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Pentagon Press Secretary Major General Pat Ryder Holds an Off-Camera Press Briefing

MAJOR GENERAL PAT RYDER: Good morning, everybody, or afternoon now I guess. Hope you had a good 4th of July holiday. I got just a couple of things here at the top and then I'll get right to your questions. 

So, for those of you who are not tracking, this is the NATO summit week. We'll celebrate 75 years of the greatest defensive alliance in history, so lots of related activities. Secretary Austin hosted NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg here at the Pentagon this morning for a bilateral discussion. We'll provide a readout of that meeting later today. 

In addition, after the meeting, the secretary presented Secretary General Stoltenberg with the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, which is the highest honor that a secretary of defense can present to a non-US citizen, in recognition of Secretary Stoltenberg's decade of skillful, principled and visionary leadership of the NATO alliance through one of the most challenging periods in its history. 

Looking ahead to the SECDEF's participation in the NATO summit this week, he'll participate in the 75th anniversary commemoration event hosted by President Biden at the Mellon Auditorium tomorrow, where the original signing of the North Atlantic Treaty took place on April 4, 1949. 

Secretary Austin will deliver remarks Wednesday morning at the NATO Public Forum hosted by the Atlantic Council highlighting the continued strength, unity and resolve of the NATO alliance to safeguard our collective defense and tackle security challenges together. We'll have more on the time and location of these remarks in the near future.

And Wednesday afternoon and Thursday, the secretary will join President Biden for the NATO summit discussions at the Washington Convention Center where, again, as you heard me highlight last week, he'll be engaged on discussions to ramp up transatlantic defense industrial production, ensure adequate defense investments from allies, and the deepening of practical cooperation between NATO and its Indo-Pacific partners to include Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.

In addition, Wednesday evening Secretary Austin will host NATO defense ministers for a dinner honoring NATO's 75th anniversary and the alliance's accomplishments at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. So, busy but productive and important week ahead. We'll be sure to keep you updated on any new developments.

And then finally, Secretary Austin and the department continue to closely monitor the status of Hurricane Beryl and the storm track. The DOD has not received any requests for federal support from any states who are -- which are potentially affected by the hurricane at this time, but we remain ready if called upon.

Of note, the Texas National Guard, in support of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, has activated 20 high-water vehicles, two UH-60s with hoists, one CH-47, and 60 Guardsmen on state active duty and have pre-positioned them across the state. So, I'd refer you to the Texas National Guard for questions on that. And again, we'll provide updates as appropriate if we have any new information to pass along. 

So, with that, happy to take your questions. David?

Q: Hey, welcome back. [Laughter]

GEN. RYDER: All right. All right. What do we got? 

Q: Do you have an update on the pier? And has it been re-anchored?

GEN. RYDER: So, the pier still in Ashdod. All -- by all accounts, it's tentatively scheduled to be re-anchored this week, so we'll keep you posted on that. That's where we're at.

Q: And what's the status of aid both in Cyprus and in the marshaling area? Has enough been cleared for, you know, several days of aid to come in and not pile up? What's the status?

GEN. RYDER: So, the World Food Program can give you a more detailed accounting of the aid in the marshaling area. As I understand it, they have been able to move out a significant amount of that aid to their warehouses for onward distribution. As I understand it, there is aid still in Cyprus. So, you know, when the JLOTS is re-anchored, one would imagine that that aid will be delivered. So, again, we'll keep you posted on that.


Q: So, if Boeing pleads guilty, what does that do to all of the contracts it has with the Department of Defense? Are there people at the DOD looking at this, looking at the possibilities? I mean, obviously they're a huge contractor with hands in a lot of different weapon systems. 

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so -- be very precise in my language here. The Department of Justice has advised the Department of Defense -- it had advised the Department of Defense, including the Department of the Air Force, about this matter. I'm going to have to refer you to the Department of Justice for questions related to this as it is a litigation matter.

DOD will assess the company's remediation plans and agreement with the Department of Justice to make a determination as to what steps are necessary and appropriate to protect the federal government. So, any steps we take will be in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement.

Q: So, would there be something like a waiver that would have to be required? Like, say F-15 needs work at some point. If Boeing pleads guilty, can they not -- can they no longer bid for a new contract to do that maintenance? Do you have to -- or do you have to get a waiver so that they can do it?

GEN. RYDER: Again, we'll assess their remediation plans and the agreement with DOJ. So, that's about as much as I can provide right now.

Q: Okay.


Q: Yeah, hi. Sorry, I'm Jonathan Beale from BBC. 

GEN. RYDER: Welcome back. 

Q: I'm just visiting. 

GEN. RYDER: All right. 

Q: I was just wondering about Ukraine. So, there's been this -- this coordinated, it appears, strike during the daylight hours, which is unusual to some extent. Obviously, this hospital's been attacked. I mean, it's coming just before the NATO summit. Do you think this is -- was deliberately designed to send a message? 

And also, in terms of air defenses, Ukraine's made clear -- are you nearly ready to make an announcement on your latest air defense package? Is that going to come in the sort of next -- next few days? 

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so a few things there. So, on your first question, you know, that's really a question for Russia to address. I mean, clearly not the first time they've struck civilian infrastructure, again highlighting what Russia has done to the Ukrainian population throughout this war, and again highlighting why we remain committed to working with our allies and partners on getting Ukraine air defense capabilities, but most importantly, giving them the capabilities both near term and long term to defend themselves and their sovereignty.

In terms of any announcements, you know, I don't have anything to announce from a US Department of Defense standpoint. And I'm not a NATO spokesperson, so I won't get ahead of NATO in that regard, other than to say, you know, I think what you'll see coming out of the summit this week is a demonstration of the strength, unity and resolve of the NATO alliance, particularly as it applies to assisting Ukraine in terms of enabling them to defend themselves and their sovereignty.


Q: To follow up on Ukraine, has the US given Ukraine an additional Patriot? And then also, the Latvian president is now saying, following this strike against the children's hospital, that all restrictions imposed on Ukraine to use weapons against legitimate military targets must be lifted. Does this building agree with that statement?

GEN. RYDER: So, again, as I just highlighted, we're going to continue to work with allies and partners to get Ukraine the air defense capabilities that it needs. As you know, we announced a PDA last week that highlighted funding for additional interceptors, for a Patriot system as well as NASAMS, but I don't have anything to announce in terms -- in terms of additional batteries.

As far as policies as it relates to individual countries, of course that's in the purview of any individual sovereign nation to make those determinations. Our policy has not changed at this time. 

Q: So, your policy, just to be clear, is that they can still strike targets that are trying to strike into Ukraine and are not far away, considered like deep into Russian territory? Just so -- I just want to make sure we still --

GEN. RYDER: Correct. 

Q: Have the policy.

GEN. RYDER: Correct.

Q: So -- but what if something was trying to strike Ukraine from deep into Russian territory? Does that change the policy? 

GEN. RYDER: Again, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals right now. We know that Russia has capabilities that it's using from deep inside Russia to attack Ukraine. Our focus is on providing Ukraine with the capabilities that it needs to defend itself and defend its sovereignty. So, I just don't have any changes at this -- at this point to readout.

Q: Can I follow up?

GEN. RYDER: Please.

Q: Is the, in-between brackets, success of the Russians to hit is a failure of the Ukrainians, who are using the anti-missile systems, or the Russians are using something new that they were not trained for?

GEN. RYDER: Well, I think, first of all, you know, when you look at what Ukraine has been able to do for the duration of this war in terms of defending its people, it's been pretty miraculous in terms of being able to -- to create an integrated air defense system using multiple different systems from throughout the world to protect their people. 

But when you look at the -- the volume that Russia has employed against Ukraine, again, there -- there is stress on that system. So, we're going to continue to work with allies and partners to get them the air defense capabilities they need to protect their people. 

Q: Thank you. 

GEN. RYDER: Not a lot of questions today.

Q: Right. So, to turn to the Red Sea -- 


Q: So, the Houthis are claiming almost daily strikes against different commercial ships, and they often are not mentioned by the CENTCOM releases. So, are these strikes happening? Is Central Command actually able to track every Houthi strike? And then what role does the Pentagon have in -- play in combating misinformation coming from the Houthis?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. I know you're going to find this hard to believe, but the Houthis do put out a lot of disinformation. I mean, I would refer you to CENTCOM for any specifics. But generally speaking, what we see them putting out there is acknowledgment of -- of ships -- you know, attempts to strike ships or if ships are struck.

And so, again, you know, we're going to call it like we see it. And I think CENTCOM's done a pretty good job of trying to -- to keep everyone informed in terms of what activity is or is not happening along the Red Sea.

Q: So, just to follow up, so a couple weeks back, you had to the Transworld Navigator that came -- that was hit. And when Central Command put out their release, it said this was the fourth attack, but it never had mentioned the first three attacks. So, what's going on in that case?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, I'd have to refer you to them. Yeah. I mean, it's a CENTCOM update, so yeah.

Q: Thanks, Pat. Last week, I think it was the Air Force announced a bunch of advanced fighter jets were being transferred to Japan, both I think in the -- in the north and Kadena in Okinawa. Does that move of equipment also have a corresponding influx of personnel to maintain those jets along with it?

GEN. RYDER: So, I'd -- I'd refer you to the Air Force for the details. 

Q: Okay.

GEN. RYDER: I mean, depending on -- on the, you know -- and you obviously saw in the announcement the types of aircraft and the personnel associated with it. It's going to be tailored to -- to the number of aircraft, the types of aircraft and their requirements. So, the bottom line is I think it's safe to say that the Air Force will provide whatever capabilities are needed in terms of manpower or equipment to sustain those -- those capabilities. 

Q: And on a slightly related question, over the weekend there has been some back and forth between government officials regarding the situation in Okinawa and the recent legal troubles with several service members. Is the DOD at all concerned about the relationship it has with the Okinawan people?

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. As you recall, I -- I addressed this on Tuesday. So, again, we are going to continue to do everything we can to be as transparent as possible and work as closely as possible with our Japanese allies on -- on these cases. Again, we very much value the relationship that we have with Japan. It's one of our closest allies, and so we'll continue to stay very focused on that. 

Q: Thanks.


Q: Thanks, General. Can you give us an update on kind of the NATO -- naval status, Eastern Med and, to the extent you can, Red Sea as well? 

GEN. RYDER: Yeah. So, I don't -- I don't have it right in front of me. But right now I'm tracking, as you know, the USS Wasp Amphibious Readiness Group, and the MEU are in the Eastern Med. And so, you've got that capability there. We've got -- which includes a couple of destroyers associated with this operating in the region.

Same in the -- in the CENTCOM region. You've got multiple vessels, to include destroyer capability. As you heard us announce recently, we will have the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group that is en route to the CENTCOM AOR. Don't have any updates to provide on that, but certainly we'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, you know, we -- we believe we have enough capability in the region to continue to do what we've said we were going to do all along, which is to support our regional deterrence efforts and provide force protection throughout the region, whether it's EUCOM or CENTCOM AOR. 

Q: Just planning. Given all the stuff going on with NATO this week, are we still doing the two -- the two -- the Tuesday Thursday briefings, or -- 

GEN. RYDER: As of right now, I'm planning to brief tomorrow at 2:30. Appreciate your flexibility in advance if we have to slide that to the right or left a little bit based on the NATO opening ceremonies. I know I'm popular, but not that popular. 

Q: You could just do it there.

GEN. RYDER: Yeah, just do it there. And then Thursday, right now we'll keep you posted. As you're tracking, I believe the president's supposed to be doing a press briefing that day, so we may move to Friday for that. So, all right. 

Well, you guys are super energetic today. [Laughter] I hope you have a fantastic week. Enjoy NATO, and we'll see you for that.