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Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh Holds a Press Briefing

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH: All right, good afternoon, everyone. Just — (inaudible) All right. Good afternoon. Just a few things at the top, and then happy to jump in and take questions.

Tomorrow, Secretary Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General CQ Brown will join President Biden to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the D-Day operation, Operation Overlord, where thousands of U.S. and Allied servicemembers bravely fought, many making the ultimate sacrifice to defend future generations against the spread of tyranny and evil. The event tomorrow will be live-streamed on, where you can tune in and watch it.

Switching gears, I'd like to provide an update on our cost assessment of the temporary pier, or the Joint Logistics Over The Shore capability that is being used to surge humanitarian assistance into Gaza. When we first announced this humanitarian maritime corridor, we estimated that the cost was approximately $320 million. However, lower-than-expected costs for contracted trucks, drivers and commercial vessels, and the United Kingdom's contribution of a vert- — of — of a berthing vessel for our soldiers and sailors have lowered our cost — our latest cost assessment to approximately $230 million. 

While assessments are ongoing, this assessment — this estimate does include some of the costs associated with the repairs and rebuilding of the pier. And just as a reminder, these are estimates and initial assessments, and the cost could fluctuate depending on the length of the mission and future costs, an example of that being additional repairs.

In other news, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Bill LaPlante will depart this week for a trip to Japan to reinforce the importance of U.S.-Japan bilateral relationship for advancing regional peace, stability and deterrence. While there, he will conduct the first U.S.-Japan Defense Industrial Cooperation Acquisition and Sustainment Forum alongside Japan's Acquisition Technology and Logistics Agency. This important forum will promote greater U.S.-Japan defense industrial cooperation and accelerate opportunities for co-development, co-production and co-sustainment. A full readout of Dr. LaPlante's engagements will be posted on at the conclusion of his trip.

And lastly, as many of you may have seen, Secretary Austin's chief of staff, Ms. Kelly Magsamen, will be stepping down at the end of June. As Secretary Austin stated, Kelly has been the in- — instrumental in orchestrating countless strategic initiatives to defend our nation, take care of our people and succeed the resilience and teamwork. Her leadership, counsel and selflessness service has made our department stronger, safer, and the lives of our people better. Kelly provided a steady hand guiding the senior staff in the department, which the secretary will remain incredibly grateful for.

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

Q: Thanks. On the JLOTS cost reduction, does that include the overall operation? It wasn't just sailing everything over there? That's for the ongoing operations, presumably, salaries of personnel?

MS. SINGH: It's everything that has to do with the mission of JLOTS. So that is the total. It does include some of the repair costs that were — that are being done at the Port of Ashdod for the repairing and rebuilding. Those repairs are ongoing, so that's our initial assessment right now. But yes, so it is — it is the total cost to operate JLOTS.

Q: OK, and then do we have an estimate of when JLOTS will be back up and running, more aid going through?

MS. SINGH: So as we previewed earlier this week, we're hoping that we will be able to re-anchor the pier into Gaza later at the end of the week. I don't have an exact date for you right now, but when we get closer to that or when we have an announcement to make I'll, of course, keep you updated.

Q: And then separately, can you confirm that the U.S.-provided weapons to Ukraine have been — that ha- — that the Biden administration has now allowed to be used to strike inside Russia have, indeed, struck inside Russia?

MS. SINGH: So I've seen the reports of that. I can't confirm that right now. I'd have to refer you to the Ukrainians to speak to their operations and any — any weapons used in — in the — I think you're referring to the Kharkiv region. I just don't have anything more for you on that.


Q: Hey, thanks. Just some clarification. I think that John Kirby had said that there was confusion on the Ukrainians shooting into Russian territory, and he said that even aircraft are not — if they're not necessarily in Ukrainian airspace, that the Ukrainians had always been able to shoot at those aircraft. So just to get some clarification on that, has it always been acceptable for Ukrainians to fire into Russian airspace, or is it strictly Russian territory that they were told not to fire into? Give us some clarification on that.

MS. SINGH: The policy change that you're referring to and that was announced last week was more about the crossfire within the Kharkiv region. When it comes to air defenses — and the secretary spoke about this — air defense is something that we continue to — that we know is a priority for the Ukrainians.

Look, I'm not going to go into every specific incident of when the Ukrainians, you know, have engaged, whether it be Russian aircraft or — or other capabilities. What I can tell you is that we know that is a threat that they continue to face, and that's something that we continue to work with the Ukrainians to make sure that they have the capabilities that they need to defend themselves.

Q: OK, and I just want to follow up so it's — I just want to make sure I understand this, because John Kirby said there's never been a restriction on the Ukrainians shooting down hostile aircraft, even if those aircraft are not necessarily in Ukrainian airspace. So does that mean that Ukrainians can shoot anywhere, not just the — the region that was changed, where the policy was changed — and can shoot anywhere in Russian airspace if there is a hostile aircraft heading toward Ukraine?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, Carla, I appreciate the question. I'm not going to — I have nothing to contradict what Mr. Kirby said previously. Air defense is something that we know is a priority for the Ukrainians. That's why we've given them what we have to be able to defend themselves. Russian aircraft, Russian air threats, we are well aware that is something that continues to threaten Ukrainian cities and towns. I'm just not going to get into more specifics. What we have said and what we continue to say is that right now, our — our policy is that we don't support the use of ATACMS for long, you know, deep strikes within Russia. But I just don't have more to add when it comes to anything additional when it comes to aircraft.

Q: And then one more on JLOTS.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: You had told Tara that they could be ready to be anchored, you know, this week, later this week. Does that mean that the aid will start flowing, potentially, later this week as well, or will it take several days after the pier gets re-anchored?

MS. SINGH: That's a great question. As soon as the temporary pier is re-anchored to the beach of — in Gaza, we expect aid to flow pretty immediately. We'll keep you updated on that.


Q: Regarding the aircraft, any sense when the F-16s will arrive in Ukraine? I know some of the Ukrainian pilots have...

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: ... (inaudible) interviews.

MS. SINGH: Don't have an update yet, at least for — from our side on — on aircraft. Something that, you know, we're working with the Ukrainians on, but don't have a specific date for you.

Q: Ballpark? Weeks? Months?

MS. SINGH: I don't have a date for you. Yeah.


Q: Thank you, Sabrina. Two questions. As you know, due to various provocations, such as North Korea's recent trash balloons, the South Korean government decided to completely suspend the September 19 military agreement — I mean inter-Korean military agreement. And (inaudible) was sent to the United States and Japan allies. Do you agree with the South Korean government decision on that?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, so I — thanks, Janne, for the question. I don't really have anything to — to add onto that. What I can tell you is, you know, we continue and always will consult with our partners in the region, like the Republic of Korea, like Japan. Obviously have continued to monitor the recent actions of the DPRK, but I just don't have anything to add on that front.

Q: Thank you. Another one. At the — at the recent U.S. and ROK defense minister meeting at the Shangri-La Security Conference, Secretary Austin said that South Korea's support for nuclear-powered submarines is different from Australia's support for nuclear-powered submarines. South Korea and the U.S. — United States are allies. So why is the support different?

MS. SINGH: Sorry, Janne, I'm not sure that I fully captured the quote on that exactly. I think you're paraphrasing some of the words that the Secretary used. You know, we continue to work with our partners in the Indo-Pacific.

In terms of what the Secretary said, I don't have anything additional to add, so I'm just going to let his comments stand for what they were.

I'm just going to go to the phones here. Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose?

Q: Thank you. I apologize if this has already been addressed in another briefing, but is the — is there going to be anything different when the JLOTS pier is re-anchored to make sure that it — it deals with the surf and the tides better, so the chances of it breaking up again are less? Thank you so much.

MS. SINGH: Yeah, thanks, Jeff, for the question. So I think it's important to remember that for a — a little over a week, JLOTS was operating quite efficiently. We were able to get, you know, in total over 1,000 metric tons into Gaza. What happened was something that was quite unprecedented — it was the high sea states and then that storm that — that changed direction and created an untenable environment for JLOTS to operate in.

There's no change to how JLOTS is going to continue to operate. What we are going to do is continue to monitor weather conditions. If it — if there is a time and place where the commander feels that, you know, there's another storm coming and out of an abundance of caution, you know, removes that temporary pier for — whether it be hours or a day, you know, I could see that, you know, potentially happening in the future, but obviously it's hard to predict the future when it comes to weather.

So right now, no, no change. JLOTS is going to operate as it did before, and it was successful in that regard. We're going to work to continue to get humanitarian aid into the Palestinian people who need it most, and that aid should flow hopefully almost immediately, as soon as the pier is re-anchored into the beach of Gaza.

I'm going to take one more from the phone and then I'll come back into the room. Idrees Ali, Reuters?

Q: Hey, do you have any update on the service member who was in critical condition after the injury they suffered?

And then second question, I think it was a couple of weeks ago now you had talked about how the Pentagon was still assessing whether the Israeli assessment of what happened with the World Food Kitchen staff was — was something you believed to be accurate. It's now two months. Do you have an assessment? And if not, are you — is the department actually making a good faith effort to find out what happened, or have you kind of moved on from that?

MS. SINGH: I'll take the last one first. So in terms of the World Kitchen strike, you have to remember it's not just the department, it is an interagency effort. So we have, you know, been briefed on some of the findings. There were some delays to additional briefings that — I think due to some of the events that were happening on the ground.

It's something that we're still assessing. I know that's not — I know that's — that's a — frustrating for you to hear but it is something that we are still assessing. We certainly haven't forgotten about it. But it's not just the department — the Department of Defense receiving this assessment and analyzing it, it is an interagency effort.

And as you probably know, the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was also in the region meeting with his Israeli counterparts, receiving updates. So it's something that we're certainly attuned to but I just don't have a better readout for you today from the podium.

Thank you for asking about the soldier who — who was injured. So an update on his condition — yesterday, the soldier and his family were transported via military aircraft from Israel to San Antonio, Texas. This soldier is receiving treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center and remains in critical condition.

Of course, our thoughts and — and prayers are with him and his family. I just don't have more for you other than that — that update. But thank you for the question.

Coming back into the room. Tony?

Q: I have a strike question.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: The New York Times did a pretty good story over the weekend about the Rafah strike that killed those 45 or so people. It identified down to the serial number that a — a joint — a small diameter bomb was used.

Can the Pentagon confirm at this point that yeah, unfortunately, a small diameter bomb was responsible for the damage? And have small diameter bomb shipments continued unabated during the conflict?

MS. SINGH: So we've only paused that one shipment of the — of the 2,000-pound bombs. I don't have any updates on — on shipments, in terms of — those are through FMS sales and FMF, so I would refer you to the State Department on any additional weapons shipments to Israel.

In terms of your question on the — the reporting on the small diameter bomb, I cannot confirm that. I've seen the reports but I — I just can't confirm that. I'd refer you to the Israelis to speak to their operations.

Q: ... as part of your — your — your guidance — or your — your office that looks at mitigating civilian harm, are they looking at the forensics of this thing, in terms of whether in fact a U.S. bomb was used? That would seem to be a task of theirs.

MS. SINGH: I think we've been very clear from the beginning that there's been too many civilians that have been killed in this war. It's something that we've said privately and publicly. Our departments are looking at things holistically. I don't have more for you on this particular incident. I can't confirm the reports.

What I can tell you is that in every single call that the Secretary has with Minister Gallant, this comes up, the use of — how they're conducting their operations, the importance of upholding humanitarian law and the laws of armed conflict. I just don't have more for you on this particular incident.

Q: I need to ask you about Ms. Magsamen (inaudible). Her name came up quite a bit during the January fiasco about the hospital stay. And the IG's still working on the report. Is her exit at all connected with an — looming release of a Pentagon Inspector General report that may be critical of her conduct?

MS. SINGH: I think the Chief of Staff to the Secretary has served in this position for, I think, upwards of three and a half years, also served on transition. I think she has deserved some well-time — well-deserved time off before she pursues other opportunities. I have no idea when the I.G. is going to release their report. That is why the independent — that is why the I.G. is independent and separate. I have no idea when that's coming. So no, I think that's — Kelly decided to leave when she did because after three and a half years, I think she's earned some well-deserved time off.

Yeah, Liz?

Q: Thanks. To follow up on Idrees' question on the injured servicemember...

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: ... can you say how they were injured?

MS. SINGH: It was a noncombat injury that happened on a ship that was away from the pier. But for more specifics, I just — I don't have that for you right now.

Q: OK.

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: And separately, today, the Five Eyes intelligence alliance released a bulletin warning of China's increased efforts to recruit Western pilots. What is the U.S. military doing to deter its own pilots, former pilots, servicemembers from, you know, taking these bribes and training China’s pilots?

MS. SINGH: I think also, you know, loyalty to your country I think is — is — is certainly one that we always, you know, impart on our servicemembers. It's something that we're certainly aware of. You've seen it — it's a joint report. I don't have — really have more to add. But you know, it's something that we certainly take seriously and we, of course, you know, always expect that our pilots will uphold the standards that they are trained under, and that they, you know, keep their training specific to the United States.

Q: I mean, just to follow up, in general, generally speaking, why is it concerning that Western pilots would be training these pilots? Can you just explain if there's any national security risks from that?

MS. SINGH: I think you answered your own question with that. I think there are national security risks there. I don't have more to add. I think the report goes into a few more details on — on, like, warnings and sort of our concerns. But I just — I don't — I don't have more to add to it.


Q: I just wanted to add...

MS. SINGH: Yeah.

Q: ... follow up on Tony's question...

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: ... just to be clear. Kelly Magsamen's — was Kelly Magsamen's departure her own decision? And was it in any way related to the notification failures?

MS. SINGH: Complete own decision, and no. I'd have to remind you that what you're referring to happened much earlier in this year in January. It is June. The secretary has conducted — I don't know how many trips off the top of my head this year, but he just concluded his 10th trip to the Indo-Pacific. He is in France. Kelly is on that trip. She has been on many trips this year. So no. And you saw his statement. I think there is truly some — that is truly someone that has demonstrated an incredible dedication to service, to this department, and of course, to the secretary, and so you know, we — we certainly wish her well, and she is — I hope whatever she does next, I hope it's filled with a lot of sleep, and hopefully, catching up with friends and family.

Tara, and then...

Q: (inaudible) — what is the update on the secretary's cancer treatment? Is he completely in remission? Is he still seeking treatment? I know we've seen that — we've seen previous statements saying, you know, it's being handled, but what's the status.

MS. SINGH: His prognosis remains excellent…

Q. What does that mean?

MS. SINGH: … I mean, as someone that has a family member that has gone through something similar, when your prognosis is excellent, you continue to be monitored by your doctors. You're not necessarily getting treatment, but your doctors are continuing to monitor for you in case anything, you know, were to come up, if it's six months, a year check-ins — whatever that is. I'm not a medical professional. I'm not going to pretend to speak on behalf of — you know, give you a doctor's analysis from here. But his cancer prognosis remains excellent. Every time that he's gone to Walter Reed Medical Center or any type of doctor's appointment, we certainly read that out and let you know about that. But I just don't have more to add.

Q: I guess my question is has he continued to get some form of cancer treatment to keep things in check? Or did everything kind of stop after that one, you know, (inaudible)...

MS. SINGH: Not to my knowledge. His cancer prognosis, I know — not trying to be a broken record here, but it is excellent. Doctors will obviously continue to monitor anyone's cancer prognosis whenever you're diagnosed, but I'm not aware that he's still being treated for anything in — in relation to that.

All right, OK. One more question. Yeah?

Q: The — sorry. What's your assessment of the shooting of — at U.S. Embassy in Lebanon? Probably you — the State Department has more to say, but do you have anything?

MS. SINGH: So we — we're monitoring what happened on the ground there. I would refer you to the State Department to — to speak more to the incident. I believe it was around the U.S. Embassy, and that an investigation is being conducted. But I think we're very grateful and — and thankful for the — the — the Lebanese Armed Forces and the International Security Forces that are there. All of our U.S. personnel at the embassy are safe, but I would direct you to the State Department for more information.

OK, all right, thanks, everyone.