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Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder Holds a Press Briefing

MAJOR GENERAL PAT RYDER: All right. Well, good afternoon, everyone. Thanks very much for your patience today. I do have quite a bit to read out at the top, and then we'll get right to your questions.

Earlier today, Secretary Austin hosted Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant here at the Pentagon to discuss efforts to deescalate tensions along the Israel-Lebanon border, to surge more humanitarian aid into Gaza, and to stand together against Iranian and Iranian-supported attacks against Israel and destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East.

Secretary Austin underscored the ironclad U.S. commitment to Israel, as evidenced in part by the extraordinary defense of Israel against an unprecedented Iranian attack on April 13 and by the more than $14 billion in assistance in the national security supplemental.

During the discussion, Secretary Austin stressed that Lebanese Hezbollah's provocations threaten to drag the Israeli and Lebanese people into a war that neither of them wants, and that such a war would be catastrophic for Lebanon and it would be devastating for innocent Israeli and Lebanese civilians. Secretary Austin also reiterated the high priority of securing the safe release of all hostages held captive by Hamas, including American citizens.

He commended Minister Gallant for Israel's support for the comprehensive ceasefire and hostage release proposal that it has offered, which President Biden has outlined and the United Nations Security Council has endorsed. They agree that the onus is on Hamas to accept this deal.

Secretary Austin stressed that principled diplomacy is the only way to prevent any further escalation of tensions in the region. Additionally, Secretary Austin urged Minister Gallant to double down on efforts to protect Palestinian civilians and humanitarian aid workers in Gaza.

The Secretary and Minister discussed ways to improve the distribution of humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians in dire need and to strengthen the deconfliction mechanisms for humanitarian workers. A full readout will be posted to the DOD website later today.

Separately, Secretary Austin also spoke by phone today with Russian Minister of Defense Andrey Belousov. During the call, the Secretary emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication amid Russia's ongoing war against Ukraine. The last time Secretary Austin spoke to his Russian counterpart, then-Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu, was on March 15th, 2023. A brief readout will be posted to

In other news, today the department released its new Information Technology Advancement Strategy titled Fulcrum. The Fulcrum Strategy provides a roadmap for better aligning DOD's IT capabilities and resources to accelerate the department's modernization efforts and expand our military strategic advantage across the IT landscape.

Fulcrum will assist the department in continuing the transformative change occurring throughout DOD's IT enterprise while empowering DOD leaders to deliver advanced IT capabilities for our warfighters. Of note, Fulcrum will also assist the department in our ongoing efforts to recruit and develop the best digital talent the country has to offer. A press release with further details on Fulcrum, along with a link to the full strategy, is available on the DOD website.

Also, last Friday marked one year since the launch of the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem, or INDUS-X. INDUS-X is one of the ways DOD continues to help advance the initiative on critical and emerging technology between our two countries.

Together with the Indian Ministry of Defense, we're facilitating dynamic partnerships among defense technology companies, investors, and researchers. We've already convened two INDUS-X summits, one here in Washington and another in New Delhi. And the White House just announced that a third INDUS-X summit will take place this September in Silicon Valley.

We're very proud of what this initiative has achieved in just one year, and we're excited for what's ahead. A detailed fact sheet on INDUS-X is available on the DOD website.

And finally, as you may have seen, we've posted a statement from Secretary Austin yesterday announcing that Derek Chollet will start in July as the Secretary's Chief of Staff.

Mr. Chollet has served in senior policy roles at the White House, the Pentagon, and the Department of State, including his current role as Counselor of the Department of State. In his statement, Secretary Austin expressed his gratitude to Mr. Chollet for taking on this key assignment at such an important moment.

And as previously announced, Kelly Magsamen, the current Chief of Staff, will depart this week after three and a half years in the position, since the very first day of this administration. As Secretary Austin said in his June 5 statement, he's deeply grateful for her tremendous service over three and a half pivotal years to him, the department, and the country as the Chief of Staff.

So on behalf of the Secretary and the entire Office of the Secretary of Defense, we all wish her the very best as she takes some time off before pursuing other opportunities.

And with that, I'll take your questions. Tara?

Q: That was a lot. I wanted to ask about the humanitarian assistance for Gaza. Is there a role for DOD, particularly with the coordination cell? You have some warnings today from the UN that they will just pull out of distributing aid if more is not done to protect those that are distributing it.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so, you know, there is a role when it comes to getting aid into Gaza for the Department of Defense and it's exactly what we're doing. We are working with the U.S. interagency as well as other international agencies and partners to facilitate the flow of aid into Gaza.

Certainly, you know, as I highlighted during the discussion today with Minister Galant, that was on the agenda, was to discuss ways to ensure that aid can get to the people who need it most. But, you know, from a DOD standpoint, to get the crux of your question, there's no plans, for example, to put U.S. military forces on the ground in Gaza.

We're going to continue to work with humanitarian organizations, via USAID and other regional partners to ensure that we can find a way to get that aid to the people who need it most.

Q: But is there more potentially that could be done through the coordination cell? Because some of the concerns or complaints is that they don't have enough direct communication with IDF.

GEN. RYDER: Well again, you know, as I mentioned here, you know, that that's one aspect of it, is looking at those mechanisms. I think probably the most important aspect though would be the other thing that I mentioned, which is a ceasefire. And the onus is on Hamas.

So, if a ceasefire could be put into place right now, that would greatly facilitate the security and safety considerations on the ground, which would further facilitate the flow of aid.


Q: So, Pat, could you – along these lines, could you give us an update on the pier? Is it still moving? And if so, how much? And also again, if the UN decides to stop delivering aid, what does that mean for the operation of the pier? Will you curtail the amount of aid you're sending to the marshal area? Will you stop? Does that have an affect on your operations?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so a few things. So first of all, yes, the pier is operational. It resumed operations again today. As you know, yesterday, they took a day to do some scheduled maintenance on the pier. But the bottom line is, yes, it's operational. Aid is flowing across the causeway.

CENTCOM, you know, per standard, will be issuing updates in terms of the amounts. I can tell you right now, to date, since May 17, they've delivered more than 6,800 metric tons or 15 million pounds of humanitarian aid onshore for onward delivery.

Now, your question about the amount of aid. Again, back to my earlier comment, you know, the DOD is working with the interagency and international NGOs to facilitate the delivery of aid. And so, that's our role in this, is to help get the aid there whether it's via the maritime corridor, whether it's via air or, you know, preferably land routes.

And so, again, we're going to continue to work with those agencies who are the ones that are out there that are doing the hard work to facilitate those donations. But bottom line is we'll be standing ready to help get the aid there.

Now, last thing I'll say on that is, again, to underscore, you know, this is a temporary pier. So this is a temporary solution to help rush aid into the zone, again, recognizing that the dire security situation there. But again, we're going to continue to look at all ways to get aid into Gaza.

Q: But – but again, if – if the UN stops delivering food, will you just continue moving humanitarian aid to that marshaling area, or are – you basically say, if they're not delivering aid, we're going to have, at some point, stop?

GEN. RYDER: I – I mean, certainly, we've got to take into account the capacity of the marshaling area. We're not quite there yet. So, you know, again, we're going to continue to be in communication with the UN, with World Food Program, USAID and look at those things. Ultimately, I think, we all want the same thing, which is to make sure aid to get to the people who need it in Gaza.


Q: You mentioned civilian casualties were an issue that was discussed this morning between Austin and Gallant. Did the secretary receive any commitment or assurances from the Israeli defense minister to reduce civilian casualties?

GEN. RYDER: You know, I'm not going to be able to go into more details than what I've provided in that readout there, Idrees, other than to say, again, you know – and I don't want to speak for Minister Gallant, other than to say, again, that this is a priority for Secretary Austin in terms of protecting civilians, and that is something that has come up in every single conversation that they have.

Q: Does the secretary feel that it is a priority for the Israelis as well?

GEN. RYDER: I'm not going to, again, characterize Minister Gallant's words. I think the Secretary recognizes that his message is being received loud and clear. And again, we're going to continue to highlight how important it is. I mean, you heard it in his opening comments, right? It's both a moral obligation and a strategic imperative, so …

Q: With the Russian Defense Minister, who initiated the call?

GEN. RYDER: The Secretary did.

Well – yep, let me go to you, sir.

Q: (Inaudible) TV, Egypt. The Secretary has indicated that diplomacy is the best way to prevent the recent tensions between Lebanon and — between Hezbollah and Israel from escalating into a full-blown war. What has been discussed in the talks between the secretary and his Israeli counterpart on this issue?

GEN. RYDER: Well again, as I highlighted at the top, you know, we think that no one wins if there's a broader regional conflict. And so, that's something that the Department of Defense and the United States has been working very hard at ever since Hamas' attack on October 7.

And so, the Secretary has been clear, both publicly and privately, that we firmly believe that a diplomatic resolution to the tensions along the Israel/Lebanon border are the way to go. And to prevent a potential escalation, and especially in this type of situation where there's a risk of miscalculation that no one wants to see.

So, let me go to the phone here real quick. Lara Seligman, Politico.

Q: Hi, Pat. Thanks for doing this. Can you tell me what was the impetus for Secretary Austin's call with the Russian Defense Minister?

GEN. RYDER: Thanks, Lara. I'm not going to have anything to provide beyond what I read out at the top, other than, again, the Secretary believes that keeping lines of communication open are important.

GEN. RYDER: All right, let me go to Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose.

Q: Thank you. Former President Trump has criticized the military for going — for moving toward electric tanks. As far as you know, is there — are there any plans for electric tanks?

GEN. RYDER: Yes, thanks, Jeff. Seeing those press reports, I'm not aware of any electric tanks. And certainly refer you to the Army for any questions about their acquisitions programs. And just leave it there.


Q: Thank you, General. I have two questions on – on North Korea, Russia, and Ukraine.

First question – Russian President Putin recognized the – North Korea as a nuclear state. And the U.S. Congress is also talking about arming South Korea with nuclear weapons in response to North Korea's nuclear weapons.

What is the Pentagon's view on the South Korea issue, armistice with the nuclear weapons?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, look, our policy hasn't changed as it relates to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. You know, again, we'll continue to work closely with ROK and Japanese allies and others in the region to ensure security and stability throughout the Indo-Pacific. And I'll just leave it there.

Q: A quick follow-up – North Korea's Central Military Commission announced that North Korea would join forces with the Russian military. And as part of the North Korea and Russia military alliance, the North Korean Army engineer unit would be dispatched to Donetsk, Ukraine, which remains occupied by Russia. It will be dispatched as early as next month. How do you assess about the rapid situation in which North Korea and Russia are moving toward Ukraine?

GEN. RYDER: So, just to clarify, you're asking what do I think about Russia assigning North Korean forces to the battlefield in Ukraine?

Q: North Korean Army.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, sending North — yeah, I mean, that's certainly something to keep an eye on. I think that if I were North Korean military personnel management, I would be questioning my choices on sending my forces to be cannon fodder in an illegal war against Ukraine. And we've seen the kinds of casualties that Russian forces – so – but again, something that we'll keep an eye on.

Q: …is it part of …

GEN. RYDER: Let me — let me move on, Janne. Yes, sir?

Q: General, regarding to the escalation of the border between Lebanon and Israel, do you still believe that the diplomatic resolution is still possible? And today, the – after the meeting between Secretary Austin and his Israeli counterpart, did you see that the Israeli agree to go with – with Secretary Austin assessment about the -- this solution as a diplomatic? Do they agree with that path? And even with that, did they agree with what – what Secretary Austin says about that, any other war between Hezbollah and Israel could easily become a regional war?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, again, I'm not going to speak for Minister Gallant or the Israeli delegation. I'll allow them to do that. But to answer your question, yes, we do think that a diplomatic resolution is possible, and that's something that we'll continue to work with all parties involved on to – to achieve, for the reasons that I spelled out.

Yes, sir?

Q: Thank you. Thank you, General Pat. My name is Mushfiqul Fazal. I am representing South Asia Perspectives. May I know how the Pentagon navigating its military and security partnership with Bangladesh, given the U.S. public designation of immediate past Army Chief of Bangladesh, General Aziz, due to his involvement in significant corruption. The country is moving in the wrong direction, with extreme violation of human rights and democratic rights. Top police and RIB personnel have been sanctioned by the U.S., and the current regime is using the security forces to keep the power by any means.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks for the question, and welcome to the – to the briefing room here. As you're aware and – and as you highlighted, the State Department has designated General Ahmed for significant corruption. They did this back in May. That designation reaffirms the U.S. commitment to strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law in Bangladesh, and the department supports the anti-corruption efforts that are being taken there.

And I would just, you know, conclude by saying that the U.S. does have a close bilateral defense relationship with Bangladesh in support of shared values and interests, such as a shared free and open Indo-Pacific and maritime and regional security. So, I'll just leave it there.


Q: Thanks. There's a report out that the Biden administration is considering allowing U.S. military contractors in Ukraine to help maintain U.S.-provided weapons systems in Ukraine. Without getting into hypotheticals of what could be decided, what's the difference between doing this and having U.S. military boots on the ground?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks for the question, Liz. What I'd say right now is – is I'm not going to comment on any reports of internal discussions or proposals that may or may not be under consideration. The bottom line is the President and the Secretary have been clear that we're not going to send U.S. troops to fight in Ukraine, and that won't change. So, I'll just leave it there.

OK. Sir?

Q: Regarding the DOD Inspector General report on tracking funds to China for pathogen research, the report mentions – mentions there are, quote, “significant restraints in order to track those – those funds.” So, will there be any revisions made in the future to accurately track those?

GEN. RYDER: Let me take that question. I just don't have that information in front of me, so we'll get back to you on it.


Q: Thank you, General. So, Mr. Gallant said – said today that the U.S. and Israel are working to reach an agreement about the tension on the borders between Israel and Lebanon, but he added “we must also discuss readiness for every possible scenario.” Did the Secretary discuss such scenarios with Mr. Gallant? I think he was alluding to war, maybe?

GEN. RYDER: Well, again, as you can appreciate, I'm not going to speak for Minister Gallant or his comments. I will say again that they did have a discussion about the tensions along the Israel-Lebanon border. The Secretary again highlighted the importance of finding a diplomatic resolution to those tensions. You know, it was a very frank, candid, professional conversation, and robust. So, lots of discussion on the situation as it relates to Lebanon, but I'll just leave it there.

Q: And – and the Secretary thanked Mr. Gallant for his efforts to increase the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza. However, today, the Integrated Food Security Phase Class said that 21.5 million Palestinians in Gaza face high levels of acute food insecurity, and half a million are facing starvation.

Was the Secretary aware of these statistics be – before making his comments? And can you point to any specific efforts that he was talking about on – from Mr. Gallant to make sure food is actually and aid is actually getting to the people of Gaza?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, and again, with the caveat that I'm not Israel MOD spokesperson and I'm not going to stand up here and be Minister Gallant's spokesperson, what the Secretary was alluding to is the fact that, you know, first of all, Israel is not a monolith.

And Minister Gallant has – from the Secretary's perspective, has worked hard to enable the mechanisms by which humanitarian assistance can get into Gaza. For example, working to ensure that aid can get past protesters, for example, on the Israeli side into Gaza; working to get the gates open; supporting JLOTS, in terms of providing security so that JLOTS can be anchored to the pier; and then, of course, supporting the coordination cell that exists.

So, from Secretary Austin's perspective, Minister Gallant has been a partner we can work with, in terms of identifying ways to get aid into Gaza, recognizing the challenges that still exist there, recognizing the fact that much, much more aid needs to get in. So, this will be something that they continue to talk about.


GEN. RYDER: Thank you, General. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Israel is ready to fight two wars on two fronts. And today, the Israeli Defense Minister said in the room that they're determined to actually establish security in the north and change the reality on the ground.

So, if that were to happen – we've seen from the Secretary that it's not a hypothetical anymore but a calculation in this department, that it could turn into a full-blown war in the region – if that were to happen, can Israel rely on the United States militarily? Because we've seen this play out before, that you said one thing, Israel did another, but you were still behind them militarily. So, can that still be the case?

GEN. RYDER: So, I appreciate the question. And I will respectfully disagree that it's not a hypothetical, it is a hypothetical. I mean, certainly that is a scenario that could happen, but it hasn't yet. And so, our focus right now is on finding a diplomatic solution to the tensions that are along the border there.

And, you know, as I highlighted at the top, our support for Israel's inherent right to self-defense is ironclad. It will remain that way. We'll continue to support Israel and their ability to defend themselves. 

But when it comes to the tensions along the border, when it comes to the broader region, we don't want to see a broader regional conflict. And so, that will continue to be a primary focus of this department and this government. Thank you.

Take a few more. Yes, sir?

Q: Thank you. I have a question on a different topic about the launches of the Russian satellite to space, the Cosmos Satellite 2576. There are supposed to be no error. 

And the question is where the Pentagon is standing with the nuclear anti-satellite program? And if the Pentagon is also looking on a new cold — I mean not looking but, you know, is aware there might be on the verge of a new Cold War in space against Russia and China?

GEN. RYDER: Well, yeah, I mean, there's lot to unpack there, you know? So the bottom line is we recognize that space is now congested and contested, right? You know, it's not the benign environment that it used to be. And there are actors that are looking to, you know, create conditions in space that threaten not only U.S. national security interests but other countries as well.

And so, our focus is on protecting our capabilities but also ensuring that space doesn't become the kind of battleground that you suggest. So, is there a cold war in space right now? No. But it's certainly something that we will need to continue to stay very focused on, which is why you saw in our case the U.S. military create a U.S. Space Force several years ago, so that you have Space Force Guardians who come to work every single day with the primary job of keeping an eye on the space domain to not only ensure we understand what's in space but also protect our interests, and importantly, working with our allies and partners around the world to do the same. Thank you very much.

Yes, sir?

Q: Thank you very much. A question on …

GEN. RYDER: All right, welcome.

Q: ...from the Pakistan Daily. So, the government of Pakistan announced a new military operation against the Pakistani Taliban and allied groups. Some of them believed are also wanted from China – for example, east of the Islamic movement.

So, the United States, before and after the Doha Agreement, showed its commitment to go after ISIS and linked groups, like ISKP, who is actively working with Pakistani Taliban in attacking civilians of Pakistan. And also, there are concerns from Chinese side. So, do you think – so -- still there is – like, the United States – United States have something with Pakistani military on this operation, or United States is aware about this, Pentagon is aware about this?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Well, first – first of all, welcome. What I would tell you is – you know, I don't have any specifics as it relates to particular Pakistani operations, counter-terror operations. I would say, broadly speaking, we fully appreciate and recognize Pakistan's important role as a partner when it comes to counterterrorism. We have a long history of working together on counterterrorism efforts.

And when it comes to regional terrorist threats, it's certainly something that we continue to keep an eye on, especially, you know, for obvious reasons as it relates to protecting U.S. national security interests and protecting the homeland. But the way that we do that is we don't do that alone. We work with allies and partners throughout the world to assess those threats and take appropriate action.

So, again, I don't have any specifics on the operations that you're talking about. But I'm confident that at multiple levels, we're in contact with the Pakistani government as well as other partners in the region to address potential terrorist threats. Thank you.


Q: Thank you, General. In Okinawa, Japan, local authorities said that prosecutors charged a U.S. serviceman of the Air Force in Okinawa for allegedly sexually assaulting a girl under 16 years old in March, and it was revealed yesterday. Could you give us a comment on this case? And what you think about the potential impact on U.S. and Japan relations?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, unfortunately, I just -- I don't have any details on that. I'd have to refer you to — you said it was Air Force? Yeah, I'd have to refer you to the Air Force for any questions on that. Thank you.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: Sir, Kimberly Underwood from FCS SIGNAL Magazine. I wanted to ask about the Fulcrum Strategy. As DOD continues to advance strategies and the digital workforce through the strategies, are there any broad areas that the Secretary will need to iron out, as far as IT or C4 technologies, you know, to take DOD into the future?

And then I had a quick INDUS 3 question, a follow-up.

GEN. RYDER: Sure. I'm going to take your question, cause I want to get you a proper answer on that, but appreciate it.

Q: And for INDUS 3, do you think it — would the Secretary have an – any advice to Silicon Valley companies about participating in the event, or companies that may be interested in understanding the INDUS partnership?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Well, you know, just broadly speaking, especially when you look at the challenges that the department is facing around the world today as we implement the National Defense Strategy, I mean it's clear that the partnership between the Department of Defense and industry is vital, and you see this on multiple levels.

And for example, through programs like DIU or INDUS-X or, you know, many, many others, it's critical that we be able to work together to understand each other's requirements. And so, you know, that's going to continue to be a priority for this department. So, thank you very much.

Take two more. Yes, sir?

Q: Yeah, hi. So, as you guys celebrate a year of INDUS-X, it is also a year anniversary of my colleague, Vivek Raghuvanshi, being detained by Indian authorities for the crime of journalism. So, as you all celebrate, you know, this partnership with India, what conversations or assurances has the Pentagon pursued from India on press freedom and human rights in exchange for all of these partnerships?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Well, certainly, you know, I know that our State Department has spoken to this, you know. Broadly speaking, again, from a Department of Defense standpoint, we certainly support and will defend an open, free, and independent press. That's our position. So, I'll just leave it there.

Ok…Noah, last question.

Q: A couple short ones on the call with the Russian Defense Minister today. Could you tell us about how long it lasted? And then, secondarily, since the focus was, in large part, you said, on maintaining lines of communication, how would you characterize those lines of communication right now?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Noah. I do appreciate the question. I'm just not going to have any more details to provide than what I provided to you. All right.

Thanks very much, everybody. Appreciate it.