Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder briefs the news media at the Pentagon, September 27, 2022.
Yeah, good afternoon, everybody a few items pass along and then we’ll get right to your questions. Uh So tomorrow Secretary Austin will depart to California and Hawaii and in California, he’ll meet with sailors and marines at Naval Base point Loma and Marine Corps Air station Miramar, respectively. Uh While in Hawaii he will meet with several, several of our key indo pacific allies to include his counterparts from the Philippines, Japan and Australia. To discuss our shared commitment to preserving a free and open indo pacific. Secretary Austin will also meet with Rear Admiral john wade, who leads the joint task Force Red Hill to receive an update on the effort to safely and expeditiously de fuel the Redhill bulk fuel storage facility. In addition this afternoon, Secretary Austin will welcome his Excellency David Kabua, President of the Republic of Marshall Islands. For meeting for meeting on the US Marshall Islands strategic and security relationship. The Secretary looks forward to the discussion after which will provide a readout separately. The department continues to watch closely as Florida prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Ian, an extremely dangerous storm that is expected to bring heavy rain, wind and storm surge to the States west coast. As of this morning, the Florida National Guard has more than 3200 soldiers and airmen on state active duty with another 1800 plus in the pipeline Florida has prepositioned guard soldiers, airmen and equipment at bases and armories around the state and preparation for deploying them to areas impacted by the storm. These guardsmen will provide route route clearing search and rescue teams to support flood control and security. Aviation assets like helicopters are also on standby to assist as required. Additionally, five neighboring states are prepared to make an additional 2000 plus guardsmen available should the need arise. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, fema is the lead federal agency on this response and the Department of Defense remains in close communication and coordination with fema as Ian’s landfall becomes imminent in preparation for the storm, The D. O. D. Has approved Maxwell Air Force Base Alabama moody Air Force base Georgia Warner, Robins Air Force Base Georgia and Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany also in Georgia as incident support, incident support base. Federal staging areas for questions concerning individual D. O. D. Bases. I’d refer you to the individual services who can provide you with the most up to date information about their personnel and their efforts. Finally later today, the department will release our latest report on civilian casualties in connection with the United States military operations in 2021. This report is released annually by the department and this is the fifth year of its release. As you know, the D. O. D. Is committed to improving our approach to mitigating and responding to civilian harm. And on august 25th this year, the secretary released the civilian harm mitigation and response action plan which lays out a series of actions. D. O. D. Will implement to mitigate and respond to civilian harm, the protection of innocent civilians in the conduct of operations remains vital to the ultimate success of our operations and is a significant strategic and moral imperative this report will be posted to the defense dot gov website today. And with that I’m happy to take your questions. We’ll go ahead and start with lida, a couple of just quick follow ups. Um last week you said you were gonna check back on whether any of either the P. D. A. U. S. A I. N. E. Of the funding associated with Ukraine would expire at the end of this fiscal year. Do you have an answer to that yet?
And uh so uh what I would say is as I understand it, So the the U. S. Ii money as we talked about is two year money. Um So and that is an appropriation. Uh so that that would not be affected the P. D. A money is as I understand it an authorization uh which means that authorization is good until the end of the fiscal year. I would highlight that. It’s not the end of the fiscal year yet. So there’s still time potentially to to employ that authorization. Should we come to the end of the fiscal year as you know, the administration has asked for supplemental funding. And so essentially what we would like to do is uh use that new authorization to purchase P. D. A. Should we go into a separate fiscal year?
Um So just a couple of things. And do you know the exact amount that you think will expire?
And you’ve got literally just a couple of days and then um Sure so right now we have uh 2.275 billion until September 30. And then on Ukraine um two things. Have you seen any change or any movement by Russia um to ready their nuclear forces?
And anyway I know that this is a repetitive question but just ask again and have you seen any shifts in Russian force posture overall as these annexations votes start to get um released and anything about any more troops coming in, any effort to shore up areas, anything like that?
Sure. So broadly speaking, you know as we’ve said, we obviously take these threats seriously but at this stage we have not seen anything uh that would cause us to adjust our own uh nuclear posture at this time. And and as we’ve said previously our focus continues to remain on supporting Ukraine in their fight and working closely with our allies and partners in terms of Russian force posture um broadly speaking without getting into a detailed operational update. Uh No no major shifts other than we continue to see particularly in the Donbass region. The Russians attempt uh to conduct offensive operations uh in that area with Ukraine successfully holding the line. Okay thank you. I have two occasions china and Taiwan and Korea first occasion the nuclear aircraft carrier arrived at the airport and lesson out. Okay have maritime exercise is ongoing right now at the meantime China also conduct counter response exercise in the West Sea regarding this. How can you comment on this?
What kind of message does this exercise give it to North Korea?
Uh Sure. So does let me make sure I fully understand you’re asking about the aircraft carrier the Reagan. What message does that send?
Uh well, just for the benefit of the group. So the Ronald Reagan carrier strike group began a series of exercises in the Ec with the Republic of Korea Navy. Uh September 26th. Uh And they’ll go through the 29th and these are intended to strengthen maritime interoperability and tactics techniques and procedures between our two navies and as you know, the US routinely conducts carrier strike group operations in the waters around the Republic of Korea to exercise maritime maneuvers, strengthen the US and Rok alliance and improve regional security in China. When China invaded Taiwan about the contingent plane and the U. S. Contingency on the china and uh Taiwan conflict and should be United States forces in South Korea. Be involved with the in case of this food between China and Taiwan under the mutual defense treaty between the U. S. And South Korea. Okay um sorry there Janie, I was waiting for your question. So you’re asking if if this between China and Taiwan is under the mutual defense treaty between US and South Korea. So South Korea should be involved. I’ve seen the press reporting on that. Certainly I would refer you to the government of the Republic of Korea for comments on on that broadly speaking. What I would say is that U. S. Forces Korea remains committed to the US rok alliance and maintaining the high level of readiness and robust combined defense posture to defend our okay sovereignty and to support US national interests in the region. Many of expert and also former U. S. F. K. Commanders in the United States. They’re saying that if anything happening between China and Taiwan there will be U. S. F. K. Yeah so I I appreciate I’m not going to speculate on hypothetical. So again I think that the U. S. Presence in Korea we have a very long standing alliance and a long history of working closely together to defend the Korean peninsula and defend us interests in the region. So let me go ahead and go to the next question Tony go back to the new question first, can you say categorically that the United States has not seen any movement by tactical nuclear Russian military units that would cause alarm. Yeah thanks Tony. So I don’t want to get into intelligence specifically other than to again just say that we’ve seen nothing that would indicate that we need to change our posture shifting gears to the nation on Sunday there was a great deal of international confusion about whether the United States had delivered nace um systems to Ukraine?
This is based on a faulty face. The nation transcript that they later corrected but it caused a tether throughout the world. Can you give us a reality check here?
When will the first nations actually be delivered?
Won’t take about two years from the august 26 contract date. So uh so the and I briefed this a couple of weeks ago. Yeah so yeah absolutely. So so just to clarify the U. S. Has not delivered nay Sams to Ukraine at this stage we expect the first two to be delivered within the next two months or so, two months or so. Right that’ll be from trench three. Uh And then the remaining six that were part of the U. S. A. I are expected to be delivered in the in the future. I don’t have a date to provide but those will be longer term because the contract when it came up in august said it will be completed by august of 2020 for implying two years. Again I think there’s nothing has changed. I think it’s um two different tranches of Newsom’s that we’re talking about here. So we can get you the details but again the first two are expected to be um provided within the next two months or so. These are the ones produced by industry as I understand it. Okay on the civilian casualty report. Obviously I haven’t seen it. Um Could you give us kind of the broad outlines of that report. I’m assuming the numbers must be relatively low because it’s not much happening abroad. But also I’m wondering if some of the changes that we’ve seen recently on trying to reduce civilian casualties, Is that going to be reflected in this report?
And how should we view that?
Um, sure, now I appreciate the question. Um, what I would I would ask you to do is download the report, take a look at it. Um, certainly again after this brief, we can get that to you and then be happy to entertain a more detailed, detailed discussion given the fact that, uh, you know, the scope of the work. I don’t want to to necessarily provide you with half information here from the podium. So we’ll make sure to get that for you right after this. Thank you. Let me go to carl and then I’ll go to custom um, on Ukraine concerning the North Stream pipeline. They’re leaking uh, European officials are saying it was sabotage. Um, pointing to Russia. Ukraine has said it is it was Russian sabotage. Russia is um, pointing to the United States. What can the pentagon say about that?
Do you have any evidence that vessels in the Baltic sea could have been responsible for this?
Yeah, thanks. Karla seen the press reporting on this at this point, but I don’t have any information on it to provide. We’ll continue to monitor closely?
Obviously. thank you. Let me go to Kassem General thanks. Uh Turkey yesterday issued a diplomatic protest to the United States for Greece deploying us provided armored tactical vehicles to the islands with nonmilitary status in Eastern agency under two that are nor military status under two treaties. Is there is there any U. S. Military activity training going on in eastern region?
That’s my first question. And second, what’s your reaction to the Turkish protest to the United States?
Yeah. Thanks Kassem. So I’m not aware of any exercises, you know, certainly would would encourage you to reach out to us, European command. But I’m not aware of any specific exercises at the moment. Um and then broadly speaking as always, uh you know, Greece and Turkey are both very important NATO allies. We would encourage both sides to continue to engage in constructive dialogue to ease potential tensions. But beyond that I don’t have anything further to provide. Thank you. Let me go to Laura and then I’ll one follow up so that there is an increasing criticism in Ankara that United States military deployment in Eastern uh Greek Greece is actually causing excessive baiting detentions contributing to the escalation between the two countries. Do you agree with that?
What’s your um so in terms of uh the bilateral relationship between the U. S. And Turkey. Um I think you know obviously Turkey is an incredibly important NATO partner and ally. Um but I’m not gonna from this podium engage in diplomacy. So again, we’ll continue to work closely with our NATO partners to include Turkey. Uh, and certainly I’d encourage you to reach out to the State Department for any kind of official US response. Thank you, Laura. Sure. I have two questions. One. I wanted to get your assessment of the Iranian drones that we have seen, We saw videos out of Ukraine that they’ve hit Odessa targeting civilian infrastructure and targeting obviously the Ukrainian forces. What’s, what’s your assessment of the damage that these drones are doing?
And can you give us more information about what types of drones that we’re seeing?
And do you anticipate any additional deliveries of these sorts of weapons?
Sure, So we we do assess that the Russians now are using the Iranian drones that we’ve talked about in the past, being that were delivered to Russia, that we do assess that they are now using them in Ukraine. Uh, in terms of their effectiveness, I don’t want to provide a battle damage assessment here from the podium or get into specific intelligence other than to say again, we’ve seen them employ them. Um, we’ve also seen reports of the Ukrainians uh, shooting down some of these drones. Again, I’m not going to get into specific numbers, but we assess that, that those are incredible. Uh, and so I think again, it’s just indicative of, um, the Russians employing a capability that we know they’ve sought out from Iran. Um, and they’re using the way they indicated they would use them right for both kinetic attacks and I. S. R. But beyond that, um at this point, I’m really not gonna be able to go into more detail, have you seen the missiles from North Korea arrive in Russia yet?
Uh so beyond the information we provided before, which is that we have indications that Russia is seeking support from North Korea for ammunition. I’m not gonna have anything further at this stage. Hey, let me jump out to the phones here and I’ll come back into the room. Let’s go with heather from us. And I great, thank you so much. I was wondering if you can share any more details about what the Secretary of Defense will be doing in Hawaii when he meets with john weighed about Redhill. Sure. So, so really, the key thing here is this continues to be a top priority for the secretary and for the department. He wants to meet with Admiral wade to receive an update on efforts to safely and expeditiously de fuel the Red Hill facility. And so this will be the opportunity for the secretary to provide his uh secretaries intent, so to speak, firsthand, uh and get a chance to talk with the task force leadership team. Okay, let me do one more on the phone here. Let’s go to hey jun SEo from radio free Asia, I thank you for taking my question. I have to, if I may 1st um the rok Vice National Defense Minister said that the US and rok are closely monitoring the activities of North Korea preparing uh SlBM launch that the U. S. C. Any indications of North Korea’s SlBM test and second, the U. S. Vice president is traveling to the D M. Z. In Seoul on the 29th is dependent on putting additional security measures to North Korea’s potential missile tests during her visit. Yeah, So on your last question, um obviously for security reasons, I’m not going to go into details on the types of support to provide other than the Department of Defense supports our senior leadership um wherever they go uh and provide whatever support is is required on your first question. Um, I I appreciate the question. I’m not gonna be able to talk about any potential uh intelligence that that we may or may not have as it pertains to um North Korea and any potential future missile launches. But thank you. Okay, let me go back to the room here or in general. I just wondered if you could give a bit more detail you mentioned at the end of the answer and leaders question Russian offensive operations, particularly in Donbas, is that the only place at this point they’re trying to conduct or conducting offensive operations, uh, are they having any success there?
Whether it’s a couple of kilometers or not at all and and um have their operations been able to affect in any way, Ukraine’s count. So again, recognizing that that really the Ukrainians are the right folks to talk in detail, generally speaking?
Um what what you see is um, again in the Donbas region there, um the Russians um with elements of the Wagner group um attempting to essentially take territory, I think I’ve mentioned previously, we’ve seen hundreds of meters in some cases, but nothing that I would consider significant. Um the Ukrainians have so far done a good job of holding the line there and and repulsing uh, those offensive operations. Um, the way I would characterize the north and the south is on the Russian side is essentially defensive at this stage. The the Ukrainians continue to make deliberate movement forward. Um and so yeah, that’s right. I’d leave it. Thank you. Okay, let me go back out to the phone, I’ll come back in the room here, Phil Stewart from Reuters. Hey there, thanks. Listen, I I realize you can’t go into intel matters. But there’s quite a lot of concern about the Russian nuclear threats?
And I’m wondering, you know, does does the statement that the pentagon does not see anything that would cause it to adjust this nuclear posture?
Mean that there has the Russian activity?
Is it that definitive?
And also how does the Russian threats of nuclear escalation play into how, you know, NATO’s nuclear alliance is thinking about moving forward with the, with its support to Ukraine. Thanks. Yeah, sure. Um so Phil I’d say, you know, to your first question, um I’m not gonna have anything different to provide other than again, we have not seen anything or have any reason to adjust our posture at this stage. Um In terms of um the impact on us and international unity and efforts to support Ukraine. Um as we’ve said before, our focus will continue to be on working together to support Ukraine as they fight to defend their country. Uh And so I don’t see any change in that at this time. Thank you. Okay, thank you sir. Uh to to hurricane related questions please. Uh first uh with the storm appearing to be heading towards the headquarters of Centcom uh and Special Operations Command. Any accommodations, you can speak to their any concerns the Secretary has about what that could mean, how you plan for that. And then on the second one we’ve seen plenty of storms in the past. That Active Duty forces always uh also get involved. Do you expect that here as well?
So in terms of uh on your last question, in terms of Active Duty Forces. So um really right now again, D. O. D. Is in support the fema. Um and of course uh the Florida State government also plays a key role in this as well. Right, so we will continue to stay closely aligned with fema and working with the State Government in the National Guard. So I don’t really want to speculate on what kind of support may be required in the future?
Um in terms of centcom and socom again, certainly they could answer in more detail, but what I would tell you is that hurricanes hitting the state of Florida are not new. Uh There are um very comprehensive contingency plans that are put together to address these types of eventualities uh to ensure that there is 24 7 connectivity and uh command and control capability. Uh So the bottom line is neither of those commands will miss a beat regardless of whether the storm hits in the Tampa area or not. Thanks. Okay let me go back up to the phone. Uh Louis Martinez. Abc Yes sir. Just two quick questions. One on the hurricane and one on Ukraine. Um Do you have, do you know how many ships or how many um forces or bases have been reorganized or moved around as a result of in advance of the hurricane’s coming?
I don’t have that right in front of me louis but we can get that for you and on Ukraine, Ukraine, it’s actually more Russia question. Uh You’ve spoken in the past about how the Russian mobilization um may not impact the battlefield. Um Can you talk to us about these images that we’re seeing inside Russia of these long uh convoys at border checkpoints?
Um people uh being upset with these local mobilization officers. Um what does that speak to, What does the pentagon’s take on the things?
Well, it’s certainly something that we’re keeping an eye on as it relates to Russia’s overall readiness and ability to mobilize forces uh, primarily again, because this is part of the broader conflict in Ukraine and certainly could impact uh future conditions there on the battlefield. Um, as for the response of the Russian people, that’s really not for me to say. I think you can all watch that make your own conclusions on that. Uh, from a operational standpoint, from a military standpoint as we’ve discussed previously. Um, leading and managing any large military organization uh, is a monumental undertaking in of itself, which requires a high degree of expertise when it comes to things like logistics, sustainment, uh recruiting, equipping, etcetera. And so again, we just continue to see some of the challenges that the Russian military faces and will continue to face. All that said. Uh, it it is something that we will have to continue to take seriously and I know the Ukrainians will continue to take seriously uh, in terms of what the impact will be longer term on the battlefield. Thank you. Okay, let me go to J. J. Green and then I’ll come back to the room here, general, thank you for the chance to ask this question. Um, you’ve spoken before about Russia trying to, trying to claim itself as the victim and using that as a, as a, as a call to try to rally support. But these long lines that louis talked about seem to suggest that that may not be working, but that may just be a small slice of what’s what we see, what’s really going on. Do you have a broader picture of how uh this mobilization is going well again, you know, to your to your earlier comment there, I mean, if we if we step back in terms of what we’ve all been watching play out over the last year or so, uh Russia invaded Ukraine, not the other way around. And so it’s they are the aggressor here uh and clearly have not achieved their strategic objectives when it came to their initial military aims within Ukraine. Uh And as a result, uh you know, we’ve seen them struggle with command and control, We’ve seen them struggle with logistics, uh we’ve seen them struggle with sustainment and with troop morale. Uh and now with this mobilization, uh it’s an effort to address the overall manpower challenges that the Russian military is facing. Um and again, it adds another level of complexity to an already challenging systemic situation when it comes to employing these troops. So we’ll continue to keep an eye on it. In the meantime, our focus uh the US focus is working very closely with the international community to support Ukraine in their fight, which will continue to be a tough and difficult fight in the days ahead. Thanks j j uh general two questions first on the mobilization, their reports and video footage of, as you mentioned, Russia having a challenging time actually employing these troops and sending them out supplying them essentially whether its ballistic vests or uh medical equipment, a lot of these troops are having to go and procure these themselves. Does the D. O. D. Assess that the Russian military wouldn’t even be able to sustain a full mobilization since they’re having so much trouble with a partial one. Um, so, you know, I don’t I don’t want to necessarily overstate it and say that um, you know, comment on Russia’s ability to fully mobilize. I think undoubtedly based on what you’re seeing on, you know, play out uh in the open press is that they will have challenges meeting those numbers. All that said, you know, we’ll continue to monitor and will continue to to see how this plays out. Thank you. Let me do go ahead. And then uh the U. S. Coast Guard uh announced that they had spotted Chinese and Russian ships off the coast of Alaska. I’m curious what the D. O. D. Is seeing on that front. And if that’s a common occurrence that’s been happening or has that spiked recently. Um, so we’ve seen Russia and china, you know, sail together uh before. Um and so my understanding is that uh those the uh those sailings, the sale, they were not saying they were sailing in international waters. So, so no issues there, but obviously, you know, will continue to to monitor that. And uh, in the meantime, you know, I’d recommend you contact the Coast Guard. They may have additional information on that. Thank you. Let me jump back out to the phone here real quick. I’ve got Caitlin from new York post I’ve actually been asked and answered, thank you so much. Jeff, task and purpose. Thank you. In August, a senior military official estimated that the Russians had suffered 880,000 casualties. Can you provide an updated estimate of how many casualties the Russians have suffered and include a breakdown of how many of those are killed?
Yeah, thanks for the question, Jeff, I don’t have any updates to provide today beyond what we’ve provided previously. Obviously, uh, the battlefield continues to be a uh, a very dangerous place, a lot of casualties, but I don’t have any specific numbers to provide. Thank you. Okay, let me go to Sylvia FP and then I’ll come back, you know, thank you. I would like to follow up on the fields question um, on on the nuclear threat. Um, you say that you don’t see anything that would, uh, that would make us change its nuclear posture. Do, what would trigger a change of posture. Would it be simple Russian movements or would you wait for the for Russia to use a nuclear weapon. Yeah. Thanks, really. So I I don’t want to necessarily get into our our tactics or procedures uh other than to say uh that um we maintain a whole host of capabilities uh and and proven processes to address any potential threats of that kind. So um in the meantime, again, just to reiterate, we’ve seen nothing that would cause us to change our posture will continue to monitor this very closely, will continue to take it very seriously. But in the meantime, again, we’ve seen nothing that would indicate a need to change our particular posture. Thank you. Okay, let me go to and then Jim. Thank you. So, we’re watching uh 22 events unfolding at the same time today, the end of the so called referendum in uh territories that were occupied by Russia. On the other hand, you have the mobilization, regardless of the type of challenges the Russians are facing. Is your assessment that the Russians still have the appetite or the strategic objective of capturing additional Russian Ukrainian territories or in light of their friend, um and the mobilization, the aim of this additional manpower is to hold what they have now inside of Ukraine. So, so, so two things on that one, you know, first of all, ultimately, that’s for Russia to decide. However, we’ve seen no indication that they have any intention of changing uh their overall aim, which is to uh take over Ukraine. Right. And so I think again, what we saw from the um, you know, earlier part of this conflict was they were not able to meet those broader strategic objectives. And so they scaled back and change those objectives. And so the this latest effort to conduct the sham referenda are an effort to essentially try to change the narrative uh and distract from the fact that they are not meeting their objectives. All that to say, uh no indication that they intend to stop fighting anytime soon. And and as I’ve mentioned and others have mentioned, uh Russia could end this conflict tomorrow, but in the meantime, um will continue to support the Ukrainians in their fight to defend their country and and their sovereign territory. Thank you. Let me go to gym and then I’ll go back out to the phone. Yeah. Thanks general. Um in the past, you’ve you’ve been talking about the uh the Russians not not learning from their mistakes and not uh you know, fixing their logistical problems or fixing their personnel problems. And it strikes me that the Ukrainians are learning from this and their tactics, techniques and procedures have gotten actually better as they’ve gone along in the last six months. What’s the difference where where why why is one side learning the other side not?
Yeah, I appreciate the question. Jim. So I, you know, I don’t want to try to get inside the minds of the Russians or the Ukrainians other than to say, other than to say you’re right, the Ukrainians have improvised, overcome and adapted very well on the battlefield. Um And I think uh in part is they’re defending their sovereign territory. They’re fighting for their homeland. They have something very uh dear to fight for um and against a neighbor who has invaded them. So in terms of why the Russian military has performed so poorly, that’s a question they’ll have to answer it. It is a fact. Uh and in the meantime we’ll just continue to support the Ukrainians in their fight. Thank you. Let me do one more on the phone here and then we’ll close it off in the room here, Ashley from jane’s hi um it’s been about two months um since the Air Force was named the acquisition authority for homeland Cruise missile defense. And I wanted to sort of get an update of sort of where things stand with getting, it’s not just gonna be the Air Force but the other services coming together um possibly M. D. A. And then looking at the budget just to see sort of what the OsD approach is. Um and the timeline for moving forward on such an architecture. Thanks for the question, Ashley as you highlight with the Air Force being the executive agent on that, I would refer you to them and they should be able to provide you with the latest on that. Thank you. Okay. You can do one more in the room here and then because in tight sir on Russia, you know, we have seen for over months Russians have faltered a lot on the battlefield. They lost a lot. They give a lot of casualties. But we haven’t seen Russians show using their advanced arms that they have showcased for a long time, like as 400 S. U. 35 all other advanced missiles. What is the assessment?
What’s the insight at the pentagon?
Why Russians are not using those?
Yeah, I really custom I I really can’t answer that. That’s really a question for the Russian military to address. Um, yeah, I really can’t answer that. So. Okay. Thanks very much everybody appreciate it.