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

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH:  Okay, so good morning, everyone.  Happy Monday, and hope everyone had a good weekend.

So today, the secretary will visit the Rotunda at Capitol Hill today to honor Colonel Ralph Puckett, Jr.  Colonel Puckett, a veteran of the Korean War and Medal of Honor recipient from actions with the 8th Army Ranger Company on 25 and 26 November, 1950, passed away on April 8th at 97 years old while in his home in Columbus, Georgia.  The secretary will honor Colonel Puckett's life and his long career of service by paying his respects this afternoon.

Colonel Puckett was emblematic of the 1.7 million Americans who bravely served in the Korean War and an inspiration to those who served after him defending peace on the Korean Peninsula for the last 71 years.  Today, the ROK is one of the United States' most stalwart allies thanks to the service and contributions of Colonel Puckett and his fellow servicemen and women.

Looking ahead to just the schedule for this week, the secretary and the chairman will testify tomorrow before the House Armed Services Committee and will provide testimony on the F.Y. 2025 Budget Request.  And then finally, on Wednesday, the secretary departs for Hawaii to preside over the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Change of Command, and will meet with his counterparts from Australia, Japan and the Philippines, and will also engage with service members.  And for more information, please see the press advisory on

And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions.  Do you want to start us off, Tara?

Q:  Sure.

MS. SINGH:  Great.

Q:  Happy Monday.  I wonder —

MS. SINGH:  Happy Monday.

Q:  — can you give us a pier update?  And you know, there are satellite images of the Benavidez that we have obtained that show, like, it looks like the pier is actually somewhat floating outside —

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.

Q:  — by the Benavidez.  So what's going on there?

MS. SINGH:  Yeah, so I think you heard from a senior defense official late last week about some of the ongoing progress that you are seeing with JLOTS.  So you're seeing the Benavidez move closer towards the Gaza coastline setting up that pier.  That's going to be an ongoing effort.  I don't have more on the timeline other than that we're scheduled on track to meet our goal of early May.  But yes, you will start to see that construction, and it is, you know, pretty visible.

Q:  So — but in terms of, like, the pier itself, like, how — what is that going to entail?  What — when will we start to see, maybe, test cargo and things like that?

MS. SINGH:  I don't have a — like, a schedule of events on, you know, more than what you heard late last week.  We're on schedule to meet what we initially set out of being operational within 60 days from the time we announced, which was March 8th.  And so right now, you're seeing the construction of this temporary pier and the — and the — sorry — the floating temporary pier, and then you'll start to see construction of the causeway.  Eventually, that causeway will be, you know, pushed in to the coastline and secured by the IDF.  But again, I just don't have more on that.

Q:  And has there been any other security incidents?

MS. SINGH:  Not to my awareness.  Not to my knowledge.

Q:  Okay.

MS. SINGH:  Wafaa?

Q:  Sabrina, do you have an estimate of the cost of the pier?  According to Reuters, it's $320 million.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah, that about our rough estimate right now, approximately $320 million.  Again, this is a temporary pier, but that's our rough assessment right now.

Q:  When was the last time Secretary Austin spoke to Minister Gallant?  Do you have any update on this?

MS. SINGH:  I'm sorry, I'm forgetting the exact date that he spoke to Minister Gallant.  It was, I believe, sometime last week.  I don't have any updates.  He usually does about a weekly call with Minister Gallant, so I'm sure there'll be one scheduled this week.  But for the latest date, I would just direct you to  I know we have a readout of that call.  I just — I'm sorry.  I just don't remember the exact date on that.

Q:  Okay.  And was there any attack on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria recent — like, since last week?

MS. SINGH:  Not since — not that I'm tracking since last week.  I know that folks are probably tracking — we did see an attack on April 21st, and then 22nd, both Syria and Iraq, respectively.  But since then, I'm not tracking any other attacks on U.S. forces.

Q:  Thank you.

MS. SINGH:  Matt?

Q:  Yeah, Sabrina, just to follow up on that cost, over $320 million —

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.

Q:  Is that just an initial cost that scales after this goes beyond a certain point?  (inaudible) —

MS. SINGH:  That's an initial cost, yes.  That's an initial cost for the temporary pier.  I don't have a specific timeline.  Again, all we — we've been very clear this is temporary.  This is a temporary solution to help get humanitarian aid into Gaza, but we do want to see those land routes continue to open.  We are seeing more trucks being able to flow in, but this is just one other way of getting aid in.  By no means is this going to be a permanent solution.

Q:  Does that include the causeway, too?

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.

Q:  So is —

MS. SINGH:  It's the entire JLOTS, I don't know, production's not the right word, but the entire system.

Q:  Including the sail over?  Is it covering those costs, or is it just —

MS. SINGH:  It's covering everything when it comes to JLOTS.

Q:  Okay.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.


Q:  Thank you.  A couple of follow-ups.

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  The — the pier — how long can it stay there, the pier and the causeway?  It's not indefinite, right?  It's temporary.

MS. SINGH:  Well, we — it is temporary.  I don't have an exact timeline or date on when it's going to leave, but we've said from the beginning it's a temporary pier.

Q:  Okay, so is that, like, a couple months, a couple weeks?

MS. SINGH:  Yeah, I'm just not going to put a timeline on it, as you can appreciate, because that could change.

Q:  All right.  And have any weapons, additional weapons from the PDA that you know have arrived in Ukraine yet?

MS. SINGH:  Well, we always let the Ukrainians speak to the weapons that arrive in, so I don't have anything to announce on weapons arriving, but you saw — what I can tell you is that soon after we announced the PDA, we saw capabilities being able to flow in almost immediately.  But I'd let the Ukrainians speak more to that.  I think President Zelenskyy did, over the weekend, say that they have received some U.S. assistance already, but more specifics on that, I would — I would let the Ukrainians speak to that.

Q:  Okay.

MS. SINGH:  Yes?

Q:  Okay.  So there was Korean delegation visiting Iran right now, and then a Korean (inaudible) government, they attended a (inaudible) Iranian expert to discuss vital trade issue.  But Iranian (inaudible) expected military cooperation about ballistic missile and something else, but Iranian government denied such a claim.  So I want to know your comment regarding the Iran (inaudible) visit by (inaudible), and possibility to talk about military cooperation between two country (sic).

MS. SINGH:  Sorry, which delegation visiting —

Q:  North Korea.

MS. SINGH:  Oh, North Korea visiting Iran?  Well, I mean, we've been certainly clear from the beginning, the deepening of a relationship between these two countries, we're continuing to monitor it.  We find it problematic.  We don't want to see — we want to see a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  We don't want to see tensions continuing to rise.  I don't have anything to say or comment on in terms of the visit to Iran other than that we continue to monitor what's happening in the region.


Q:  (inaudible) that over — or almost a month to study the Israeli findings on the World Food Kitchen strike.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.

Q:  I think they're beginning — or they said they were going to begin (inaudible).  What is your assessment of what was handed to you by the Israelis?  Do you agree with their — I mean, a month's a long time.  You must have some views on it now.

MS. SINGH:  We're actually still doing assessments on that.  I know there were some delays in getting some pretty briefings set up, but I don't have anything more to share on that.

Q:  How much time do you think you'd require to come up with a certain view on their findings (inaudible)?

MS. SINGH:  I mean, I — again, this is something that our teams — this is not just DOD.  You have to remember this is an interagency review that is being presented, the findings from the Israeli government.  I just don't have more to share on that.  When we do — and we have said that — when we do have more to share, we certainly will.

Q:  Okay, and just a follow-up:  What happened with the MQ-99 the Houthis claim to have downed last week?

MS. SINGH:  So it did crash last week.  I don't have — I know — I know that CENTCOM is doing an investigation on it, but I don't have more for you on that.

Q:  So you don't definitively know if the Houthis brought it down (inaudible)?

MS. SINGH:  I would refer you to CENTCOM for more on that.  I can just confirm that it did crash.


Q:  Hi.  Thanks, Sabrina.  In its fact sheet about progress made 180 days into the artificial intelligence executive order, the only mention the White House had with DOD is that it's moving forward on a pilot to use A.I. to address cybersecure — cybersecurity vulnerabilities in military software.  Can we get more information about what that work looks like and whether or not they actually identified vulnerabilities in software through that work?

MS. SINGH:  Yeah, I'd — happy to take that question.

Q:  Thank you.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.


Q:  The Russians apparently claim — have captured a — an M1 tank from the Ukrainians.  They're hauling it to Moscow for Victory Day.  Is the Defense Department concerned that the Russians may learn something about U.S. capabilities from those captured Abrams?

MS. SINGH:  I'm not tracking reports on that, so I can't confirm that.  I would direct you — or I'd refer you to the Ukrainians to speak more to that.  You know, we donated those — or — and we — we gave the Ukrainians those tanks to be used on the battlefield.  We knew that there were — we took into account security considerations when we were giving them but I don't have anything more to share on that report.


Q:  With the USS Ike now in the Eastern Med, Houthi attacks have increased in recent days.  Has the U.S. moved any additional assets into the Red Sea or Gulf of Aden to deter the Houthis?

MS. SINGH:  I would let — I would refer you to CENTCOM to speak more to any movements of assets, but I'm not tracking any additional ships coming in.  The — as you know, we have Operation Prosperity Guardian and other countries that have ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

So what I can say is that we do have, you know, full coverage, even though that — even though the Ike is not there right now.  But, you know, we're certainly relying on other partner nations to engage as the Houthis continue to fire, whether it be one-way attack drones or other ballistic missiles, towards commercial ships, but that's why Operation Prosperity Guardian is so effective, is because we do have those coalition ships in that area.

Q:  And to follow up, is the USS Ike in the Eastern Med specifically to add deterrence to the pier?  Is — is that why it's there?

MS. SINGH:  I'd — I would actually refer you to NAVEUR to speak — I believe they have put out a statement on this on their website, so I'd refer you to there.  And I just don't have it in front of me, so I don't want to miss — misspeak, but I believe it's just part of just standard maintenance and, you know, the Ike, I believe, will be going back soon.


Q:  USAI package — and the Secretary announced the $6 billion the other day, which we're not inked contracts, but when do you anticipate the first inked contracts to actually be announced?  And roughly what types of systems might be announced?

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.  So as you know with USAI, this is a long-term process and a long-term commitment to Ukraine.  So in terms of contracting, I don't have any specific contracts or, you know, timing on anything being announced.  This is something that does take time.

But in terms of what we know the Ukrainians need — and I think the Secretary spoke to this on Friday — air defense, artillery, things like that that can help them sustain for the long haul and also build up their military forces in the future — their future military forces.

Q:  Yeah.  You don't anticipate any contracts in the next month or two actually announced?

MS. SINGH:  These are things that take time, that take a while to negotiate, and so I — you know, I don't have — I'm not putting a timeline on it.  I don't — I think a month is pretty quick, but again, you know, things can move fast.  We know that this is something that the Ukrainians need in their fight, but USAI is a long-term commitment and it does take time to award those contracts.

Q:  Okay, thanks.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.

(Haley ?)?

Q:  Thanks.  Does the Secretary have any plans to talk with or meet with any Chinese delegation while he's in Hawaii for the INDOPACOM ceremony?

MS. SINGH:  I don't have anything to announce right now.  Anything else?  Good?  Okay.


Q:  On the Gaza — back to the Gaza pier —

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  — a few weeks ago, the White House said that they wanted to see concrete steps on deconfliction and steps to — mechanisms that the IDF could take to protect —

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.

Q:  — aid workers.  Are you guys confident this time that those steps are in place and ready to go for the pier?  Are there still details to be worked out on deconfliction?

MS. SINGH:  No, we are — we are confident that we have a good deconfliction process set up.  There is a set — an integrated cell with the IDF and our U.S. military to ensure that there is deconfliction happening and that — you know, that also helps with the coordination of JLOTS and the pier itself.  So we are confident that we are in a good place there.

Q:  And I think one of the concerns that some — some of the aid groups have passed around is that (inaudible) neutrality, concerns of humanitarian work, you know, not working directly with the IDF necessarily because of certain concerns they have about humanitarian neutrality.  Do you guys have assurances from the IDF that they won't turn that port into a permanent base or a long-term base?

MS. SINGH:  Well, it's our equipment and it's our stuff, so it's not going to be permanent.  It — this is temporary.  Again, I don't have anything to speak to on the future of what — like, if there's a commercial company that wanted to come in and set up a humanitarian operation there, but from a U.S. perspective, this is temporary and we will be leaving when the Secretary decides that, you know, we have had enough humanitarian aid in.  And that will be obviously a decision that the President, the Secretary and Secretary of State also make together.

Did I see — yeah, Phil?

Q:  Thank you.  So today, Russian forces apparently re-taking a village — or taking a village in Donetsk — in the Donetsk region, and also they made some gains over the weekend.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.

Q:  I'm just curious about, you know, the Pentagon's view on Ukraine's kind of, you know, unsteady position right now, and any update you can give — you can provide on — on whether — when — when — when the first U.S. arms from this new package will reach the front lines?

MS. SINGH:  So in terms of the — our U.S. aid reaching the front lines, I mean, again, I would let the Ukrainians speak to that.  We're not going to comment on when our aid gets — gets there.  And we have no control over the distribution to the front lines.

What I can say and what we acknowledge is that yes, Russia has been able to make some gains, and in the time that we did not have a supplemental — and that was months and months of not having a supplemental — that certainly did, you know, set the Ukrainians back.

But we do thank Congress for their efforts in passing the supplemental, which allowed us to, you know, almost immediately get out a $1 billion package on the PDA, $6 billion in USAI, which is for a long-term commitment.

And, you know, Ukraine is not out on this fight.  They continue to fight valiantly, and while we have seen some — you know, some gains from the Russians, with our security assistance, with commitments from other partner nations, as you saw coming out of the UDCG, we feel confident that Ukraine will have what it needs on the battlefield.

Did I see — yeah, Tara?  And then Konstantin, did you have something too?  Maybe not, maybe I'm just putting you on the spot.


Q:  No, I got — I have a question.

MS. SINGH:  Okay, sorry.

Q:  Just a follow-up on the integrated cell.

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  Is this new and specific for better coordinating humanitarian aid that the U.S. forces are part — you know, working with the IDF?

MS. SINGH:  Yeah, this is specifically set up for the JLOTS mission.  Yeah.

Q:  And where will it be based?

MS. SINGH:  Our background briefer had more on this, so I believe we have a transcript.  I —

Q:  Okay.

MS. SINGH:  — I'm sorry, I just do not —

Q:  I wasn't on the background call, sorry.

MS. SINGH:  No, that — that's okay.  And I'm sorry, I do not have the exact location off the top of my head, so I — we can get that for you.

Q:  Okay.

MS. SINGH:  Yeah.

Q:  On the Red Sea, has — and Operation Prosperity Guardian, has the Pentagon seen shipping levels return to sort of the levels in the Suez that were there prior to the attacks commencing in October?

MS. SINGH:  No, I don't think so, not — not to my knowledge.  I mean, I don't — we've seen shipping companies make announcements saying that they're re-routing ships on — you know, it — through different paths.  I don't think we've seen it come back to the level since the Houthis began their attacks, which is why we continue to say that the attacks that the Houthis launch at these commercial ships, I mean, they don't just impact global commerce, they're also creating, you know, financial economic problems just within the region.  And we know that because of Rubymar that went down.  That was carrying tons and tons of fertilizer that's created an environmental impact right out — right inside — or right outside, you know, in the Red Sea.

And so, I — to my knowledge I don't believe shipping has returned to its normal capacity that it was.

Q:  And I mean, the inevitable follow-up to that is, is that — is that at all a reflection on the level of success that the operation is having?

MS. SINGH:  I think what you can — the — no, I think there are — I think it's very fair that companies are having their concerns.  For the most part, you see engagements from whether it be our ships or other allied and coalition ships.  We are very successful when it comes to taking down whatever is launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen towards commercial ships or our ships.

But, of course, people and companies have reservations.  We can encourage, you know, companies to continue to transit through the Red Sea.  That's why Operation Prosperity Guardian is there.  But, of course, we acknowledge the risk that that comes with.  And sometimes there are not ships in the region, and you've seen ships be seized, you know, by terrorist organizations.

But you — right now we do have a very robust presence within the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and we will continue to do so.

Q:  Thank you.

MS. SINGH:  Will?

Q:  Just two more on JLOTS.  So, just to confirm that the 320 is the total cost today?

MS. SINGH:  Today, yes.

Q:  Okay.  And how much —

MS. SINGH:  I mean total for at least — that this is our like initial assessment of how much it's going to cost.  Again, if that changes, if the mission extends, that number will fluctuate.

Q:  And then, how much of the JLOT system is reusable?  I think — well, can this all be packed up and put back on the ship basically?  Or is someone going to have to stay there?

MS. SINGH:  Well, it's temporary, so it will be removed eventually, and it will be brought back.  I mean, for more information I would certainly direct you to the Army, I'm sure they have — they can provide much more details that I can on that.

Anything else?  Yes, one more and then —

Q:  Okay, one more on North Korea.

MS. SINGH:  Sure.

Q:  Is there any indications in North Korea, particular launch (inaudible)?

MS. SINGH:  (Inaudible) (mean ?).  I can't predict the future.  I do not have that answer.  And I certainly wouldn't speak to intelligence.  We can always monitor what's happening in the region, but I don't have anything for you on that one.

Anyone else?  All right, happy Monday.  Enjoy this lovely weather that we have.