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Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh Holds a Press Briefing

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SABRINA SINGH: Good afternoon. Just a few things at the top, and then happy to dive in and take your questions.

So U.S. European Command announced yesterday that the USS Wasp entered the Mediterranean Sea June 26th on a scheduled deployment to the U.S. Naval Force's Europe/Africa Area of Operations. The ship will support U.S. ally — U.S. allied and partner interests in the region, including in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, to continue promoting regional stability and deterring aggression. The USS Wasp and embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit will be joined by the USS Oak Hill, which is currently in the Mediterranean Sea, and the USS New York, which is currently operating in the Atlantic Ocean. Together, this Navy and Marine Corps capability constitutes the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group that deployed from the East Coast on June 1st.

The presence of an integrated ARGMU provides flexibility and enhanced capability to NAVEUR and NAVAF and U.S. Sixth Fleet. You can see EUCOM's full statement on their EUCOM website.

And now, switching to a few operational updates on the temporary pier, or the Joint Logistics Over The Shore capability that is being used to surge humanitarian assistance into Gaza. In the past seven days, U.S. Central Command delivered more than 4,500 metric tons, or 10 million pounds of aid to the marshaling yard in Gaza, which works out to approximately 1.5 million pounds per day. For historical context, following the devastating tsunami in 2011, DOD delivered about three million pounds of aid to Japan over approximately two months. So just again for context, in the last week, the temporary pier alone deliver — triple — almost tripled that volume. Additionally, the pier provided the second-highest volume of aid from any entry point into Gaza this past week. In total, since May 17th, Central Command has assisted in the delivery of more than 8,831 metric tons, or approximately 19.4 million pounds of humanitarian aid to the shore for onward distribution by humanitarian organizations.

Now, due to high sea states expected this weekend, Central Command has removed the temporary pier from its anchored position in Gaza and will tow it back to Ashdod, Israel. As always, the safety of our service members is a top priority, and temporarily relocating the pier will prevent potential structural damage that could be caused by the heightened sea state. U.S. Central Command will continue pro- — to provide updates on the status of the temporary pier, as will we from this podium.

And finally, but last but not least, I want to acknowledge CBS Correspondent David Martin as he wraps up his time covering the Pentagon. Later this summer, David will be stepping away from the daily Pentagon beat after having covered the Department of Defense for more than four decades and across seven administrations. The good thing is that we'll continue to hear from David as he continues his longform storytelling for CBS News broadcasts.

And I just want to say that you are one of the first people that I speak to almost on a regular basis in the morning, so I will — I will certainly miss seeing you in the building, but I hope those calls continue, as well. So on behalf of OSD Public Affairs, I just wanted to take this opportunity to

congratulate you, David, congratulate your family, wish you the best in your next chapter.

And with that, why don't you start us off if you have a question.

Q: Well, there are reports that that pier, once it gets towed into Ashdon, is not — Ashdod is not going to go back because of the backlog in — in shipments. Is that correct?

MS. SINGH: I wouldn't say that's correct in terms of the backlog of shipments. There is a need for more aid. I think what you're referring to is in Cyprus. We do need more aid to come into Cyprus. We are pretty close to full on the marshaling yard in terms of how much aid is there.

As I mentioned at the top, this pier has provided the second most volume of aid over all the other crossings in Gaza, so we've certainly seen its capability. We've seen the importance of what it can do. As high sea states are impacting the operability of the pier, that's why it's being removed. When the commander decides that it is the right time to reinstall that pier, we'll keep you updated on that.

Q: So it may not go back?

MS. SINGH: As of right now, the intention is to continue to get aid into Gaza by any means necessary. That includes the pier, airdrops and of course, as we've always said with the pier, it is meant to be temporary. It is not the long-term solution or solve for land routes. We know that's the most effective way in, but that's really a decision that the commander will make as we continue to evaluate the high sea states. But I don't have a date of when the pier would be reinstalled.

Q: You don't have a date?

MS. SINGH: I don't right now. The commander will continue to assess the sea states over the weekend. That could lead into next week. So we're going to continue to monitor the environmental and weather factors, and once we have a better update, we'll certainly provide that.

Q: So one of the —


Q: — the disintegration of this Russian satellite. Is there any indication that that satellite came apart as a result of some kind of Russian anti-satellite test?

MS. SINGH: As of right now, we're still evaluating why this satellite came apart. Satellite breakups can result from a variety of different cases, but right now, we just don't have an assessment of what broke this one apart, which I believe happened on June 26th.

Okay, Tara?

Q: Thanks, Sabrina. Back to the pier, the marshaling yard is almost full, and it doesn't seem like any delivery trucks are going to take that aid. So would putting the pier back in place be contingent upon there actually being room to

put more aid? Cause how could you move aid if you don't have anywhere to put it?

MS. SINGH: If there's not enough room on the marshaling yard, then it doesn't make sense to put our men and women out there when there's nothing to move. There is still room. I don't want to give the impression that it's at capacity. It is certainly full, but we do need to see that marshaling yard open up to allow for aid groups to continue that distribution so that we can get more aid in as we get it from Cyprus.

Q: So is there anything that the U.S. can do to help get that aid moving out of the marshaling yard?

MS. SINGH: We've been having ongoing conversations with the WFP — and by "we," I should say the larger, broader "we." That's an interagency effort that's really being spearheaded by USAID.

So for more updates on those conversations, I'd refer you to them to speak to how those conversations are going with WFP, but we all know that this is a priority. We want to see distribution pick back up, we want to see aid delivered to the people that need it most. We certainly know and understand and are monitoring the dire humanitarian situation on the ground. So we certainly want to see that distribution back up.

Q: The coordination cell that the U.S. has a role in to help with the convoys, what's going on there as far as how U.S. officials — U.S. military officials are working with IDF to maybe try and streamline communications between the IDF and the aid groups?

MS. SINGH: Well, that's part of what the deconfliction cells do, we have one in Cyprus and one in Israel. They are there to help with the distribution of aid. It's more how groups, NGOs, WFP also plugs into that.

I don't want to speak on behalf of those groups, and USAID in particular, but right now, there is good communication between, you know, our military personnel in those deconfliction cells and the IDF.


Q: Hey. So just to clarify really quick, and then I have a question — so is the marshaling area full or — or not?

MS. SINGH: I wouldn't say it's at capacity — there's still some room there — — I would say a majority is pretty full right now.

Q: And then secondly, in yesterday's debate, President Biden said he was the only President of this century that didn't have any troops die anywhere in the world. And I'm just wondering, you know, how — how — how the Pentagon — whether the Pentagon stands by those remarks, given that three U.S. service members died in Jordan this year, then of course that's not even counting Abbey Gate? And I'm just wondering what the Pentagon's comment is on that.

MS. SINGH: Thank you for the question. You know, for more on the President's comments and on the debate itself, I'd refer you to the White House. But in terms of, you know, our service members who have been killed in some of these tragic events around the world, you've seen the President call these families to express condolences. This is someone that has intimately experienced, you know,

the commitment and dedication of what our military does and, you know, he has his own personal experience with that.

So, you know, I've seen him express great compassion and condolences to families who are — who have been impacted, and that's something that he's not only done as President but of course as Vice President as well.

But for more on those comments, I'd refer you to the White House on that.

Q: Is the Secretary reaching out to any families to provide any additional context to the President's remarks?

MS. SINGH: I don't have any calls to read out.


Q: Just — just to be clear, was the President's statement incorrect?

MS. SINGH: I — again, just not trying to get involved in that — campaign events or really go further on comments on the debate. If the President has more context, I'd refer you to the White House to speak to his comments.

I think you and others have reported on some of the tragic life — losses of life that we have seen from service members, whether it’s as Phil referenced in Jordan or in other places around the world, and you've seen this President express his deepest condolences to those families as well.

So I would refer you to the White House for more.

Q: — beating — beating around the bush here. This is a question to the Pentagon, to you. Has President Biden had service members die anywhere in the world during his time in office?

MS. SINGH: As you have reported on, we have certainly had service members passduring this administration, and you've seen not just the Secretary but the President himself also weigh in and comment and offer condolences, whether it's calling the families or through statements. But I just don't have more to offer in terms of the debate itself.

Q: And then one question on the pier. Six weeks ago today, the pier began operating, if my — if my math is right, and it's been down for roughly two and a half weeks. Has the pier lived up to its (inaudible)?

MS. SINGH: I would say it certainly has, Oren. I mean, just it might have been operating for, you know, six weeks, and during that time, yes, we have had periods of time where we've had to pull it offline cause of weather, we've had periods of time where we've had to do repairs.

But as I mentioned in my topper, since May 17th, we've had over 19 million pounds of aid delivered to the shore in Gaza. That is, I'd say, a great success. And you have to remember that at the beginning of this year, in the State of the Union, the President directed this maritime corridor be established.

And I think it has been successful, because at the end of the day, not enough aid is getting into the people of Gaza. This is meant to be an additive

measure, this is not meant to be the only route where aid can get in, and we've been able to deliver 19 million pounds.

And yes, there are still aid that is sitting in that marshaling area awaiting further distribution. We're working with groups to make sure that happens. But I would say that our men and women in uniform have done really heroic work to get that aid to the people that need it most.


Q: I just have a follow-up.

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: You talked about how it was a success, but you've also said that — that it was, what, 19 million pounds? They haven't reached the people. So how is that defined as success?

MS. SINGH: Well, not all of them, but you have to remember, Carla, that, in terms of the distribution efforts, that is not what the United States or United States military is doing. The President at the outset said there will be no boots on the ground in Gaza.

So the distribution effort are being done by WFP and the UN. These groups put a pause in place, they're doing an assessment so that they can continue their own operations. 19 million pounds is still not nothing, and I think we have to commend the donations, whether it be from countries around the world, from other aid groups, that went to Cyprus — that got aid to Cyprus, that has moved to the pier — or to the floating pier and then onto the temporary pier into the marshaling area. That is still aid that is going to save lives. And I think our central Command and EUCOM forces should be commended for their work on that.

Q: And the ships that are in the Mediterranean, what would you define as their purpose? Are they capable of evacuating people should war break out between Israel's north and Hezbollah?

MS. SINGH: Yes. So, I've seen a lot of reporting on evacuation efforts that could happen. I think it's important to remember that a capability like the ARGMU can provide and do many other things, one being a military assisted departure, but that is not their only capability. They are there in the region to ensure regional stability, to deter aggression.

And I think you have to remember, as you reported early on, you'll remember the Ford moved into the Eastern Med. You know, I think it was dedicated October 8, it started moving towards the Eastern Med. We also had the 26th MEU in the Eastern Med. And all around that, it made its way through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, and we didn't have to do a military assisted departure during that time.

So, these are capabilities, these are deployments that are rescheduled and they are there in case, you know, there is something that is needed for them. But right now, they are there to ensure stability and deter.


Q: Thanks, Sabrina. So, you just said today, from the podium, have said repeatedly that the Gaza pier was meant to always be additive. And that the land routes are supposed to be the most efficient way to get aid in.

But you know, you're saying that the pier has, I guess, inadvertently become the second most productive entry point for aid. I mean, does the Pentagon have any thoughts on how that came to be, that this additive measure has become one of the most effective ways to get aid into the region?

MS. SINGH: I think it shows the capability of our military and being able to be incredibly efficient and also the interagency being able to work to solicit donations to get into Cyprus and then move that through the temporary pier.

And I think at the end of the day, this was a capability that, whether it be nations around the world, NGOs, other groups that saw this is another method to get aid into people that need it most, and they wanted to partner with the United States.

I can't speak to every nation that's donated, but it's certainly meant to be additive, it's meant to be temporary. We continue to urge for those land routes to be opened. That is the most effective way to get aid in.

Q: Right. And so, I mean, I guess my question, my follow up to that would be, you know, does the Pentagon not see this as a failure of getting the land routes open, that the pier is the most effective way to get aid in right now, or what happens?

MS. SINGH: The land routes not being open is certainly something that we're concerned about, and we want to see more trucks getting in every single day. And that is something that I've heard the secretary continue to emphasize with Minister Gallant, and not just from this building; across the interagency.

So, that is something that we continue to urge the Israelis to open up those crossing. That is the best way in, and we're going to continue to do that. In the meantime, while that's not flowing the way it should, this is an additive measure that is going to help people and that has helped people.

Moving 19 million pounds of aid, I think, is not nothing. I think that our forces that are doing that hard work out there, you know, they're putting their sweat and tears into this every single day. And that is aid that's going to get to the people that need it most eventually.


Q: How much aid has actually gotten into Gaza or to the people of Gaza?

MS. SINGH: To Gaza? That would be something that I would let USAID and World Food Programs speak to because the — once it goes off from the marshaling area, it goes into different distribution centers. So, from there that's really more for WFP and the UN to speak to. And USAID.

Q: Can you tell me, is the military preparing for an evacuation of American citizens or U.S. personnel from Lebanon?



Q: Just to follow up on the pier —

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: — so it is seems like the U.S. military is doing a ton of work and it's not confirmed if this has gotten to people who need it or not. Is that frustrating?

MS. SINGH: No. I mean, we understand the concerns that groups like WFP have while operating within Gaza. We certainly understand their concerns, and they're really theirs to speak to. Our priority is making sure that we are getting aid across to that peer. So, when distribution starts back up, it's there, it's ready, and it can go far and wide.

And to Lara's question, it goes into these distribution centers where then it's further distributed. So, I'd let WFP and really the UN speak to those efforts. But no, I don't consider this a failure. This was always meant to be an additive measure. This was always meant to be a way to help supplement aid getting in. It is not the most effective way. It is really those land routes.

Q: On a separate topic, the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas has barred the U.S. military from sponsoring next year's festival due to the military support of Israel. Does the Pentagon disagree or agree with that decision? Any comment?

MS. SINGH: I don't really have a comment to offer. It's up to private companies, private organizations to make their own decisions. We are certainly, you know, working to get aid into Gaza to the Palestinian people that need it most. That's our priority when it comes to humanitarian aid, and we're focused on that. I'm going to keep going around here, Nancy, and then I'll go to you.

Q: I just had a quick follow up to Phil's question. Has the secretary made any calls to allies related to the debate? Either reassuring allies or received any calls from allies who expressed any concerns related to the debate?

MS. SINGH: I'm not aware of any calls. Yes?

Q: Thank you, Sabrina. I have two questions. First one regarding to the escalation of the Lebanon border, have you seen any progress regarding the diplomatic solution that Secretary Austin has been announced during his meeting with the Israel counterpart Gallant? And do you still believe that a diplomatic solution is still possible?

MS. SINGH: We still believe a diplomatic solution is possible, and the best way to avoid a wider regional war in the north. I would refer you to actually what the secretary said in his opening comments, that we don't want to see a wider regional war. We want to see a de-escalation of tensions. And part of the reason why you're seeing the Wasp move into the EUCOM AOR, is to deter aggression, to de-escalate tensions in the region. So, we certainly believe that through diplomatic channels, that is the best way of resolving any conflict.

Q: Second question, regarding to other topic. The Russia Defense Minister ordered today his officials to prepare a response to U.S. drone flights over the Black Sea. How much that could escalate the tensions? And does the DOD prepare for any scenario about that?

MS. SINGH: Yes, I've seen some of that reporting in those comments. I don't really have a comment to offer for you on that. You know, we continue to fly, sail and operate in international waters and international spaces, where the laws allow. I just don't have anything more to add at this time. Yes?

Q: Excuse me, I'm just trying to understand in terms of the communications, obviously, (military sea ?) to military, the Israel and the U.S. have a great conflicting relationship. Is the Pentagon not able to assist USAID in that deconfliction, to allow some of this aid off the marshaling area and to the people?

MS. SINGH: Could you just help elaborate more on, like, the deconfliction between what you're asking on USAID?

Q: The DOD in assisting with the deconfliction between USAID and WFP, and Israel, because that's partly —

MS. SINGH: I see.

Q: — concerned from WFP.

MS. SINGH: So USAID has the relationships with the NGO's. I don't want to speak on behalf of USAID, but that is their role. They are the coordinating humanitarian organization, not just for what's happening in Gaza, but countries all around the world. So they have that relationship. And they're really plugged in with the UN.

DOD's mission is the maritime corridor. We all fit together in different pieces, but you have to remember that USAID is the lead when it comes to working with humanitarian organizations. DOD's role when it comes to the deconfliction is really the pure operations itself. We have setup deconfliction cells that I think certainly model a good way forward on, you know, how to operate within Gaza.

But of course, the WFP has its own, you know, requests, concerns. And that's something that they are working through, And I just wouldn't go — want to go beyond that. Yeah. Go ahead, (Leon ?).

Q: Thank you. One, there is — according to reports, and also in Pakistan, also there is a resolution on the Capitol Hill against Pakistan. Pakistan is still, like in the past, have been supporting Iran on their nuclear programs. Now, we hear that Iran is ready to near as far as their nuclear program is concerned.

So where do we stand as far as USAID supporting Pakistan or Pakistan wants U.S. support, but at the same time, they are helping Iran and others in their nuclear.

MS. SINGH: I don't have much more to provide than what General Ryder provided. I think on Tuesday was that, you know, we work with Pakistan on a range of different issues, have, you know, deep military cooperation. But I don't have more to offer on, you know, any nuclear assistance or programs.

I'm sorry, I should have gone to the phones. And then I'm happy to come back in the room for any additional questions. Jared Szuba Al-Monitor.

Q: Hi, Sabrina. I just wanted to check. I think there's been some reporting that Israeli Defense Minister Gallant may have pitched perhaps a limited,

tailored Israeli campaign in southern Lebanon against Hezbollah. Is there any room for that in the discussions or in the — from the perspective of Washington? Is the United States willing to see a limited Israeli operations in southern Lebanon to secure their border?

MS. SINGH: Thanks, Jared. I just haven't seen that or those comments, so I just don't want to comment on something that I haven't seen. I think bottom line is we don't want to see an expanded front open on the northern border between Israel and Lebanon. That's something that I direct you to — directly what the secretary said earlier this week when he had his bilat with Minister Gallant.

We are concerned about tensions continuing to rise there. We want to see a de-escalation of those tensions. And we believe that the best way forward is through diplomatic channels to resolve that, to avoid any further conflict. I'll take one more from the phone. JJ Green, WTOP.

Q: Thank you, Sabrina, for taking this. We heard and have been reporting recently that the president is considering allowing Pentagon contractors to deploy to Ukraine. Is that a done deal? Where does that stand? And what are the limits on what they would do if and when they are deployed there?

MS. SINGH: Thanks, JJ, for the question. So we have not made any decisions when it comes to U.S. contractors. I've seen some of the reporting out there. The President, of course, has been absolutely firm that there will be no U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine.

But I'm just not going to comment any further on internal discussions or reports over something that may or may not even be under consideration. So thanks for the question, JJ. Happy to come back in the room if there's any additional.

I think Luis?

Q: Yeah, this is a little different. Cool.

MS. SINGH: Great.

Q: So President Putin has said that Russia will once again resume production of short range and then medium range nuclear capable missiles, which have been a unilateral moratorium until, in their words, the United States deployed these types of weapons. I guess they're reciting reports that some weapons — similar weapons, have been sent to Denmark and to the Philippines for exercises.

What is your comment on, number one, can you confirm those deployments? Number two, can you say that yes — well, I mean, what kind of an impact this would have (inaudible)?

MS. SINGH: So because I haven't seen these comments, and I'm sorry, I just — I haven't seen this, so I don't want to comment on something that I haven't seen. I can't confirm the deployments of those weapons. Happy to look into this for you, though.

Q: Can I follow up on all these questions about (JLOTS and variability ?)?

MS. SINGH: Sure.

Q: Is this a decision that the United States government would make as a whole? In other words, since you've been talking about how USAID is the lead

humanitarian (inaudible), would they've even — would they, along with you in support of them, be the ones that makes this decision or a recommendation to continue with the peer? Should the staging area continue to fill up?

MS. SINGH: Yeah, this is an interagency effort. The pier wouldn't be successful without the efforts of USAID, with State Department, with others, including the WFP, other countries, NGO's. So absolutely, any decisions when it comes to the pier. Of course, it's an interagency conversation that happens. The actual operations, logistics of the piers, for example, want to remove it for high sea states.

That's a decision that the commander makes. But of course, like, the viability, aid being able to flow off of it, we wouldn't have been able to do what we were able to do without the support of USAID. So of course, this is an interagency effort.

Q: Any comment on the — yesterday, the inspectors general from USAID and the Pentagon launching reviews of JLOTS' semi-mandatory aid delivery system.

MS. SINGH: I can't comment on the specifics because the IG has launched its investigation. We're aware that it has launched an investigation or review into the pier. You know, we certainly welcome that. Not opposed to anyone looking into our efforts, because I think we do have a lot of successes to speak to. Not to mention, the fact that I've already mentioned this, but I will mention it again of getting over 19 million pounds to the marshaling area since May 17th.

So aware of it, but I just don't have more to add on that.

We'll go to Phil, then you in the back. And then we'll close up. Yeah.

Q: Just a quick clarification. You said earlier to Lara that the U.S. was not preparing any non-combatant evacuation from Lebanon. But does that include like just general planning that the Pentagon would do in event of any hostilities anywhere? Or are you talking about just the act of the movement of ships to carry one out? I'm just trying to be clear what you're talking and what you're not talking about.

MS. SINGH: So the purpose of the Wasp are moving towards the eastern Mediterranean is not to conduct a type of NEO or military-assisted departure. It is there to ensure regional stability and deter aggression. And has many other capabilities, one being if there was a need for any type of departure, it can be there to assist in that.

But as you know, it has a range of capabilities and a range of different mission sets it can accomplish.

We are, of course, a planning organization, so we are always thinking through those plans, but the purpose of moving the Wasp into that this AOR, one, it was a scheduled deployment; and two, its purpose is, again, just to ensure regional stability and deter aggression.

Yes, last question.

Q: Thanks. This is kind of a broad question, but I wanted to ask kind of in F.Y. 2025, how is the secretary going to continue to advance convergence and interop- — interoperability in terms of technologies and capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region? (inaudible) highlight about w

MS. SINGH: Well, I mean, I think the Indo-Pacific region and the NDS, which is our North star, is always top of mind for the secretary. And he just concluded his 10th visit to the region, so I think that shows you the importance of our priority theater.

In terms of, you know, F.Y. '25, I certainly wouldn't get ahead of the secretary, but I think the NDS certainly guides our priorities and our — and our principles here. We are, of course, always monitoring what is happening in the Indo-Pacific. You've seen, under the secretary's leadership, an expanded cooperation with the Philippines. You've seen a deepening of cooperation with India. You know, our commitment to the Korean Peninsula is stronger than ever. So I'll just leave it at that, but you know, I'm not getting ahead of the secretary, of course.

All right, we'll wrap it there. Thanks, everyone.