Transcript

Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman and Vice Director of the Joint Staff Rear Adm. William Byrne Jr. Press Briefing

Feb. 19, 2020
Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan R. Hoffman; Vice Director of the Joint Staff Rear Adm. William D. Byrne, Jr.

ASSISTANT TO THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JONATHAN RATH HOFFMAN: Hi. Good morning, everybody, and thank you for being here today.

I want to begin today by offering our deepest condolences to the families of four American service members who recently lost their lives while supporting operations overseas: Sgt. 1st Class Javier Gutierrez and Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rodriguez, who died in Afghanistan from wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel; Spc. Branden Kimball, who was deployed in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel; and Pfc. Class Walter Lewark, who was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom-Horn of Africa.

We honor their service and sacrifice, as our thoughts are with their families and friends.

Seventy-five years ago today the United States Marine Corps landed on the island of Iwo Jima. After 36 battle-filled days, U.S. Marines and sailors, with the support of the U.S. Coast Guard, were victorious in capturing the island.

This well-fought victory was one of the fiercest and bloodiest battles of World War II. As Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said of those who served during the battle, "Among the Americans serving on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue."

Today we commemorate that battle and honor those who were part of the greatest generation.

Today, Secretary Esper is traveling to Minot Air Force Base and U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska. At Minot, the secretary will visit the 5th Bomb Wing and the 91st Missile Wing. This is the only military base with two legs of the nuclear triad.

As the F.Y. ‘21 budget proposal shows, nuclear modernization remains a top priority for the Department of Defense. The STRATCOM portion of the trip will include a briefing on the new command and control facility. This focus on the modernization of our weapons and the continued irreversible implementation of the NDS.

As many of you are aware, on February 9th, the USS Normandy was conducting maritime security operations in the CENTCOM area of responsibility, and following international law, boarded an unflagged dhow. On board they discovered and seized a large cache of weapons, to include 150 Dehlavieh, anti-tank guided missiles, three Iranian surface-to-air missiles and other weapons of Iranian origin.

The DOD continues to be committed to disrupting the transport of illicit weapons in the region and preventing Iran from spreading its malign influence.

The U.S. will continue promoting security and stability in the region. And later today CENTCOM will hold a press briefing here at the Pentagon regarding the operation and seizure of these weapons.

At the end of this month -- some additional news. At the end of this month, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood will step down from his role with the department.

Dr. James Anderson, the current senior official performing the duties of the deputy under secretary of defense for policy, will assume his role until a permanent replacement is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Secretary Esper thanks John Rood for his service to the department and the critical role he played in implementing the National Defense Strategy. John worked on a range of, from modernizing nuclear deterrence capability, our Missile Defense Review, and efforts to increase burden-sharing among our allies including NATO. We thank him and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.

With that, I will take some questions. So, AFP?

Q: Yes, hello.

The secretary said in Munich that the European and U.S. tech companies were going to cooperate on 5G to counter Huawei. Can you explain me how they are going to work together, if they started and where?

MR. HOFFMAN: So I believe what the secretary was referring to is efforts to develop competitors or to develop some alternatives to Huawei in the cellular environment.

So, right now, one of the biggest concerns with Huawei is obviously the security issue and what -- a number of people despite the security concerns that are attracted to that as a cheap alternative to other companies that provide those services.

And so what the secretary was talking about was an effort to work with industry in Europe and in the U.S. to see if we can have -- make the business case for -- for investment in companies that would compete at cost with Huawei in a way that would provide us alternatives that both are economically viable as well as meet the security demands of our -- of our countries.

Q: Yes, but he said we are working alongside them to test these technologies at our military bases as we speak, so --

MR. HOFFMAN: So -- so -- sorry.

With -- specifically to military bases, we are -- we're looking at how 5G is -- and particularly with 5G in spectrum sharing, and we're looking at how we deploy 5G at some of our bases. So, I know we're going to be using some of the lessons learned in our deployment of 5G, and working with other countries as to how they will develop 5G and deploy it in secure environments. So I believe that's what he was referring to with that.

Q: So it's not alongside them?

MR. HOFFMAN: I don't want to try to parse the words there. But I think that I can get back to you with a little bit more detail if you'd like.

OK, Luis.

Q: Jonathan, getting back to the Rood resignation, in his letter of resignation he said that Secretary Esper had told him that the president was seeking his removal. Did Secretary Esper request of the president that Secretary Rood be removed?

And then I have another question. There are some people who are making the link that because of Mr. Rood's role in a certification letter for the Ukraine aid that there is a tie-in to his departure back to that.

MR. HOFFMAN: So, I'm just going to refer you back to John Rood's letter -- resignation letter for -- I believe it speaks for itself on the process that went underway that resulted in his submitting that letter. And I think in his letter, he refers to a request from the president through the secretary to him, as is the president's prerogative with regard to any political appointee in the administration.

The second part of your question is -- that sounds speculative to me. I have no information that would lead me to that conclusion.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: So did the secretary recommend to the president that Mr. Rood be removed?

MR. HOFFMAN: I have not asked the secretary that question, so I do not have an answer to that. But I would think the letter speaks for itself at this point.

Q: Just a quick follow-up on that. Are you in a position to shed any light on the circumstances which Secretary Rood apparently drew the displeasure of the president such that he would request his resignation?

MR. HOFFMAN: I think that's -- the president has the opportunity and the ability to have the team that he wants to have in policy positions throughout the federal government. That's why we have political appointees.

And John had the opportunity to serve in a senior position at the department for three years as an appointee of the president, but the president can make a decision to go in a different direction so I -- I -- I'm not going to speculate on -- on -- on the motivations. That would be inappropriate from my position.

I think John Rood's letter speaks for itself. I think the president has spoken about this and has put out a -- a -- a tweet or a statement thanking John for his service, so I would refer you to those statements.

So, Tony.

Q: Hi, John. Thanks. Good morning.

On the seven-day reduction of violence in Afghanistan, could you give a -- us, please, when that may begin, and what are the metrics, parameters of what constitutes a reduction of violence -- and this is my word, acceptable violence -- underneath this agreement?

MR. HOFFMAN: So first off, I'll start off, we're committed in Afghanistan to create a peaceful and stable country and -- and our commitment is to the Afghan people. We have stated long -- for a long time now that the -- the future of Afghanistan is going to be a political settlement.

The State Department has continued to have the lead on reaching that political settlement. The secretary has spoken about the -- the agreement and principle for a reduction in violence. I don't want to get too far ahead of the State Department and Ambassador Khalilzad and whatever announcement they would have on that, but when we get to that point, we will have more information for you on it.

I'll -- I'll let -- I know the admiral has a little bit more detail on it, as well, but we're not going to get too far ahead of State Department at this point.

REAR ADMIRAL WILLIAM D. BYRNE JR.: So -- so when we get to that point, it's going to be a continual evaluative process. So the evaluations are going to be going on day to day, hour to hour and, frankly, minute to minute. And Gen. Miller will be overseeing that evaluation to -- to determine compliance from -- from all parties.

Q: There will be -- there will be certain metrics that will -- you could judge whether it's been compliant or not?

ADM. BYRNE: I -- I suspect that there will be --

Q: OK.

ADM. BYRNE: -- yes.

MR. HOFFMAN: OK?

Q: A follow up on -- on this. So, so far, that phase hasn't begun yet? And I was wondering, the killing of these two soldiers -- U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, will it have any impact on that process? Because we remember, like, President Trump previously scrapped an agreement that was going to happen it seems, because of the killing of another U.S. soldier.

MR. HOFFMAN: So -- so at this time, that negotiation process is still underway. The -- there's -- the U.S. government is still actively engaged with -- with the Taliban negotiators and -- in finalizing that agreement. So I'll refer you to the State Department, they have the lead on it. Obviously we do not want to -- they're -- they're doing great work in Doha in reaching an agreement. We don't want to say anything to get in the way of that.

Obviously the -- the tragic loss of two soldiers is something that -- that we take very seriously here, and we know that -- that the hope is that we reach an agreement that we can avoid those losses in the future.

Q: Can we just stay on the soldiers for just one second? You know -- you know, we know it was an insider attack, but do we know exactly what happened here? Was it a Taliban infiltrator? Was it someone turned by the Taliban?

And then in some of these insider attacks, it's basically an argument with the Americans. Do we have any sense what happened here?

ADM. BYRNE: Investigation's still undergo -- underway and we -- we have not firmly attributed the -- the cause of that attack but -- but to the point on reduction in violence and the evaluative process, attribution is going to be key there on -- on -- with respect to compliance.

So we -- we don't have those particulars in the most -- the most recent tragedy.

Q: Are we going to get a read out when you get a -- results of this?

ADM. BYRNE: I'll -- I'll refer to CENTCOM and make sure that we -- we get the -- a cleared statement available.

MR. HOFFMAN: Tony.

Q: I had another personnel question. A New York tabloid last week said the Pentagon -- the president was expected to fire Elaine McCuster, the nominee for comptroller. Then New York magazine went further and said that the president fired a Defense official.

At this point, have you got any indication from the White House that they are pulling the McCusker nomination, and if they were, would you -- would you know by now?

MR. HOFFMAN: I -- I think I've made personnel news for the day. Elaine McCusker is still the -- the -- the acting CMO* and she's still the president's nominee. I -- I saw those report -- the nominee to be the -- the CMO -- I'm -- I'm -- I saw those reports last week; I've not seen anything additional that would lead me to believe that that is a reality.

Q: OK, and a -- and a more solid story, the -- question. On the reprogramming request for the wall, can you give a sense of the criteria used to pick some of the projects that are obviously angering a lot of members? Like the F-35, the Pentagon's number one program, why did you take a shot at that money?

MR. HOFFMAN: So I think when you look back to the -- the request -- so based on the -- the fact that there's a national emergency that the president declared last February on the southwest border, we were asked to reprioritize some of our -- our funding priorities.

One of those -- in particular ways, in that we looked at this with the 284 funds was, let's identify projects that either we have an excess need or we have a -- a -- an untimely need. So that is, either things where Congress has funded us for more of what we asked for, or things where Congress has funded us before we are ready to purchase and move forward.

So an example of that would be -- the first one would be aircraft, more aircraft than we requested; and the second one would be shipbuilding. So we were funded to -- to complete construction on an additional ship, and we don't have the capacity -- the shipbuilding capacity, the contracting to do that for a few more years.

And so we still intend in, I think, 2023 to continue that shipbuilding but the funds -- the funds were better used for a different purpose now than to be sitting there for the next two years.

Q: And a follow up? In the -- in the 100% certainty that the House Armed Services Committee will reject the reprogramming, what is it -- what is your backup plan? Are there other sources of funding you're going to go for?

MR. HOFFMAN: I would say that the reprogramming has taken -- has taken place. So this is a long-standing authority that the department has had, is the ability to reprogram funds within different buckets of money to meet new priorities and to counter emergencies, and so that -- that reprogramming has taken place. That took place last week when the paperwork was signed.

The funds haven't been spent yet, but -- but that has happened already.

So, Jeff.

Q: Thank you.

The Defense Department is expected to release more information about a terminated program that was tracking unidentified aircraft. Can the Pentagon say whether it has any evidence that extraterrestrial life has visited Earth?

MR. HOFFMAN: I have nothing for you on that today.

Q: Thank you.

ADM. BYRNE: Nor -- nor do I.

(Laughter.)

MR. HOFFMAN: All right. OK?

Q: Sir, Admiral, can we go back to the -- the seven-day reduction in violence for a second? How does the -- do you have any sense now for how the contested presidential election in -- in Afghanistan affects this?

And Ambassador Phee, the top deputy to Mr. Khalilzad, said yesterday this poses a whole new range of problems.

ADM. BYRNE: Yeah, I'm not going to delve into the -- the political mix there. The military mission remains the same. It is our -- our support to a Resolute Support mission, as well as continuing counterterrorism operations.

The potential for a reduction in violence is -- is -- is going to help us get to that political solution that's needed. What the secretary said last week is that the only solution for a lasting peace in Afghanistan is a political solution.

So I'm confident that those political negotiations at the government level are going to help facilitate that.

Q: But from the U.S. side, a reduction in violence, you're still going ahead with that, despite what the Taliban says?

ADM. BYRNE: I'm -- I won't get out in front of the State Department, but that is our hope.

MR. HOFFMAN: All right, sir?

Q: The South Korean defense minister will be here next Monday to meet Secretary Esper. Can you tell me what is the main agenda they are going to deal with at the meeting?

And second question is, do you have any plan to have the U.S. and South Korea joint military exercise coming springtime?

MR. HOFFMAN: So I don't have any announcement for you with regard to joint military exercises. But with the meeting, the main -- the main goal of that meeting is just to continue the relationship we have, to build on our ability to fight together in defense of the -- the peninsula.

Korea is one of our longest allies in Asia, longest-serving allies in Asia. We have troops that have been stationed there since the '50s and continue to do so. We've got to work through the agreement for funding of forces, so that will obviously be a topic we will discuss. But other than that, this is -- the secretary's met with the Korean minister of defense at least three or four times since he's been in office, and so I know he's looking forward to this meeting next week.

Q: Back to the wall reprogramming. Last year when the Pentagon reprogrammed funds for the wall, they had the 284 action, but there was also the 2808 action. Do you anticipate a similar 2808 action this year to get at the reprogramming need?

MR. HOFFMAN: I don't have any announcement on that at this time. We have -- right now, we've reprogrammed monies under 284, and we're going to start working on those projects and fund those projects and continue to draw those down. At some point, there may be a conversation, but I’m not having any information on that.

Q: Can you say at this point, then, that the secretary still assesses that more money is needed from somewhere to be reprogrammed to the wall?

MR. HOFFMAN: I couldn't say that right now. I don't have an answer for you on that right now.

Barbara?

Q: I want to go back to South Korea, if I might, for -- for a moment. As you know, Gen. Abrams and the USFK leadership has now met with the Korean Workers' Union about the cost reimbursement agreement.

And I understand fully that those negotiations are led by the State Department, but as you mentioned, the secretary's going to bring it up with his counterpart. So the USFK leadership, now having met with the workers who may face layoffs or furloughs, is calculating that they -- if they don't get an agreement, 9,000 workers will be furloughed.

And I want to ask you, from the Pentagon's point of view, since the impact will be on U.S. military forces, if there's no agreement and 9,000 workers are furloughed, what is the impact on the U.S. military mission in South Korea and the impact on U.S. service members and their families? But specifically the mission, how do you mitigate against that?

MR. HOFFMAN: The one way we're going to mitigate against it is we're going to continue to negotiate and try to find a solution. So that's the number one goal. And so we have had conversations about potential staffing changes because of it. Our forces will -- will adapt.

Our focus is going to continue to be on making sure we have our warfighting capabilities. I don't want to get ahead or speak for Gen. Abrams and what those positions are, because I know this -- it's a sensitive issue about what positions may be -- be furloughed.

But right now, our forces are going to continue to try to work closely with the -- our partners we have there, work closely with the foreign nationals we have, and then work with our allies, as mentioned, with the meeting coming up and the State Department negotiations, to fully fund and reach an agreement that will fully fund our efforts in the peninsula.

And I'll ask the admiral if you have anything, given your time over there.

Q: I just want to have a chance to come back to you with a follow-up.

MR. HOFFMAN: Yeah.

Go ahead.

ADM. BYRNE: Yeah, so 9,000 workers, that's pretty significant. And we're continuing negotiations, and there are options -- big, medium, small, if you will -- with respect to numbers, and we're hoping that the negotiations uncover a viable path so that those services continue.

So if needed, we're going to have to prioritize what services those workers provide, and we're going to have to prioritize life, health and safety. There will certainly be an impact to both the service members and their families.

Most importantly, we have to focus on the mission. And the mission there is the combined defense of the Korean -- of the Republic of Korea. So -- so whether it's at the unit level, continuing training, at the staff-to-staff level, the advantage that we have there is that it is in fact a combined force. And we come to work each day, side by side with our Korean partners.

Q: But if I may follow up, it's my understanding, it -- when you say staffing changes, of course, it's furloughs, Korean workers being out of work because the U.S. doesn't have an agreement, because the president wants to increase the payment and the Koreans are not agreeing to that.

But my other understanding is, there will be critical logistics contracts that will not be able to be fulfilled. So could you just hone in for a minute on what the risk to the mission is? And is one of your options, if you can't get this resolved, potentially starting to send dependents home because you will not be able to provide services?

But the contracts that can't be fulfilled that could risk that, are directly relevant to the mission?

MR. HOFFMAN: So, Barbara --

(CROSSTALK)

MR. HOFFMAN: Yeah, I think -- I don't think we're going to be able to go that far on some of those topics from here. I think we can put you in touch with -- with USFK and see if we can get you some better answers on it, or some more in-depth answers on some of those questions.

Our goal right now is to reach an agreement, and to work with the Koreans to reach an agreement. As the admiral said, we will still focus on -- on the mission and if there are contracts we need to -- to fund to focus on the mission and to be successful in the mission, we'll continue to do that.

But you're -- good questions, but they're a little bit more in-depth than I think we're -- we can answer from the podium today, so we'll get -- we'll have somebody get back to you on it.

Q: Thank you.

MR. HOFFMAN: OK?

Q: A question about Syria.

MR. HOFFMAN: About Syria? Sure.

Q: So northwestern Syria, it seems President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not happy with his conversation with -- with the Russian side. He's threatening imminent military operations in Idlib.

Have you been in communication with your Turkish counterpart? Are you supportive of any -- will you be supportive of any military operation to counter the Syrian regime advance in that region? And are you communicating any messages to the Russians to back off in that area?

MR. HOFFMAN: So our -- our stance in Syria has not changed. And that is, that there needs to be a political settlement in Syria that will be for the best interests of the Syrian people. We've seen Assad continue to attack his own people, we're seeing that expand into Idlib.

We're seeing the Russians and the Turks have come very close to having more extensive conflict in the area. We're hopeful that they will -- they will find a solution to avoid that, and that we can continue -- the international community can put pressure on Turkey and to put -- more importantly, put Turkey -- put pressure on Syria to cease their attacks in Idlib and to -- to find a peaceful solution.

But in terms of negotiations, specific negotiations, I don't have anything for you on that.

Q: Thank you.

MR. HOFFMAN: So, there. Sorry, I didn't hear. Go.

Q: You said the international community to put pressure on Turkey, in what sense --

MR. HOFFMAN: Sorry, I meant Syria. I thought I corrected that.

Q: OK.

And then President Trump, just yesterday, said that he's closely working with Erdogan on -- to stand or to do something about the Syrian and Assad forces attacking on Turkish outposts. Is the Pentagon involved in this work at all? Or is it just a proposal?

MR. HOFFMAN: I'm going to -- I'm going to refer you to the White House on the president's comments on that. I'm not going to get -- get ahead of any of the president's comments.

Sorry? Thank you.

Q: I want to ask you about the military relationship with Philippine. The Philippine government submitted a notification of ending the visiting force augment for the West. Is the U.S. tells the Philippine government to reconsider decision? And does the U.S. and Philippine agree to continue the joint military exercise until this agreement formally expires in August?

MR. HOFFMAN: OK. I'll -- I'll have the admiral pick up part of that question.

But I'll just say our -- our relationship with the Philippines is -- back to World War II and -- and -- and prior to that, but -- but our military relationship there has been long-standing. The secretary was just there in September, I believe, and met with the -- the foreign minister -- sorry, the defense minister and reiterated the -- the value of that military-to-military relationship that we have with the Philippines. We're -- we're going to continue to work with them over the next six months until the -- the expiration of our -- our current agreement. And I don't have an answer for you on the -- the exercise. I don't know if you have anything specific on that.

ADM. BYRNE: No, so this starts 180-day process and -- and we're hoping that through this process in -- in -- within those 180 days, that negotiations lead to an agreement, a continued agreement.

From the military perspective, our military-to-military relationship with the Filipino Armed Forces has -- has been rock-solid for decades; and we're both fully committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific, and we hope that that military-to-military relationship continues to flourish and is facilitated by a government-to-government agreement.

MR. HOFFMAN: OK.

Q: The -- the secretary met the prime minister of the Kurdistan regional government at Munich, and this was his first meeting, the secretary's first meeting with the Kurdish leader? Is that correct? And can you tell us how that meeting went, what it was about, how it went?

MR. HOFFMAN: I'll have to double-check -- double-check that and get back to you on it and get -- I can get you some more information.

Q: Thank you.

MR. HOFFMAN: OK?

Q: As you guys hammer out the details of wall funding this year, are there any signs that there might be a plus-up of troops or a draw-down of troops who are stationed down there?

MR. HOFFMAN: No, I don't -- I have not seen any conversations about a -- a plus-up of troops and I -- I think one of the -- the -- the justifications for the wall funding is that by constructing it, it will address our -- our military and its need down there with regard to troops. So either it will allow us to reposition or -- or change our footprint of troops. But as of now, as we're still in the -- the construction process and we've seen the -- the wall construction ramp up significantly over the last few months, and to the point where we're expecting to see close to 500 miles of wall completed by the end of -- of this fiscal -- or, this calendar year. We -- we're going to have -- we will take a look, but I have not seen a conversation whether that's going to be an up or down at this point.

We’ll just do one more.

Q: Thanks. What's your message to skeptical members of Congress who are looking at your budget request and thinking, "We could fulfill this, but then they would just take the money and reroute it to the border wall"?

MR. HOFFMAN: This is the -- the -- the programming authority has been a long-standing authority that the department has had, and currently, there is a declared national emergency on the border. And so the department has had a long-standing history, a long-standing practice of supporting the Department of Homeland Security in its efforts, whether it is with response to natural disasters or response to immigration crises. And so this was a -- was a -- a not-unforeseeable -- or not-unlikely process that we went through to obtain and -- and reprogram the funding to complete the border wall in an effort to secure the southern border.

So I -- I don't -- I'm -- I'm not familiar on -- on what Congress' conversations may be going forward from that. I -- I wouldn't want to speak for -- for the members on what they would be looking to do. But this is a long-standing authority we've had, and they've had an opportunity to look at this closely over the last year, and that authority has remained.

Q: But are -- but are you concerned that it muddies the waters or causes skepticism on the Hill when they’re looking at your budget request?

MR. HOFFMAN: I -- I think we -- we're very transparent with -- with Congress on what are our -- our goals are and what our needs are. I think we look -- work very closely with our four committees and walk them through what our priorities are. We have the National Defense Strategy that lays out clearly what we're trying to do. We -- we go to great lengths during the posture hearing, the budget season to work through our budgets and what our needs are. They realize that there are different priorities that -- that pop up during the year and may cause us to have to reprioritize some of the projects we would like to be working on for things that the president deems more important. But that's the reality of how it is in any administration at any point in time on a -- on a number of different projects.

Q: Just to follow up on that real quick, a lot of the money that was reprogrammed for -- for the border wall came from the unfunded requirements list from the services that -- that the services independently filed last year with Congress. And that's one of the complaints that lawmakers have, that, you know, services ask for this money, and now it's being taken away as a congressional interest item. Are -- are the services going to be allowed to submit unfunded requests this year?

MR. HOFFMAN: I -- I don't -- I don't have an answer for you on that. I mean, that -- that would -- that would come many months from now, that we would be putting forth the budget for the next year. So --

Q: No, the unfunded requirements list for fiscal 2021.

MR. HOFFMAN: So I -- I don't have an answer for you on that. So -- but look, once again, the -- the items that we -- we reprogram fundings -- funding from were items that either were not part of the president's original -- original request, or items that the funding was not going to be used for many -- for multiple years.

And so in terms of prioritization -- and this is -- I think everybody just needs to acknowledge that there's a prioritization framework; so we have to look at, where is that money best spent at this point in time? And where -- where does it meet up with our -- our policy and security priorities? That's not to say that some of these other projects are not important. It's not say that they're not things that we would like to see happen. It just says that in the scheme of prioritizing all of the different competing needs at the department and demands of different -- demands the Department of Defense has placed on it, they just fell further down in the list, so --

OK, Courtney?

Q: One quick follow-up for you, Admiral, on the Afghanistan reduction of violence. I just want to be clear. So you said that Gen. Miller will be in the evaluation processes that determine compliance. So that means he'll be looking at compliance of the Afghans, the U.S. and the Taliban, right?

ADM. BYRNE: Right.

Q: And the part -- OK. And then you also mentioned attribution. So I -- I know it's -- everything is still sort of being worked out, but does that mean that if the Taliban doesn't claim responsibility for an attack during the reduction of violence period, that they won't -- I mean, will there be, like, an investigation process? And I only ask it because of -- of Bowman’s question about the green on blue, and that's still under investigation. So the process isn't -- often it'll take more than the seven days.

ADM. BYRNE: Well, the -- the -- the truth is that all of the interactions like that are fully investigated. And so the answer is, yes, there'll be an investigation. I -- I can't -- I don't want to get out in front of the commander to -- to give any specifics. Frankly, I don't have those specifics. They're still being worked out. But that -- the attribution, who -- who did what to whom is going to be key in determining compliance.

MR. HOFFMAN:  And -- and I -- I'll just -- to follow-on on that, I think as we've seen, often times our adversaries attempt to take responsibility for things that they have no role in. They attempt to claim things that have happened that did not happen, and they attempt to not claim responsibility for things that did happen and they are responsible for.

So we always investigate that on our own, we always come to our own conclusions. I know many of you are skeptical when some of these -- these adversaries come out with their own talking points or their own allegations or claims. And so we are too. And we will continue to look at that.

So we're not going to use, you know, the Taliban Twitter account as the gold standard for what has and has not happened in Afghanistan. We will continue, as we always have, to do our own investigations and reach our own conclusions and ensure that -- that there is a pathway forward.

ADM. BYRNE: So that's the continual evaluative process that I mentioned earlier, fully investigated and attribution will be key.

Q: I didn't get -- I didn't go into detail on this, but have there in the past been examples in Afghanistan where you all know that, say, ISIS did something and blamed the Taliban and vice versa? Because that could be a key element in a short timeframe.

So the false flag idea, look, we know that ISIS doesn't like the Taliban, et cetera, et cetera. You've talked about 14 or 15 different terrorist groups in Afghanistan who don't want to see this peace treaty take place, or a reduction in violence. How -- you talk about speed of alacrity, of determining the source.

MR. HOFFMAN: I think we're starting to get down the speculative rabbit hole in the future here, so --

(CROSSTALK)

Q: That's --

MR. HOFFMAN: -- we're going to -- we're going to end it there. I don't want to get ahead of State Department. I'm sure we will be back here very shortly to -- with some updates on that. And -- and we can -- and talk more about how we will confirm -- confirm the agreement going forward.

So with that, thank you guys.

Q: Thank you.

*[Eds. note: Ms. Lisa Hershman is DOD’s CMO [chief management officer]. Ms. Elaine McCusker is the acting under secretary of defense(comptroller) and chief financial officer.]