Oct 12, 2021

Pentagon John Kirby Press Conference Transcript October 12

Pentagon John Kirby Press Conference Transcript October 12
RevBlogTranscriptsPentagon John Kirby Press Conference Transcript October 12

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby held a press conference on October 12, 2021. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.

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John Kirby: (00:14)
Okay. Just a couple of things to start with. First, on behalf of the secretary and the department, we wish to, again, extend our condolences to the family and friends of General Ray Odierno after the news of his passing over the weekend. This department owes him a debt of gratitude for his years of faithful service in peace and in war and we won’t soon forget his tremendous contributions to our nation’s security and to the generations of leaders that he had mentored and shaped that are still on service today.

John Kirby: (00:50)
On a scheduling note, the secretary joined by Chairman Milley will be heading to US transportation command on Friday to preside over the change of command ceremony, where Army General Steve Lyons will relinquish command to Air Force General Jacqueline Van Ovost. And she will become the first female Transcom Commander directing the global mobility operations of its various components. General Lyons will be retiring. Secretary will preside over that retirement and of course we thank him for his decades of long and faithful service to the country. We wish him the very best in the future.

John Kirby: (01:25)
Also, secretary and his team will be preparing for a trip to Europe next week. Stops will include Georgia, Ukraine, and Romania, and he will conclude this important visit with allies and partners in Brussels for the NATO defense ministerial. I think we’ll probably have a more formal announcement here in the next couple of days. And then starting today, Royal Australian, Indian, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, and US Navies are conducting multilateral training as part of Exercise Malabar 2021 with a focus on Naval cooperation and interoperability. The Department of Defense continually seeks opportunities to integrate with our allies and partners to improve our effectiveness and to create an information sharing environment. And we look forward to further strengthening the bonds between these nations.

John Kirby: (02:12)
And with that, we’ll take questions. Bob.

Male: (02:15)
Thanks John. On Afghanistan. Has there been a decision yet on providing financial compensation to the families of those civilians killed in the August 29th strike?

John Kirby: (02:27)
I don’t have an update for you on that today, Bob.

Male: (02:29)
Also is the secretary [inaudible 00:02:31] Congress, an update on over the over the horizon planning for Afghanistan?

John Kirby: (02:36)
I think what the secretary made clear in his sessions a week or so ago, was that we would certainly communicate with Congress to the degree that they need more information. I think as you heard them say in the open session that some of that would have to be done in closed sessions because of the classification. What he promised them is that he’ll keep them informed as they need more information.

Male: (03:08)
Is there a briefing this week or a hearing?

John Kirby: (03:10)
I’m not aware of a specific briefing or a hearing this week. No. Yeah. [inaudible 00:03:17]

Female: (03:17)
Hi, John. On Taiwan, there’ve been continued incursions into Taiwan’s ADAS and it seems like a tension seemed to continue to be escalating between Taiwan and China and potentially US and China. How concerning is this? And is the secretary planning to do any sort of outreach to his Chinese counterparts to maybe try and deescalate the situation?

John Kirby: (03:41)
Well, you’re right. The PRC has stepped up efforts to intimidate and pressure Taiwan and other allies and partners, including increasing their military activities conducted in the vicinity of Taiwan, the East China Sea and the South China Sea, which we believe are destabilizing and only increase the risk of miscalculation. Our support for and defense relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China and we urge Beijing to honor its commitment to the peaceful resolution of cross straight differences as delineated in the three communiques.

John Kirby: (04:13)
As for communication, I have nothing on the secretary’s scheduled to announce or speak to today with respect to direct communication with the Chinese, although a week or so ago, there was a meeting here in the Pentagon at the deputy assistant secretary of defense level. And of course we have other ways of communicating military to military, but I have nothing from the secretary’s schedule to read out.

Female: (04:43)
And just a quick follow up on that, is the department looking at whether or not, if any actions were taken to defend Taiwan, it would require congressional approval? Would it require Congress providing authorization? Would this be considered a War Powers Act authorization need to act in defense of Taiwan?

John Kirby: (04:59)
Well, I wouldn’t get into hypotheticals here. We act in accordance with the One China policy and we’ve long abided by that policy. It’s distinct from Beijing’s one China principle, under which the Chinese communist party asserts sovereignty over Taiwan. We take no position over the sovereignty of Taiwan, on sovereignty over Taiwan. We will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross state issues, consistent with the wishes and best interest of the people of Taiwan. And our commitment to Taiwan is rock solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the strait and within the region, again, in keeping with that One China policy. Jenn?

Female: (05:44)
John, I’d love to get your reaction to the ex Pentagon software chief saying that the US has already lost the AI fight to China.

John Kirby: (05:52)
Yeah. What I would tell you is that, and you heard the secretary talk about this not long ago in his remarks on AI at the Global Emerging Technology Summit back in July. He was very clear about our concerns about China’s desires to advance in this field, and he’s focused and we still remain focused on advancing AI capabilities in a responsible way in close partnership with industry and academia and building a digitally talented and capable workforce here for the department. So those comments not withstanding, and certainly he’s entitled to his views of course, this is something that the secretary has spoken to, that the entire leadership here at the department is focused on. We know there’s a lot of work to do, but we’re committed to doing that work.

Female: (06:47)
This was the Pentagon’s first software officer, and he writes, “We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years. Right now it’s already a done deal.” Is he wrong?

John Kirby: (06:59)
I’m not going to qualify or characterize his views. I think he can speak to his views. What I can tell you is that we recognize the importance of AI as a technology and as a capability and the secretary has spoken about this, and we have invested quite a bit of effort and energy into making sure that we can advance AI technology in a responsible way. And some of that includes not only an ethical underpinning, but it includes getting a capable workforce set up here at the Pentagon. So what I can, again, reassert is our absolute focus on this. Yeah, [inaudible 00:07:40]?

Male: (07:39)
Yeah, thanks John. Real quick question and then a follow up on Taiwan. Is there an update on a force posture review, when that might be released or [inaudible 00:07:49]?

John Kirby: (07:49)
I don’t have a specific calendar day to speak to today.

Male: (07:53)
And then specific to Taiwan, there was a major show of air power from China and incursion into Taiwan’s air zone. Is there specific assistance to Taiwan that you’d like to comment on in terms of its air defenses?

John Kirby: (08:10)
No, I think he can understand I wouldn’t get into specifics about air defense capabilities, but we do remain concerned by the PRC’s provocative military activity near Taiwan, which, as I said to Tara’s, we find de-stabilizing and increasing the risks of miscalculation. So we’re urging Beijing to cease this military diplomatic and economic pressure and the coercion against the Taiwan. We have an abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and that’s why we’re going to continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability.

Male: (08:43)
Is there anything changing because of that incursion on them?

John Kirby: (08:45)
I wouldn’t speak to that here from the podium one way or the other. As I said, we remain committed to helping Taiwan with their self defense capability in keeping with the law. Zoe.

Silvie: (08:56)
Thank you. I have two questions. First, do you have any news about the incident-

Silvie: (09:03)
… news about the incident with the USS Connecticut. Do you know what caused the collision, what the submarine collided with? And, second, do you have any detail on the incident this morning outside of the Pentagon? There was a suspected package. We understand it was neutralized. Was it really something dangerous that was neutralized or it was just preventive?

John Kirby: (09:37)
On the USS Connecticut, I don’t have any additional detail. I’d refer you to the Navy for that incident. Obviously, the ship hit something underwater, an object submerged, but I don’t know what it was. And as for the extent of the damage and that kind of thing, again, I’d point you to Navy. On the issue this morning, it was a suspicious object observed by Pentagon Force Protection Agency Police. The area was immediately cordoned off and all vehicle and pedestrian traffic were blocked from the area. The Hazardous Device Unit responded and the object was rendered safe at about 0650, 10 minutes to 7:00 this morning. The all clear was given around 7:35 and, of course, traffic is open. Nobody was hurt. All I can tell you is that the incident is under further investigation. I don’t have more detail than that.

Silvie: (10:45)
I mean, I understand it’s neutralized, but you don’t know what it was?

John Kirby: (10:48)
I don’t. I don’t Let me go to the phones here. Travis?

Travis: (10:54)
Hi, John. Thanks. I wanted to ask you about a report that direct relatives of U.S. service members are still trying to escape Afghanistan. Does the Secretary have any thoughts about this situation? And I’m wondering if the Pentagon is doing anything to try to aid these relatives. And lastly, I was wondering if you could confirm at all the number who may still be stuck in Afghanistan? Thank you.

John Kirby: (11:23)
Travis. I haven’t seen the of specific reports. I can assure you that the Secretary, as you’ve heard him say himself, remains committed to making sure that we continue to do everything we can to get our Afghan allies who want to leave Afghanistan to help get them out. There is, as we’ve said before, not a U.S. military component or element to that effort. This is an effort being led by the State Department. They’re still working very hard. And, of course, there is coordination between the inter-agency and some private groups that are also working to continue to get people out. The military component of our presence in Afghanistan, that’s over, but the mission itself to try to get people out is not over. And so the Secretary is very much focused on making sure that we continue to meet that obligation. And I’m sorry, your second question was?

Travis: (12:21)
I was just asking if you had any estimate on the number of those direct relatives who may still be stuck in Afghanistan?

John Kirby: (12:28)
No, and I’d pointed to the State Department for that. Yeah, Kasim.

Kasim: (12:33)
John, Turkey was removed from the F-35 Program, but they have paid 1.4 billion into the program. Is there a plan to repay the Turks?

John Kirby: (12:43)
I point you to my State Department colleagues for that. That’s a foreign military sales issue. That’s not something that DOD would be responsible for.

Kasim: (12:52)
And then the other question, a follow-up to Sylvie, the Chinese Foreign Ministries Affairs spokesman said that the U.S. actually covering up this incident with the Connecticut submarine and that it raises suspicious about the U.S. intentions. Do you have any reaction to the Chinese?

John Kirby: (13:11)
It’s an odd way of covering something up when you put a press release out about it. In the back.

Tom: (13:19)
Thank, John, and good afternoon. Two questions. One on AUKUS. You remember with the briefing of the State Department a few weeks ago, Minister Dutton from Australia said it would be about 15 months before the U.S. could figure out the way to get the nuclear technology to Australia for the subs. Is that the same timeframe, that 15 months or so, for the U.S. to begin to increase its military presence in Australia as outlined by Minister Dutton.

John Kirby: (13:46)
I don’t know that we have a specific timeline here on this. And remember, the AUKUS arrangement is really designed right now, the initial initiative is to help them acquire nuclear propelled submarine capability. But what the Secretary and Minister Dutton talked about in a bilateral fashion was also working to increase U.S. access to training ranges and to other capabilities inside and around Australia. And so we’re going to continue to work with Australia on that. What that looks like over time and whether you can match that right up to the submarine project, if that happens, it would be coincidental. It wouldn’t be deliberate. Those are two different and parallel efforts, but all designed to the same end, which is to improve our alliance capabilities and to improve our ability to fashion integrated deterrents in the Indo Pacific.

Tom: (14:54)
Thanks. And my second question, sorry, was a follow-up to Tara’s regarding the communications generally between Secretary Austin and his Chinese counterparts. And you have said, and I’m paraphrasing you very loosely, which I apologize, you said there are different ways of doing that. Would you be a little more specific because there’s not a hotline, is there? It’s not third party. Is it direct?

John Kirby: (15:17)
There’s direct mil-to-mil communication.

Tom: (15:19)

John Kirby: (15:21)
And even down at the tactical level when there needs to be, obviously. So that’s what I was referring to.

Tom: (15:26)
Okay. Thank you.

John Kirby: (15:27)
Yeah, Jared?

Jared: (15:35)
Hi, Mr. Kirby. Just a quick question. An Israeli official last week told by colleague that there is “no joint operational contingency plan against Iran should efforts to return to the nuclear agreement fail.” Obviously, diplomacy is going to be the first line of effort here going forward from the administration, but I was just wondering if you could respond to that statement, whether you consider that accurate should, should there be more serious issues in the region involving Iran and our allies and partners?

John Kirby: (16:12)
Well, I haven’t seen that comment so I would just say a couple of things, Jared. One, obviously, the Secretary fully supports the diplomatic effort to return to a nuclear deal with Iran that can reduce the threat posed by the potential of a nuclear armed Iran in the region. As he has said himself, “No problem in the Middle East gets easier to solve with the nuclear armed Iran,” so he fully supports Secretary Blinken’s efforts to get movement at the negotiating table. Secondly, with respect to allies and partners in the region, obviously, we were just in the region not long ago.

John Kirby: (16:56)
We’re putting a lot of effort and investment in these alliances and partnerships in the Middle East, and we’re going to continue to do that because, while negotiations go on or don’t go on, while diplomacy continues to be pursued, we also have to make sure militarily that we’re able to meet our security commitments to our interests and to those of our allies and partners. And so we’re constantly reviewing our capabilities in the region to make sure that we are appropriately poised and that we continue to have the kinds of relationships we need to have to allow for us to continue to defend the nation there. Yeah.

Speaker 1: (17:38)
John, I want to ask a question about the Iraq in light of the initial results of the elections. And this is not a political question. It’s related to the security of Iraq and security of U.S. forces. So the so-called Iraq Resistance Coordination Committee, basically some of the groups that-

Speaker 1: (18:02)
Coordination Committee, basically groups that, some of the groups that have been targeting the U.S. forces in Iraq are claiming that the elections have been manipulated.

John Kirby: (18:10)
Have been?

Speaker 1: (18:12)
Manipulated. And that the elimination of the BMF will only “serve” the American occupation.

John Kirby: (18:21)
The elevation.

Speaker 1: (18:23)
The elimination.

John Kirby: (18:24)

Speaker 1: (18:27)
Based on this statement and the initial results, are you concerned that this could usher a new wave of targeting U.S. Forces in Iraq?

John Kirby: (18:41)
Well, I mean, so a couple of thoughts. First, we congratulate the Iraqi government on having fulfilled its promise to hold early elections. And we’re pleased to see that the election days were largely conducted peacefully. We’ve seen preliminary results announced by the Iraqi government, I’m sorry, the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission, and we’re waiting for the final certified results. Once those results are certified, it’s our hope that the new Council of Representatives will form a government that reflects the will of the Iraqi people and will work to address Iraqis’ governance, human rights, security, and economic challenges.

John Kirby: (19:20)
We, from a security perspective, we are still partnering with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces in an effort to continue to put pressure on ISIS. That’s the focus. That’s what we’re there for. And we are still in technical talks with Iraq about what that looks like going forward. As a part of our presence there, yesterday as today, we still maintain the right of self-defense. And so we obviously don’t want to see, as a result of these elections or any other event, we don’t want to see violence increase. We certainly don’t want to see attacks or threats on our troops, but our commanders have the right of self-defense. They have the capabilities to defend themselves if they need it. Again, they’re there predominantly to help the Iraqi security forces improve their capabilities against ISIS. That’s the mission.

Speaker 1: (20:18)
And since you talked policy and politics-

John Kirby: (20:21)
I did not. I was just congratulating.

Tom: (20:24)
No, no, you said more than that.

Speaker 1: (20:26)
Allow me to ask this question. Clearly, some of the militias and political groups who were associated with Iran or supported by Iran, and some of these groups were targeting the U.S. Forces, they didn’t do well in the elections, based on the preliminary results. Is that a message from the Iraqi people to Iran and the militias that resulting to violence is not the answer inside Iraq? And people can see that?

John Kirby: (20:56)
Well, it should never be the answer. Violence never be the answer. But again, as for the exact results and what they mean, we’re not going to prejudge those results because they’re still… The preliminary results, that’s all we’ve seen. They have not been certified. Okay. Let me, Tony, this thing has crashed on me.

Tony: (21:14)
Personnel questions? You need to…

John Kirby: (21:17)
Yeah, it depends on whether you’re asking me a question that’s in that iPad. Go ahead.

Speaker 2: (21:21)
His cheat sheet melted.

John Kirby: (21:24)
It’s not a cheat sheet, Tony. It’s just-

Tony: (21:25)
It’s a cheat pad.

John Kirby: (21:26)
It’s just notes.

Tony: (21:26)
It’s a cheat pad. You’re 10 months into the administration and you still don’t have a chief weapons buyer, and an under secretary for acquisition and sustainment. Why is that? Have you been pressing the White House to nominate someone for the position?

John Kirby: (21:42)
I think the Secretary is very focused on making sure we continue to round out the talent here at the department. And he’s in regular communication with the White House about how to do that. And what’s the best way to do that. It’s more important for him to have the right people in the right places, in these critical national security jobs than it is to rush. And so we continue to flesh out the roster here at the Pentagon and he’ll stay focused on that.

Tony: (22:09)
Second question. Katie Arrington, the Chief Information Security Officer for the ANS ALT Division, was put on administrative leave in May for allegation she unauthorized disclosure of information. Her lawyer says five months later, she still hasn’t gotten any sense of the charges against her. And she’s sitting basically and getting paid on leave, but what’s the status of that review? And should five months go by before someone’s given the charges, the allegations that led to their suspension?

John Kirby: (22:40)
I don’t have a status of the review and I can’t speak with any specificity on specific personnel matters and issues. So I don’t really have anything for you on that today.

Tony: (22:54)
Can you check, and maybe do something written on it? I mean, she’s hanging out there for five months. It’s not fair, it seems.

John Kirby: (22:57)
I will see if there’s any additional context I can provide, but I don’t think there will be, Tony. I’m not able to speak to this issue very specifically.

Tony: (23:08)
Fair enough.

John Kirby: (23:08)
Yeah. Yeah. Reale.

Reale: (23:11)
Thank you. I will do for all Apple Taiwan. The Wall Street Journal reported last week, the U.S. Forces have been deployed to Taiwan at least for year to train Taiwan forces. Is a U.S. Presence in Taiwan consistent with the policy with China?

John Kirby: (23:30)
I don’t have anything to say publicly about those reports. All I can say is what I mentioned earlier, that our policy with respect to Taiwan is in keeping with the One China policy. That we remain committed to helping Taiwan with its self defense capability in keeping with the law. And we’re going to continue to do that. I don’t have anything specific more to add than that. Yeah.

Speaker 3: (23:54)
So yesterday the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un blamed the United States for regional instability. Does the DOD have any comments on the leader of Korea’s comments?

John Kirby: (24:07)
All we would say is that we continue to support the Biden administration’s approach to a measured diplomatic effort to try to reduce tensions on the peninsula and to ensure the denuclearization of North Korea. We think that’s in the best interest, not only of the entire peninsula, but of the region. And we’re going to continue to support those diplomatic efforts. At the same time, we’re going to continue to make sure that our alliance with the Republic of Korea remains as iron clad and as strong as it is. And that our South Korean allies, likewise, have the capabilities they need to defend themselves, if needed. Our presence on the peninsula, our presence in the region is about maintaining a sense of stability and security. And that has always been the focus and nothing more than that. Jen.

Female: (25:01)
John, can we get your reaction to the nuclear engineer who worked for Naval Reactors, who has been charged with espionage and for trying to sell the secrets of the submarine propulsion, the nuclear propulsion systems? Why is it that the Pentagon security and Navy security didn’t catch him?

John Kirby: (25:25)
Jen, I really can’t speak to this case. I’m going to have to refer you to the Department of Justice. I think you can understand why. Because it’s an active, ongoing case, it would be inappropriate and completely unhelpful for us to talk about it here at the podium.

Female: (25:46)
And is it accurate to say as part of this aucus agreement with Australia, that the U.S. is selling the same technology, the nuclear propulsion technology, to Australia as part of that deal? Or is that a mis-characterization? How does that work?

John Kirby: (25:59)
The aucus deal…

Reale: (26:00)
Sorry, excuse me. The submarine deal with Australia.

John Kirby: (26:04)
Yeah. So it’s about helping Australia acquire a nuclear propelled submarine capability. The eaches of that, the details of what that’s going to look like and how long it’s going to take, to Tom’s question, I mean, I think we’re still working our way through that. The Navy will be the lead actor in this. Obviously Naval Nuclear Reactors will clearly be front and center in this. But I don’t believe that we’ve worked out all the details of what that’s going to look like exactly. But it is about helping them acquire, to procure a nuclear capability in submarines.

Tom: (26:44)
Can I follow up on that?

John Kirby: (26:45)

Tom: (26:45)
The first part of Jen’s question regarding the spy, remember about a week or so ago, we had a briefing in here about the new vetting system that was underway. Would this be something that would have been, or could have been better caught in this new system once it gets underway?

John Kirby: (27:01)
You know, I don’t know, Tom, because I don’t have-

Tom: (27:03)
… once it gets underway?

John Kirby: (27:03)
I don’t know, Tom, because I don’t have the specifics of this particular case, and I don’t want to speak for the Department of Justice. So it’d be difficult for me to link the two. What I can tell you is in terms of what we’re trying to do with continuous vetting and improved vetting is to make sure that we’re not only able to prevent and get ahead of insider threats, but also to make sure that criminal activity, activity that would harm our national security interests, can be prevented well in advance. But whether that would have or could have had an effect on this, I wouldn’t be able to say.

Tom: (27:50)
Okay, thanks.

John Kirby: (27:51)
Yeah. [inaudible 00:27:52] back there. Back there.

Speaker 4: (27:53)
Thanks, John. According to the latest Air Force data, 4% of active duty airmen are not vaccinated fully or partially. With only three weeks left before the deadline, it would now be impossible for any of them to get a two-dose vaccine. Do you know if the Air Force is now pushing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine? And what’s going to happen with those now still above 10,000 airmen who are not vaccinated in any capacity?

John Kirby: (28:19)
I would point you to the Air Force specifically for what their plans are. I mean, I can tell you that active duty personnel with at least one dose now stands at 96.7%, and active duty personnel that are fully vaccinated stands today at 83.7%. So we continue to make progress on this. And the total force, at least one dose, 80%, and fully vaccinated, again across the total force, is about 65%. And in the Air Force, they’ve got 84,850 that are partially vaccinated, and fully vaccinated, they’ve got 385,500. So they’re making progress. Now, how they’ll try to make up the delta here before the end of the deadline I really think is a Department of the Air Force policy that you’d have to talk to them about.

John Kirby: (29:13)
And then on your second question about disciplinary action or what the effect would be, again, I want to go back to what we said before, or at least what the secretary’s expectation is, that commanders will try to get these troops to make the right decision based on information and education. And for somebody that refuses, they’ll be given a chance to get more context from medical service providers as well as their chain of command. It’s a lawful order. So obviously, if after all that effort the lawful order is disobeyed, there could be disciplinary action. But the secretary believes that there’s lots of tools available to leaders, short of using the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to get these troops to do the right thing for themselves and for their units.

Speaker 4: (30:03)
Just a quick follow-up. Does that plan change after the deadline? Is there differentiation within those conversations once the deadline has passed?

John Kirby: (30:13)
I think that’s a better question for Air Force leaders. They’re the ones that set that deadline, and I wouldn’t want to of speak to whatever policy adjudication they might do after their deadline is passed, and what they’re trying to do to make goal. But I don’t want to just leave it that the secretary isn’t mindful here of the need to get the force vaccinated. He wants to see everybody that can get the vaccine so that they can be safe for themselves, and safe for their families, safe for their units. So while certainly we’re going to defer you to the Air Force for specific policy implementation, that doesn’t at all dilute the secretary’s keen interest in making sure that this mandatory vaccine is administered appropriately across the force. Yes, ma’am.

Speaker 5: (31:08)
Thank you. So the SecDef, when he’s spoken to his counterpart in China, has talked about the nuclear deterrent-

John Kirby: (31:18)
He has not spoken to his counterpart in China.

Speaker 5: (31:19)
When those conversations have happened, some of the information that has come out has been about the nuclear situation, and the DPRK has been one of the issues that has been discussed. So my question is whether there has been any effort to have a conversation, because that’s an interest that we have together with China as the pressure ratchets up over Taiwan. If there might be an opening there for us to try to talk to them about this other issue that we have in common to prevent nuclearization in North Korea.

John Kirby: (31:56)
A denuclearized North Korea is in everybody’s interest, in the region and across the world. So you’re right, it’s a shared interest. And China certainly has a role to play. They have an influence in Pyongyang that they don’t always use. But there is no conversation that the secretary’s has had to speak to today, and that doesn’t mean that we aren’t, as I said earlier, that we aren’t communicating with the PRC. We are at different levels. Yeah, [inaudible 00:32:28].

Speaker 6: (32:28)
Just a follow-up on the vaccine question. What are the options or tools to sort of compel or convince the civilian workforce to get vaccinated if they are skeptical?

John Kirby: (32:38)
Well, obviously the UCMJ doesn’t apply to our civilian employees, but there are a range of administrative tools that leaders here at the department would have to make sure that our civilian workers are likewise getting the vaccine. I don’t have the laundry list of what the repercussions would be. We’re still working through implementation guidelines on that right now. But again, we don’t see that this is going to be a huge issue. Our civilian workers here, they take their jobs very seriously. They take their obligations to their families and to their coworkers very seriously, and I think we have every expectation that they too will continue to seek and pursue getting vaccinated. Guys, a couple more, and then I got to go. In the back there.

Nancy: (33:27)
John, can I follow-up with Bob’s question about the-

John Kirby: (33:28)
Is that you, Nancy?

Nancy: (33:30)
That’s me, Nancy.

John Kirby: (33:31)
Oh, it’s very dark back there. Sorry.

Nancy: (33:33)
That way it’s more likely you take my question if you can’t see me.

John Kirby: (33:38)
I would’ve called on you anyway.

Nancy: (33:41)
I want to follow-up on Bob’s question about the August 29th strike in Kabul, and the issue condolence payments is for helping families relocate outside of Afghanistan. Can you let us know if the US military or anyone in the department has made contact with any of those 10 family members?

John Kirby: (34:01)
Let me take the question, Nancy. I don’t have an answer for that. You’re talking about the family members that were the victim of the 29 August. Let me take the question. I just don’t know the answer to that. Did you have one?

Female: (34:13)
I just had a COVID follow-up question. There are a lot of the DOD contractors based in Texas that provide things that are critical to the department, including F-35. I’m just wondering what sort of guidance the department is putting out, because the governor of Texas has now signed an executive order saying that no firms can coerce their employees to get the vaccine. But that is at direct odds at making sure the supply lines stay moving. Just wondering, are you reaching out to those contractors? Have you encouraged your major defense contractors to get their workforce vaccinated?

John Kirby: (34:51)
We do want our defense contractors to be vaccinated, but let me take your question and see if there’s something more specific that we’ve communicated and how that’s been communicated, rather than just guess. Okay?

Tom: (35:01)
Thank you.

John Kirby: (35:02)
Thank you.

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