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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Air Force General Charles Q. Brown Jr., Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hold A News Conference Following Virtual Meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group

STAFF: All right. Well, good morning, and thank you, everyone, for being here today. It's my pleasure to introduce Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General CQ Brown, Jr.

The secretary and the chairman will deliver some opening remarks and then we'll have time to take a few questions. Please note that I will moderate those questions and call on journalists. Due to time constraints, I would ask that those I call upon limit their follow-up questions to give your colleagues a chance to ask their questions.

And with that, I'll turn it over to Secretary Austin. Sir?

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: So my first question for you is who pulled the fire alarm?




Well, I didn't. But thanks for joining us, everybody.

Now, General Brown and I have just come from the 21st meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contract Group. We were joined by a brave team from Ukraine led by Minister of Defense Umerov and General Syrskyi.

As you know, I convened what would become the Ukraine Defense Contact Group for the first time at Ramstein Air Base exactly two years ago today. And some of you were there at that meeting.

And to underscore the historic achievements of the contact group over the past two years, we were joined this morning, virtually, by President Zelenskyy.

Now, at that first Ramstein meeting, Ukraine's defenders had beaten back the far larger Russian army for 62 days. Ukraine has now fought back against the Kremlin's aggression for 793 days. That's more than two and a half times as long as the battle of Verdun during the First World War. And it's also more than two and a half times as long as the Soviet Union's blockade of Berlin during the Cold War.

Ukraine is still in the fight and still showing incredible skill, courage and resilience. And this coalition is still standing strong. Over the past two years, this contact group has shown its unity, its impact and its staying power.

And we've made history and we've changed history. This contact group includes some 50 members of our allies and partners from all around the planet. And we stand united in marshaling military assistance for Ukraine. And we've surged in critical capabilities again and again. And this contact group has made a huge difference.

Contact group members have committed more than $95 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. And I'm very proud of America's leadership and contributions. And I'm glad that President Biden could sign into law additional life-saving assistance for Ukraine, as well as more funding for Israel, Taiwan, and our defense industrial base.

And that will let the United States move out immediately to send Ukraine critical air defense capabilities and artillery, armor, and from our military stocks, as President Biden announced on Wednesday.

I'm also pleased to announce today an additional commitment of $6 billion through our Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. That will allow us to procure new capabilities for Ukraine from U.S. industry. This is the largest security assistance package that we've committed to date. It will include critical Interceptors for Ukraine's Patriot and NASAMS air defense systems; more counter-drone systems and support equipment; significant amounts of artillery ammunition and air-to-ground munitions; and maintenance and sustainment support.

So the announcements this week underscore America's enduring commitment to Ukraine's defense. I'm also proud of all the capabilities that our allies and partners have provided to Ukraine. Our contact group partners have contributed most of the counter-UAS systems provided to Ukraine and most of the 155-millimeter artillery systems, most of the tanks, most of the armored personnel carriers, most of the infantry fighting vehicles and more. And throughout Putin's war of choice, these — these contributions have been crucial and they've saved countless Ukrainian lives.

So two years later, this contact group stands strong. And this coalition stands together. And we will not falter; we will not flinch; and we will not fail. Together we'll continue to work on two tracks, rushing Ukraine the capabilities to meet its urgent battlefield needs and helping Ukraine to build the future force to stave off and deter Russian aggression over the longer term.

On that first track, we pushed especially hard today to rush in more air defense systems and Interceptors. And on the second, this contact group is working with Ukraine to help it move forward — help it move toward a robust, efficient and self-reliant defense industry.

Now, much of this work is taking place in the contact group's new capability coalitions. These coalitions are looking for ways to further strengthen Ukraine's capabilities. And they're identifying where and how to boost Ukraine's capabilities in such areas as air defense, air power, artillery, maritime security, armor, information technology, demining, and UAVs.

I'm grateful to all the countries heading up the eight capability coalitions that are now up and running.

Now, when this contact group first met at Ramstein, I said that Putin never imagined that the world would rally behind Ukraine so swiftly and surely.
And I said that this coalition reflects a galvanized world. It still does. And the nations of goodwill that gather today understand what's at stake for Ukraine, for Europe, for the United States, and for the world.

The outcome in Ukraine will determine the trajectory of our times. If Putin prevails in Ukraine, the security consequences would be grave and global. Europe would face a security threat that it hasn't seen in our lifetimes.

As President Biden has noted, Russia will not stop in Ukraine. If Kremlin gets its way, if Putin's war of imperial aggression succeeds, every tyrant on Earth will take note. So, we've got a rare chance to shape the kind of world that our children and grandchildren live in.

Putin's war is a frontal assault on the very idea of an open world of rules, rights, and responsibilities. And over the long haul, the cost of standing firm would be dwarfed by the price of caving in. As we saw again today, that's clear to this extraordinary contact group and to our galvanized world.

With that, let me turn it over to General Brown.

CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF, GENERAL CHARLES BROWN JR.: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Good afternoon, everyone.

In moments of challenge, history can reflect insights that inform the present. Shortly after the Korean War armistice, George Marshall accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for the Marshall Plan and said, for the moment, the maintenance of peace in the present hazardous world situation does depend in a very large measure on military power together with the with allied cohesion.

Marshall believed that military power was necessary, but not sufficient. He continued, I believe there is, however, a readiness to cooperate, which is one of the great and hopeful factors of the world today. We must stand together strongly. These principles, military strength and international cooperation are more important than ever and serve as a cornerstone of our commitment to uphold the sovereignty of nations such as Ukraine.

The work of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group is firmly rooted in these principles. Once again, I want to thank Secretary Austin for your leadership in steering this international coalition, which has been meeting for two years. Thanks also to Defense Minister Umerov and General Syrskyi who joined us today for their resilient leadership of Ukraine's armed forces and to all nations attending the UDCG today. Their efforts remain invaluable to this coalition's work supporting Ukraine.

Russia's war in Ukraine endangers the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. Remind us that unchecked aggression against one nation threatens the sovereignty of all.

As Marshall said, the role of military power, in this case a strong Ukraine, combined with support from a unified coalition is crucial to responding to unprovoked hostility. Russia's ongoing aggression against Ukraine and Ukraine's fight for sovereignty is a matter of international significance, a direct challenge to global security and that of NATO in the United States.

Ukrainian forces are facing severe challenges. Their operational temple is hindered by — not by lack of will, but by dwindling supplies. Ukraine's soldiers continue fortifying defenses against significant odds. Their army cannot stop a resurgent Russia, Russian force without sustained military support to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russia has aggressively reconstitute its military force using its numerical advantage to wear down Ukraine resolve and resources.

In the U.S. military, we often say hope is not a effective course of action. Yet, Ukraine has been left hoping for urgent replenishments of air defense, artillery, and armor. That is why we all need to operate with a sense of urgency. The recently passed U.S. National Security Supplemental provides a vital lifeline to Ukraine at a critical junction in this conflict.

And two days ago, the United States announced a very significant $1 billion security assistance package that will provide much needed munitions and support to Ukraine. This package includes capabilities, weapon systems, and munitions that will help short Ukrainian defenses and provide critical air defense munitions, protecting Ukrainian forces, critical national infrastructure, and population center, helping to counter Russia's plan of outlasting Ukraine.

Leadership of the UDCG matters. It's absolutely critical. It drives action. Leaders don't stand on the sidelines. To support Ukraine is not just for Ukraine. Our efforts to assist Ukraine sets an example. Should Russia win, the repercussions will be felt well outside Ukraine's borders, risking further escalation.

The fight in Ukraine is not just a distant battle, it's about preventing a wider conflict that could potentially draw others deeper into prolonged armed engagements. What happens in one corner of the world doesn't stay in one corner of the world.

This is what George Marshall knew. Peace and security are achieved through military readiness and collective effort. The efforts of this coalition help uphold an international order that benefits the population of all countries who seek freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. Thank you. I look forward to your questions.

STAFF: Thank you both, gentlemen.

Our first question will go to Associated Press, Lita.

Q: Hi. Good afternoon. Thank you so much.

Mr. Secretary, President Zelenskyy this morning made it clear that his country needs patriot systems, not just a initiatives that go with it. Can you say how much, if any, progress you all made today on that, considering a number of allies have expressed reluctance in sending these systems that they just don't have very many of?

And Mr. Chairman, if I could switch to a different topic for you. On Gaza, a lot of the aid agencies are very concerned about security in and around the port, particularly as things move ahead to distribution of aid. What assurances have you gotten from the Israelis about security at the port, including from their own troops who have had incidents and — when they have killed aid workers? Can you just talk a little bit about that?

SEC. AUSTIN: Well, thanks, Lita.

In terms of Patriots and what will they be able to do going forward, it's left to be seen, but I can tell you that we continue to work on this, and in a very earnest manner. All of the countries that have Patriots certainly value that capability, but I think going forward, we'll be able to hopefully work with a number of countries to put together additional Patriot capability, and you may have noticed that in the last several days, I've been talking one-on-one with some of my European counterparts actually discussing this issue and other issues. But again, we're going to continue to work at this until we have the right kinds of capability.

Now, I would point out that it's not just Patriot that — that, you know, they need. They need other types of systems and interceptors, as well. And so I would caution us all in terms of making Patriot the silver bullet. I would say that it's going to be the integrated air and miner- — missile defense, as we've said so many times before, that really turns the tide. And so there are other capabilities that they need that — that we really pushed hard to get, and we may be able to the Ukrainians a bit faster.

But this work continues on, and you know that Jens Stoltenberg talked to all the ministers of defense on this very same issue a week ago, and in addition to the point-to-point work that I'm doing with my colleagues, you know, we'll continue to emphasize that countries are going to have — or we're going to ask them to accept a little bit more risk so that we can do what's necessary in Ukraine.

GEN. BROWN: I quite appreciate the question, and one of the areas that we've been focused on as we move down the path of bringing our joint logistics over the shore and building a port on the beaches of Gaza there is not only the security of the port itself, the security of our forces, but also the security of the distribution, and also the aid workers. And a couple things that we've done is engaged not only with the — our Israeli counterparts, but also with some of the aid agencies, as well. And so I've engaged with my counterpart, we've talked specifically about the security for the port area, as well as the distribution.

After the unfortunate incident that killed the way their — workers from the World Central Kitchen, I've talked to my Israeli counterpart about the incident itself, the investigation it did and the corrective actions they were putting into place, and that was — been part of the discussion between our — as United States Central Command leadership has been engaging with the various agencies that will help with the distribution to provide them the confidence that we work with — closely with the Israelis to provide for their protection as — and ensure that they have the procedures in place so we don't an incident that — very similar to what occurred previously.

Q: Mr. Secretary, some critics say the U.S. strategy in Ukraine has been to give Ukraine enough assistance not to lose, but not enough to win for fear of provoking Russia because Russia is a nuclear power. Will there be any restrictions on the new weapons that are being sent, the ATACMS and others, where they can be used, where they cannot be used? And what would you say to Republicans who voted against aid to Ukraine who say that you don't have a strategy? What is your strategy?

SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks, Jen. We've said from the very beginning and you heard the president say that our goal is to see a democratic, independent and sovereign Ukraine that has the capability to defend itself and deter aggression going forward. And so you see us working towards that end with not only the capability that we're providing Ukraine in the current battle, but the kinds of things that will build — we're building — helping Ukraine build for the future, going back to the capability coalitions.

So in terms of what Ukraine needs on a day-to-day basis, as you know, I talk to Minister Umerov every week, and we talk about what his requirements are, what's most needed, what's most critical. And when, you know in days gone by, when others were saying — were talking about their — different types of systems, we were focused on providing Ukraine adequate air defense capabilities, and we've seen how important that was over time, and it will continue to be important going forward. And without that focus, without that kind of capability, Ukraine would be in much worse shape because of the capability that the — that — that's resident in the Russian air forces.

So I would caution anyone in saying that, you know — in believing that one type of system is going to be a silver bullet. It's going to be a combination of a number of systems. It's going to de- — be dependent upon whether or not Ukraine can effectively employ these systems and sustain those systems, and whether or not Ukraine can mobilize the — an adequate number of troops to replenish its ranks.

And so we continue to work on all those things simultaneously, and we really want Ukraine to be successful. We've invested a lot. This is really important not just for Ukraine, but for the world, and for all the reasons that you heard me talk about my opener, so —

Q: And General Brown, can Ukraine win?

GEN. BROWN: Well, you know, the key part here is to make sure Ukraine can defend itself, and as the secretary highlighted and I've talked about here recently is that, you know, unchecked aggression leads to more aggression, and so this is why it is so important for us to put Ukraine in a place they can defend itself, and that we don't have this broadened to a much wider conflict. And when I think about how World War II started, or previous world wars, this is why this is so important for — that we have Ukraine Defense Contact Group and all the nations around the world that are focused on ensuring Ukraine's successful.

SEC. AUSTIN: And Ukraine can be successful if it has the right amount of security assistance, so we are all very grateful for Congress passing the supplemental, and again, if you think about what Russia intended to do early on, what its strategic objectives were and the fact that it failed to achieve any strategic objectives, and two years later, 793 days later, Ukraine is still fighting and still holding its ground. That's quite remarkable, and it's holding that ground even in the face of, you know, a question as to whether or not we were going to continue to support them. That — that question is off the table now, and that has reassured the Ukrainians, but also its reassured our allies and partners around the globe, as well.

STAFF: Go to Washington Post, Dan Lamothe.

Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time today. National Security Advisor Sullivan raised a concern this week about there being a catch-up period in terms of getting interceptors and some of this new aid to Ukraine. Can you speak to, I guess, the vulnerabilities, the concerns that we're in in this particularly-sensitive time?

And then Mr. Chairman, there's reporting out this week suggesting that Ukraine has had to pull the Abrams tanks that the United States sent, in part due to concerns about the FPV drone threat. Can you confirm if that's true and put it into, I guess, a larger context of what it means in the battlefield?

SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks for the question. I would say that the commitment that the United States has made is material, it's real, it's substantial. And we're going to do everything we can to get that security assistance to the Ukrainians as quickly as possible.

You heard us talk about — you heard General Ryder mention a couple days ago that we had done some things to pre-position stocks in Europe so that we could cut — buy down the amount of time that it took to get certain types of things into the hands of the Ukrainian. But even with that, this is not instantaneous, it's going to take some time to get things into country and then, most importantly, distributed to the point of need.

But, you know, if you consider the fact that even without that the Ukrainians were able to hold their own for a period of time with this capability, we expect that they'll be able to do a lot better. And the — as I may have indicated earlier, they are doing some additional things to mobilize additional troops, to replenish their ranks, and I think all those things are going to come together to put them in a much better place.

But it will take a little time. As I talk to the Ukrainian leadership, they are confident that they can continue to hold their own, and then — and then as they get a bit stronger, they'll have options available to them.

GEN. BROWN: Dan, I appreciate the question. I will just — I'll defer to the Ukrainians on how they use their Abrams. But I will highlight the use of first-person view drones by both sides and the innovation that has occurred in this conflict with that capability.

And there's something that I think we can all learn from that — you know, how we're able to adapt in conflict, and that the character of war, using various weapons systems, being — through innovation — and this is why, as the Air Force Chief of Staff and as the Chairman, I have been very focused on — about how we bring innovation and how we move much more quickly to ensure we can adapt in — in any type of battlefield environment. And, you know, watching that happen in the battle there in Ukraine.

STAFF: Let's go to Tony, Bloomberg.

Q: I have a couple questions, one on the $6 billion USIA (sic) commitment. Can you flesh that out a little bit? What types of systems are you talking about? And we're talking about years now, not signed contracts going out today. Is that accurate?

And for the Chairman, a reality check on the package that went out the other day — what will it roughly allow in — Ukraine to do? Will it allow them to start a mini offensive, or is it more to be — come — more on parity with the Russians now, in terms of 155s, cluster munitions that you're sending? Does more defense versus offense?

SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks, Tony. In terms of how long it will take to deliver the capability that we're investing in with the USAI funds, it depends — it depends on the type of system. As you know, some of the platforms have a much longer lead time to construct, and as well as some of the munitions. At — so it depends.

You can rest assured that we're going to move as fast as we can to get them the capability as fast as industry can produce, but we will move at the speed of industry. And we're investing in industry as well so that they can expand their capacity. And some of what's in that supplemental allows us to do that.

The types of things that that we're investing in are the same types of things that you heard us talk about earlier. You know, they need air defense interceptors, they need artillery systems and munitions, they need, you know, armored vehicles, they need — they need maintenance and sustainment. So all of those kinds of things are included in that USAI package.

GEN. BROWN: Hey, Tony, you know, what this package allows the — gives the Ukrainians is a bit more flexibility. As you might imagine, not knowing when this supplemental — and very much appreciate that the supplemental was approved — they've had to actually ration, conserve munitions over time.

And so with this package and the follow-on packages because of the supplemental, gives them a bit more flexibility to be able to operate and use that capability effectively against the Russian threat.

STAFF: Yeah, let's go to VOA and then Al-Monitor.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. What made you change your mind on providing long-range ATACMS? Will they be included in the $1 billion package that was announced earlier this week? And since you've talked about this will take time, has any of the aid from the $1 billion package actually reached Ukraine at this point?

And then Mr. Chairman, analysts are cautioning us that it will take a lot of time before we'll see the effects of this current aid on the battlefield. When do you think that Ukrainians may have the opportunity to again have the upper hand?

SEC. AUSTIN: In terms of the provision of ATACMS, as you know, we had provided the Ukrainians ATACMS before. They come in various types with different ranges. And of course, there are mixtures of munitions here going forward.

And I won't get specific, in terms of what we provided and whether or not — and when the Ukrainians will actually put those munitions to use, but the key point is they have the capability. Now, those — that capability alone is not a silver bullet. It's the integration of that capability with the other kinds of things, like Storm Shadow and other things that other countries are providing, that really then gives them a capability to conduct a long-range fires campaign. And so I think that's what's most important.

But in terms of specifics of, you know, how many and where, I'll let the Ukrainians speak to that.

Q: If I may follow, officials had expressed before concerns that Russia — that the Ukraine may try to fire ATACMS at Russia or that there weren't enough in U.S. stockpiles. Did either of those affect your decision to provide the long-range ATACMS?

SEC. AUSTIN: Well, first of all, as you know, my — I always have a concern about the United States having the capability to defend itself and to also support our operational plans. And I can tell you that we — are comfortable that we are in a good place and we will remain in a good place.

You know, over — in two years' time, things change, you know? More munitions are created and that sort of business. So we are in a good place, we'll remain in a good place, and I think the capability that Ukraine will have is a good capability.

So it up to them on how and when to use it, and our hopes are that they'll create some pretty good effects with that and other things.

GEN. BROWN: Well, to your — to your question, you know, I don't — can't necessarily predict the timeline of where — for the future of where the Ukrainians will have an upper hand, but we can shape the future and that's exactly what this supplemental has been able to do, is to help shape the future.

And that's exactly what this supplemental's been able to do, is to help shape the future. And I think — you asked about the — how long will it have an effect, I think there's some near-term effect. Because now the Ukrainians don't necessarily have to ration what they have because they know things are coming out of this package. And there will be follow-on packages because of the supplemental, which gives, again — gives them more flexibility in the options to be able to execute.

But one thing I would highlight to you, even during this time frame, the Russians have, you know, had incremental gains at tremendous cost — tremendous costs in loss of personnel, loss of combat capability. And so I do see the Ukrainians, with this additional support, not only from our supplemental, but as I've engaged with — as a matter of fact, engaged with a number of my counterparts this morning, they highlighted how important our supplemental was to actually help lead.

And as I said in my opening remarks, leaders don't stand on the sidelines. And the fact that we stepped up and provided this supplemental helps to energize. And we saw some of that today as we engaged with the counterparts in the UDCG.

SEC. AUSTIN: And so the Russians have increased their production of artillery munitions and other things. But they're also being propped up by the likes of North Korea and Iran. And they had to go that direction because of the damage — to the chairman's point, the damage that the Ukrainians had inflicted on the land forces there.

So I think, you know, with the capabilities, the resources that will be provided, hopefully Ukraine will have the ability to not only hold its own but regenerate additional capability and then create options for itself going forward.

STAFF: We have time for just a few more. We'll go to Al-Monitor and then CNN.

Q: Thank you, gentlemen. Two questions, one on Iran's April 14th attack against Israel. I'm wondering if you could share some takeaways.

What has the department learned operationally? And what does this attack say about Israel's qualitative military edge in relation to Iran's capabilities?

Secondly, on the Gaza humanitarian pier operation, how confident are you in this integrated security plan with the Israeli military?

And do you have any concerns that close proximity of the IDF to onshore logistics may draw Hamas fire and potentially put aid workers at risk?

SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks. I'll take the first question and give the chairman a chance to swing at the second question, unless, if you don't want to, Chairman, I'll take the second one as well.

But — but he wants to. I can tell.


What have we learned? A lot of things have been learned. I think the Israelis were fairly confident going into this that they had the means and the technology to defend themselves. And I think what we saw, kind of, proved that. And there are in excess of 100 ballistic missiles fired at Israel. Only a couple got through.

What we saw was a significant display of combined cooperation between partners and allies to work together to make that a bit easier, to make it a bit easier for Israel to defend itself. And all of that came together about like we thought it would because of the fact that we train together; we rehearse on various things together with allies and partners. And I think what you saw was a result of that.

Now, what the Iranians learned, I'm not really sure, but what they should learn is that, first of all, their systems don't work as advertised, that they employed a lot of munitions with the — with the intent on creating significant damage in Israel, and none of that worked. So that should give them pause, and they should be — they should be questioning the — the effectiveness of their weapon systems and their planning, and I'm sure that some of that's probably going on right — if it's not — if not, it should be.

So hopefully, they don't walk away from this overconfident that they can do this at will, because I think Israel has demonstrated that it has a significant ability to defend itself.

GEN. BROWN: Mr. Secretary, I appreciate you deferring the second question to me, but —

SEC. AUSTIN: Any time I can help, so —

GEN. BROWN: No, but the — even for the first question, I would just, before I get to the second question, I — I'm very confident and proud of our Joint Force and what they were able to do with our allies and partners to — and to be able to do what they did on that night. And thinking about, one of the fighter squadrons showed up, like, a day prior, and they were right in the middle of the flight, and that says something to our level of training, our level of capability, and then be able to do that as part of a joint team like that in a coalition, and having done — integrated air missile defense, you know, pretty much involved in it as a one-star, and having been the air component commander there, I kind of know what they went through, and again, I couldn't be prouder of them.

On the second question on the — with the Israelis and the — and support for the pier, you know, we are taking our force protection for the pier itself, but also, the distribution area very seriously, and what the Israelis are doing — they're building a basically, a buffer zone or a bubble out around the distribution (inaudible) and the pier to keep the threat away from our forces, and to allow not just from our forces, but also from the distribution of the aid — because you know, as you might imagine, we'll have, you know, contract trucks and the like, and the aid agencies that needed to be protected as well, because if that's not protected, then it interrupts the distribution of aid that's so important to the citizens of Gaza.

(UNKNOWN): (inaudible).


STAFF: Right. Final question will go to CNN.

Q: Thank you. I have one on Ukraine and one on Africa.

So Russia's war machine is in full gear. As Chairman Brown said, it is aggressively reconstituting its military. General Cavoli, European Command, said that Russia has, quote, "grown back to what they were before they invaded in 2022, and they're quickly replenishing their ground forces, as well." So my question is, why has Russia been able to reconstitute so effectively? And are the U.S. and its allies going to be able to keep up and surpass Russia's defense industrial capacity so that Ukraine doesn't fall behind? And then I have a second on Africa for the chairman.

SEC. AUSTIN: Yeah, so great question. You know, I think you may — I touched upon this a bit earlier when I said that Russia has ramped up its production. You know, all of their defense industry really answers directly to the state, so it's a bit — it — it's easier for them to do that a bit quicker. But the reason that they're where they are right now is because they've relied on the likes of North Korea and Iran to prop them up, and without that, they'd be in a much worse position, and with that, even with that, you asked whether or not, you know, we're going to be able to increase production in a way that not on- — not only enables Ukraine, but also allows us to replenish our inventories across the board, and my answer is yes.

We have been focused on expanding the capacity of the industrial base for some time. What's in that supplemental? As I said earlier, there's — there are monies in that supplemental that enable us to do that. And in our industrial base, as I have engaged the leaders of many of the companies, they are digging in and moving out and looking for ways to shorten production times and expand capacity.

Unfortunately, none of that's instantaneous. But when the United States is faced with a challenge, we will rise to meet that challenge. We always have and we always will.

Q: And Chairman Brown, the U.S. is preparing to fully withdraw troops from Niger and special operations forces according to reports will be withdrawn from Chad as well. So, how will these withdrawals affect the U.S.' counterterrorism operations there? And more broadly, is the U.S. losing to China and Russia on the continent?

GEN. BROWN: One of the areas that we — we're focused on is to continue our CT operations and continue our influence and work with many of the African nations that are on the continent. And so, as we are working through and adjusting, this is a conversation I've had with General Langley on how we can still continue to do our counter-terrorism at the same time to — our influence and work with the various nations within the region. And so, it's important that we stay engaged. And that's what we're doing. And as we have to shift as we work with the various countries, as Secretary has told me several times, we've got to have willing partners in certain areas to make sure we are able to be able to execute. And that's something that, you know, AFRICOM is working through as we adjust. And we — we've proven that we can do counterterrorism any place in the world. We have the capability to strike and hold any target at risk anywhere in the world. And again, that's why I'm so proud of our military and our capability.

Do we have to adjust sometimes based on the dynamics? Yes, we do. But that's the capability we have for our force to be able to adjust.

Q: and the broader question of influence, losing it to China and Russia?

GEN. BROWN: Well, I mean, one of the — this is part of the conversation we've had. It's about — it's CT, but at the same time, our influence as we work with the various nations. And I think one of the things that I find is I've engaged not just in Africa, but around the world. How much U.S. leadership is valued and, you know, some of our adversaries can — will do things financially, but do not have that long-term relationship with shared values, shared objectives that we have with many of our partners around the world.

SEC. AUSTIN: It's a big continent and there are many countries on the continent that really do to the Chairman's point, value their relationship with the United States. I was just in Africa in the fall and I was struck by how true that was, or is, that countries really value their relationship with us. And in some cases, countries that we haven't had a strong relationship within the past are stepping forward saying that they'd like to have a better relationship with the United States, so.

STAFF: Secretary Austin, General Brown, thank you very much, gentlemen. Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes our press briefing. Thank you very much for joining us today.

SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks, everybody.