An official website of the United States Government 
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh Holds a Press Briefing

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH: Hello. Good afternoon. Let me just get organized here. All right, so just a few things at the top and then happy to take your questions. Yesterday, the Army announced the opening of the Universal Artillery Projectile Lines Facility in Mesquite, Texas, which will provide an increase to our capacity and capability to produce 155 millimeter munitions. The Army is spending more than $1 billion every year to make these critical improvements, and this plant is an important example of how we are modernizing our industrial base. This facility, which will be operated by General Dynamics Ordinance and Tactical Systems, will help the Army meet its modernization goals by incorporating high levels of automation, modern manufacturing practices, and digital data capturability. Current and future Army readiness requires modernization efforts that leverage new technologies, advanced manufacturing equipment and processes, and surge capabilities to enable production at scale. These efforts will significantly strengthen U.S. munition production capabilities and will serve as a credible deterrent to adversaries. This new facility underscores the Army and industry's commitment to bolstering the defense industrial base and maintaining the readiness of our Armed Forces. 

Switching gears, turning to an update of the maritime humanitarian corridor off the coast of Gaza, earlier today, IDF engineers removed the anchored portion of the Trident Pier from the beach. So as of this afternoon, all sections of the Trident Pier have been relocated to the Port of Ashdod for rebuilding and repairing. Additionally, the two Army vessels that were beached over the weekend on the coast of Israel near Ashkelon have been recovered. The recovery of the remaining two Army vessels that were beached near the Trident Pier is ongoing, with the assistance from the Israeli Navy. As a reminder, the rebuilding and repairing of the pier will take over a week, and following completion, the Trident Pier will be re-anchored to the coast of Gaza. Alongside USAID and humanitarian organizations, we remain committed to working with the international community to get aid into Gaza as quickly as possible. As we have updates to provide on JLOTS, we'll be sure to pass that information along. 

And lastly, the department would like to congratulate Air National Guard Lt. Gen. Marc Sasseville, vice chief of the National Guard Bureau, who celebrated his retirement ceremony yesterday following four decades of service in uniform. General Sasseville was one of the first two pilots who took to the skies over Washington, D.C. during the terrorist attacks on 9/11. When Sasseville and fellow F-16 pilot Heather Penney took off from Andrews Air Force Base that morning, the Pentagon and the World Trade Center had already been attacked. With no missiles loaded on their aircraft, Sasseville and Penney were prepared to ram their F-16s into Flight 93 to prevent it from completing an attack on our nation's capital. As you know, resistance from passengers interrupted the hijackers' plans, and Sasseville and Penney returned home safely from their unprecedented mission that day. Over a four decades long career, Sasseville held numerous leadership positions, serving as the commander of the 1st Air Force, the defense attache to Turkey, and most recently as the 12th Vice Chief of the National Guard. Secretary Austin offers his congratulations and thanks to General Sasseville and his family for his dedicated service.

And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions. Tara?

Q: Thanks, Sabrina. On JLOTS that all the portions have been removed, was there any damage to the sections? Will some of the sections need to be replaced? And is DOD committed to getting this back up and running, you know, in the next week or so?

MS. SINGH: So as I had mentioned I think on Tuesday, we are - we believe that this will take about over a week to repair and rebuild the entire JLOTS section, predominantly that portion that was anchored into the pier. I don't have more in terms of replacement parts. I know that they are doing a repairing and rebuilding of the pieces that broke off - or that need, you know, sufficient repair, but I would direct you to CENTCOM for more specifics on if there's any replacement parts needed. 

Q: OK. You don't have kind of a better sense of, like, what was - how bad the damage was, if there was damage to these sections?

MS. SINGH: Well, there was damage to the sections. As you know, as I mentioned on Tuesday, the larger part of the pier that – if you think of it as, like, a "T", that top section of the T did break off. So, that is significant damage, I would say. But the good thing is – is that we have our experts in Ashdod working on repairing and rebuilding these pieces. I don't have more specifics on – because you were asking specifically about replacements. I just — I don't have more specifics on that. So, I'd direct you to CENTCOM for – for more on that.

Q: OK. And then just a follow-up on the last Sunday strike at the displacement camp – or the fire that broke out there. Since then, we've had other strikes where additional civilians have been killed, all in this one area where there had never been evacuation orders given. Given that the Israelis are still striking Hamas leaders, are there other weapons that the U.S. can provide that are more precise, smaller, that would have less collateral damage?

MS. SINGH: Well, thanks, Tara, for the question. We continue to provide Israel security assistance in what they need to be successful in defeating Hamas. That ranges, of course, from, you know, different types of precision-guided munitions to other capabilities. We have paused that one shipment of the larger 2,000-pound bombs, but I don't have more specifics. We are providing them what they need in order to be effective in their fight against Hamas.
Q: But it seems even the 250-pound bombs are doing significant collateral damage and killing civilians. So, is that even too big a bomb right now for this part of their fight?

MS. SINGH: Well, we've been very clear with the Israelis, and in fact, just yesterday, as you probably saw, Secretary Austin did have a call with his counterpart, Minister Gallant, to talk about exactly what happened over the weekend, to talk about how there needs to be more work done in order to preserve and to protect civilians that are on the ground. And so, we continue to have those conversations. We are, of course, doing that, publicly and privately, but we believe that we are also giving Israel what they need to be successful in their fight against Hamas.


Q: Thanks, Sabrina. Following up on JLOTS … since it's there in Ashdod, is it only being repaired, or are there any modifications underway to make it more robust, anything like that, so that we don't see the same thing happen again once it's back?

MS. SINGH: Sure. For more specifics on – I – I'm not tracking any modifications, but I would direct you to CENTCOM for any more specifics. What I – I'm a – what – what I believe is happening is the repairing and rebuilding of the actual pier itself that is anchored to Gaza. I think it's important to remember that, prior to this storm that we saw over the weekend, when we did anchor the JLOTS into Gaza, we were seeing, you know, trucks being able to roll off. The operation was going successfully. It was the combination of the high seas and then this weather storm that we saw turn from North Africa that created the environment that we saw over the weekend. So, during this period of time is usually when there are relatively calmer seas in that Eastern Mediterranean portion of where the temporary pier is anchored. So, we believe we'll be successful. We don't anticipate for other storms. But we can't predict all weather patterns, but during this time it's usually relatively calm.

Q: OK. And secondly, while it's out of commission and being repaired, are there any efforts underway to come up with alternative routes or solutions to get that aid from Cyprus into Gaza? And is there any U.S. military role in that?

MS. SINGH: Yes, that is something that USAID, and with other partners, NGOs, humanitarian organizations is working through to try and figure out, you know, faster, efficient ways to get that aid that's already in Cyprus into Gaza. So, I'd refer you to USAID to speak to that. I did mention on Tuesday that we are already loading or preloading some of the vessels with this aid. So, when we are ready to re anchor the pier into Gaza, that this is already preloaded on our vessels and things can roll off almost immediately. 

Q: JLOTS questions. You had estimated $320 million for three months of operation and construction. Is that number higher now with the damage or was the cost of — of damage and a failure like this already built in?
MS. SINGH: As of right now, that's still the cost that we assess to date. As I mentioned earlier this week, if that number goes up or down, we'll certainly let you know, but I just don't have any updates to provide at this time.

Q: And then the pier had only been able to allow, you know, a trickle of aid before it shut down. Once it's up and running, is there now an estimated date for when you might get to FOC?

MS. SINGH: As soon as it's — as soon as we re anchor, let me, you know, we'll provide more updates. I don't have a specific date for you, but I think you have to remember that as soon as we did the initial anchor, it was a slow trickle of trucks. And I know I've done this from the podium, but we've compared it to a crawl, walk, run. I expect that you'll see that again, that sort of pattern. It'll be slow at first and then it will ramp up. And in those last few days, before we had this weather storm, I mean, we were getting in trucks more regularly, and to date there's been over 1,000 metric tons that have flowed into Gaza. So, we're making progress. We expect to be able to pick that progress back up as soon as we are able to re anchor the Trident pier into Gaza.

Q: It feels like the next time the weather turns south, we're going to have this exact same conversation.

MS. SINGH: Well, what I will say is that the one thing that we couldn't anticipate was that north African weather storm. And I was speaking to people that were monitoring that storm and what we saw, it basically changed direction within an hour or two. And that was something that, given the high seas that were already happening within the Eastern Mediterranean, that combined force of that other storm just made that pier inoperable and further damaged it. Now, during this time, if you look back historically, we don't see storms like that. We don't really see weather patterns like that. So, we believe that, and I'm not a meteorologist, so I don't have a weather map in front of me looking back all through time. But what I can tell you is during this period of time, during these summer months, seas are usually calmer, and so, we should be able to be successful in re anchoring this pier. Tom?

Q: You talk about the need to protect civilians. There are a million people displaced from Rafah. Secretary last week talked about an Israeli concept, about the way it had with humanitarian aid to these civilians. Anything more the Israelis have told you about the way ahead?

MS. SINGH: We're continuing to engage. I mean, the secretary had a call with Minister Gallant yesterday. We have said repeatedly that we don't support a major ground scale operation within Rafah that doesn't take into account the civilians that are going to have — that are moving currently, and that are still there. I don't have more updates to share on any plan that we've received. I know conversations from the department and other agencies, and of course, the White House are ongoing.

Q: Thank you very much, Sabrina. I have two questions. As you know, that – North Korea distributed about hundreds of garbage balloon across South Korea and attacking GPS radio waves, and have launched 10 ballistic missiles into the east coast. Regarding the, you know, attack balloons, the United Nations command stated that North Koreans (inaudible) actions were a violation of the Armistice Agreement [crosstalk].

MS. SINGH: So, Janne, thanks for the question. We continue to monitor what's happening in the peninsula. We're certainly aware of the DPRK's most recent ballistic missile launch, and we're working as we always do with our partners, like the Republic of Korea and Japan and others in the region. We continue to condemn these actions. They are destabilizing. We've called on the DPRK to stop these actions. They're unlawful. We're going to continue to monitor, but I just don't have any other further comment to provide at this time. 

Q: 28,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea. If North Korea were to put biological and chemical weapons into balloons and spray them, it would be a big threat. How did you consider that?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, I appreciate the question, Janne. But as you can also appreciate, I'm just not going to engage in hypothetical situations.

Well, it's nice to see you back in the briefing. Yeah?

Q: As India goes to this election cycle, let's ask you, how do you sense — how do you see India-U.S. defense relationship in the last three and a half years of this administration?

MS. SINGH: Well, thanks for the question. Again, nice to see you back here. I think you've seen a deepening of cooperation and ties between our militaries. The Secretary has hosted delegations from India here in the Pentagon and, of course, traveled overseas, met with his counterparts. So, you've certainly seen a growing and deepening partnership and our militaries engaged in exercises. I don't have that full list of commitments and, you know, announcements that we made during the Secretary's trip. But one of the things that he announced there was a production facility in India. So you're seeing our military partnership grow and deepen, and that's something that we're extremely proud of.

Great. Yeah, Liz?

Q: Switching topics to Ukraine. Is the Pentagon considering loosening weapons restrictions on the weapons of be sent to Ukraine?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, thanks, Liz, for the question. So, there's been no change in our policy. The security assistance that we provide Ukraine is to be used within Ukraine, and we don't encourage attacks or enable attacks inside of Russia. We believe that Ukraine can be effective by focusing on tactical and operational targets that directly influence the conflict within its boundaries rather than, you know, going after larger geopolitical targets within Russia. So, our policy hasn't changed.

Q: What ff attacks are coming from within Russia...Why? Why not change it?

MS. SINGH: Yeah. So, again, this is our policy and nothing has changed. We've always said from the very beginning that the security assistance we provide Ukraine is for use within Ukraine. If anything changes, of course, we'd let you know. But right now, that still remains our policy. And we believe that we've given them the capabilities and the systems to be effective on the battlefield right now.

Q: Changing topics. So, the DIA released their intelligence on the North Korean ballistic missiles that were found in Kharkiv. What sort of impact have these North Korean missiles had in Russia's war in Ukraine?

MS. SINGH: Well, that's something that, you know, we've been pretty public about from here and across the interagency, is that we've seen this deepening in partnership between North Korea and Russia. We know that the munitions being supplied by DPRK to Russia are being used on the battlefield in Ukraine. We know that they have been successful at, of course, hitting some, you know, causing damage to infrastructure, causing civilians to be killed. It's something that we are certainly aware of and have raised concern about. We're focused in making sure that Ukraine has what it needs, whether it be in attacks from Iranian made drones or attacks from North Korean produced missiles. We want to make sure that the Ukrainians have what they need to be successful on the battlefield, which is why I just — I think the latest package we rolled out was on May 24th, another presidential drawdown package. You're going to see us continue to do that. And also to highlight, our partnership with Ukraine stands with, you know, 50 allies and partners all around the world supporting Ukraine and its efforts. So, we feel pretty good about our alliance with Ukraine.


Q: Thanks, Sabrina. On Tuesday, you said that all of the beached Army ships should be recovered within 48 hours. It sounds like there's been some delays on two of them. Can you elaborate as to what caused the delays?

 MS. SINGH: I mean, 48 hours from when I came up at this podium? So, OK, right about now. But efforts are still ongoing. I think it's just more about just making sure that that Trident pier was able to be removed first and then they're going to focus on removing those vessels. We'll keep you updated on the progress that gets made. I know I said about 48 hours, if it takes a little longer, you know. We'll keep you updated on things.

Q: Thank you.

MS. SINGH: Of course. Yes?

Q: Thanks, Sabrina. What I understand is the long anticipated pier project will take at least a week more to be ready. But what we know right now that you docked the pier in the northern side of Gaza, which is completely controlled by the IDF right now. My question is, did you facilitate any mechanism in order to quickly send those humanitarian aid to the Gazans from that point with the Israeli counterparts of yours?

MS. SINGH: So, if you're referring to the marshaling area, which is where the aid comes off from the pier, that area is monitored and secured by the IDF that has been providing security in that — in that region. Aid comes off the pier. It goes from the drivers that drive it off into other drivers' trucks and then gets distributed onwards into Gaza. Since the pier has not been operable since about Friday over the weekend, there hasn't been aid flowing in off the pier, as you know. So there hasn't been aid flowing in from that marshaling area further into Gaza. Now, we're working. As someone asked earlier, we're working to ensure that the aid that's in Cyprus can get into Gaza in a different way. That's something that USAID is looking into with other humanitarian organizations. But I can only speak to on what the DOD's role is right now in getting aid into Gaza. And we're working as fast as we can to repair this pier so that it can be re-anchored into Gaza.

Q: Given, technically, if the pier is ready, there is no agreement with the Israelis to deliver those humanitarian aid quickly to the Gazans so — that which sounds like we're back to ground zero, the same situation on the border with Israel into Gaza.

MS. SINGH: No, I don't think we're back to ground zero. And I'm sorry if I misunderstood your question. There is an agreement that aid will be distributed once it comes off into the marshaling area into Gaza. And that is something that USAID, the Department of Defense, other humanitarian organizations are working with the IDF. And as you know, the UN is one of our distribution partners to get that aid into Gaza and to make sure that it can flow as quickly as possible. That is an agreement that the IDF has committed to. That's why we have deconfliction cells set up in two different places to ensure that aid can get to the people that need it most.


Q: A question on Ukrainian aid. Five weeks ago, the $1 billion PDA package was announced. Air defense, 155 shells. The recurring narrative you hear from the Ukrainian news accounts is that the aid is not getting there quick enough, hasn't gotten quick enough to make a difference on the battlefield. Can you give an update in terms of at least the air defense deliveries and 155 deliveries, a feel for whether most of it's been distributed or not?

MS. SINGH: I wouldn't be able to speak to - from when it gets onto the battlefield. That's something that the Ukrainians would need to speak to. But Tony, you've been covering this - the war and, I think, our first PDA package that we rolled out since day one. I mean, aid was flowing - security assistance was flowing almost immediately. And before the supplemental got passed, we made the decision to pre-position some of our stocks in order to, when that supplemental did get passed, to immediately start flowing security assistance into Ukraine. And so you've seen that happen within days, sometimes it does take weeks. That shouldn't be conflated with the larger USAI package that I think is also part of the $5 billion that you referenced, which - right, which is the longer-term commitment, that that could take years or - months to years. That is a longer-term commitment to build up Ukraine's military force, and a commitment to the - you know, their long-term sustainment, but that - that is not assistance that's going to flow right away.

Q: ... but the 155s in the - in the original $1 billion package, are those - most of those have been delivered? Do you have a feel for that one way or the other?
MS. SINGH: I wouldn't be able to talk to you about how - once they get into the Ukrainian hands, like, where they get delivered. I would direct you to the Ukrainians to speak to how quickly that - those type of munitions are getting to the front lines and where it's needed most. All I can tell you is that delivery and that flow of security assistance was, you know, very soon after that supplemental passed.

Q: ... the Washington Post had a pretty good story about a week ago about you - Russian electronic warfare jamming a lot of a - the GPS - U.S. GPS equipment, like Excalibur and HIMARS weapons. Has the U.S. - is the U.S. crafting with Ukraine solutions to this electronic warfare? Is there any non-kinetic, in your words, solutions that are being worked?
MS. SINGH: So we're continuing to work with the Ukrainians when it comes to EW capabilities. I'm not, as you can appreciate, not going to get into too many specifics on that, but that is something that we are working through with the Ukrainians and our - as are our partners and allies, but I just don't have more to offer right now.

Yeah? Lara?

Q: Thank you, Sabrina. I'm just wondering if you - on Ukraine, ask whether - you know, there's been talk about sending additional Patriots, air defenses to Ukraine. Has the U.S. made decisions on whether it is able to send U.S. Patriots to Ukraine, an additional one?

MS. SINGH: I don't have anything to announce today, Lara, but thank you for the question.


Q: Yeah, the - most of the other NATO supporters - England, Germany, France, several - Poland - have already lifted any restrictions on their weapons being used to destroy targets inside Russia proper. The U.S. Defense Department already - always - consistently boasts about how it works in concert with the allies. Why on this particular point is the U.S. the odd man out on this? Everybody else is doing it. Why - you know, is it just politics? What?
MS. SINGH: I don't know that we're the odd man out, Mike, but appreciate the question. And right now, there's no change to our policy. You've seen us adapt over time as Russian capabilities adapt. So does our support for Ukraine. You know, at the very beginning of the - this war, we were surging things like Stingers and Javelins. Over time, it became HIMARS, then ATACMS. We continue to adapt to the capabilities that they need and the battlefield continues to change. Right now, our policy is still - is - is still what it was from the beginning. There has been no change. In - in fact, you know, we - we continue to engage with the Ukrainians. The Secretary had a call earlier this week with his counterpart. But the security assistance that we provide Ukraine, we believe that Ukraine can be successful on the battlefield by using it within Ukraine.

Q: If Russia can have these protected areas to attack Ukraine, aren't they - is it - is it going to be basically impossible, you know, for them - for Ukraine to prevail in this, if Russia continues striking them from these areas that - because - it - that the U.S. says you're not allowed to hit them from, you're not allowed to hit them here? Aren't you hobbling them from really becoming - you're - you know, you're giving them enough not to lose but not enough to win?

MS. SINGH: I don't know, Mike. I think at the very beginning of this war, you saw many people saying that they didn't have what they need to hold Kyiv, and then they did, and then it was Kherson and then Kharkiv and they continued to fight, they continued to push Russians back. And we know that during the time that we didn't have that supplemental passed, Russians did make gains on the battlefield, but we've been able to provide them with what they need, and we believe that they have what they need to be successful.


Q: Thank you. I just have a follow-up on that. I know that the Pentagon has talked with the Ukrainians about letting them strike targets inside Russia. You mentioned the Secretary had a call with his counterpart. So I just want to clarify, is this off the table or not?

MS. SINGH: I will be crystal clear - there's been no change to our policy. The security assistance that we provide Ukraine is for use within Ukraine.

Q: OK. I have a Shangri-La - couple of questions. What does Secretary Austin hope to accomplish in his meeting with his Chinese counterpart at Shangri-La?

MS. SINGH: Well, I'm glad you raised that. The Secretary just landed in, I believe, Singapore maybe a few hours ago. That meeting with his PRC counterpart is happening tomorrow. I - he's going to cover a range of different issues. As you can appreciate, I won't get ahead of that meeting, but it is tomorrow, I believe, afternoon over there, so early morning our time. We will provide a readout, but I'm just not going to get ahead of that right now.

Q: ... South Korea's Defense Ministry said that U.S., Japan, South Korea defense ministers will hold another meeting on the sidelines of the forum. What is the primary focus of this meeting? And what message does it send to North Korea?

MS. SINGH: Well, I - I mean, you've seen a deepening of ties between our alliance, between the Republic of Korea and Japan. I mean, I don't have to reiterate but I will - this is the Secretary's 10th trip to the region. So the National Defense Strategy has informed - is our North Star for the department. It guides us in what we do. And of course we're always keeping an eye on our pacing challenge, and I - other likeminded allies and partners around the world also see the challenges that - that a rising PRC raises. And so that's why you've seen deeper cooperation, whether it be in EDCA agreements or, you know, more broadly within the Indo-Pacific on - on larger-scale exercises. So again, not going to get ahead of the Secretary's meetings but it's a deepening of those ties, and I think the fact that he's going to the region for the 10th time now certainly sends a - a message of resilience.


Q: Thank you, madam. Two questions please. 

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: On - as for Chinese activities, how seriously is - the Pentagon is taking in the region? Because many nations, including India, Taiwan, and Japan, Malaysia and other - Philippine, have been threatened and they are - Chinese are not threatening of course Taiwan. Its goal is to take over Taiwan. And U.S. lawmakers also (inaudible) new President of Taiwan and all this. So how seriously - and what steps do you think the Pentagon is taking?

MS. SINGH: I think we're taking it very seriously. I mean, not to reiterate, but this is the Secretary's 10th visit to the region. The Secretary is going to - in - be engaging his PRC counterpart tomorrow. Of course, issues that you raise, whether it be activities around some of the Philippine Islands, around Taiwan, that's of course something that I would expect to be discussed, but that's also something that - I'm not going to get ahead of the Secretary's meeting tomorrow. So we will have a readout of - of that. 

Q: As far as the war between terrorist organization, of course, Hamas and Israel, up to the death of the Iranian president, the Supreme Leader, he has given a lot of warning and threats to people in the region, including Israel and the U.S. interests in the region, so you think to avoid the bigger war in the region, what you think the Pentagon is doing or other nations involved in the region?

MS. SINGH: We don't want to see a wider war in the region. That's something that we've said from the very beginning. That's why you saw the secretary make the decisions that he did when Hamas brutally attacked Israel on October 7th. We certainly don't seek a wider conflict. We take any threats that Iran is launching very seriously. But that's why we continue to reiterate that cooler heads prevail, that we don't want to see a wider conflict. And that's why you're seeing a coalition of different countries around the world also coming together to preserve international shipping lanes and to make sure that commercial ships can continue to travel through, whether it be the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden.

Last question.

Q: Thank you. Just to follow up. What he said, Supreme Leader, before he dies, before his death, his goal is to destroy Israel and other nations who are supporting the Israeli war against Hamas and others. So, anybody taking seriously those threats from this Supreme Leader who is the head of the country in Iran?

MS. SINGH: Yeah. We, of course, take those very seriously, which is why you saw us just a few months ago come to the defense of Israel when Iran launched its brutal, unprecedented missile attack towards Israel. We absolutely take that very seriously, and that's why we did what we did.

I'm going to go to the phones before I forget, and then I'm happy to come back in the room. Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose.

Q: Thanks. I have kind of an unconventional question. As my colleague mentioned, North Korea sent balloons across the south, into the south that included human waste. Does the U.S. have any plans to reciprocate and send American poop across the 38th parallel?

MS. SINGH: Thanks, Jeff. We do not.

Next question. Carla Babb.

Q: Hey, Sabrina. Thank you. I just want to follow up on Shangri-La, and I know you don't want to get ahead of the talks with Austin's Chinese counterpart. But just from a Pentagon perspective, how do you see China at this point? Have they been increasing their aggression in the region? And is there any hope that talks can make a difference, as you see with the exercises around Taiwan last week, for China to turn around and change their aggressive behavior?

MS. SINGH: Thanks, Carla, for the question. Of course, talks can make a difference. Having those mil-to-mil communications, so senior channels open, actually allows for the avoidance of a miscalculation. So, absolutely, talks can make a difference. And we certainly welcome the engagement that the secretary is going to have tomorrow. In terms of PRC behavior, I mean, we've been pretty clear, and we put out a report every year, as you probably know, about their developments and their military activity. I mean, we did see more intercepts last year, and that's something that we've spoken about very publicly from this building. Respecting that the secretary is going to have this conversation tomorrow, I'm just not going to get into too many details, but we certainly welcome the conversation tomorrow and are looking forward to it.


Q: Thanks, Sabrina. Good afternoon. About a week and a half ago, the Army Secretary, she was on The Hill testifying for a committee. And among the topics that came up was, still, the stand down of using horse-drawn caissons at Arlington National Cemetery. It seems that, yeah, even after a year the army has not yet been able to correct the situation that led to the deaths of these four horses. About a year ago, actually, on May 4th, 2023, I asked you about if Defense Secretary Austin was satisfied with the Army's decision to stand down on and satisfy with the progress they were making. You responded then, so I know what you're referring to. I just don't have more information on that. I'd be happy to take that question and get back to you and provide an answer. Do you have any answer yet?

MS. SINGH: I don't have any updates on the — what is specifically happening in Arlington. I would — the army is, of course, and as you've mentioned, the Secretary was on the hill and was providing more context on that. I just don't have more.

Q: I asked you specifically about Secretary Austin's feeling if he felt the Army was doing all right with the stand on and satisfied with the steps they were going to take. So at the risk of sounding like an English professor diagramming the sentence, I was asking about the Secretary Austin, not the Army.

MS. SINGH: Secretary Austin has absolute confidence in Secretary Wormuth and the Army, and what they're doing to look into this issue. And I just don't have anything else to provide. 

In the back. Yeah.

Q: I'm just trying to understand, the U.S. has been very clear that the policy against a major ground offensive, are these current airstrikes and the air offensive that's happening? Does that not constitute a major offensive via air?

MS. SINGH: So what we've — I think two separate things, air component, very different than the land component, and then — and a ground operation into Rafah. And that's what we've been talking about. So I think two separate things to just kind of parse out. We have been very clear that there has been too many civilian casualties. And the horrific heartbreaking imagery that you saw out of the weekend, we don't want to continue to see that. And that was even before the events of this weekend. We've said that, you know, we continue to reiterate that. So when it comes to the ground operation in Rafah, and what I spoke about a little bit on Tuesday was that we haven't seen a larger scale maneuverability within Rafah. We continue to see that it is limited in scope, that they are making sort of steady progress down the corridor. But beyond that, we don't assess it as a larger scale ground operation.
But should — yup, go ahead. 

Q: I was going to say — forgive me, but what about the air offensive? Is that not a major offensive, despite that it's not via ground, is that… 

MS. SINGH: So there are ways to do targeted strikes, of course, from the air. And we believe, and I think Tara had asked this earlier today that there's too many civilian casualties happening, whether it'd be from ground operations or from the air. And so we certainly continue to have those conversations with the Israelis. You saw the USAID administrator speak to this yesterday as well about some of the catastrophic consequences that are coming from whether there be airstrikes or ground operations. We absolutely want to see that addressed. We want to see civilians be protected. We want to be able to see them move into safe areas. But I just want to make sure that we're not conflating two separate things. Yeah, go ahead and then we'll come to you. Yeah.

Q: Thank you. Another Ukraine question. Now that Ukraine is launched — now that Russia is launching fire at Kharkiv area from inside of Russian territory, if Ukraine is not allowed to [crosstalk]

MS. SINGH: I'm sorry, I didn't understand that. Could you repeat that?

Q: Yeah. Now that Russia is launching fire at the Kharkiv area from inside of Russian territory, if Ukraine is not allowed to reach the source of that fire, do you offer any alternatives to Ukraine so that they're not basically sitting ducks in the way of fire without any right to do anything about it? 

MS. SINGH: Look, we've seen Ukraine make incredible progress around Kharkiv and be able to fortify some of their lines. Our policy still hasn't changed. And I know I'm reiterating something that I've already said, but there has been no change to our policy. The security assistance that we provide, we believe that Ukraine can be successful in taking back their sovereign territory within Ukraine.

Q: Can you offer them any alternatives in this particular situation if you cannot strike back at the source of the fire.

Okay, you can do this or that.

MS. SINGH: I think we also have to remember, they have other equipment. They have other capabilities and systems from other countries. So we're talking about our own U.S. equipment. But as you know, they have long range fires from other countries all around the world. In terms of assistance, I'm not going to get into more specifics on what we provide Ukraine, but I can tell you what we've provided them to date. We believe that they have what they need to be successful on the battlefield. Yeah, last question. 

Q: Thank you, Sabrina. 

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: Last time I asked a similar question where you didn't have a comment on it. U.S. companies and franchises in Iraq have been under a series of attacks on other, like, alleged linkage with Israel. The latest one is the U.S. company Caterpillar that's been targeted.

MS. SINGH: Oh, yes, you asked me about this on Tuesday. Yeah.

Q: Are you engaged with the Iraqi authorities to bring these people to justice? And what measures you can do — you can take? I know the U.S. embassy in Baghdad condemned these attacks, but like other than condemning what measures you can do to prevent these attacks?

MS. SINGH: Well, our partnership with the Iraqi security forces, which you're very familiar with, is, of course, our mission there is to ensure the defeat of ISIS. When it comes to these particular attacks on U.S.-owned companies, I just — I'm sorry, I just don't have more for you at this moment. I would direct you to State Department to speak more to that. But of course, you know, if these are acts of, you know, terror or terrorist organizations are behind these attacks, this is exactly what we're working with the Iraqi security forces to address. But I just — I don't, unfortunately, have more for you at this time. One more and then — sure.

Q: The last one. I haven't seen any announcements lately of humanitarian airdrops. Is there a reason for the pause in the air drops? Is it because of this Rafah operation? Is it too dangerous for U.S. planes to drop food, especially given that the humanitarian — the JLOTS is down?

MS. SINGH: Yeah. We haven't stopped that by any means. We would like to continue to do those airdrops. But we also assess where it's safe to do it. I know that early on as — and I know that you saw this, part of the airdrops calculation is also just wind and weather patterns. So for safety and, you know, making sure that those pallets don't go completely out to sea, there was a calculation to, you know, shift when we do those. But, yes, we cannot do some airdrops on when the IDF is conducting operations. We don't want civilians, you know, running into an active battle space. And so there hasn't been airdrops recently. But we do hope to continue this.

Q: Just because of the operations right now that you're not doing air drops or?


Q: … that is why?

MS. SINGH: Yeah.
Q: So it seems like this is a compounding problem. The operations are not only harming civilians, but also preventing them from getting aid that they need. You know, what's the solution here?

MS. SINGH: The solution is to open the land routes, Tara. That is the solution. We need to see those land routes open. We need to see more trucks getting in. We need to see civilians moved out of that battle space that can reach safety, that can reach medical care, food, water. Airdrops are not the most efficient way or effective way to get aid into Gaza. It is just an additive way, just as the temporary pier is. It is not the solution. And so I just have to remind you that the best way for food, medical, fuel, whatever is needed to get into Gaza, is through those land routes. I'm going to … 

Q: So it's not feasible even in the north? I mean, I understand Rafah operation right now, but, like …

MS. SINGH: As of right now, if — if there are more airdrops to announce, I will certainly come back. And — and we will, you know, CENTCOM does a great job of reading those out when they happen, but I just don't have any more for you at the time.

I'll take one more, and then I will wrap up. Yes?

Q: Thank you. OK. So, kind of going off Tara also, you said prior to this, we want to see civilians protected.
MS. SINGH: I think I've said that multiple times.

Q: OK, multiple times. But how are you protecting civilians? You know, you're not doing airdrops in Rafah. Where are they going if slow moving? We saw what happened with the fire. Have you seen a plan yet on how to – they're protecting civilians?

MS. SINGH: No, I think I answered that. We've not seen a plan that protects civilians in a way that, you know, we find credible for a major ground operation. The secretary has said this before that it's very important to move civilians out of a battle space, an active battle space.

Q: Is this death toll worth it? I mean, it's slowly growing. We're up to 37,000. So, how are these — how are they being protected? We don't have air drops. It's grown up to about 67 percent, I think.

MS. SINGH: I'm going to have to remind you that we're not on the ground in Israel. This is — and in Gaza. This is not a U.S. operation. So how are the civilians being protected? We are continuing to engage with Israel and our counterparts on how better they need to protect civilians in the battle space. We are not on the ground. What we are doing is what we can do for humanitarian efforts. We are doing everything we can in additive ways, whether it be through airdrops, which we have not been able to do recently, through the pier, to get food and other humanitarian aid into Gaza. That is our role. We are not on the ground in Gaza. So, that's why we continue to have these conversations with Israel, and they are tough and frank conversations. And we're going to continue to do that both publicly here and privately when the secretary makes his calls.

All right, thanks, everyone.