Transcript

Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds a Press Briefing

June 4, 2021
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby; Marine Corps Lieutenant General Dennis Crall, Director, Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4), Cyber and Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff J-6

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: Good afternoon. (Inaudible). I guess you're to help me brief today. If you go back and look at the secretary's speech at Indo-Pacific Command, the change of command a month or so ago, the speech he gave on integrated deterrence.

He talked about how important it was for the Defense Department to be able to understand faster, decide faster, and act faster in an ever increasingly dynamic security environment. And that's really what Joint All-Domain Command and Control is about.

And in a minute I'm going to have Lieutenant General Dennis Crall, the Joint Staff J-6, our Director of Command Control Communications and Computers, come up and talk to you a little bit more about what that is in greater detail. But that's really the idea here is to allow us to understand the environment faster, act faster – I'm sorry, decide faster and then act faster.

And the secretary was very pleased to see the work that had been done on what we call JADC2, Joint All-Domain Command and Control. All the work that had been done previous to him arriving here at the Pentagon, and was very proud and delighted to be able to authorize this going forward and sign it into being here at the Defense Department.

It's a very exciting framework and an architecture for helping us do our jobs better, and to help us get to that idea of integrated deterrence. And with that, I'm going to ask Lieutenant General Crall to come up and talk to you a little bit about it.

He'll take questions after he's done with his brief opening comments. I will moderate those questions, if you will, because we do have some interested press on the phone that want to talk to him about this. So, once he's done I'll be the one calling. Okay. Thanks.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL DENNIS CRALL: Well, good afternoon. And I really appreciate the opportunity to just say a few words, and why we're pretty excited about the secretary signaling on signing the JADC2 strategy document. It does a couple things for us, the first of which, it's a clear recognition by the secretary on the nature of the fight we expect to have in the digital age. And that fight is different, it is characterized by speed, and this machine-human interface.

The second thing that it does is it brings together some rather disparate communities within the department and has us work together for a common cause. And that is needed to have happen because there are OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) equities as you might imagine, service equities, joint staff equities, combatant command and the like.

And so while it remains very encouraging to those to experiment and test, we wouldn't ever want to stifle that – it does bring about a sense of order to the way in which we move that effort forward. So in the simplest terms what the JADC2 strategy does is it does bring order to our efforts in the command and control arena to sense, make sense, and act all at the speed of relevance.

And that last piece is what makes this different. If you have time to act, maybe if you rewind the clock a bit, back to maybe Cold War thinking or maybe where we control the operational time and tempo – that time is an interesting factor, it gives you the opportunity to study, to learn, and to be a little more deliberate on your actions.

But when you enter the age of things like hypersonics, or artificial intelligence enabled actions – that time differential, or that time availability shrinks or evaporates altogether. So what once may have been a war fighting advantage has now become a war fighting necessity.

One aspect to characterize JADC2 would also be on its data centric focus. It is all about the data, which makes this different. You might have characterized other efforts over the past decade or two on boxes, or hardware, or even in some cases standards themselves – this is a bit different.

It balances, or seeks to balance the need to secure the data that's necessary to feed these algorithms and make these decisions with the necessity to share that information at speed. And those two things, at times, are at odds with each other.

It also helps us integrate some of these key technologies we've been trying to do in the department for some time. It gives us our best chance to do that. Things like artificial intelligence at scale, machine learning, predictive analytics and the like. These are all enabling requirements for us to execute that decision advantage at the tactical edge.

It leverages the good work of the services. There's been a lot of writing about what the services are doing, and in some cases it's been characterized as independent and conflicting. I would correct that and say that the experimentation that they're doing in JADC2 to date has been very complimentary. The services have approached their – both their service and combatant command needs, I think, quite well.

It is truthful I believe, though, that if left to – to – to go on at some point of time without some level of framework or order to that process, we could find ourselves at odds with each other – meaning that we may not be interoperable both in procedure and also in that speed of data sharing. So the timing is right for this.

It allows us to some best of breed picking on who is solving those problems the best way. And more importantly, what we're going to avoid is vendor lock or proprietary solutions, which have plagued us in the past. We want this to be open source. We want to use the same technology and mindset our industry partners use today.

From a partner perspective, this has our mission partners and allies as a forethought not as an afterthought. Probably a fair criticism in the past of the U.S., going forward building this capability – again whether it be procedures, hardware, exchanges, et cetera – and then trying to bring partners on later on and finding that it's very difficult to do and late to need. So we brought them in early.

There are challenges when it comes to budget and what information can be shared. And I won't try and state that this is an equal advance, but we're sharing as much as we can possibly share and we've made great strides in working together.

But that's the goal. We are not going to operate or fight alone and we've got to make sure we have partners in mind. And that joint strategy has a significant portion of it dedicated specifically to that objective.

And lastly, I think and most importantly, for all the excitement of the strategy – and I am genuinely excited to have it signed – this really starts our work. It's now implementation time. Planning is good. Talk is good. Now it's delivery time. And we've been given the clear signal to begin pushing these outcomes to the people who need them.

And while the warfighters might appreciate the many efforts that we go through to do this, they live with our outcomes. And it's outcome delivery time and that's where we are.

So I'd be more than happy to take any questions you might have.

MR. KIRBY: Bob, go ahead.

Q: General, I'm wondering – you mentioned implementing this now. Is this – is implementing it dependent on getting the JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) cloud-computing project done or at least started or is that – or is that just a different thing?

LT. GEN. CRALL: It's not a different thing. So what's – you know, we have some key dependencies to make these things happen, cloud, network improvements, identity management would be another one. There's many areas that the chief information officer, or the chief data officer, the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center pieces have to come together.

So I would answer the question we are clearly in need of cloud to include a deployable tactical cloud to do this type of processing and data storage on the edge.

Q: But does a legal problem there with the JEDI contract mean it's going to slow this down or prevent it from proceeding?

LT. GEN. CRALL: Where we are right now in the experimentation phase, I think that we have adequate resources to get after, you know, picking and choosing what works. But without an enterprise cloud solution clearly that would inhibit us in the future.

But we have the – the means necessary today to do that level of experimentation. But it's probably easy to figure, you know, how long would it take us before we exceed our capabilities.

MR. KIRBY: And we're going to the phones too. We have Jackson Barnett from FedScoop.

Q: Thank you very much, general, for doing this. Could you speak more to how exactly you are working with the services to integrate their efforts, be it ABMS (Advanced Battle Management System), Project Convergence? What is the actual mechanism to make this a joint effort?

LT. GEN. CRALL: No, that's a – that's a great question. And the deputy secretary was – this is really an area in which she has given us, again, not only clear guidance but a usable, workable mechanism to accomplish that.

So we've had recently signed the cross-functional team (CFT) charter for JADC2. And that is the widest table setting you can imagine of attendees to get after these problems. It provides an atmosphere to present where you're at but it also gives the audience an opportunity to lay flat these differences or project what we may have challenges moving forward in the future.

And the way that the governance is designed is that we have couple of venues to take potential decisions out of that cross-functional team. Once their work is done, if you were to look at a – you know, kind of this – imagine a diagram, a flow of information. From that cross-functional team come recommendations.

Those recommendations have the ability eventually to flow through our Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) to codify those ideas as requirements. That has been a weakness in the past is we haven't really set real requirements. And without requirements people do what's right in their own eyes, and that leads to an area where you may find conflict.

So the Joint Requirements Oversight Council codifies those. And then we move them potentially through an OPSDEPS (Operations Deputies) or an area of risk assessment to prioritize what those investment strategies should be. And then we have the ability to take them to a DMAG (Deputy's Management Action Group), where the deputy secretary can balance those requirements across the department and make those decisions both in time and space for us to implement.

So we have had pieces of this in the past, we have never had these comprehensively put together in one package. And that's set and codified both within the strategy and within that cross-functional team charger.

MR. KIRBY: Go ahead, Jenne.

Q: Oh me? Thank you. I thank the general. I know your mission is we'll share with our alliance. And how will the – this JADC2 affect the South Korea's operational doctrine.

LT. GEN. CRALL: Sure. So when you look at partners writ large, to include South Korea, we have a head start in this area. We're very careful when we use the word standards. Standards in some circles with – I think we say with the big “S” – has been kind of recipe for past failure, very prescriptive. You must conform to some rigid, you know, adherent protocol or schema. And those things tend to not last very long.

Standards from a sense of commonality where there's a little bit of flexibility, tolerances are opened a bit. I would use in the terms of Federated – you know, Mission Network. This idea of us taking protocols that are already available to about 35 countries that we deal with now that recognize what information looks like, that we can import into our weapons systems or, again, for our normal exchanges. So with our allies and partners, we have already a fairly defined protocol that we can use, and we are – been – we're working that as the lead for our mission partner environment.

So it's a different approach. It's not enough to get us fully to integration but we're told it's a pretty good start.

Q: Will this also include the South Korean wartime operational command and control or in a different –

LT. GEN. CRALL: It should only affect – but I – I – in fact, I start a little bit differently – for all the solutions that we talk about, and they tend to be technical, IT, (Information Technology) or, you know, CIO (Chief Information Officer) type thinking, where we start with garrison solutions and then eventually work our way to the tactical edge and what it would look like in an austere war fight, where maybe the bandwidth would be restricted or our environment would be challenged.

We're – we're taking a different look at JADC2. We're starting on the tactical edge and – and working backwards. So to answer your question directly, it is the warfighting environment for which we are building the JADC2 outcome.

Q: Thank you.

LT. GEN. CRALL: Yes, ma'am.

MR. KIRBY: Back to the phones. Andrew Eversden?

Q: Hey, General Crall, thanks so much for doing this. What are some of the – now that the strategy is signed, what are some of the key milestones you're looking to hit maybe in the next year? And is this a document that will be released to the public?

LT. GEN. CRALL: So we have a – an unclass document that we're near – nearly finished on, and I think it is substantive, that will give you a really good feel for what we're driving to. So some priorities that we have – and your question really is, you know, now that we've got it, where do you start? There's several areas that I think we've already started and will continue on, and that really is – and maybe I'll give you a few.

A few we have to solve. Otherwise, issues like cloud will almost be irrelevant. We have to – we have to set some things right in the department, and the first one is the definition of a federated data factor. We've had several data summits, we're about to have another one here shortly in about a week, where we're pulling the community together to define what this looks like.

Again, that balance of tolerances if you set it too open, you don't have a standard. Set it too narrow, it's too prescriptive. There is something in the middle that fits right, and that's what we're in search of. And again, we've had a couple of these already at the small level. This is our second large event, so that's one area.

Identity, Credential and [Access] Management (ICAM), this idea of determining your authenticity on the network – if we don't have real ICAM solutions, it will be impossible to have a cloud-based environment that brings you data – the right data to an authenticated person at the right time and place. So that's an area we're looking at.

Software development – professionally developed, nimble, containerized, upgradable software versus software that is locked, almost impossible to change and can't be adapted, again, in those areas of the fight we expect to be.

So those are a few and I would probably throw in some network enhancements, as well, that we're trying to – to mitigate right now. If you think about the speed and the resilience that our networks are going to need to operate in this fight, we've got work to do in that area. And so it's full steam on to make those changes today, and one of those will be to move to a zero trust environment versus the perimeter environment we find ourselves in today.

Q: Yeah, and obviously, as you mentioned –

(CROSSTALK)

Q: Patrick Tucker Defense One. I wonder – different aspects of experimentation with JADC2 have already been occurring – there's the ABMS effort, there's the Army's Project Convergence effort, there's the Navy's Project Overmatch. The budget is already – request is already out with some items that sort of speak to JADC2. So I wonder if you can be a little more specific on what the signing of the strategy enables you to do right now that you wouldn't have been able to do before? Like, what does that exactly kick into place?

LT. GEN. CRALL: Yeah, so, like, as of today, it was signed, right, and what it means to us – so I would say a couple of things. One, it provides now real lines of effort. So while I could persuade, which is what, you know, it would be in the eye of the beholder, whether or not I was successful, I think there's – it's a mix – mixed bag there.

But I could persuade individuals to adhere to a framework and a structure, and if there was low compliance or no compliance, there was really no teeth in the system to make that change. We had no Northern Star.

So specifically what it does now is allowed me to take that JADC2 strategy and a specific line of effort and then place it directly over the top of this experimentation and vet it and say "what parts of those are in compliance today and which parts are not," and the pieces that are not, what do you want to do with those? Do we break them off into smaller experimentations – cause they still may be pointing to something – or do I recapitalize that money and put it somewhere else?

The good news for the three that you mentioned – and there's more than three – the good news for those three are they – are each testing something discreetly different and they're each testing something valuable to the JADC2 solution?

And again, being – being completely transparent, let that go a year without any intervention and I'm not sure we would be as welcoming because the investment strategy may be locking some decisions in that we may not – we may find not working well in the environment.

So specifically, what it allows us to do is to now look for compliance in the direction that we've set inside of JADC2.

Q: Is – is there – is today the actual date of the Secretary's signing, or what is the actual date of the signing of the strategy by the Secretary?

LT. GEN. CRALL: Yeah, the strategy was signed on the 13th of last month.

MR. KIRBY: Okay, back to the phones. (Inaudible)

Q: Thanks so much. Thanks, General, for doing this. So the Navy and the Marine Corps both have some elements on their unfunded priorities list that would feed into the JADC2 effort. Do you feel this effort is adequately funded and, you know, what – what would you say about the – the pieces of unfunded priorities that the services say they need to work toward this?

LT. GEN. CRALL: So, I mean, I – I think what we have to do is take a look at a couple of things. One, we're probably never going to be able to reconcile, you know, all of the desires that folks want to do with, you know, what the available resources are.

I firmly believe we are adequately resourced to get done with the experimentation phase we're talking about and continuing the good work in the – in the three areas that we described and a few other – other lines of effort that we didn't discuss.

I'll say we're – we're at a good starting point for today. What I also think, though – that we have to be clear about recapitalizing some of the investments we have that may not be very productive. It's fair to say that, you know, some of these things that we do may be under the – the old way of thinking, fits that quadrant we want to avoid, and that is, you know, it doesn't work but at least it's expensive.

We've got to fight our way out of that. And there are examples of things that we just need to stop investing in and start investing in maybe a – a better way of doing business. And they've been recognized, we've tagged some of these, and we're already making decisions along those lines.

So it's not about just doing everything we're doing today exactly as we're doing it and then adding something new. I think we need to be really smart about the way we move forward and utilize the resources we're given smartly.

LT. GEN. CRALL: So we'll see how that pans out. It's early in the process so I'll probably have to give you an – you know, an unsatisfying answer, is that I – I really don't know the full impact of that but I'm optimistic, and I think I am realistically optimistic that we have enough to get started.

Q: And just a quick follow-up, when do you –

(CROSSTALK)

Q: One housekeeping question. The signing on the 13th, does that (INAUDIBLE) that it provides to your office, does that provide an ability to cancel the JEDI contract? Are you – is there now more equity that you have to dial that back?

LT. GEN. CRALL: I don't know, to be honest. And I will – I'll say this, that I kind of leave that in the – in the realm, you know, of the chief information officer and the deputy secretary. I just – I don't have an answer to – to whether that provides teeth. I think the decision-making ability in the department, you know, has been there long before the JADC2 document was signed.

Q: So (INAUDIBLE) is it pivotal to JADC2?

LT. GEN. CRALL: Yes.

Q: Then if JEDI is tortured or canceled, are you contemplating a multi-cloud platform for JADC2?

LT. GEN. CRALL: Well, there already is a multi-cloud environment, right? That already exists. And, again, if I look at my use case and demand where I'm at today, because I am at the – you know, really the starting line for this. I have – I'm able to take advantage of that multi-cloud provisioning.

I think the real question would be how far – how long can you do that? When do you run out of resources? And then, is it cost-effective? Does – not every cloud performs the same way. The clouds have different characteristics that need to, you know, survive on that tactical edge. So, again, where I sit today I can get the work done we need to get started.

But make no mistake, your opening line is accurate. JADC2, the delivery of JADC2 is dependent on a robust, purpose-built cloud for the environment that we need to operate in.

MR. KIRBY: Another one from the phone lines, Colin Clark.

Q: Yes, sir. As you know, Breaking Defense has been following this for a while. And one of the things that you told us is that you'd like to see much better work, much more focused work coming out of the defense industry. So if you had the chance to sit down with, say, the CEOs (Chief Executive Officers) of the top 10 defense companies, what would you tell them they need to change?

LT. GEN. CRALL: Well, I have had the opportunity to sit down with a lot in industry, research, and academia. And I think we've been consistent in our message is – and I've stated or hinted about some of that in the beginning. First of all, we demand the best that industry has to offer today. Not what I would consider to be, you know, something that is past its prime.

So we're looking to leverage and take advantage, again, of what it would require to execute our mission. We also want to avoid proprietary solutions. We want data-sharing. We want to have the ability to fuse data sets together in ways that are nimble, like industry does today, meaning we have to share a little bit of the backside of how those things work. So meeting us at speed, less about boxes, again, less about vendor lock, more real, open way of doing business, and to move at speed. That's what I've asked for.

And frankly, we need solutions that work on the tactical edge. And the reference you're making was at a speech I gave some time ago where I specifically referenced identity management. We need to be able to do that in a deployed environment. And I have been critical. The industry solutions that we've been offered don't work in the area I need them to work. They work great in the national capital region, they don't work really well in an austere environment coming out of the back of an airplane or at sea. And that's where we're starting and those are discussions we've had.

Q: Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Luis.

Q: Just a quick question, you're with the joint staff, the J6. How do you implement this in the real world, at COCOM (Combatant Command) level or does this just – currently just stay at the service level for now. I think you just mentioned in your – at the end of your answer now how you get to the end point.

LT. GEN. CRALL: I think that's really the magic of the Secretary signing this. Right? We've had – if you went back and looked at some of these efforts or pieces of it over the past decade, decade and half, they've always been limited to one faction or one portion of the Department. This is the first that I am aware of, were it's brought all these entities together.

So when you look at the ability to deliver an outcome across these various places, which have normally, in some cases, had difficulty of having consistency through them, that's what makes this different. That cross functional team is a real cross functional team. It respects the services provisions to deliver capabilities to combatant commands, doesn't change anything in that way.

The JROC still functions at producing requirements, the Deputy Secretary still makes those decisions in that DMAG process to ensure that the funding and alignment is given to those priority efforts. The difference is we're now able to advise her across the entire department not from one segment.

Q: (inaudible) I mean, this is the guidance that users, end users will be able to use to – and figure out implement all of this together in their day to day operations.

LT. GEN. CRALL: That's right. Not only did they get to influence how we do that, they are the judges of how well it works. Right? That's our customer – is the war fighter. How they vote will determine whether or not we're successful.

MR. KIRBY: Okay. I think that's it. Thank you very much, appreciate your time today.

LT. GEN. CRALL: Thank you.


MR. KIRBY: Okay. Just a few more things from me. So on some exercise updates, Defender Europe '21 continues. Yesterday, as a part of exercise Saber Guardian, the 30th medical brigade conducted a joint hospital exercise in Baumholder, Germany. This exercise included conducting a joint medical evacuation and establishing and validating a field hospital.

Separate and distinct from Defender Europe '21, BALTOPS 50 kicks off this weekend. Through mid-June more than 40 ships, 60 aircraft, and more than 4,000 military service members from 18 participating nations will participate in live training events in the Baltic Sea exercise that includes air defense, anti-submarine warfare, amphibious operations, maritime interdiction, and mine countermeasure operations.

This year marks the exercise’s 50th iteration. I think as a young ensign I participated in the 16th or 17th iteration way back in 1987.

Exercise African Lion 2021, U.S. Africa Command's premier joint annual exercise also kicks off in Morocco, Tunisia, and Senegal on Monday, the 7th of June and will run through the 18th June. More than 7,000 participants from nine nations and NATO will train together with a focus on enhancing readiness for U.S. and partner nation forces. African Lion '21 is a multi-domain air, land, sea, and cyber multi-component, multi-national exercise which will employ a full array of mission capabilities with the goal to set the theater for strategic access and strengthen interoperability among the participants.

Now, yesterday I think you saw the Department released a list of the first 47 entities on the Section 1260H list. Section 1260H of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2021 directs the identification of entities that the Secretary determines are a "Chinese military company" operating directly or indirectly in the United States. These companies have ties to People's Republic of China's military civil fusion strategy, military modernization efforts, or defense industrial base. The initial list can be found on our website at defense.gov and the Department will update that list with additional entities, as appropriate.

Lastly, scheduling note. On Monday, the Secretary will be hosting here at the Pentagon, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, as the planning continues for the upcoming June 14th NATO Summit that the Secretary will also be attending. And with that, we'll take some questions. Bob?

Q: John, I'll start you off with a UFO question, how about that?

MR. KIRBY: Go for it.

Q: Has Secretary Austin been briefed on this report that’s required by Congress and also just more broadly, does Secretary Austin see this – what apparently is an increasing number of reported incidents – as a safety report for the military in terms of pilot training and so forth as well as a national security threat?

MR. KIRBY: He has received a briefing on the work that the task force has thus far conducted. The report as you know is being crafted and will be delivered by the Director of National Intelligence, but he has received a briefing on the work thus far. And as we've said before, we take all incursions into our operating spaces seriously. So, I mean, like everybody else here at the Defense Department, certainly we are taking the entire matter seriously – regarding the potential for safety concerns.

Q: In other words, regardless of what the explanation may be or if there is none of what they, there are incidents in which pilots are seeing things that are close enough that could be a safety – well it is a safety problem?

MR. KIRBY: It could potentially involve safety and/or national security concerns, absolutely.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Kirby. I think you know already that North Korea criticized the U.S. conduct of Red Flag joint effort exercises in Alaska next week. There's also South Korean and U.S. – I mean Japan participating in this exercise, yes. Do you have any comment on this?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not going to comment on the reaction by North Korean officials. I would simply add that this is an exercise that we conduct very frequently and there's approximately 1,500 service members are going to be participating, more than 100 aircraft from more than 20 different units. And of course in addition to U.S. personnel, as you rightly pointed, out there will be members of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force as well as the Republic of Korea Air Force participating, and we look forward to that. So a total foreign participation of about 300 people. And you've heard the Secretary talk about the importance of trilateral cooperation when he visited Japan and South Korea not too long ago. So this is an example of that. And we're looking forward to the exercise. And it's important, as we've talked about so many times, for improving our interoperability with our allies.

Q: But this it the first time the U.S. invited three others to the exercise over, I think, a three-year period. So why they did this time –

MR. KIRBY: I can't speak to decisions made previously, but again, I'd go back to the Secretary's first international trip to Japan and to South Korea. And one of the things that he talked about in both places was the importance of trilateral cooperation. And these aren't just partners. These are allies of the United States. And so he always wants to look for ways to improve alliance interoperability and capability. And this exercise will provide us an opportunity to do that.

Q: Thank you very much.

MR. KIRBY: You're welcome very much. Let's see. On the phone? – I know if I don't wait… It looks like she's not there. So go ahead, sir.

Q: Great, thanks. FBI Director Christopher Wray recently interviewed and compared the recent wave of ransomware attacks to 9/11. And there's an indication that the U.S. government is going to start treating ransomware attacks at a much higher level of severity. So I wonder if you can discuss if there's been any change in the interagency discussion about what the Defense Department can or should do in response to escalating ransomware attacks from adversarial sources?

MR. KIRBY: I mean, beyond making it obvious that the interagency takes cybersecurity issues very, very seriously, I won't get ahead of interagency discussions or characterize them in any other way. I think that's really a better question put to my colleagues at the National Security Council. Okay. Yes, sir?

Q: You talked about the Chinese entity list that came out yesterday. You said that there was going to be an update to it. So that means the implication is that there's an ongoing review, and more companies will be added to that. So two questions. One, can you explain the review process? And should we be expecting monthly updates, quarterly updates?

MR. KIRBY: No, as I think I said in the opening comments, it'll be updated as appropriate. So I don't think there'll be a regular specificity. And again, without getting into the sausage-making here, clearly, the Secretary will take the advice and counsel of the civilian and military leaders here at the department as we weigh what entities might need to go on that list. But we've got it posted on the website. And we will be transparent about this. When a new entity or entities are added, we'll make sure that you know about that. And obviously, that'll be available, again, on our website. Totally transparent about it.

Q: Hey, John, happy birthday. There's no way that I can like sugarcoat this. I was talking to a gentleman about the UAP report, and he contends the Pentagon has alien bodies and crafts. So I just wanted to run this past you. Does DOD have these things? And if so, where?

MR. KIRBY: The UAP Task Force is really designed to take a look at these unexplained aerial phenomena, try to help us get a better understanding of them. Again, I'm not going to get ahead of the report that DNI will submit that we are helping obviously, and providing input to. And I'll just leave it at that, Jeff. Yeah.

Q: I want to ask you about the nuclear issue. The Navy requested funds in the DOD budget for the new Nuclear Sea-Launched Cruise Missiles. That this missile was recommended to (inaudible) Nuclear Posture Review 2018, even though the Biden administration is conducting, or will conduct, its own nuclear review, has the administration already decided to continue to develop this nuclear missile system?

MR. KIRBY: Well, I think you actually lead right into my answer. I mean, as is common in the first year of a new administration, the department is conducting a series of strategic reviews, including a review of our nuclear policy and posture. These reviews are just beginning, and they constitute a deliberate process intended to align administration policy objectives with defense and deterrence strategies that are best suited for the security of the United States, our allies, and partners in the current environment. It's worth noting that the FY '22 budget requests did not include purchases of the W76-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead. It did include a relatively small amount of funding for additional analysis of the submarine-launched cruise missile, and that was about $5 million, I think is what was in the budget. Both capabilities are going to be re-examined in the strategic reviews, along with other aspects of U.S. nuclear policy and posture.

Okay? Yes, ma'am, in the back?

Q: Thanks for taking my question. I know that the Department of Defense has taken a stance on rooting out extremism among the ranks. However, my question is, have there been any talks on, I guess, making amends to those individuals who experienced racism while serving in the military? And I have two examples I can give to you. The Tulsa Massacre Centennial just happened this week, and I was able to speak to Army veteran Hugh Van Ellis. And he described not only surviving the massacre but then joining and proudly serving a military that didn't believe in him. He experienced so many different racial instances while serving and even after. But luckily for him, he survived. Private Felix Hall, who was stationed at Fort Benning, did not. He was the first American to be lynched on a military base. To this day, that case has not been resolved. So we still don't know what happened. So in the instances where you have members who are experiencing racism while serving their country, are you guys in talks of how to make amends or try to resolve these instances that have happened in the past?

MR. KIRBY: Well, first of all, let me make clear that nobody should have to experience racism or discrimination while serving their country, frankly, in any walk of life, but certainly not while serving your country in uniform. And I'm sorry to hear about those two examples. I did not know of that history. But that's representative of problems we know we've had in the past, and we're not blind to the fact that those kinds of feelings and/or ideas and the actions that come from them still exist inside the ranks. The Secretary has been very clear that racism of any kind does not comport with our core values and has no place inside the military. And some extremist ideology is race-based, some is gender-based, some is anti-government based. So this is beyond just the extremism discussion that you started your question with.

I know of no efforts or discussions here at the Pentagon with respect to amends-making, the way you've described it, but one of the things the Secretary does believe is incumbent upon him and every leader here in the department in terms of making things better is simply being better leaders and fostering an engendering a culture here at the Defense Department where everybody who's qualified to serve in uniform is able to do so and in an environment completely free of hate and fear and discrimination. And that's really at the core of what he's trying to do in that regard.

Q: But acknowledging those instances that happened, that's the way moving forward, so in a sense, do you feel that there should be acknowledgements to the individuals stating "yes, these things happened, we are doing this moving forward" but what are we doing to make amends to them, to those individuals that –

MR. KIRBY: As I said, I'm not aware of any overt policy decision here in terms of specific amends-making with respect to specific incidents. Those incidents you described are sad to hear, they're hard to hear, and sadly, there are modern examples of that kind of discrimination and that kind of racism and what we have to do, what we're focused on right now is making sure that we're creating the proper workplace, culture and climate for people of all walks of life.

If you want to serve your country in uniform, or even in the civilian ranks here, and you meet the standard and you qualify, we want you to be able to do that. And we welcome that service and we want that service to be appreciated and we want you to be able to serve with respect and dignity.

Ma'am?

Q: I'm wondering if you have an update on the Iranian ships crossing the Atlantic? And also, what's your assessment of the Iranian Navy, given that there was doubts that these ships can actually cross the Atlantic? And I have another question on a different topic.

MR. KIRBY: Okay, we'll get you your second question quickly cause I'm not going to talk about intelligence matters and I'm certainly not going to get into an assessment of Iranian Navy capabilities here from this podium. So what's your second question?

Q: Do you have an update on the destination of the ships?

MR. KIRBY: No, I don't. I don't even speak to future operations for U.S. Navy ships, I'm certainly not going to make a practice of speaking for future operations of a foreign Navy.

Q: Are you concerned over this ships like this crossing the Atlantic?

MR. KIRBY: Look, I mean, I think we're certainly mindful of this deployment and we're monitoring it. I think I'd just leave it at that.

Q: And my second question –

MR. KIRBY: Your second?

Q: Yeah, I –

MR. KIRBY: That's like your 17th.

Q: So what's the Pentagon's position regarding the replenishing of the Israeli Iron Dome? Did you receive a specific request during yesterday's meeting?

MR. KIRBY: The issue of replenishment certainly came up in the meeting yesterday with Minister Gantz and I think you heard the Secretary reflect the President's desire and intent to assist with Israel's replenishment needs.

There was no – there wasn't a very detailed discussion to that yesterday. The two leaders really only had about an hour together, but now their staffs will get together and we'll work out the details of what that replenishment looks like and how much over time and all that. We're just not there in the details of it but clearly, the Secretary reiterated the President's desire to assist in Israel's replenishment, and that was discussed yesterday, yes.

Luis?

Q: Thanks, John. Can you specifically address the reporting that's come out about this UAP report, the reporting that these UAPs – they don't appear to be alien spacecraft, that there's not enough information to actually address what exactly they are and that they're not a U.S. secret black program?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, look, I've seen the press reporting on this, Luis, but I'm not going to comment one way or the other about the reporting or certainly about the work of the task force and the coming report by the Director of National Intelligence. I won't get ahead of that process.

Q: So can you rule out specifically that these are not alien spacecraft?

MR. KIRBY: I think I've answered your question. I'm not going to get ahead of a report that hasn't been filed to Congress and I'm certainly not going to speak about intelligence issues here from the podium. I've, again, seen the press reporting but I'm not going to be able to comment beyond that.

Q: I have two other issues. Can you talk about the pride flag? Has a decision been made on whether the pride flag can be displayed at DOD facilities? I understand that it was under review. And can you explain how it came to be under review?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, after some careful consideration, the department will maintain the existing policy from July of 2020 regarding the display or depiction of unofficial flags. So there won't be an exception made this month for the pride flag.

And as for how it came – I don't want to mischaracterize this and say there was some sort of formal review but obviously knowing that the month of June was approaching, we wanted to do due diligence and take a look and take a look at the old policy and see if we felt it was still applicable and still needed to be applicable.

I would stress only two more things in answer to your question. One, this in no way reflects any lack of respect or admiration for people of the LGBTQ+ community, personnel in and out of uniform who serve in this department. We're proud of them. I mentioned that on Monday, that the Secretary's pride and respect and admiration for the service that they render to their country.

This was really more about the potential for – an exception in this case about the potential for other challenges that could arise from that exception – that specific exception, and it was really about that than anything else. It's certainly not a statement of anything other than the fact that – full respect and admiration for that service.

Q: And one more, the White House has issued a statement acknowledging or rescinding the order that Greenland fall under U.S. Northern Command's AOR. Was this something that Secretary Austin recommended, and if so, what was his line of thought on that?

MR. KIRBY: I'll have to take that question, Luis. I'll take that question for you.

Yeah?

Q: Thank you, sir. I have a couple of questions on the African Sahel. A couple of major developments over the past couple of weeks. Mali had a second coup in the past nine months and France is threatening – I guess France – Emmanuel Macron that he said he's going to withdraw the 5,000 troops that are in Operation Barkhane if the Mali coup leaders making an alliance with the Islamic extremists.

And also, there's reports that Russia was involved in the first coup. So what is the Secretary General's reaction to all these developments in the Sahel? And my last question- when is he going to visit Africa? Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: I don't have a reaction by the secretary to those comments and those decisions by other nations. I would just tell you, again, that our strategic objectives in Africa are focused on protecting the homeland and U.S. personnel countering malign influences that seek to further destabilize the continent and responding to regional crisis.

We continue to support the militaries of our Africa and European partners in their fight against violent extremist organizations, and we do that through security cooperation, partner capacity, intelligence, and intelligence sharing efforts. So we're going to continue that work along with our partners and friends on the continent and in Europe.

I don't have an update or anything to announce on the secretary's travel schedule today.

Meghann?

Q: Does the secretary think that there should be a review for the flag policy to make it a little more precise given what it was intended to do in the first place?

MR. KIRBY: I don't believe that we're looking at a deeper review of the flag policy. As I said to Luis, knowing that June was coming he certainly wanted us to take a look at that and see if it was still applicable. And as we speak right now, his belief is that that policy should be maintained.

Sylvie?

Q: Did the secretary receive a request from the White House about evacuating the Afghan translators and their families because last time we spoke about you said that he didn't receive any requests from White House? So I wanted to know if –

MR. KIRBY: No, there's been no change. There's been no change. No.

Q: Some congressman have sent a letter to the White House to ask for that?

MR. KIRBY: I mean, we're aware of some congressional interest in this, clearly and some congressional correspondence, but nothing has changed since the last time we talked about this.

Okay. Thanks everybody. Have a great weekend.