The global posture review was guided by President Joe Biden’s interim national security strategy released earlier this year
The global posture review was guided by President Joe Biden’s interim national security strategy released earlier this year
US Department of Defense
PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY: Good afternoon, everybody. And I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving holiday for those of you who are celebrating. A Happy Hanukkah to you as well. Today I brought Dr. Mara Karlin with me to the podium. Dr. Karlin is performing the duties of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and she will be here to brief you on the Global Posture Review which has just been recently completed. I know you’ve gotten some background on that already, but Dr. Karlin will be here to take additional questions and give you some context. So, I’m going to turn over the podium to her in a minute. She’ll have a brief opening statement, then I’ll be moderating the Q&A as we’ve done before. Please identify yourself and your outlet before you ask me a question. If you could limit the follow ups that will be helpful so we can get as many questions into her as possible.
And then when Dr. Karlin is complete, and we have run through our Q&A on the on the Global Posture Review, I’ll come back up to the podium. I have a few other announcements to make and can deal with the news of the day and other issues for the remainder of the time that we’re together. So, with that Dr. Karlin.
DR. MARA KARLIN: Alright, thanks very much. And thank you, everyone for joining us today. I’d like to announce that we have concluded the Global Posture Review, or GPR. I’ll provide some background on how we conducted the review and highlight some of its key outcomes. On February 4, 2021, President Biden announced that Secretary Austin would lead the Global Posture Review to align our overseas military posture with his national security guidance.
Following several months of analysis and close coordination across the U.S. government, President Biden recently approved Secretary Austin’s findings and recommendations resulting from the Global Posture Review. It was a robust interagency effort. The Department of Defense led the GPR with participation and guidance from the National Security Council, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Additionally, the department conducted Global Posture Review consultations with our NATO allies Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and over a dozen partners across the Middle East and Africa. To ensure we were bringing the full spectrum of views to the table. The conclusion of the Global Posture Review comes at a key inflection point. As the department increases our focus on China, reinforces our enduring commitments to NATO and European security, conducts analysis regarding requirements in the Middle East, following the end of U.S. force presence in Afghanistan, and refines our strategic approach through the national defense strategy. Let me underscore that this Global Posture Review will inform our approach to the national defense strategy. The Global Posture Review was guided by the President’s interim national security strategic guidance released earlier this year. That guidance asserts that the United States will lead with diplomacy first. Revitalize, our unmatched network of allies and partners, and make smart and disciplined choices regarding our national defense and responsible use of our military.
Nested within this guidance, the Global Posture Review, assess DOD’s overseas forces and footprint along with the framework and processes that govern our posture decision making. Based on these assessments, the GPR developed near term posture adjustments, and established guidance for ongoing and future posture planning. It also strengthens DOD’s decision-making processes. By deliberately connecting global posture planning and decisions to strategic priorities, tradeoffs across geographic regions, force readiness, modernization, interagency coordination, and ally and partner consultations.
The results of the Global Posture Review will serve as a disciplining framework for the department to match our posture to our strategy with benefits accruing for years to come. I now like to highlight a few Global Posture Review outcomes by region. I’ll note that of course, many of the Global Posture Review outcomes remain classified for operation security reasons and to preserve the confidentiality of our consultations with allies and partners.
Consistent with the Secretary’s focus on China as our pacing challenge, the priority region for the Global Posture Review was the Indo Pacific. The Global Posture Review directs additional cooperation with allies and partners across the region to advance initiatives that contribute to regional stability. And deter potential military aggression from China and threats from North Korea.
These initiatives include seeking greater regional access for military partnership activities, enhancing infrastructure in Australia and the Pacific Islands, and planning rotational aircraft deployments in Australia, which Secretary Austin announced at the Australia U.S. ministerial in September. The Global Posture Review also facilitated Secretary Austin’s approval of the permanent stationing of a previously rotational Attack Helicopter Squadron, and Artillery Division Headquarters in the Republic of Korea, which the Department announced earlier this year.
Turning to Europe, the Global Posture Review strengthens the combat credible deterrence against Russian aggression in Europe and enables NATO forces to operate more effectively. Based on an initial global posture view assessment and a recommendation from Secretary Austin. In February 2021, President Biden rescinded the 25,000 active-duty force cap in Germany, that was established by the previous administration.
Also based on early Global Posture Review assessments. In April 2021, Secretary announced in — Secretary Austin announced in Berlin that DOD would permanently station an army multi-domain task force and a theater fires command. A total of 500 army personnel in Germany. In August, the department shared with Belgium and Germany that we will retain seven military sites previously designated for return to host nations under the European Infrastructure Consolidation Plan.
Finally, the Global Posture Review identified additional capabilities that will enhance U.S. deterrence posture in Europe, which we will discuss with allies in the near future. Turning to the Middle East, the Global Posture Review assessed our evolving counterterrorism requirements, following the end of DOD operations in Afghanistan and our approach toward Iran. In Iraq and Syria, the Global posture review directs that DOD posture will continue to support the defeat ISIS campaign and building the capacity of our partner forces.
Looking ahead, the Global Posture Review directs the Department to conduct additional analysis on enduring posture requirements in the Middle East. As Secretary Austin noted at the Manama Dialogue, we have global responsibilities and must ensure the readiness and modernization of our forces. These considerations require us to make continuous changes to our Middle East posture, but we always have the capability to rapidly deploy forces to the region based on the threat environment.
In Africa, analysis from the Global Posture Review is supporting several ongoing interagency reviews to ensure the Department of Defense has an appropriately scoped posture to monitor threats from regional violent extremist organizations to support our diplomatic activities and to enable our allies and our partners. In Central and South America and the Caribbean, the global posture review reviewed the role of DOD posture in support of national security objectives including humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and Counter Narcotics missions. The Global Posture Review directs that DOD posture continue to support U.S. Government efforts on the range of transnational challenges and partnerships in the region. Finally, the global posture review provided foundational information for the National Defense Strategy, which will shape how this administration connects our overseas posture to the department’s overall strategic approach.
Moving forward, the Secretary is confident that the Global Posture Review sets the department on the right path toward greater strategic alignment in support of the President’s national priorities. Thank you very much. With that, I’ll take a few questions.
Q: Bob Burns from AP, hi. About Australia, you mentioned I think infrastructure improvements and increased rotational aircraft rotational deployments? Could you put a little flesh on the bone there with what kind of infrastructure are you talking about? And how big of an aircraft rotational units are you talking about?
DR. KARLIN: Great. Thanks so much for that question, Bob. In Australia, you’ll see new rotational fighter and bomber aircraft deployments. You’ll see Ground Forces Training and increased logistics cooperation. And actually, more broadly, across the Indo-Pacific, you’ll see a range of infrastructure improvements in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Australia. Those will include things more broadly like logistics facilities, fuel storage, munitions storage, airfield upgrades. So, we’re doing a lot that will hopefully come to fruition in the coming years.
Q: Thank you.
MR. KIRBY: Janne, go ahead.
Q: Has the United States any change of nuclear umbrella to South Korea against the North Korean nuclear attack?
DR. KARLIN: Our extended deterrence with our closest allies is critical. And I do not have anything to announce on changes regarding it.
Q: (Inaudible) not changed it yet. The only — because there’s a rule that United States only cares North Korea attacked their land. That means, you know, own land the U.S. land and then they consider about that kind of attack concerned but other land. Is that so?
DR. KARLIN: Look, I would say the Secretary is headed to South Korea as you no doubt no tomorrow and I think is looking forward to a productive set of discussions. In terms of changes to our extended deterrence. I don’t see any reason for any change on that front as well. On North Korea, of course, we continue to remain concerned about its problematic and irresponsible behavior. I expect that that will be a robust topic of dialogue for the Secretary while he’s in Seoul over the coming days.
MR. KIRBY: OK, Sylvie.
Q: Thank you. Sylvie Lanteaume from AFP. The U.S. speaking about the credible deterrent against Russia, but if you don’t say anything, if it’s completely classified how can you have a deterrence? If you don’t say what you’re doing?
DR. KARLIN: Thank you for that question. Look, as you know, we’ve made some important shifts to our posture in Europe, really, since 2014, when we saw the Russians invade Crimea. And those changes as part of the assessment of the Global Posture Review, we found were right. That we were we had made some really important investments had deepened our cooperation and collaboration with partner militaries across Europe. And so those are worthwhile and those make sense, and we want to continue those. In fact, as I briefly noted, some of the bigger pieces of the global posture review are the fact that we are not moving 25,000 troops from Germany. Indeed, we are actually increasing troops in Germany, as the Secretary announced in Berlin in April. I think you’re also getting though at this day-to-day challenge that we’re currently enmeshed in where we see some pretty worrisome behavior by President Putin.
I don’t know that any of us can read his mind and know exactly what he’s planning. But the President has been very clear about his desire for a stable and predictable relationship with Russia. And I think you’ve heard from this entire interagency, including, of course, the Secretary, just our profound concern with what appear to be some really unhelpful movements in the European Theater.
MR. KIRBY: Let’s go to the phones. Idris, I think, you there?
Q: Thanks. I assume the review is in some sort of report form, how many pages is this report? And secondly, you mentioned Australia and Guam as specific locations. Why did you mention those two locations? Is that because that’s the biggest thing to come out of the review? Or I’m just confused why single those two out while not getting details about other countries?
DR. KARLIN: Great. Thank you so much Idris. Look, I think those were notable, which is why I cited those specifically. But I would, of course, highlight that we’re engaged in consultations with our allies and partners across the Indo-Pacific. And while those were just examples of some posture shifts, you are no doubt tracking, that we’re also enhancing the scope and the scale of our exercise with allies — exercises with allies and partners across the region, as well.
As you no doubt know, Idris, posture is one piece of how we’re thinking about these relationships. Of course, you all will recall when the Secretary was out in the Philippines a couple months ago, and we had the visiting Forces Agreement signed which provides just a plethora of increased cooperation between the militaries from the U.S. and the Philippines. You all no doubt, of course, are also tracking the AKUS (Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) deal, which provides all sorts of opportunities in terms of not just deepening our cooperation with close or close — one of our closest allies in the Asia Pacific, but also helping to knit together our European and our European allies and our Indo-Pacific allies. On your first point, Idris, I’m not sure that it would be terribly productive to get into the details. I think, probably, you know, in terms of the length, it is not a dissertation. So hopefully, it is sufficiently punchy and pithy that it will be internalized by the department. And let me pause there if you have any other thoughts on it.
Q: Arianna Veris, and I work for GPA African Outlet. So, can you give me a little more detail on how the global posture review will be a function in Africa? And is the administration thinking on increasing the funds that they cut from Africa — African command?
DR. KARLIN: I’m sorry what’s the second part of your question? Can you say that one more time?
Q: We know that the previous administration cut some funds in the African command? And just want more details on how this posture review will be functioning in Africa? And if the administration is considering to increase the funds in the African command?
DR. KARLIN: Great, thank you so much for that. Look, this is not sort of the end all be all on posture around the world. The Global Force Posture Review, came in trying to do a baseline and trying to figure out what’s where, what is it doing? I think folks had seen that there were a bunch of announcements throughout 2020 of changes. And the administration wanted an understanding of effectively what we had put, you know, what was placed where and the effect that it was having.
As I noted, but it’s a moment in time. And so, I expect that there will be follow on work. And I expect that that will include Africa, and I should note the Middle East as well. So, it will continue to evolve, frankly, our posture needs to be tied to our strategy. And so especially I noted that this is going to be a foundation for the National Defense Strategy. You know, it will be important that it informs how we are taking these approaches to challenges, whether it’s on the continent or challenges around the world.
So, I think you will find there’s more there’s more to come. I should note, though, that the more to come very much includes very close consultations with our allies and partners around the world. We did something like 75 consultations with allies and partners. We wanted to ensure that none of our allies and partners learned about decisions or new ideas, frankly, from all of you. As great as your work is, we wanted to ensure that they had the private conversations with us first.
And that is an approach you might recall, we pledged when we first announced the Global Posture Review. And I’m really heartened to know that we were able to make that a reality. And so, as we kicked it off, we engaged in consultations with allies and partners around the world as we were going through it. We did the same. And then of course, now as we’ve wrapped it up, we’ve done the same.
Q: Thanks. Could you talk about how the Afghanistan withdrawal factored into the review? And did it free up resources that are being used specifically in other places such as the Pacific, or Europe, or Africa?
DR. KARLIN: Thank you very much for that. So, the Afghanistan review was really conducted through sort of a separate interagency process, a dedicated interagency process. It was not part of the Global Posture Review. Now that it is wrapped, of course, it is informing how we’re thinking about posture going forward, whether it’s how we think about Over the Horizon posture, as it relates to the Middle East and South Asia. Whether it’s how we think about the violent extremist organization threat. So, I would say that it is absolutely informing it. But the Global Posture Review was quite discreet from the Afghanistan decision making process.
Q: I mean, in terms of military resources, obviously, we had resources in Afghanistan, they’re not there anymore. You have more resources at your disposal, can you draw a direct line between the withdrawal and being able to do some of these other initiatives in other areas?
DR. KARLIN: Thanks for that, you know, at this time, I’d say we’re still doing analysis looking at it. The — as I briefly mentioned, the Global Posture Review, is prescribing some further analysis, both on the Middle East and Africa. And I think that the Afghanistan withdrawal is an important piece of that. As we as we try to understand exactly this great point that you’re getting it, you know, what, are their assets and platforms freed up? Are there different approaches? How do we think about that, obviously, that’s somewhat fundamental, given just how long our presence was there.
MR. KIRBY: Rio, I’ll go to you and then to the phones. Go ahead.
Q: Rio (inaudible). I want to ask you about Taiwan. Are there any initiatives coming out of the GPL, that will require coordination and engagement if Taiwan moving forward?
DR. KARLIN: I don’t have anything to announce at this time on that front.
MR. KIRBY: I’m going to go to the phones. Sangmin, Radio Free Asia?
Q: Yes. Thank you for taking my question. I have a question about the threat from North Korea. In GPR, do you have any specific field that you at GPL of focus on in terms of dealing with North Korean threat? In relate to that do — in GPL do considering to resumption of broadscale joint exercises between U.S. and South Korea to enhance exercise?
DR. KARLIN: I’m sorry, I didn’t catch the very last sentence large scale was it exercise you were saying?
Q: Yes, large scale exercise between U.S. and South Korea, in terms of enhancing exercise in GPR in the Pacific Area.
DR. KARLIN: Alright. Thank you for that. So, look on the North Korea threat. obviously, we remain profoundly concerned as we go through our National Defense Strategy Review. You can imagine that our understanding of that threat is that’s playing into it I should note. Right now, we’re in the throes of our National Defense Strategy Review, our Nuclear Posture Review, and our Missile Defense Review. So, reviews abound around the department at this moment.
We remain profoundly concerned on that front. I think we see that our posture in South Korea is robust, and it is effective. And so, I have no changes that we would want to announce at this time on that front. It is a smart, smart posture. In terms of exercises, the global posture review did not look at the issue of large-scale global exercises vis-à-vis, South Korea.
KRIBY: So, to the phones again, Heather from USNI.
Q: Thanks, I know you mentioned this a little bit. But I was wondering if you could expand on how AKUS may inform or may have informed the posture review or how it will play out in the posture review.
DR. KARLIN: Thank you much for that. You know, AKUS is a great case study, I think just how robust and meaningful we can really make our alliances. And so, the — you know, one of the challenges is sometimes one might see a big initiative, like the rollout of the global posture review is the end all be all, as I briefly noted. It should not be an in fact, one should look holistically at all the things that we are doing to deal with the evolving security environment.
The Secretary has been pretty clear that China is the pacing challenge, and there’s a whole bunch of energy around the department to realize his direction on that front. And I would say the AKUS Trilateral Enhanced Security Partnership, I think will enable all sorts of different types of cooperation, whether it’s through exercises or technology sharing, I think we’ve got no shortage of opportunities on that front.
And as we push forward on our various reviews, I think this will become a real case study both for opportunity and also to study for other relationships.
Q: Hi, yes. So, I am wondering, you mentioned that there will be improvements made in Pacific to establish bases, but I’m wondering if you are — if there’s any new projects that might be in place, new military facilities, Palau, for instance last year offered the U.S. to host. And then to Travis’s points, you talk about there being new and, or sorry, improvements and a shift towards the Pacific. But are there any areas that we’re shifting away from to get those resources to send them towards the Pacific?
DR. KARLIN: Great, thank you for that other than what I announced in my opening remarks I wouldn’t add anything. In terms of new changes in terms of some of the shifts, the one example I might offer up is in the Middle East. What we saw is the Secretary made some made a decision a couple months ago, to redeploy some air and missile defense assets from the region. These assets want a heel to toe rotation. And frankly, they were beginning to suffer from some real readiness challenges.
You know, one of the things we’re trying to do with this Global Posture Review, as I briefly noted, is this disciplining framework. So maybe I’ll spend a quick moment on this disciplining framework. You know, the idea is to help the department look at various proposals and think also about what effect do these have on readiness? What effect do they have on our efforts to modernize the force? So, to take just a hypothetical, part of what the GPR will do, is when a commander comes forward and says I’d like to set up new posture in X place or Y place.
What will now be able to do in a really kind of rigorous and thoughtful way, is to try to think through based on the guidance and analysis from the Global Posture Review. What impact would this posture have for our warfighting capabilities? How might the host nation be amenable or not amenable to such a change? What are the resource tradeoffs? And that’s looking across geography of course, because we happen to have you know, all sorts of competing demands and really kind of and of course, do we have the sufficient agreements in place to enable the change as well.
So, what it’s going to allow is, frankly, for all of us to staff, the Secretary in a more thoughtful and rigorous way. So that as he looks at various proposals or recommendations, he’s really able to look across all of the opportunity costs and gains, if you will. And then make a profoundly informed decision.
MR. KIRBY: Court.
Q: Hello, Dr. Karlin.
DR. KARLIN: Hello.
Q: Two things. The — on the enduring kind of reviews that apparently the GPR directs additional analysis regarding enduring posture requirements in the Middle East? Who specifically has to carry that out? Like, is that directly to one person to do? And is there a timeline? Can you give us any specifics, we might actually get some kind of anything on that? And then I have one follow up.
DR. KARLIN: OK, great. So, it does absolutely direct more work on the Middle East in an effort to think through how that security environment is shifting. And how and in what ways our posture does or does not support it. Obviously, we’re deeply cognizant of this department’s responsibility to defend our vital national security interests as they relate to the region, which, as you know, we have a very robust presence in the Middle East right now.
Tens of thousands of troops, bases scattered all over the place. And so, the plan is, now that the Global Posture Review is complete, there will be an effort over the coming months to try to do deeper analysis. And really push through and see what more needs to be done. Are there assets or platforms that are facing say readiness challenges, like the ones that I had mentioned?
Are there other capabilities that might make more sense or less sense in the region? I can’t really give you a timeline other than saying the coming months, and…
Q: Is it one-person sort of and directed to do that. Is it you? Or is it — who’s doing it?
DR. KARLIN: That’s wonderful question. This I suspect will be a — I shouldn’t say I suspect. This will be a collaborative effort with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff. And will be able to help the Secretary see kind of some good analysis on how to think through the options on the region.
Q: Just one follow up on Caitlin’s. You mentioned that the decrease in the Middle East, but what about there’s been some rumors all along while this isn’t going on? There might be some cuts in Africa, there might be some in SOUTHCOM? Are there any others that we should be looking at other locations? Even if you can’t give us specifics of what the units are people or anything like that? Is that accurate, that there will be cuts in some other places?
DR. KARLIN: I don’t think you’ll see that right now. What I expect the Global Posture Review to do this disciplining framework is that over the next so say two, three years or so, as the Secretary is given possible decisions on where to plus up or where to cut. This framework will enable him to really do that in a thoughtful and rigorous way. So, in some ways, I think the answer to your question is that the posture changes may end up being a little bit of a lagging indicator, as our strategy somewhat shifts.
Q: John may I follow that up?
MR. KIRBY: Go ahead.
Q: Thank you. To Courtney and to Caitlin’s question. At the very beginning, you said there were geographical tradeoffs. In other words, that’s expressed to me a tradeoff has been made. Yet what Courtney is asking, can you tell us about some of those and you’ve (inaudible) on that response. Could you please give us some examples of the ones that are already made, and not the ones that may be made two or three years down the road? Please. Thank you.
DR. KARLIN: Thank you very much. I think I gave you a pretty decent case study in the example of the air missile defense assets from the Middle East
Q: That happened earlier this year, Miss. And I appreciate what the review suggests what — of the tradeoffs that you alluded to in the beginning remarks. Thanks.
DR. KARLIN: So, as you probably heard me say for the last 30 minutes or so the Global Posture Review has, in many ways had at key strategic moments, pieces of it have come out. Right. So, we had the announcement that we weren’t going to withdraw 25,000 folks from Germany. The Secretary in April, the Osman in September. And so, some notable pieces, of course, the air and missile defense assets in the Middle East over the summer. So, you’ve had pieces of this actually already happen. And really now this is kind of drawing the chalk line for this moment on global posture.
Q: (Inaudible) with agency. Doctor based on your analysis do you think that the U.S. military is still capable to fight two major conflicts in two different separate theatres? It has — has there been any references to that doctrine into the Global Posture Review?
DR. KARLIN: The Global Posture Review does not look at that issue.
Q: And then your thoughts like about is the U.S. military still capable to fight two major wars as you’re making changes?
DR. KARLIN: The — we’re in the throes of the national defense strategy review. As I noted, as you know, of course, the force planning construct is always a fundamental piece of a National Defense Strategy Review. What I would say right now is we still have the most capable military in the entire world.
And given that I, you know, I expect that as we pull together the strategy review, as the budget gets pulled together, over the coming months, there will be some real effort to ensure that should the President want options on the various threats that keep us all up at night. This department will be able to meaningfully hand him realistic options.
MR. KIRBY: Got time for a couple more, I go back to the phones. Jared.
Q: Hi, Dr. Karlin, thank you for doing this. Did the Defense Secretary Austin have the chance to discuss the results of the Global Posture Review with Arab and Gulf allies in Manama? And if so, can you comment on their response? Was it positive? And can we expect to shift from the conventional overmatch approach in the Gulf in the near future, or more consultations with regional allies needed for that?
MR. KIRBY: Thank you very much, the Secretary had a very productive trip to the Gulf about two weeks or so. If you have not had an opportunity to read his Manama Dialogue speech, I strongly recommend that you do. And as you can imagine, while I won’t get into specifics of the discussions that he had, with the various partners in the region. You know, the role that our military plays in the region was, of course, a topic of discussion.
In terms of the question, you were talking about, of how we’re kind of working with our partners. You know, one point that the Secretary drove home and his Manama speech was how important it is not just for U.S. capabilities to be in the region. And those are quite robust, of course, but also how important it is to really knit together our partners across the region as well. And that is an area especially as we look at the various threats in the region, say the issue of unmanned systems. That’s an area where I think working together our partners and with our capabilities, of course, can really have an outsized role.
MR. KIRBY: Just a couple more.
Q: Cristina Anderson AWPS news. So, there’s an emerging discussion about space access, equity and space access. And I’m wondering if the Global Posture Review because space access is heavily dependent, of course, on defense and security in space. So that brings up the question of how we’re approaching that with our allies and partners, whether we’re actively pursuing that. Does the GPR look at that piece? That’s my question.
DR. KARLIN: Thank you for that. So, the GPR did not look at space, or cyber, or nuclear. It just it didn’t look at those domains for various reasons, I would note nuclear, for example, we’re in the throes of a Nuclear Posture Review. So, we didn’t really need to do that. On the space front, however, I expect that as we complete the National Defense Strategy, you’ll hear more in particular on how we’re thinking about the space domain.
It is absolutely a topic with our closest allies and partners, whether it’s how we think about kind of rules and norms as relates to space. Or if we see, say, recent case studies of countries maybe engaging in irresponsible behavior in space, how we might think about that, and what we might do about it.
MR. KIRBY: Go ahead.
Q: Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg. A couple of things, in the fiscal 23 budget. How will some of this play out? Well, we see military construction funds for Guam in Australia, a beefed-up purchases, possibly a patriot missiles that you see are having readiness issues in the Middle East and had to be moved. How will some of this be reflected in the budget? Then I had overall question?
DR. KARLIN: Great, thank you for raising that. Because, of course, if our budget doesn’t reflect our strategy, we have some real challenges. We are in the throes of building our budget right now. And I would say the Global Posture Review has absolutely informed those conversations. And so, I hope that as it comes together, and is published. You’ll be able to point and see kind of a down payment on some important pieces there.
Q: Earlier today, we had a briefing from a Senior Defense Official. The stories that have emerged largely have said, no change — no major change in the Pentagon forces in the Pacific. If I’m trying to find the PLA’s Mr. Propaganda, or whatever. And I look at that. What do I take — those stories with — is that an accurate headline, to have like no major changes at this point? To U.S. forces in the Pacific?
DR. KARLIN: Thank you for that, I’d say we have a much more robust understanding of the baseline, and a thoughtful, rigorous disciplinary framework to help us get after how strategy changes, we’ll need to shape posture. I think on the Indo-Pacific, this is kind of a return to we’re moving the needle a bit. And what I’d like to think is over the coming years, you will see that needle move more and more.
Q: You blew off the chat to Taiwan question pretty quickly perfunctory answer. I need to ask you, though, is that reflected at all in seeking greater mutual access for military partnership activities, beefing up a training presence in Taiwan?
DR. KARLIN: That is not a piece that I’ve got to announce today.
Q: Fair enough, OK.
DR. KARLIN: Thank you.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks very much.
DR. KARLIN: Thanks very much.
MR. KIRBY: Just a couple of things to start off with. I think as you know, we announced on Friday tomorrow morning Secretary will depart for South Korea to meet his Senior Government Leaders there as well as visit our troops in Korea. He will meet with the South Korean Minister of Defense Suh Wook for the 53rd U.S.-Republic of Korea Security Consultative Meeting (SCM). As I said he will have a chance to visit with troops on a peninsula.
This annual meeting has played a pivotal role in the development of the U.S. ROK Alliance. Both sides are expected to pledge to continue to develop the Alliance, which we believe is the linchpin of peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and of course in Northeast Asia. In a mutually reinforcing and future oriented manner. Following the SCM, the Secretary will travel to California he’ll deliver a keynote address at the 2021 Reagan National Defense forum in Simi Valley.
His speech is going to highlight his vision for the People’s Republic of China as the department’s top pacing challenge, and he’ll be able to also discuss in some more detail, integrated deterrence cooperation with allies and partners, the crucial role of investments in technology and innovation. And working with the industry partners and Congress in the context of the forthcoming National Defense Strategy, which Dr. Karlin talked about.
Then I have another short announcement. The Secretary has directed today a review of the civilian casualty incident that occurred on March 18, 2019, in Baghuz, Syria. This review will be conducted by General Michael Garrett, the commander of U.S. Army Forces Command. He will review the reports of investigation already conducted into that incident and will conduct further inquiry into the facts and circumstances related to it.
He will have 90 days to complete this inquiry. The inquiry will include an assessment of the following things, the civilian casualties that resulted from the incident, compliance with the law of war, record keeping and reporting procedures, whether mitigation measures identified in previous investigations into the incident were in fact implemented effectively. Whether accountability measures would be appropriate, and finally, whether authorities procedures or processes should be altered.
And again, that report is supposed to be due in 90 days from now. With that we’ll take questions. Bob.
Q: Thank you. Secretary Austin has replied to the Oklahoma Governor, denying his request that they exempt — be exempt from the vaccine mandate. Which he says that if they fail to comply, they would jeopardize their status in the National Guard. Wondering what if you could elaborate on what that means how that would work? And also, secondly, have you got any other requests from other governors for this?
MR. KIRBY: There’s been no other requests from other governors. No similar concerns expressed by any other governor similar to that of the Oklahoma Governor. I would point you to the National Guard for more specifics about how they manage these processes, Bob. But in general, by not taking the vaccine, therefore not meeting a mandatory readiness requirement. An individual in the National Guard could put in jeopardy their ability to continue to serve in the National Guard.
National Guard, as you know, even under Title 32 is funded by the federal government. So, training operations that come under Title 32, much less Title 10 come into the Secretary’s purview. So, one could elect not to take the vaccine, of course, but then you would be putting at jeopardy your ability to stay in the National Guard.
Which, as you know, is also a component of the Reserve component in the in the total force. But as to the specifics of how that would play out, I’d refer you, in this case, specifically to the Oklahoma National Guard to speak to.
Q: So, in other words they get denied training opportunities?
MR. KIRBY: They wouldn’t be allowed to train. They wouldn’t be allowed to drill. They wouldn’t be allowed to contribute to operations under Title 10 or Title 32. That could lead to potential decertification of their skill sets, whatever that is. And, of course, that would then — could lead to no longer being able to serve in the National Guard.
Q: Thank you,
MR. KIRBY: Yes. Janne.
Q: Yes, follow up to Secretary Austin’s travel to the South Korea. What will be the main agenda for this meeting SCM?
MR. KIRBY: There’s a lot to talk about. As you know, this is a yearly, this is annual, basically a Defense Ministerial. The Secretary is very much looking forward to it. And there’ll be a wide range of things to talk about, I suspect. They will certainly talk about the continued challenges in the north, and the Alliance’s posture writ large. I think you can — I would expect them to have discussions about China and the pacing challenge that China continues to pose in the region.
I absolutely expect that OPCON the Operational Control will be discussed. And as I said in you know at the outset, we look forward to them being able to reach agreement on finding commonality on the final operational capability of the of OPCON. An assessment of that next year. So, there’s a lot to talk about.
Q: On the OPCON…
MR. KIRBY: I would also add, there’s also opportunities. And I think the Secretary will take advantage of them to talk about trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan and South Korea as well.
Q: On the transfer of OPCON to South Korea would be based on condition. You said that, when do you expect the full conditions to be met?
MR. KIRBY: Yes, I don’t have a date certain to speak to Janne. As you know, OPCON transition remains conditions based, as you noted, consistent with the bilaterally agreed upon conditions that were articulated in the transition plan itself. So, we’re committed to continue to work closely with the Republic of Korea to ensure that all those conditions for OPCON are met. And our alliance remains as interoperable and as capable as possible.
Any discussions or decisions about OPCON itself will be made inside the rubric of the Alliance. I don’t have anything to announce specifically today.
Q: The United States evaluate that South Korea has the necessarily capability to respond to the North Korean nuclear and missile threat? Is that can be also conditions for the…
MR. KIRBY: I think all the conditions are laid down in the transition plan. I’d point you to that we’ve made progress toward OPCON. There’s no question about that. But we believe there’s more work to do.
Q: Thank you.
MR. KIRBY: Yes.
Q: One thing you didn’t mention was a declaration of the end of the Korean War. That’s — there’s been a lot of Korean press talking about progress in that realm through the discussions. A lot of people would care about that. And what’s the status of that? Is it possible that will be announced this week?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t expect an announcement on that, Tony. We remain committed to achieving peace, of course on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and diplomacy with the North. To this end, I think you’re going to see us continue to seek engagement with the DPRK as part of a calibrated practical approach. That will try to achieve some sort of tangible progress. But I don’t have any announcements on that.
Q: You announced the Syrian — 90-day Syria review. What impacted the Pentagon’s inspector general report that was sent up to the Secretary about three weeks ago? It’s controlled unclassified report on CENTCOM’s handling of the law of war allegations. There in — there is their handling — their mishandling of the two whistleblower allegations on the Syria strike. What impact did that IG report have on his thinking through the…
MR. KIRBY: Well, I would say there was a lot of inputs that impacted the Secretary’s decision. But principal among them was his chance to take a look at the investigations themselves that were done. And a briefing that he got from General McKenzie, a couple of weeks ago, before the holiday about this particular incident, and the follow up actions. All of that combined to, I think inform his decision to ask for further review of it.
Q: OK, thanks.
KRIBY: Yes, Kaitlin?
Q: Can I get the updated vaccine numbers for civilians. The stuff that’s on the website is just those who got it at military facilities. And I know you’re not at 50 percent.
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have those numbers today. But I think later on this week, we’ll be able to tabulate something.
Q: Do you know why it’s not ready yet?
MR. KIRBY: We’re still assessing. And I just I don’t have an update for you. I’m sorry, Tom.
Q: Thanks, John. During Dr. Karlin’s briefing, she referred to this quote that referring to Putin pretty worrisome behavior by President Putin, really unhelpful movement in the European Theater. You were making an unhappy face when she said that?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t recall that.
Q: I do. But does that mean you were disagreeing with her comments? Are you mostly aligned? Is she stating sort of accurate feeling of the Pentagon about Putin?
MR. KIRBY: There’s no, there was no hidden message in there. I certainly mean that at all. I mean, we continue to watch with great concern movements by Russian military units near the Ukraine border. We — and I certainly echo everything that Dr. Karlin said about that. We’re watching that closely. And we continue to call on Russia to be more transparent about what they’re doing, what their intentions are, what their — what units are placing there, and to what end. I obviously can’t speak to their — what their intentions but we continue to believe that any escalatory or aggressive actions would be of great concern, not only to the United States, but to our allies and partners there on the European continent.
Q: Are we any closer to a call from Secretary Austin to his Russian counterpart?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t have any call to announce or speak to today. Yes, Rio?
Q: Thank you very much. I want to follow up about the Secretary’s trip to South Korea. Recently, the bilateral relationship between Japan and South Korea has been (inaudible) again over history, territory. How does the Secretary make sure that worsening bilateral relationship in North affect the trilateral (inaudible) cooperation?
KIRBY: Well, I mean, look we’re certainly mindful that there has been at times tensions there in there in those in the bilateral relationships between Japan and South Korea. And as I mentioned to, Janne, one of the things I think you can expect the Secretary to want to talk about when we get to Seoul, tomorrow, and in the rest of the week is opportunities for real trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan and South Korean.
And it’s not like there hasn’t been there have been. And I think you’ll see the Secretary want to continue to pursue discussions about those opportunities going forward. Obviously, the bilateral relationship between Japan and South Korea is for those two sovereign nations to speak to and to and to articulate and to work on to the degree that they are comfortable working on it. But we see real promise in continued trilateral opportunities, both in training and operations, whether that’s air, maritime, or even ground.
And so, there’s lots of things, lots of terrific soil here that can be plowed. And I think the Secretary is looking forward to having an opportunity to explore those kinds of things when we get to Seoul. Sylvie.
Q: Thank you. The Ukrainian government is saying that now they evaluate at 110,000, more than 110,000 Russian troops at their border. Do you have now a sense of urgency about these movements?
MR. KIRBY: Sylvie, I think we’ve been watching with great concern these movements for a while now. And I think we all have a shared understanding of the importance of what we’re seeing. And concern about the potential. I don’t want to again speak to Putin’s intentions, because as you heard Secretary say, we just don’t know what he’s up to. But it is of continued concern here at the Pentagon and across the administration. So again, we’re watching this closely.
And as for numbers, I wouldn’t get into an assessment here from the podium in terms of what we’re seeing exactly. But I can tell you that we continue to see movement. We continue to see additions to their forces. And as I described, I think before the Thanksgiving holiday, you know, these are units of a combined nature. I mean, it’s various different types of units that that continue to collect on or not on, but near the Ukrainian border.
Q: And also, the Belarus Government has announced that they are going to have a joint exercise with Russia. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. KIRBY: Nations are free to exercise with their partners as they wish. So, I’d let the Belarussians talk about whatever training exercises they intend to cooperate with Russia on. That’s for them to speak to. What we continue to say and would add is that we don’t want to see actions that are unnecessarily aggressive or destabilizing to what is already a very tense situation.
Q: Thanks, John, I want to ask you about this new UAP office that was created by Deputy Secretary Hicks and announced last week. The Aerial Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group was…
MR. KIRBY: Well put.
Q: That was a mouthful. Was there any coordination with lawmakers on Capitol Hill that are proposing related legislation like Representative Gallego and Senator Gillibrand? And secondly, some former Pentagon officials who had worked on this issue, Chris Mellon and Lou Elizondo have said that this is an effort for the Pentagon to be less transparent on UAPs. And I was just wondering if you had any response?
MR. KIRBY: On the first one, I can’t speak to pending legislation, obviously, I’d refer to those members. But we absolutely kept members of Congress informed as we fashioned this, this group together and announced it. And it is, to your second question, it is really designed to help us better coordinate the reporting processes. The actual reports themselves, and the analysis of those reports. So that rather than getting them sort of piecemeal and ad hoc, as we’ve been getting them from the services, this is a way to coordinate the inputs.
So that we can — there’s a common set of parameters for how to report them and analyze them. And then to assess what we’ve got, and not all reports are going to manifest themselves in something that we consider a national security threat. So, this is a chance for us to be much more organized in the way we process these reports.
And as we have, we will certainly continue to be as transparent as we can about these phenomena. And the impact that they may or may not be having on our ability to operate.
Q: Any specific commitment to release some data or information on these to the public at some point. And then beyond the briefing to Congress closed…
MR. KIRBY: Yes, I don’t have a specific report to to announce today that, you know, on any kind of a frequent basis that we will do. But I can assure you that our intention is to be as transparent about this phenomenon as we can. Again, Travis understanding that there’ll be national security considerations that we have to keep in mind, but we’ll be as transparent as we can. But not, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that there’ll be sort of a regular drumbeat of you know, of some kind of report that gets posted on a website, you know, every couple months. Yes.
Q: Going back to the Syria strike investigation, with the Kabul strike, you had a one star look at that. And, you know, you could say that he’s looking at decisions that, you know, people with more stars in his shoulders made. And you might wonder if he blinked on that so, Garrett is a four star is going to be looking at the Syria strike.
MR. KIRBY: Right.
Q: What is the — what’s the distinction here? Why was there a difference in between these two investigations? Can you speak to the decisions on why Garrett was chosen for this?
MR. KIRBY: On the Kabul strike, I think you’re talking about Lieutenant General Said the Air Force Inspector General. He’s a three star. And he was selected by Secretary Kendall. The tasking went to Secretary Kendall to choose an appropriate level three or four star and the tasking memo to Secretary Kendall was three or four star. He chose Lieutenant General Said.
I don’t want to speak for Secretary Kendall. But I know that a part — a significant part of that decision was because of the independence of the IG and the ability for the IG to follow up if you needed to. And of course, you all saw his report, he came out and briefed you on it. And so, this is — this decision today is very much in keeping with the Secretary’s intent on that one that he you know. He has, in fact, in this case, chosen a specific four-star General Garrett.
And has gotten support from Secretary of the Army Warmuth for his selection for this job. But in both cases, very high-level officers now chosen to do these reviews. And it’s a — you know, a reflection of how seriously he’s taken the issue. And that he wants to make sure that that we do a proper review and inquiry of the original incident and the investigations that followed it.
And if there are changes to procedures, authorities, if there’s needed accountability, that he wanted an officer at that level of that senior level, to be able to make those calls. And somebody that was not there obviously directly involved in the incident itself. And so, there’s some distance there so that there can be a dispassionate review of the information. Yes, Oren?
Q: Is General Garrett’s investigation a formal15-6 or is any part of it a 15-6? And then why General Said had 45 days General Garrett has 90. Was there a concern that General Said didn’t have enough time? Or is this supposed to be broader and deeper? Why twice as much time?
MR. KIRBY: No, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t read anything into the timeline, Oren. The Secretary believed — this one happened a long time ago. I mean, more than two years ago. And I think the Secretary wanted to allow some more time to deal with the fact that the information is much older. And so were it just in time and space were more distant from it. And sorry your other question was?
Q: Is it a 15-6?
MR. KIRBY: No, this is we’re calling it a review and an inquiry. So, it’s not an official 15-6 investigation. Now what form that takes, obviously, that’ll be up to General Garrett. Christina.
Q: Thank you. There’s some amid the rising tensions between two fronts, you’re having the Indo Pacific and then also the eastern flank of Europe. Some people are suggesting that there’s concerns about the industrial — defense industrial supply base.
That whether it would be able to support conflicts over especially if they were over multiple days, longer period of time, especially intense conflicts in any one particular area or another. Do you have any comment about that?
MR. KIRBY: Well, obviously, we’re not immune to the supply chain issues that the rest of the country indeed the world is experiencing right now. But we also, as you well know, in military logistics, redundancy is everything. And so, we’re factoring that into our planning as best we can. The Secretary remains comfortable that we’ll be able to defend the nation as needed around the world. I haven’t gotten anybody on the phone here. Jennifer Steinhauer New York Times.
Q: Hi, could you just clarify on when Secretary Austin sent that letter to the governor of Oklahoma concerning National Guard vaccines? And also, if they dig in because you talked about what guardsmen choose to do or not do, but it’s a state policy at this point. Could they jeopardize their funding that they receive from the federal government that funds most of guard’s activities?
MR. KIRBY: So, on the first question, Jennifer that letter was sent today about midday. On your second question, again, I don’t want to speculate about outcomes here. Really, this is more the consequences are really going to be more filled on an individual basis. As I was telling Bob, it’s an individual’s ability to maintain service and participation in the National Guard that will be mostly affected. If you don’t mind, I need to keep going on the phone had kind of let that go. Paul from Politico.
Q: Hi, John. Thanks for doing this. Getting back to Ukraine of what steps is the United States taking with you know, on its own or with NATO allies to try to impress upon the Russians that, you know, maybe going into Ukraine would be a bad idea? And are we assisting the Ukrainians with logistics or anything like that moving around their own troops.
MR. KIRBY: We’re obviously continue to consult with allies and partners, Secretary Blinken is on his way to Europe, if not already there, and I know he’ll be participating in a foreign ministerial while he’s over there. So, we continue to talk and consult with allies and partners and specifically with Ukrainian officials, as well. And I can’t speak to options or decisions, you know, going forward.
What I would remind is that, you know, we have and continue — this administration continues what has been a truly bipartisan effort since 2014. To continue to provide security assistance items, both lethal and non-lethal to Ukraine. And so, I don’t have anything to announce today. I mean, this administration remains committed to helping Ukrainian military defend itself, defend its territorial integrity, defend its people. Yes.
Q: Do you have any update on the conflict in Ethiopia in terms of U.S. involvement? Is there any information new that you can share with us about what’s going on in Ethiopia?
MR. KIRBY: Yes, I don’t have anything specific that to speak on what’s happening. Obviously on the ground we’re watching it very closely. What I can tell you is that there are — there’s no request for U.S. military assistance in any way right now. We don’t envision any U.S. military intervention in this conflict. And again, we’re watching it, obviously closely and we’re in close touch with our State Department colleagues. Go ahead, Court.
Q: On the Oklahoma guard issue is if an individual is not vaccinated is not allowed to train and drill, they don’t get paid, right?
MR. KIRBY: Eventually, that that could be the outcome. Yes.
Q: So, it’s not withholding funding to the guard?
MR. KIRBY: That’s correct.
Q: But that’s one repercussion of not being vaccinated, just to be clear is that individual is not getting their federal money?
MR. KIRBY: That is correct. That’s what participation in the guard would mean. And that’s what I was saying in the previous question is really the repercussions or consequences are largely in the — for those who continue to refuse would follow on an individual level.
Q: Just wanted to be clear.
MR. KIRBY: Yes, Matt. Yes.
Q: Iran continues to continue with its nuclear of course, program. And then they are of course, close to a point whereas a revocable and at the same time Iran is asking all sanctions to be lifted before returning to the (inaudible). Has a secretary provided and the options and other options, military options to President with respect to Iran?
MR. KIRBY: I won’t speak to specific discussions that the Secretary has with the Commander in Chief. Our job is to provide options of course, and as Dr. Karlin briefed a while ago, we have a very robust presence in the region as it is. Tens of thousands of troops all over the region as well as a very significant maritime presence in the Persian Gulf that all will continue.
So, our job here is to make sure that there are options available to the Commander and Chief if he needs them. That said, we continue to very much support the efforts of our State Department colleagues in trying to get a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action The deal that was struck under the Obama administration with Iran, and as you know, those discussions are ongoing right now. And we’re very much in support of that.
We believe that diplomacy is the best path forward here. And as the Secretary has said, many times no problem in the Middle East gets easier to solve with a nuclear armed Iran. So, it’s an obviously it’s in our interest in the interest of our allies and partners, that outcome doesn’t happen. OK, just one more and then I think we can call it a day.
Q: Thank you. The Marines are expected to announce soon, the number of Marines who are unvaccinated at last count was something like 16,000. There are also roughly 40,000 soldiers who have not yet been vaccinated, and about 8,000 airmen and guardians. Can the Defense Department afford to lose that many service members if all of them are separated?
MR. KIRBY: Well, Jeff we obviously don’t want to see that be the outcome. And that’s why the Secretary continues to encourage everybody, active and reserve and in the guard to get vaccinated. That’s the best way to protect yourself, your family, your unit, your community.
And as he said, many times a vaccinated force is a more ready force. So, we don’t want to see anybody not take the vaccine, except those obviously that you know, medically are precluded from doing it or at their doctor’s advice. And we’re going to continue to continue to hammer home that message. The Secretary met with all the service secretaries this morning as part of a normal monthly battle rhythm.
And this issue of vaccination was on the agenda and the Secretary reiterated that, you know, that he wants them to keep that press up to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
Q: Thank you. What did they tell him about vaccines?
Q: This may have been answered, but do you guys have any early indications that any service members may have the new variant?
MR. KIRBY: We don’t at this time Court no. We don’t have any indications that it has manifested itself inside the military ranks, but we’ll obviously watch that as closely as we can. OK, thanks, everybody.
Q: Have fun on your trip.
MR. KIRBY: Yes, I’ll be leaving
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