Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper will be in New York tomorrow to participate in a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations before joining President Donald J. Trump in Philadelphia on Saturday at the 120th Army-Navy football game, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said.
Hoffman was joined by Navy Rear Adm. William D. Byrne Jr., vice director of the Joint Staff, today for a Pentagon news conference.
On Dec. 16, Esper will be in Belgium to participate in the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, Hoffman said.
Hoffman said Defense Department officials were encouraged by yesterday's passage of the National Defense Authorization Act — which includes authorization of the U.S. Space Force — by the House of Representatives.
Although the bill has been passed, the department can't implement it without a budget, Hoffman said. "Our adversaries are making considerable gains in space, and our operational advantage is shrinking," he added. "We cannot implement Space Force, we cannot give raises to troops, we cannot begin new programs," he said.
"China and Russia have budgets they can plan and execute against and are moving forward with modernizing their militaries, while we are being held back by these disagreements," Hoffman said.
Steady, predictable funding is imperative in this era of great-power competition, he said.
Hoffman said the hold on operational training that was implemented following the shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida last week is restricted to Saudi students in the United States. Those students are still conducting training, but it is limited to classroom instruction, he said.
There is no prohibition on new foreign students coming to the United States, Hoffman noted, but they will go through additional vetting procedures that will be implemented in the coming days. "Until that process is complete, we will not see any new students come into the program," he said.
The suspect's Saudi acquaintances in the program are restricted to quarters, he said, a move that was taken in coordination with the Saudi government so that they are available to law enforcement.
In a statement issued this afternoon, Pentagon officials said the Saudi Arabian students are restricted to base by their commanding officer. The students are under direction by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to cooperate with the investigation, which they are doing, the statement noted. The students have access to classroom instruction, food, medical staff, a U.S. military imam, and their commanding officer, officials said.
Hoffman said the restriction "seemed prudent" and in line with the defense secretary's guidance that DOD needs to look after its people and their families.
"If something else were to happen and we had not taken steps to address and enhance our vetting and screening, that would be unacceptable," he said.
Since 2000, more than a million foreign students have taken part in training programs conducted in the United States and overseas, Hoffman said. This type of training is considered a vital tool to help partners increase their capabilities and interoperability and build cultural understanding, he said.
The No. 1 concern in the new vetting system being developed is the safety of U.S. personnel and their families, Hoffman said.. Once the process is developed, he added, the new standards will be expanded to all foreign students.