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Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh Holds a Press Briefing

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH: Hello. Nice to see you. Hello. All right. Hello, everyone. Hi. All right. We will go ahead and get started. Okay. So just a few things here at the top, but probably first before we start out, Happy Mother's Day. Happy belated Mother's Day to all those who celebrate. Hope you had a good weekend. All right, so just a few things —

Q: We spent a lot of money.

MS. SINGH: Sorry?

Q: We spent a lot of money, but that's —

MS. SINGH: Great. Well, that's what Mother's Day is for. You got to shower the moms with all the gifts. That's great. Don't tell my mom because the flowers didn't arrive in time for her, so.

Q: Is this going to be on the transcript?

MS. SINGH: Let's hope it's all in the record. Yeah. All right, so we'll start to dive in. So on Friday, as you probably saw, we announced an additional security assistance package to meet Ukraine's critical security and defense needs through our 57th tranche of equipment that was drawn down since August 2021. This PDA has an estimated value of $400 million and includes capabilities to support Ukraine's most urgent battlefield requirements, including air defense, artillery rounds, armored vehicles, and antitank weapons.

Additionally, as we speak, Secretary Austin is hosting his Canadian counterpart, Minister of National Defense, Bill Blair, for bilateral meetings here at the Pentagon. And we will have a readout of their meeting later today, which will be available on

And with that, happy to start taking questions. AP, you want to start us off? Tara?

Q: I wanted to ask again about Senior Airman Roger Fortson, the unit in Florida is having a stand down today. But is there any sort of wider conversation going on about this shooting and the fact that the deputy went through the door and seconds later took six shots at this Airman.

MS. SINGH: I mean, it's an incredibly tragic incident. And you know, we've expressed our condolences to his family and his friends and the unit from the department. We certainly welcome the investigation that's happening, that I believe was launched by or that the Sheriff's Department initiated. So because of — because that is an ongoing investigation, I just don't have more to share. But of course, our condolences are with the family.

Q: But what about a conversation in the building about race? I mean, are we getting back to where the building was in 2020 after George Floyd? Because if you look at some of these military boards, there's certainly a lot of angst about this.

MS. SINGH: Yeah. I mean, it's an incredibly disturbing horrible tragedy that happened. And you know, I don't have more to share because obviously this is an ongoing investigation. There's certainly support systems here within the building or at other units across the country around the world where if service members are, you know, experiencing or want to talk through some of the, you know, emotions that go along with a shooting like this. Though we have resources available for them, but I'm not aware of any type of changing, or change, or any new policy announcements to make from this building.

Great. Okay. Lara.

Q: Thanks, Sabrina. A couple questions. First of all, can you give us an update on the JLOTS, please?

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: Is that in place yet? And when do you believe it will be operational?

MS. SINGH: So the JLOTS you're referring to is still at the Port of Ashdod and remains there as we've, I think, most recently briefed to kind of - repeating information that you already know. But the floating pier has been fully assembled, the causeway is fully assembled. It's just awaiting to be affixed to the coastline of Gaza. Expecting that will be sometime this week.

Q: (inaudible).


Q: Okay, so sea states are still bad.

MS. SINGH: Sea states were still bad, I believe, throughout the week. Of course, we're obviously assessing the security conditions on the ground as well. But the main concern for — or the main delay for not being able to move the JLOTS into position has been environmental factors.

Q: Okay. And then second question, I was wondering if you could provide any reaction from DOD on the news we had — we got over the weekend about the shakeup at the Russian Ministry of Defense.

MS. SINGH: I would let the Russians speak for their own personnel changes. But I think from given where the war has started that Russia launched, you know, over two years ago, they've certainly not had successes on the battlefield and had some pretty big defeats. So I'll let the Russians speak to their own personnel changes.


Q: I was going to ask about the Russian shakeup as well, but just following up on the JLOTS.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: You know, so did the transloading at the Benavidez actually happen?

MS. SINGH: Yes. Some aid has been transloaded onto the Benavidez and is in progress.

Q: Okay. And that's all happening at the port?

MS. SINGH: At the port of Ashdod, yeah.

Q: And then on the — as far as when it actually, when the sea states allow for the system to be installed, you know, have you resolved all the other issues? Have you got contracts for people on the beach to move the aid? Have you gotten, you know, all the things that you would need, the kind of constellation of requirements? Are those all settled or is that still TBD?

MS. SINGH: To my knowledge, everything is ready to go. It is just a matter of positioning this pier and causeway into Gaza so that we can start flowing aid off of the pier. But yes, in terms of contracted drivers, that has been settled. So that is in place. We have a distribution partner that's already ready to start distributing that aid once it's on the ground and, you know, ready to roll off the pier. So yes, we are ready to start the execution of this mission as soon as we can move it into place.

Q: Can you state who the contractor is and who the partner is?

MS. SINGH: I can just tell you it's a third-party contractor, but that's it. Yes.

Q: We understand that there are 300,000 people that already moved from the south to northward in Gaza. Is it part of a plan that the Israelis told us about and if it's a plan that you are aware of and you agree with? Another question is about Ukraine. I really appreciate if you can give us a little bit of details about what we know about the situation on the ground.

MS. SINGH: So, in terms of what you're referring to as Rafah, I think Secretary Blinken spoke to this very well yesterday, is that the U.S. government does not support a large-scale operation within Rafah. We have not seen a credible plan from the Israeli government that would take into account the very dense civilian population within Rafah. 
We continue to have conversations with the Israelis. I think over the weekend there was a conversation at the White House level from the National Security Council. So, engagement with the Israelis is ongoing but we do not support a large-scale ground operation within Rafah.

In terms of your second question on Ukraine.

Q: There are a lot of stories about the Russians launching a new attack, and especially Kharkiv.

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: And there were like small details of stories, but I don't know which one is true, which one is not.

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: What I'm trying to say is, can you give us just an assessment about the situation on the ground?

MS. SINGH: So I think the latest assessment that I — that we've seen throughout the weekend is that Russia has launched an offensive in and around Kharkiv — the Kharkiv region. That's not something that was unexpected, it's something that the Ukrainians were also expecting. We know that they've intensified some of those cross-border fires. And they'll likely, in the coming weeks, increase that. But that's why we're doing everything we can to make sure Ukraine has what it needs. And the — from the $1 billion package, the PDA package that we rolled out a few weeks ago, right after the supplemental, was announced to the $400 million package that we announced on Friday. These are things that are getting to Ukraine pretty quickly. And as the Secretary has mentioned, before, we did pre-position some stocks so that when a supplemental was passed, we were able to flow that assistance right in. But of course, Ukraine is in a real fight, and they're fighting every single day (inaudible) we've seen them unable to push the Russians back. So, we have confidence that they will have what they need in this (inaudible)

Q: Okay.

MS. SINGH: Oren?

Q: I just did a follow up on JLOTS, we've now seen —

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: — weather delay, it's setting up a movement from (inaudible) to where it needs to be —

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: — for more than a week now, I think. Is that to be the expectation that once you try to get up and running, weather will routinely interrupt its use? Or is it supposed to be once you get it running the (inaudible) break?

Q: (Inaudible) 24/7.

MS. SINGH: The concern about the weather was more -being able to secure the causeway to the beach. That is the problematic portion of the weather impacts. That's my understanding. So, no, I think, I mean, barring significant weather conditions, I think that the JLOTS will be able to be operational, it's just more about being able to secure it, the states have not allowed that to happen at this moment.

Q: And when its up and running will it operate in daylight hours 24/7. How frequently is it supposed to be able to operate throughout the day?

MS. SINGH: We'll have more to share on that. But my understanding is that it will be a pretty continuous loop as long as we can continue to get aid in as long as aid can — get distributed out within Gaza, and there's no, you know, jam ups or hold ups on the ground, we should be able to flow aid in pretty quickly.

Q: — so on the Rafah, what is the current assessment, you guys still believe it's a limited operation — what are you basing your assessment on?

MS. SINGH: What we're seeing on the ground and how they've positioned within Rafah, we still believe it's a limited operation. Again, we don't support a large-scale operation. We want to see humanitarian aid continuing to get in through the Rafah crossing as well. But it is our understanding right now that it is still limited in scope.

Q: I mean, the amount of bombing, you're seeing the casualties among civilians. Is it only about land grab or what they're doing in Rafah as well?

MS. SINGH: Why would, I mean, let the Israelis speak to their operations on what they're actually doing in Rafah. I can only speak to what we are communicating to them, which is that our priority is making sure that humanitarian aid is getting in, that civilians are getting the food, the water that they need, the medical treatment that they need. And we want to see these land crossings open. So that's like — that's been our big priority. And, of course, the JLOTS mission, making sure that that can get into place when we're ready. 

Q: We're seeing a renewed push by the Israeli military in northern Gaza, specifically in (inaudible). This is a region where the — Gallant himself said they were able to destroy Hamas, all of its battalions now. They're going back to fight in the north. They're asking people in the north to evacuate. They're asking people in the south to evacuate. What is your assessment of this renewed operation in the north?

MS. SINGH: So, again, I’d let the Israeli speak to their operations. What I can tell you is we have been supportive of the Israelis going after Hamas, we know that there are battalions that are still operational within Rafah and other parts of Gaza. But we want to make sure that the humanitarian population, the civilians that are concentrated in Rafah are protected and so far, we have not seen that credible plan presented to us.

Q: That's the last question on this. Do you have a number of how many battalions Hamas still has?

MS. SINGH: I don't off the top my head.

Q: — just — as a follow up to that. Isn't the Rafah crossing, isn't there — isn't in trouble getting aid in through the Rafah crossing right now? I thought the crossing is closed.

MS. SINGH: I don't — I believe some aid has been able to get in. But no, it's not the amount of aid that we want to see flow in there. We absolutely want to see more aid getting through the Rafah crossing and other land crossings throughout Gaza. But yeah, no, absolutely more needs to flow in through there. 

Q: Following up on this one.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: So Axios is reporting this morning that far right Israeli protesters at the (inaudible) crossing, were blocking aid from coming in. Has any of the planning for JLOTS factored in the idea that Hamas launching mortars isn't the problem, but rather far right protesters would not want to see the aid distributed?

MS. SINGH: Well, JLOTS would be coming in from the coastline. And I think those protesters are on the Israeli side, if I'm not —

Q: I mean, there's actually a land connection, where (inaudible) —

MS. SINGH: Sure. I'm just saying like logistically, like jamming of trucks coming off the JLOTS —

Q: Sure.

MS. SINGH: — from a place that is controlled by us and then on land by the Israeli government. We should not see a blockade of aid from the JLOTS side and that pier being used. But of course, I mean, it's very troubling to see humanitarian aid being blocked to a population that needs it desperately. I think that's incredibly concerning. But from a JLOTS perspective, we shouldn't be able — we shouldn't see that just given that how the aid will be distributed as you know, it's contracted with partners and the IDF does control that area.

Q: Okay. And then just completely separate on the staff sergeant in Russia. Do you have any updates to share as far as his situation is concerned?

MS. SINGH: I don't. I know State Department would — I would refer you to State Department as they'd be the lead. And in terms of, you know, working with the embassy there, but I don't have more to share than what we shared last week.

Q: Thank you.

MS. SINGH: Yeah, no problem. I see —

Q: Can I ask question about JLOTS?

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: So according to international organizations and given the State Department's report kind of alluded to it in a very complicated way to avoid assigning any blame on Israel. Israel has been blocking aid to Gaza through very restrictive measures. What is the agreement with Israeli government and the JLOTS? How much can you enter every day? Is there a limit that the Israeli government is putting on aid through JLOTS? Or it's depending on its logistical capacity, whatever (inaudible)?

MS. SINGH: It's the limit on aid would be on the capacity, not on how much aid could get in. I think everyone wants to see, at least from a U.S. government side, everyone wants to see more aid getting in, in the most effective, fastest way possible. The best way for more aid to get in is through the land crossings. We know that. JLOTS is just a supplement to the land routes. It is not the solve, which is why this is a temporary solution. This is a temporary pier. This is not going to be — this is not the best way to get aid in, it is one additional way to get aid in.


Q: Secretary Austin talked about the one shipment being delayed.


Q: Since then, you have any other shipments or (inaudible)?

MS. SINGH: No, just that one shipment that we announced last week was paused.

Q: Still on hold?

MS. SINGH: Still on hold. Yeah. Anything else? Okay, we got Nancy and then Lara. And then we'll wrap.


Q: Who makes a determination on how long the JLOTS ought to be in place. Or if they're — if they're no longer operational or functional that they need to be moved out. Who makes it that call?

MS. SINGH: Like if JLOTS isn't operational?

Q: That is the — you've had a number of delays and there's going to be some logistical challenges. Who's responsible for making the call that we're going to keep using JLOTS or not keep using them?

MS. SINGH: Well, ultimately, CENTCOM will make — will be doing the assessment of JLOTS itself, but of course that will be a conversation with the Secretary. And then this was, as you know, directed by the President, so of course, this is going to have a larger interagency conversation and component to it to keep the JLOTS running. But again, this is something that we've said, and I know that you know this well, but this is meant to be temporary. This is not a long-term solution by any means. It is meant to inject aid in a way that can get distributed as quickly, as effectively as possible, but we absolutely need to see those land routes open.

Lara, last question.

Q: Just could you give us an update on Niger, please?

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: When — have troops started leaving yet? And when is that going to happen? And then what's the plan for the drone base?

MS. SINGH: Sure. So we will have a DOD-led delegation leaving this week to meet with the CNSP. So, I will not get ahead of their conversations that they will have this week. But what we have said and committed to is that we are going to be executing an orderly withdrawal from Niger. Don't have a timeline for you. Troops have not started to leave yet. That's something that this delegation, when they go and meet with the CNSP, are going to set those terms for the orderly withdrawal. And when I have more to share from that delegation's meeting, I'm happy to read that out.

Q: I thought that delegation was already there or went like last week.

MS. SINGH: No, that did not happen last week.

Q: So that was delayed?

MS. SINGH: Yes. Jim?

Q: Sabrina, let me just —

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: I'm sorry. I know you said this.

MS. SINGH: That's okay.

Q: This could be the last question.

MS. SINGH: Always for you, Jim.

Q: Ukraine.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: Is Kharkiv under threat? Is it in danger of falling?

MS. SINGH: I mean, the Russians have launched a very aggressive offensive. But we believe the Ukrainians continue to prove themselves on the battlefield, that they not only can repel Russian attacks, but they can do it successfully. I think you saw what was unfortunate, because we were not able to provide Ukraine with PDAs or drawdown authority for a number of months due to the delay in passing the supplemental. They did suffer from that. And we did see them lose some territory to the Russians. But, you know, we have confidence in the Ukrainians. I'll let them speak to how they feel that they are faring on the battlefield. But, certainly, we believe that they'll be successful.

Q: And for a time, the Ukrainians were rationing artillery and air defense. Has the aid reached them now that they're not doing that?

MS. SINGH: Well, I'll — I mean, again, let the Ukrainians speak to their own security assistance. But I can tell you that because we pre-positioned some of our own stocks, when that $1 billion package was signed out, we were able to flow that aid pretty quickly into Ukraine. How it gets to the front lines, you know, I'll again let the Ukrainians speak to that. But you have to remember, during the time that we weren't able to provide a supplemental, our European allies and partners, countries part of the UDCG, were still providing artillery, air defenses, other things that the Ukrainians need on the battlefield. So, it's not that they were out without nothing. But, certainly, you know due to the delays in passing the supplemental, there were unfortunate gains that the Russians did make.

Q: Can you give us like a dollar amount, if you can't name the weapons systems that have moved forward? But can you give us a dollar amount of things that have already gotten to Ukraine quickly?

MS. SINGH: No, I can't. I mean, not a dollar amount.

Q: Or any sort of sense like, you know, we got this aid package passed. How much of that is now in Ukraine? Like, how much of it was able to get there quickly? Any sort of way to quantify it.

MS. SINGH: I can't. I can't speak to that. I can just tell you that things have been flowing almost immediately since we were able to pass that, to get that supplemental. And you have to remember, there are certain PDA packages that once it's announced, it does take a while to close out. But I don't have like a percentage or dollar figure of how much is there. I can just tell you that — honestly, I'll let the Ukrainians speak to what they used. But we know what they need which are those air defenses, the artillery right away. And that is getting there. That is getting there pretty quickly, so.

Okay? All right. Thanks, everyone. Happy Monday.