.

And I am also personally committed to doing better in keeping you informed. I’ll address up front a question several of you have asked, and that is ‘when was I informed about the Secretary’s hospitalization.

I was informed by the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs (ATSD/PA) on Tuesday afternoon that the Secretary was in the hospital. He didn’t have any additional information to provide. But I recognize that I should have tried to learn more and to press for an earlier public acknowledgement.

So I offer my apologies and my pledge to learn from this experience. I will do everything I can to meet the standard you expect from us. I’m scheduled to meet with the Pentagon Press Association later today to discuss further and look forward to getting their feedback and advice. I also appreciate the feedback received from the Military Reporters & Editors Association and others from the Pentagon Press Corps.

Nothing is more important to the Secretary of Defense and the Department than the trust and confidence of the American public we serve, and we will continue to work hard every day to earn and deserve that trust.

Finally, in separate but pertinent news, Deputy Secretary Hicks departs tomorrow, January 9, for U.S. Space Command headquarters at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado.

The Deputy Secretary will preside over the USSPACECOM change of command at 12:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, January 10, between Gen. James Dickinson and Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting.

The event will be livestreamed on DVIDS and on

And with that, I will take your questions in an orderly fashion.

So we'll start with AP. 

Q: OK. If you knew on Tuesday, that suggests that the chief of staff also knew on Tuesday. The SMA knew on Tuesday. Is that accurate?

GEN. RYDER: So as I understand it, the chief of staff was also notified Tuesday afternoon. The SMA was notified probably sometime on Tuesday, as well. I don't know exactly when.

Q: So whose decision was it to not alert the NSC and not alert higher-ranking, you know, administration officials until Thursday? That's a gap of two days when clearly, his senior staff knew he was in the hospital. Whose decision was it? Were they taking direct input or orders from the secretary about this?

GEN. RYDER: So Lita, again, this is one of the things that we'll be looking at in terms of process improvement. You know, the best I can tell you is that the Secretary's chief of staff was ill with the flu, which affected the notification timelines in terms of when she was able to reach out to the deputy's office and to the National Security Council -- the National Security Advisor. And so again, we're going back now and looking at the processes and procedures, as I mentioned, to include both White House and congressional notifications to ensure that we can improve those processes. You know, the bottom line is we know we can do better, and we will do better in the future.

Q: OK, I know everyone has a lot of questions, so I've just got one quick thing. What was this procedure? And what is his prognosis at this point? Will he be limit -- will he be sort of limited duty for the next couple of months? Is his travel limited? I think we need an assessment of - sort of at least something going forward, what his actual condition is. You know, they routinely give this out - you know, good, whatever - what his actual medical condition is, what happened ... 


Q: ... and what's the prognosis?

GEN. RYDER: So what I will commit to you is to take the question, in terms of the procedure. I just don't have the details to provide. And so I'll take that question.

In terms of his condition, again, as it's been characterized to me, he's recovering well, his prognosis is good. We'll keep you updated, in terms of when he will be released from the hospital. That's the amount of detail I ... 

Q: I mean, normally hospitals give out a patient's condition.

GEN. RYDER: His condition is good, he's recovering well.

Q: Pat?

GEN. RYDER: Let me go to Courtney and then I'll ... 

Q: Who - who accompanied him in the - in the ambulance or who accompanied him to the hospital on Monday evening?

GEN. RYDER: As I understand it, his personal security detail accompanied him, and then the next day, his junior military aide was there to meet with him.

Q: So who - and then who - who - do we know who notified Kelly and the - SMA General Clark on Tuesday? I don't - I'm also confused about the gap. I would think that if a Secretary of Defense was taken in the ambulance to the hospital - and he was taken to Walter Reed initially, right ... 

GEN. RYDER: Correct.

Q: ... not another hospital? So when - I would think that if a Secretary of Defense was taken to the hospital, that the people around him, the PSD and the junior military, I would think he'd have a communications person with him too, right?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have an answer to that.

Q: I would think that they would - there would be some process, that they would have notified someone immediately. I don't know who that would be, the NMCC or something?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I mean, my understanding is - again, I don't have that level of detail. To your point, yes, folks would have been notified, which is how his aide was able to go to the hospital and be with him. And so yes, there was positive contact, in terms of the Secretary's location, at all times.

Now, in terms of senior staff members, to include the chief of staff, as I highlighted, she was notified Tuesday afternoon.

Q: So was she - she - but she and General Clark weren't notified until after he sent some of his authorities to Secretary Hicks, right? That was when it - that seemed to be the - tell me if I'm wrong - that seemed to be the thing that got them notified, was he was ... 


GEN. RYDER: ... I don't know the answer to that question. I know that - and I don't know specifically when the senior military assistant was notified.

Q: And then last thing - so who - when - when Kelly Magsamen was out with the flu, who assumes her responsibilities? There was no one who could have made that phone call on her behalf? And also, was she unconscious or something for those days? Because I feel like a phone call to the national - I don't mean to be flip about it but a phone call to the National Security Advisor that Secretary Austin's in the ICU, I think you can manage the strength to make a call. I don't - I'm not trying to be flip about it, I ... 


... it makes zero sense - that makes zero sense. It doesn't make any sense.

GEN. RYDER: I understand - I understand. As I highlighted - again, I'm offering you the facts as we have them, in terms of an explanation of how this happened and also the fact that we will review our procedures and look at how we can do better in the future. That - that's about the extent of it.


... Missy, and then I'll come back. 

Q: Just a couple things. So do you know who knows what the actual procedure - initial procedure was? Like, I - it seems like the White House is not saying whether the President's been told or Jake Sullivan ... 

GEN. RYDER: ... I can't speak for the President. I - again, I ... 


Q: ... do you know who knows?

GEN. RYDER: I do not.

Q: OK.

GEN. RYDER: I do not.

Q: And then two clarifications. So you said that Austin was conscious when he was taken to Walter Reed initially, but was there any time between that Monday evening, when he was taken, and the time he delegated the authorities, or any time later in the week, where he actually was unconscious?

GEN. RYDER: So I will take the question. I don't have any details on that to provide. So - but I'll take the ... 


Q: ... the last clarification is I'm getting a little confused between what you guys said, that the Secretary doesn't actually need to delegate, you know, this - SecDef authorities to the Deputy, but that he did delegate certain operational authorities. Can you just talk about that a little bit more? 

GEN. RYDER: So I - I think - and again, in - in layman's terms, you know, there's a perception that there has to be some kind of - that - that there's a requirement for some type of, like, signing ceremony or something that has to be signed in order to delegate duties. By statute, the Deputy Secretary can automatically assume duties for the Secretary in order to carry out duties on his behalf if he's not able to do it.

In this particular case, the process that occurs, which is not uncommon, is the transfer of authorities to let the Deputy Secretary know for certain operational - I just want to make sure I phrase it - certain operational authorities that require secure communication, those are officially transferred to her.

And just to give you an example, what I mean by it's not uncommon - for example, when the Secretary visited the USS Ford, for a period of time, he's on a Navy aircraft that doesn't - that has very limited comms. So the Deputy Secretary's military assistant, for example, would receive an email essentially saying authorities have been transferred, period, dot, and then when he gets to the ship, an email that says authorities are resumed by the Secretary. So, I mean, that's the extent.

So the other question is, is it uncommon for the Deputy Secretary to have authorities transferred to her and not know why. It is not uncommon for that reason.

Let me come to Gordon and then I'll come over here.

Q: I just want to reverse engineer this. I just want to be - clarify one thing here, is, like, when you learned of the information on Tuesday from, I guess, Chris Meagher, it must have accompanied - that information must have accompanied "we are not going to be releasing this publicly," I assume?

GEN. RYDER: It was ... 

Q: So who said that?

GEN. RYDER: ... basically, you know, very little - as I mentioned, very little information, just that he was hospitalized. You know, again, essentially stand-by for updates. And the next update that I received was on Friday.

So again, as I highlighted in my top, lesson learned on my part. Certainly does not mean standard. In the future, I will ask those hard questions, I will push back. 

Q: Did anybody say "we're not going to publicly disclose this until we know more about what's happening" or was it just ... 

GEN. RYDER: I think we were waiting to find out more information on what the situation was, because, you know, as we've highlighted publicly, it was an evolving situation, both from a, you know, medical standpoint and we didn't know what we didn't know. So that's kind of how we got there.

Q: Pat?

GEN. RYDER: Phil, and then I'll go to ... 

Q: Has the Secretary offered to resign?

GEN. RYDER: The Secretary has no plans to resign. He continues to stay focused on conducting his duties as the Secretary and executing our mission.

Q: But has he offered his resignation? I know he doesn't plan to resign but ... 


Q: He has not. And then also, you said that the - the - the authorities were transferred because he was not capable of - of executing them. So was he unconscious at any point during his hospital stay? What made - what made him incapable of executing his authorities?

GEN. RYDER: Well, as I highlighted in my statement - let me just go back and make sure that I look at that. So on the condition on the basis of medical advice - and so again, as I understand it, he was in a lot of pain, and so based on the medical advice, they transferred it.

As far as the question about was he unconscious, again, I'll take that question. I just don't have details. As I highlight, when he was admitted to the hospital, he was conscious, right? So ... 

Q: ... that - that - that's a very brief moment in time that you're characterizing, correct? I mean, we don't know whether he was conscious for that night or the next - or through the period through which - through which ... 


GEN. RYDER: Right. And that's why I said, I just don't have any details. I'll take the question.

Q: He must have been on pain medication, right?

GEN. RYDER: One would assume, David, but, again, I don't want to speculate or provide you information if I can't 100 percent confirm it.

Q: So Hicks knew that she had the authority transferred to her on the 2nd? 

GEN. RYDER: Correct.

Q: But she didn't know why.

GEN. RYDER: Correct.

Q: She didn't find out about the ICU until Thursday the 4th, is that right?

GEN. RYDER: She was notified by the Secretary's chief of staff on the 4th of January.

Let me go back to Nick here.

Q: It's another question on the night of the 1st, let me just ask it slightly differently. Between the time that he's transported in the ambulance to the ICU, and on the basis of medical advice, transfers authority to Hicks, was there any gap in the continuity of operations...


Q: ... or continuity of governance?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, it's ...


GEN. RYDER: Right, key question. At no time was there any gap, no time was national security in jeopardy. There was positive control the entire time.

Q: But how can you...

Q: He was capable of performing his duties or he believed (inaudible)...


GEN. RYDER: As I understand it -- as I understand it, that is the case.

Q: But how could you know that without knowing whether he was conscious or on pain medication?

GEN. RYDER: Again, Phil, this is where we get into I can only relay what I know. And as I understand it, from the time he was admitted to the hospital to the time authorities were transferred, he was capable of executing his duties as the secretary of defense. But to answer your question about was there a period in the time he has been in the hospital where he was unconscious, I just don't have an answer to that, and I'd have to come back to you.


Q: Thank you. Who ultimately approved this strike in Baghdad on Thursday? Was it Secretary Austin or Deputy Secretary Hicks?

GEN. RYDER: So the secretary and the president had already pre-approved that strike. When the strike occurred, the secretary was aware that it had occurred. So hopefully that answers...


Q: It is that one-day call Kirby talked about? He said that they had a call in the morning...


GEN. RYDER: I don't know specifically in terms of what they -- so the secretary did participate in a call with the president on New Year's Day. This was, of course, prior to him being admitted to the hospital. I don't have details, nor would I be able to provide details on what was discussed during that meeting.

Q: Kirby said it was Middle East issues, for whatever it's worth?

GEN. RYDER: But I can confirm that the strike had been approved in advance prior to the secretary being...


Q: And on the medical question, typically hospitals say good, serious, critical. If we can get that and any information about whether the secretary was septic or put on a ventilator.

GEN. RYDER: OK. And, again, when it comes to the elected procedure, his condition, you know, again, understand the extreme interest in that, and as we have information available, we will provide that to you. 


Q: Thank you. Was he taken in an ambulance to the hospital, did you say?

GEN. RYDER: He was taken in an ambulance.


GEN. RYDER: From his home.

Q: And then what did -- what is the protocol for something like this? I mean, if -- if he was not unconscious, it would have been notified that he was unconscious and in an ambulance, right? So it's -- logically it seems like -- and correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like there -- someone would have had to give the order to not release this information and not notify. So I'm just wondering if you can walk us through like the process for how this occurs and when the decisions happen to notify this kind of thing.

GEN. RYDER: Well, as I'm sure you can appreciate, I don't want to allow my imagination to fill in the gaps. And I fully understand the question that you're asking and why you're asking it. But at the same time, again, I don't want to stand here and make something up. The facts, as I understand them, are that, you know, he was experiencing severe pain due to complications from this elective procedure. He was transported by a hospital to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Of course he was accompanied by his personal security detail. In terms of the specific notifications, you know, anytime the Secretary travels anywhere there is going to be some type of notification to the staff and then you know but again when it comes to the subsequent notifications to the NSC and to the Deputy Secretary as I highlighted, you know the reason for the delay there.

All that to say again we are going back and looking at all the processes and procedures and reviewing that to look at areas that we can take steps to improve those processes so that this kind of thing doesn't happen again.

But I will also say at no time was there any question you know in terms of somebody knowing where the Secretary was. And you know of course what we're discussing here is when that was publicly disclosed.

Q: But did the Secretary tell or did someone say we’re trying to keep this quiet? Did anyone say we don't want to tell the White House, we don't want to tell the NSC, we don't want to tell the public?

GEN. RYDER: I'm not aware of that being the case. But again you know as I understand it, a very small number of folks knew about it. And then and of course as I laid out to you in terms of the process here and again we will work to be better at those processes and ensure transparency.

Let me go to Liz. And then did you have a question, Dan?

Q: Thanks. So Sasha Baker attended a meeting with Sullivan and Biden during the week. How much was she aware of Secretary Austin's condition at that point?

GEN. RYDER: So I don't have specifics on that. Again certainly as I mentioned my understanding was a pretty small group that was aware of what his condition was and that he was hospitalized. Again we're going to go back and look at those.

Q: When was she notified?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have an answer to that.

Q: Okay. And it's my understanding that Secretary Austin had already planned for being at home that week. Does he work from home often, like is that uncommon or can you just elaborate on that?

GEN. RYDER: You know I don't know that I could necessarily characterize it as often. It's not unusual during the holiday period when he tries to take time off so that his staff has time to take off. So you know given that we had just come back from a trip to the Middle East, my understanding was it was his intent to go on leave and then work from home the first week of January anyway but then he ended up of course being hospitalized.

And last question for the drone strike on Thursday. What -- so that was not delegated to either Sasha Baker or Hicks? (

GEN. RYDER: It didn't need to be in terms of the decision because the Secretary and the President had already authorized and discussed it prior to him being hospitalized. So the CENTCOM Commander had the authority to take the strike when he felt that it was appropriate to do so. Okay.


Q: Thank you. Has the Chief of Staff or anybody else who would have been in a position to notify the President offered to resign?


Q: And there would appear to my eyes and I think a lot of others to be a lack of urgency when you're even leaving the President out of the loop. How does the Pentagon account for that at this point?

GEN. RYDER: Again Dan, as I highlighted we fully recognize there were some shortfalls and that there's some definitely can be some process improvement. And we are working that now. And so we know we can do better and we will.

Q: Okay. Last question. Does the Secretary have any trips on the books planned and have they been moved or canceled?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have anything to announce right now. You know certainly the Secretary maintains a pretty active travel schedule so I'll keep you and the group updated on that front.

Let me go back to the other side, Eric?

Q: Yes. Can you tell us, Pat, that during the Secretary's tenure he mentioned -- has there been any other times where transfer -- they're going to to transfer authority to Deputy for reasons of hospitalization or illness?

GEN. RYDER: So to my knowledge, the only time is when he had this elective procedure done on the 22nd of December. I'm not aware of any other hospitalizations prior to that.

Q: Or otherwise illness that would have incapacitated him even briefly.

GEN. RYDER: Yes. I'm not aware. I have asked that question. I'm not aware that that's the case.

Q: So as a member of the Cabinet, the Pentagon has to provide the White House with the daily schedule of the Secretary, right, so during that period when the White House didn't know that he was being hospitalized, what was put on the schedule that was offered to the White House?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have the answer to that question, Fadi. And what I'm about to say with the caveat of can't verify, not making excuses, so take it for what it's worth but you know we're also in a holiday period where a lot of folks were on leave, a lot of folks were traveling, and so you know even here in the Pentagon it was fairly light, very few people in the building so that in and of itself. You know but I don't have an answer to your question.

Q: Can you talked about the process of improvement because of this situation. The -- today's schedule still has -- the Secretary has nothing on the schedule instead of being hospitalized.

So as part of this process are you committed to give us more on his schedule instead of just saying every day nothing on his schedule?

GEN. RYDER: It's a fair point. I'll take that. And you know in the meantime we will look to provide daily updates on his status in the hospital.

Q: Not only in the hospital, like the daily schedule. I'm sure he's doing something...

GEN. RYDER: know again certainly welcome feedback but the intent on the daily schedule is typically for public events, public-facing events or things that he's going to be engaging in. And oftentimes you know most of the events are not public facing. So but certainly welcome any feedback on how we can improve that product.

Q: So this timeline kind of shifts the blame for this breakdown to Kelly, to the Chief of Staff. We haven't really gotten an answer from Lita’s question or Laura’s question about Kelly was sick, but she knew this. Did she not want to delegate the responsibility to notify to somebody else? Was she too sick to or did Secretary Austin tell her not to?

GEN. RYDER: Yes. So I will say up front, as I highlighted in my topper, that the Secretary has taken responsibility in terms of the overall transparency concerns. And again you know. Look I work every day with Chief Magsamen and you're not going to meet anybody that works harder than her. And she was ill with the flu. And so not standing up here looking to make excuses other than you know the explanation for why there was a delay and the fact that we know we can do better and we're committed to doing better so.

Q: Back to the strikes in Iraq. So you said that the decision to conduct a strike was approved by the President and by Secretary Austin but who was notified after the strike on Thursday?

And on another question, I'm not sure if you can tell us if there was any sort of engagement or communication with the Iraqis after Thursday strikes?

GEN. RYDER: So without going into the specifics of which you know from a diplomatic standpoint, yes, the Iraqis were notified. There's a typical process you know in which CENTCOM will send information out to all the key stakeholders to include DOD, State Department, White House, and others, that strikes in general occur and the details associated with those.

So beyond that I mean it was all conducted in accordance with standard procedure. So that's really all I've got on that.

Q: Just to be clear, I meant here at the Pentagon, who was notified of the strike since...

GEN. RYDER: Well again, the Secretary was made aware that the strike occurred so he was tracking that. If that's really the question that you had.

Yes. Nancy?

Q: I have a couple questions on procedural ones. When was the general counsel notified?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have an answer to that question.

Q: Can we get an answer to that?


Q: You've said that the notification process is informal. Who would be on an email notifying the White House that the Secretary was in the hospital?

GEN. RYDER: Are you talking about the transfer of...

Q: You're saying that Kelly was too sick to send an email? Who would have been among those who should have seen and been copied on such a message?

GEN. RYDER: So this gets into processes and procedures in terms of how those notifications would occur should he go to the hospital, right, and so this is one of the things that we're looking at right now is in terms of how can you make sure that that process occurs in a way that -- I don't want to go over my skis here but essentially takes the human out of the loop, right. Essentially in a way that makes sure that it's a more consistent process.

Q: Right, but if everything is going correctly, who would be notified? If it all goes to plan who would be part of that chain to be informed that the Secretary is unable to perform the duties; when they're notifying the White House, who else would be part of that thread? I don't know how else to put it.

GEN. RYDER: I don't have an answer to that.

Q: Can we get an answer to that?

Is there any -- did the Secretary or Mrs. Austin at any point, tell the security detail or anyone else to not tell the American public about the Secretary's status?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have an answer to that, Nancy. Again as the Secretary highlighted in his statement, he is taking full responsibility for the transparency issues that we were discussing.

Q: And is -- right -- if we can get an answer to that because I'd like to understand in what way he's taken that responsibility. Is it because he asked for information to not be released?

And then because you're one of the few people who knew on Tuesday. So I don't mean to be as pointed as it sounds. Can you help me understand why you were comfortable coming to the podium Thursday, and not getting clarity beforehand about what the status of the Secretary was?

GEN. RYDER: Yes. Again hindsight being 20:20. As I highlighted, I should have pushed harder to get an update and to press for a public acknowledgement sooner. When I was briefing, beyond the information that I highlighted at the top, I did not feel that I was at liberty to disclose that information until we knew more.

And so you know again I'm not...

Q: That was a call you made on your own that that you didn't need to inform the American public of that?

GEN. RYDER: I've highlighted in the top, where it could have done better. And...

Q: Right, I'm just asking who made that determination Thursday that we're not going to inform the American public of this. That this is something that can wait and doesn't need to be clarified before going to the podium?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have -- I have no excuse.

Q: Who made the decision to release the email at 5:03 p.m. on a Friday?

GEN. RYDER: I can tell you that as we developed the statement, we certainly were trying to work as quickly as we could to get the statement out. And you know because things were already going so well, 5:00 o'clock was the time that ultimately we got it coordinated, approved, and ready to go. So it was not lost on me that that's the least ideal time but it was as fast as we could work to get it out, and we felt we'd get -- you know, better to just go ahead and get it out as quickly as we could. And again, just another area of the process for improvement, and to learn from this experience.

Q: Was the secretary among those who signed off on that email?

GEN. RYDER: No. In terms of the statement?

Q: Yes, sir.


Q: So you mentioned that the -- the NSC was informed on Thursday. Was that the first the White House -- anyone at the White House had -- had been informed of this?

GEN. RYDER: To my knowledge.

Q: OK. And then what about Congress? When -- when was the first communication about this to -- to Congress?

GEN. RYDER: Congress was notified Friday afternoon.

Q: OK.

GEN. RYDER: Late Friday afternoon before our statement went out.

Q: All right, thank you.

GEN. RYDER: Natasha?

Q: I just have a few questions about the December 22nd surgery. So he transferred certain authorities to the deputy secretary of defense while he was undergoing a procedure, right? So was she made aware that he was undergoing surgery?


Q: And was the White House made aware that he was undergoing surgery?


Q: Why?

GEN. RYDER: Don't have a answer to that question other than, again, you know, the secretary, as he highlighted in his statement, he has taken full responsibility and has committed to doing better when it comes to transparency.

Q: So for the second time -- this is then the second time that the White House was not notified that the secretary was in the hospital undergoing surgery. Was he at any point incapacitated during that surgery, under anesthesia?

GEN. RYDER: I highlighted that in the top, that during his hospital stay, he underwent an elective medical procedure, and during that stay, he transferred certain operational authorities to the deputy. Does that...

Q: But was he unconscious during that?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, that I don't know, so I'll have to take that question.

Q: Pat, is "surgery" the right word?

GEN. RYDER: Procedure.

Q: You guys keep using "procedure". I want to know if "surgery" is accurate or not.

GEN. RYDER: I've been told "procedure". I've been told "procedure". So...


Q: Can we clarify "surgery", but also, like, on what basis does -- is he allowed or afforded privacy on a medical procedure as a Senate-confirmed (inaudible)? That's not clear to us, I don't think.

GEN. RYDER: Again, you know, trying to balance personal privacy and again, the responsibility as a cabinet official. Again, I think the secretary acknowledged in his statement, you know, the need for more transparency and his commitment to (inaudible).

Q: Maybe you'd provide more (inaudible) transparency right now.

GEN. RYDER: No. Let me -- let me get to questions. Yup.

Q: Thanks, Pat. So if the deputy secretary, as you said, to have the appropriate authority on the second, and this is delegated to her, but if she doesn't know the situation, how could she execute that authority? I mean, if there's a call that comes in for her, how does that get appropriately delegated...

GEN. RYDER: So again, it's not uncommon for authorities to be transferred, so that in and of itself is not unusual, and she is a professional. She's been the deputy secretary for a while. She understands what her responsibilities are and how to execute those. So you know, it would be seamless in terms of any kind of transfer.

Q: Were there any -- did any of Secretary Austin's counterparts attempt to speak to him during this timeframe?

GEN. RYDER: I'm -- I'm not aware of any calls, but you know...

Q: And if -- would -- that would have been delegated to deputy…

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I don't want to get into hypotheticals, but...

Q: Thanks. You said the secretary was not -- did not sign off on the statement that came on Friday. So what happened?

GEN. RYDER: I'm sorry. Are you talking about his statement, or are you talking about the...?

Q: The -- the statement that you released on Friday saying he (inaudible).

Q: The -- the -- the initial one.

GEN. RYDER: The initial announcement, yeah.

Q: Yeah. So what happened before that to cause the statement to come out? Was this after the deputy secretary learned and said, "We need to put something out", or...?

GEN. RYDER: Well, I included that in -- in my topper, right? So on the afternoon of January 4th, the deputy secretary and the secretary of defense's chief of staff immediately engaged on drafting of a public statement and a congressional outreach.

Q: I think even some, you know, those junior servicemember in this -- you know, in the military knows a clear thing that they would have to do if they were in a -- having a medical situation like this. So what kind of example does the secretary think this is setting for this organization to not, I guess, follow through on these processes?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, again, I'd refer you back to his statement on Saturday and what I've highlighted earlier, that we are committed to reviewing processes and procedures, because we know we can do better. We will do better in the future to prevent these kinds of things from happening in the future.

Q: All right, two questions on the secretary, one on the Red Sea. So first, is the -- currently, is the secretary on any pain medication or other medication that would make him not 100 percent clear of mind?

GEN. RYDER: So he is -- has assumed full duties. As I highlighted, he's receiving operational updates, you know, on a daily basis, receiving his intel updates, so he is fully, you know, and obviously, with medical officials there, so he is fully capable of and executing his duties.

Q: And then so you mentioned that it's all -- this was through email. So in this day and age, when there is phone calls, text messages, why are we still relying on email, when that is something that's not necessarily something where you can confirm right away that you've seen an email? Does -- does send and receive...? 

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so the emails -- to clarify, the emails are for the transfer of authorities. It's kind of the standard process, so as I -- you know, using my Ford example, it would be an email that -- that goes out to the Joint Staff, to the White House, to, the DOD staff, military aides, saying -- and the deputy's staff saying authorities have been transferred, authorities have been resumed, right? In terms of the notification here by the secretary's chief of staff to the NSC, that was a phone call. And again, I've acknowledged the fact that we're going back and looking at process and procedure because, we can do better.

Q: Sorry. And on the Red Sea, so the Houthis have said that they are going to respond to the American killing of 10 Houthis. Do you assess (inaudible) shot down a drone? Do we believe that the ship was a -- targeted by this drone? Or have they targeted ships because of that warning, saying that they are planning to respond?

GEN. RYDER: So in talking with NAVCENT as we see drones and as they are approaching our ships, it's not always clear whether they're targeting the ships or whether they're presenting a danger to other vessels. But when it -- as I understand it, when it comes inside that certain threat ring they're not going to leave it to question. They're going to take appropriate action and take it down. So I know that's not satisfying, but that's kind of the procedure. Better safe than sorry.


Q: When Deputy Secretary Hicks was -- received the authority, do we -- you know, (inaudible) was on vacation. Did she have some kind of communications equipment with her that would allow her to maintain contact with the world? Or is she just standing on the beach with her cell phone trying to get three bars, like everybody else?

GEN. RYDER: No, anytime she travels, she's going to have full access to coms. And in this case, she did. She had full access to coms at all times. And just by the course of her duties, is going to be receiving day-to-day operational updates on what's happening worldwide.

Q: You said that efforts to reach out to Congress started at the same time as the public -- drafting a public...

GEN. RYDER: Shortly before the (inaudible).

Q: On Thursday?

GEN. RYDER: No, on Friday.

Q: Oh, on Friday.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, we - Congress was notified late Friday afternoon, before this statement went out.


Q: ... not understanding your topper, that you guys started those efforts the day before?

GEN. RYDER: No, what I said was on - on the afternoon of January 4th, the Deputy Secretary and the Secretary's defense - Secretary of Defense's Chief of Staff immediately engaged in the drafting of a public statement and congressional outreach. That congressional outreach occurred on the 5th, before the statement.

Q: OK. So congressional outreach and the drafting of this statement took a day to complete?

GEN. RYDER: More or less.

Q: OK. And just to circle back to Heather's question - so I understand your answer in the sense that - to whether he's on any medication, I understand your answer in the sense that he is fulfilling these duties, he feels that he's capable, but, I mean, that comes close to answering the question of is - is he on any mentally-altering medication but doesn't directly answer it.

GEN. RYDER: Again, as I understand it - and I'm not a medical professional and I'm providing the detail that I have - again, he has assumed the full duties, he's being monitored by professional medical staff, who of course would be in a position to determine whether or not - you know, this is all done in consultation with the medical staff.

Q: OK.

GEN. RYDER: So, you know, when he resumed his full duties on Friday evening, that was of course in consultation with the medical staff.

Q: OK.

GEN. RYDER: And so, you know, again, I just can't get into the details on - if he's on medication, what kinds of medications. Again, one would assume but I don't want to speculate.

Q: Can you take that question, just so you - you can find out if he is on medication?

GEN. RYDER: I will take the question, yeah.

Let me try to get a few folks that have not had a chance. Idrees, welcome back.

Q: Thank you. Just on - on the Secretary's health, has the legal counsel made any determination on whether the Secretary broke any laws or regulations?

GEN. RYDER: What I would tell you is that - so we are considering the impact of any statutory reporting requirements and will provide updates as appropriate.

Q: Statutory reporting requirements to whom?

GEN. RYDER: What's that?

Q: To whom? When you say "statutory reporting requirements," to whom?

GEN. RYDER: The question was ... 

Q: To the general counsel specifically?

GEN. RYDER: The question - right. The question was has the general counsel looked at whether there was the breaking of any laws. And so my response is ... 

Q: Yeah, I'm sorry, maybe I'm thick, but to Congress? Is that the idea or ... 

GEN. RYDER: Well, Congress makes the laws, right? So ... 

Q: Well, I'm just asking is that the specific - the statute that he's looking at?

GEN. RYDER: I - what statute are you looking at?

Q: Where - is there any specific - any statute.

GEN. RYDER: Again, we're - we'll go ahead and - and ... 

Q: But they are looking at whether he broke the law or not?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, they're considering the impact of any statutory reporting - I'm not - I'm not insinuating or implying anything, other than they're considering the impact of any statutory reporting requirements, and we'll provide updates ... 


Q: ... wrong but the requirements to report to whom are being reviewed? The requirement - requirements ... 


GEN. RYDER: Yeah, right. You know, just in general reporting of statutory reporting requirements, whether it's to Congress, the White House, or anyone else.

Q: And a totally unrelated question, late last week, the Iraqi Prime Minister's office said they were starting the process of removing U.S. troops from Iraq. Have you been notified? And have you started any plans - or do you have any plans to remove U.S. troops?

GEN. RYDER: So to answer your last question first, right now, I'm not aware of any plans. We continue to remain very focused on the Defeat ISIS mission under CJTF-OIR, as we advise and assist the Iraqis. And as you've heard us say many times before, we're there at the invitation of the government of Iraq.

I'm not aware of any notifications by the Iraqi government to the Department of Defense. I would refer you to State Department for any discussions about diplomatic discussions. And so, you know, we are going to continue to stay in close consultation with the Iraqi government when it comes to U.S. force presence, in particular the safety and security of those forces, but I it would be inappropriate for me to talk about any decisions by the government of Iraq or speculate on the future.

The last thing I would say on that is that, again, we're just very focused on the Defeat ISIS mission and - to ensure that they do not resurge.


Q: Two questions. Prior to the December 22nd procedure that Secretary Austin had, when was the time before that that he most recently delegated his power or authority to Deputy Secretary Hicks?

GEN. RYDER: Before the 22 December?

Q: Yeah.

GEN. RYDER: I'm going to make a guess here, so please indulge me. That week, we traveled to the USS Ford. So that was when he got on the Navy plane to fly out to the Ford, where then when he gets to the carrier, you know, he resumes those duties, and then when he gets back on the plane to fly back, he transfers those authorities.

Q: So was this currently the - short of last week, the longest period of time that Deputy Secretary Hicks had the authority to hit - any authorities of his?

GEN. RYDER: I can't confirm that, but it's not uncommon, again, you know, depending on circumstances, depending on travel, depending on access to comm, for him to do that. So I don't know that that would necessarily be the case.

All right, I'll come back over here.

Q: All right, thanks, Pat. So a couple of things on this and then one unrelated.

First, has the Secretary apologized to the President?

GEN. RYDER: I can't get into this - I don't know the specifics of his conversation with the President. I think you saw the - the President's - or the White House - you know, I'll refer you to them - but they did have a good conversation on Saturday.

And again, when it comes to the Secretary's view on all of this, we issued this statement, he issued a statement on Saturday, again taking full responsibility and his commitment to continue to do better.

Q: And can you talk to the current state of communications with Congress? We see a lot of people upset there about learning too little, too late. Who - who is briefing them now? When is that going to happen? What's the - what's the plan for outreach there?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have anything to announce, in terms of specific briefings. Our Legislative Affairs Office is of course always in contact with the Hill. I can tell you that I thought I highlighted this in my topper but now I realize it may have inadvertently fallen out - he spoke to Senator Reed on Saturday.

And so, you know, the Secretary will of course continue to communicate with Congress as appropriate, but we are committed to making sure that, you know, we keep Congress informed, to include looking at our processes and procedures, as it relates to congressional notifications for these types of things.

Q: And then if I can just very quickly, the Wall Street Journal reported on Elon Musk's drug use. Does that violate any terms of contracts that SpaceX has with the government, with the Pentagon?

GEN. RYDER: Let me take that question. I've not been focused on that ... 


Q: ... you - he spoke to Chairman Reed on Saturday. That's the only member of Congress?

GEN. RYDER: To my knowledge. That was Saturday, right, or was it Sunday? The days have all bled ... 

Q: ... it was this weekend, that's all I know.

Q: Was ... 

GEN. RYDER: Let me double check, Nick, because honestly, Saturday and Sunday were all one day.

Q: ... as far as you know, it's only him?

GEN. RYDER: Only him, and it was this weekend and I'm pretty sure it was Saturday, but ... 


Q: ... is that at the Senator's request or did Secretary Austin reach out?

GEN. RYDER: I'll take the question and we'll send it out, in terms of what day they spoke and whether he reached out. Yeah, so let me come back to you.

Q: OK.

Q: Who is ... 

GEN. RYDER: Let me go to ... 


Q: ... review? Within - within DOD, who - what office, who is conducting the review ... 

GEN. RYDER: So, as it relates to the Secretary's front office and those processes and procedures, it would be the Secretary's front office conducting that review. But of course, as I highlighted within our own organization here in public affairs, we, of course, will look at our processes and procedures, and I personally, as I mentioned, will work to do a better job. And when I meet with the PPA later this afternoon, I certainly welcome feedback on what we can do better.

Q: Sir, it was Sunday.

GEN. RYDER: Was it Sunday? Okay. Somebody had to remind me yesterday that it was Sunday. I thought it was still Saturday.

Q: Just a quick one. I'm sorry. I know this may be a question also for the Chief staff, but typically speaking, if he was learned of this on Tuesday, is that typically something he would have shared with the Joint staff, or is that not typical that he would do that?

GEN. RYDER: So, the Joint staff, I think I highlighted, the Joint staff was notified on Tuesday.

Q: I thought Brown was notified on Tuesday.

GEN. RYDER: Brown was notified.

Q: That (chiefs ?) were told by the secretaries after they were notified on Friday.

GEN. RYDER: So, I don't want to speak for the Joint staff in terms of notification procedures because it's all situational, depending on what the information is and how it is. So, I just wouldn't want to speculate. Again, I think we can all agree, in terms of the notification processes here, we need a new normal. So, we're going to go back and look at how this works to make sure that we're taking into account the situation, learning from it and doing better next time.

Q: So, just to be clear, though, some of the Chiefs may have known on Tuesday, they may not have known till Friday. We're just not sure?

GEN. RYDER: All I know to be factually correct is that, as I highlighted at the top, the military services and the undersecretaries were notified on Friday, and then by the Secretary of Defense's Chief of staff, and then the service secretaries and their offices then subsequently notified the service chiefs, i.e. the Joint Chiefs. Right? Because the OSD, being the civilian leadership, notifies the departmental civilian leadership, which then notifies the military leadership. So, it would not be -- so, it's not unusual for OSD to notify the service secretaries and then the military leadership is notified. We would not go directly to the military leadership, if that makes sense.

Q: But Brown knew on -- this is what I'm asking. Brown knew on Tuesday. Theoretically, could we just -- you don't just know if he told the other Chiefs or did the Chiefs not know until their secretaries told them?

GEN. RYDER: My understanding is they were notified on Friday. But again, in terms of process and procedure, to be frank, I don't know that it's necessarily General Brown's responsibility to notify the service departments. He's an advisor to the secretary and the President. And so, but again, I don't want to speculate about process and procedure other than to say, again, across the board, we'll be looking at the whole.

Q: Just to be clear, the Chiefs and the service secretaries wouldn't be notified that Hicks had taken similar responsibilities. That's not standard?

GEN. RYDER: That would not -- because again, it's not uncommon. For example, they wouldn't be notified when the secretary transferred. So, the secretary gets on a plane to go out to the Ford and they would be notified.

Q: Right. I get all that, but it's not common -- in that case, they don't have to notify the heads of the department, the Chiefs running things?

GEN. RYDER: They're not part of the operational chain of command.

Q: Okay. And then also, I'm still kind of confused on this whole statutory reporting requirements. Is there a DODI that lays out what happens when the Secretary is incapacitated or something happens? What the report -- I mean, there's a DODI for how to get water out of the water fountain. There's got to be something that exists for when the SecDef is hospitalized or something, for the reporting requirements. Where is that? Is it public?

GEN. RYDER: So, I'll take that question, but again-

Q: It's been a week, Pat. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but it's been a week, how do you not know?

GEN. RYDER: So, I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. And that's why I said in terms of statutory notification requirements, we are-

Q: How is no one looking at this? I mean, for a week.

GEN. RYDER: We are looking. Again, we're looking at the processes and the procedures associated with this.

Q: I get it. But Pat, you've been a public affairs officer for 30 years. You know the questions we're going to ask you. Prep the SecDef up on them. The fact that some of these things that are not available, I'm not trying to beat you up, but I'm being very candid here with you about, I think, the severe disappointment that you are seeing in our faces right now. The second thing I want to ask you is, I forgot it already. But I'm glad to thank -- I wanted to ask you...

GEN. RYDER: It's a fair point, Courtney. The only other thing I'd say, again, and this is not an excuse, the statement went out Friday at 5 o'clock as was highlighted. It's Monday, so.

Q: I know, but you had all last week. Also, I remember my other thing. I don't understand how there are senior leaders in this building, yourself included, who are told Secretary Austin is hospitalized on Tuesday. Where is the simple intellectual curiosity to ask about his status? I mean, on Thursday, I have bosses and if they go in the hospital, I'm going to ask, hey, are they okay? Like, why aren't people asking how he's doing all week long? And so, I guess that leads to the next question is, were people not being candid about his situation and his health?

GEN. RYDER: Again, I have responded to this question as best I can. I'm not going to make excuses other than I can do better. And again-

Q: But it's not just you.

GEN. RYDER: I'm happy to sit down with you one on one and talk about my personal circumstances in terms of all the things that were going on. But again, I don't want to make excuses.

Q: But it's not just you. I'm just asking about people in this building. I mean, why weren't people asking how the SecDef was doing? He's in the hospital all week. I mean, he's a 70-year-old guy.

GEN. RYDER: Again, as I understand, a very small group of folks. I can take a few more.

Q: Hi, can I just get clarity on this investigation -- whatever. Whatever you're calling. Review or whatever. Is that the same one that Kirby referred to earlier, to other separate things? I'm unclear on this.

GEN. RYDER: I can't speak for the White House. I saw what he said. I don't know if that's something that the White House will do on its own. I don't know.

Q: Okay. So, you're not sure if that's -- if you're talking about one review or if there's multiple?

GEN. RYDER: Right. I'm talking about what we're doing here.

Q: Here. You don't know if what he referred to was something separate?

GEN. RYDER: Correct.

Q: Okay. Is the fact that the President's senior military advisor can spend a few days in the hospital. The White House doesn't know. Most of this building doesn't know. The American people doesn't know. Is that a concern? That he's really out of the loop with everything? That he could just disappear for two days and the world keeps turning and the machine keeps moving?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. So, Mike, I don't want to get into commentary or editorializing, other than to say, fully appreciating the less than optimal notification timelines and the transparency issues which we've discussed. You have a Secretary of Defense who works incredibly hard every single day to make sure this nation is safe. He had a complication due to a surgery. Went into the hospital to get it taken care of. 

And he remains very, very focused on making sure that the department has what it needs and what it needs to do to defend the country. Again, not making excuses here, but having worked with him for a very long time and having observed him up close, he's not out of the loop. He is incredibly engaged. You will never meet a more dedicated public servant. 

Q: I never met him.


Q: He's never said hello to me, so. He used the -- he used the surgery ward to get...

GEN. RYDER: I'm sorry. Procedure.

Q: So, we really need something.

GEN. RYDER: Got you.

Q: He used a small -- did you say when he would (inaudible)?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have a specific date. He's out now.

Q: Just that he's out now. Okay. Out of as (witness ?), as far as you know?

GEN. RYDER: Idrees.

Q: Do you know if he can walk on his own strength, or is he in a -- does he require a wheelchair right now?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have an answer to that.

Q: When he was in the ICU, was a SCIF created around him when he was receiving briefings?

GEN. RYDER: He has access to a SCIF at the hospital.

Q: In the ICU as well?

GEN. RYDER: In the hospital. He had access -- he's had access since he's resumed his full duties, he's had access.

Q: Can you tell us when he, as far as the most recent date you knew that he was out of ICU?

GEN. RYDER: As far as I know, the first I've heard about it was today, but I don't know specifically when he transferred out of ICU. Again, as I understand it, part of his being in the ICU was due to space and privacy considerations. But again, I don't have specifics in terms of-

Q: Can you take that, Pat?

Q: I can take that.

Q: And is the Secretary planning to address any of this directly with us since he says that he takes responsibility for it? Does he plan to do so publicly and in the briefing room, which he hasn't seen in a while? Two years is long.

GEN. RYDER: I don't have any specific dates or times to announce, Nancy, but certainly, when the Secretary comes back to work, I envision there will be press engagement opportunities in the future, so.

Q: But to answer questions about this specifically?

GEN. RYDER: I'm sure he'll be ready to answer questions about whatever the press and the public want to talk about.

Q: How does this review -- is this going to be a formal thing? Is this going to be something the American people could read to find out what happened? What is the view exactly?

GEN. RYDER: We'll keep you updated, certainly. Right now, it's, as I understand, an internal review looking at our processes and procedures.

Q: So, there's no one leading it, or is it just?

GEN. RYDER: The Secretary -- the Secretary's front office will lead it, so.

Q: Isn't that kind of checking your own homework?

GEN. RYDER: No one has more interest in making sure that we can learn from this and ensure that we're doing what we need to do than the folks that are carrying out those responsibilities.

Q: Why not refer to IG for the sake of transparency after the last 

GEN. RYDER: Again, I don't want to speculate or get into any additional reviews. Again, right now, there's an immediate task at hand, and we're focused on that.

Q: I'm just a little confused about why it took a day to put out a statement. If the Deputy Secretary Hicks and the Chief of Staff began drafting the statement on the 4th, and this is the public statement and also the congressional outreach, why did it take until the 5th in order for it to come out?

GEN. RYDER: To ensure we had the facts to make sure it was coordinated. And again, I've explained why it came out when it came out.

Q: And at 5 p.m. I mean. Well, and I'm not trying to -- I appreciate that you've walked us through that. What we got on Friday, and I understand it was what you had at that time was very brief. I'm just wondering why it took 24 hours for that to come out? Did it have to be approved by legal, or did it?

GEN. RYDER: It typically gets coordinated. Anything we're putting out is getting coordinating with several staff agencies to include the legal office. Anybody else?

Q: Question. When he got -- when he was first taken to the hospital, the ambulance, did it come from Walter Reed, or was this a 911 call that the ambulance shows up? Do you have any details on that?

GEN. RYDER: I don't have an answer.

Q: And given that, whether this was intentional or simply accidental, that this procedure was kept secret for so long, information hasn't been released. Is there any concern that this now becomes a national security issue, and now it's something that's of interest to U.S. adversaries, that they are going to, just like the American public is interested, U.S. adversaries are going to be curious about what's going on and try to pry people along the path who may have seen this Sect-F to try to find out what's going on, perhaps hold it over his head in some way?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I mean, I don't want to speak for America's adversaries. I can only speak for the Department of Defense. And again, the Secretary has taken responsibility for the transparency issues, and we're committed to working through the processes and procedures as it relates to notification, to include congressional White House notifications, so that we can do better next time.

Q: So, the Pentagon is not concerned about foreign adversaries?

GEN. RYDER: Come on. Don't, Jeff, don't put words in my mouth. Anyone else? Yes, sir.

Q: I have a different topic about North Korea. So, North Korea-

GEN. RYDER: Are you sure?

Q: Briefly, sir. The firing for three days in a row, and then South Korea fire. The tension is rising. So, what do you think about this situation? Any comment on what is going?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, certainly, any type of destabilizing action by North Korea is concerning. We're going to continue to stay in close consultation with our Republic of Korea allies, as well as our other allies in the regions include Japan, to make sure that we're sharing information, have a full understanding of the situation, but again, to work to ensure that there is no escalation. And again, we would just call on North Korea to cease any destabilizing activity, and to come to the table to have diplomatic talks.

Q: Yeah, thanks. I understand you don't want to editorialize about Secretary Austin's influence, but just on a factual level, how frequently does Secretary Austin and the President and Secretary Austin and national security advisor speak? And why wasn't it noticed that he was not in contact?

GEN. RYDER: Again, I can't speak for the White House in terms of what they noticed, why and when. And I don't have numbers, Pete, to provide, but clearly the Secretary engages with the national security advisor and the President on a regular basis. Again, not making excuses here, but we're in a holiday period, where it's not unusual for a lot of folks to take time off and- they.

Q: Because of course they spoke on New Year's Day.

GEN. RYDER: Correct. So, again, they speak on a regular basis.

Q: Can you share that document with us?

GEN. RYDER: Yes. Yeah, in fact, there'll be a transcript of this whole thing posted online.

Q: I mean, yeah, before the transcript.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, no problem.

Q: Thanks.

GEN. RYDER: To include Courtney's comments about her boss as well. Any other questions?

Q: Do you plan on going to the hospital to meet him?

GEN. RYDER: Do I plan to go to hospital? Not at this time. But if you have a ride. Any other questions?

Q: Have you spoken to him directly?

GEN. RYDER: I have not spoken to him directly.

Q: Did the President tell him he still wants him in this position?

GEN. RYDER: Again, I can't speak for what the President said or not. You know, I did see that Mr. Kirby conducted a gaggle today. Where he said something to the effect, that the President still has full trust and confidence in the Secretary. So, I'd refer you to those remarks. Anyone else?

Q: Did you happen to share with your staff on Tuesday he's been hospitalized?

GEN. RYDER: I did not.

Q: As far as the -- you said you were notified on Tuesday and didn't tell us Thursday because we just didn't have the information. Was it a matter of you were emailing and calling people within his office and they just weren't getting back to you? Or was it you just weren't thinking they were going to respond?

GEN. RYDER: No. After I was provided with the information and essentially told we'll give you any updates when we have any. And I didn't get any updates. And again, I didn't feel at liberty at that stage to disclose that information. And as I highlighted, in retrospect, should have asked those harder questions. And I should have pushed for a earlier public acknowledgement. 

I can tell you personally and professionally, again, I've been doing public affairs for a very long time, and so I know what right looks like. And even though you do this for a while, you can continue to learn. And so, I will do better next time. That's my pledge to you all. As I highlighted, we absolutely want the trust of the American public. We want the trust of the media, want the trust of Congress. And we will learn from this experience. We'll continue to work hard, to do better next time. So, any other questions? Am I done, Nancy?

Q: Yes. I mean, any other questions that were (inaudible), but. You know, there's more (inaudible).

GEN. RYDER: All right. Thanks very much, everybody.