Sep 22, 2021

Pentagon John Kirby Press Conference Transcript September 22

Pentagon John Kirby Press Conference Transcript September 22
RevBlogTranscriptsPentagon John Kirby Press Conference Transcript September 22

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby held a press conference on September 22, 2021. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.

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John Kirby: (00:00)
Good afternoon, everybody. I am pleased and honored to be joined at the podium today by Dr. Hicks, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, who is going to talk to you at the outset of this briefing on the Department’s implementation roadmap on preventing sexual assault and sexual harassment. And after the Deputy Secretary has some opening comments to walk you through that roadmap, she will be able to stick around for a few questions.

John Kirby: (01:14)
As before, I will moderate the questions, we don’t have time for very many. The deputy has a pretty packed agenda this afternoon, but I’ll moderate a few questions after that. And then when that’s over, I’ll come back up to the podium for normal briefing stuff. So with that, ma’am.

Dr. Hicks: (01:37)
All right. Good afternoon, everyone. As part of the Department’s efforts to eliminate sexual assault and sexual harassment from the ranks, today I am providing an important update on our implementation roadmap. This represents the Department’s strategic approach, as approved by the Secretary of Defense, to act on the recommendations of the 90-day Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the Military. We’re going to make needed foundational investments to support sexual assault accountability, prevention programs, healthy command climates, and quality victim care.

Dr. Hicks: (02:15)
To date, sexual harassment and sexual assault remain serious problems in our force, with lethal consequences for our service members, and harmful effects on our combat readiness. This administration has placed an unprecedentedly high priority on this challenge set. In fact, in his first day in office, Secretary Austin issued a memorandum to Department leadership, tasking them with reporting data pertaining to sexual assault and sexual harassment. On February 26th, at the direction of President Biden, Secretary Austin established the 90 day Independent Review Commission, or IRC. On June 21st, the IRC provided its findings and recommendations to Secretary Austin, and their comprehensive, evidence based, and stakeholder-informed report made 82 recommendations that spanned four lines of effort, accountability, prevention, climate and culture, and victim care.

Dr. Hicks: (03:12)
And on July 2nd, 2021, less than six months after stating his intent to lead the Department in countering sexual assault and sexual harassment, Secretary Austin directed this implementation way ahead. We have now created that way ahead, called the implementation roadmap, and Secretary Austin has approved it in its entirety. We constructed our roadmap by creating specialized teams, comprising experts across the Department. After reviewing the IRC’s recommendations, our experts identified sequencing issues, estimated resource requirements, and characterized the risks and benefits associated with different implementation paths. Built-in consultation with the Department’s civilian and uniformed leadership, the resulting roadmap represents a best in practice sexual assault and harassment prevention and response program that ensures rapid action, and early and enduring results.

Dr. Hicks: (04:13)
In accordance with Secretary Austin’s guidance, our approach is holistic, addressing all of the IRC’s recommendation across its four lines of effort. We are implementing in four tiers of action. Our goal is to implement as rapidly as possible, while ensuring we can deliver durable and meaningful outcomes. The first tier, which we have already begun implementing, is our foundation. It consists of important elements in preventing sexual assault and sexual harassment and holding offenders accountable. The preponderance of initiatives and resources are focused in our first tier.

Dr. Hicks: (04:54)
For instance, it contains three of our highest priority recommendations, including the staff establishment of the Offices of Special Victim Prosecutors, the creation of a full-time and specialized prevention workforce, and the implementation of full-time sexual assault response coordinator and sexual assault prevention and response victim advocate positions. Follow-on tiers build on or expand beyond these foundations. That said, our tiered approach is not rigidly constructed, and we have done it in such a way that we are able to be dynamic and expect it to evolve over time, where more expedient pathways or best practices are newly identified.

Dr. Hicks: (05:38)
And make no mistake, the Department is committed to completing implement on as fast a timeline as possible, while ensuring our efforts take deep root throughout all levels of leadership, down to the unit and individual level. To that end, we are taking necessary steps in the Department to ensure expedient implementation of recommendations that the administration has already proposed in legislation. Those recommendations, such as the establishment of the Offices of Special Victim Prosecutors, represent real cultural and structural shifts for the military departments.

Dr. Hicks: (06:15)
In the memorandum Secretary Austin released today, he includes four specific actions to ensure that the Department begins to swiftly and deliberately move from the recommendations contained in the roadmap to implementation. First, he has directed the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to issue enterprise-wide guidance for implementing all red recommendations this fall, beginning with guidance on Tier 1 recommendations by October 13th, 2021.

Dr. Hicks: (06:44)
Second, each service and relevant component is directed to develop implementation plans and resource mapping by November 12th, 2021, for Tier 1 recommendations, and by the end of January 2022 for all actions. Third, the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness will develop an Outcome Metrics Evaluation Report by May 1st, 2022. This will be used to track the effectiveness and progress on implementation.

Dr. Hicks: (07:15)
And fourth, in consultation with the services and relevant components, the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness will formally assess the roadmap no fewer than twice per year, and make recommendations to me, through the Deputy’s Workforce Council, or DWC. The DWC, in turn, will meet quarterly to monitor implementation progress and accelerate timelines wherever possible.

Dr. Hicks: (07:41)
Countering sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military remains a priority for Secretary Austin, for President Biden, and for me. We continue to move quickly and deliberately, and are committed to the path that I have outlined. Our changes are comprehensive, and they provide us an opportunity to deal a fundamental blow to this problem. As I’ve said previously, our service members deserve no less, and our combat effectiveness depends on our success. Thank you, and I’m happy to take some questions.

Bob Burns: (08:13)
Yeah, thank you. Madam Secretary, Bob Burns from AP. You made several references to moving quickly with this, so can you give us… I didn’t hear you mentioned any dates though. When will you have completed the implementation of Tier 1, for example?

Dr. Hicks: (08:28)
So including our reserve component elements, we think it could take up to 2027 to do the full implementation, primarily around these major hiring actions that we’re putting forward, so this is the major prevention workforce. The focus of most of that workforce, as full-time professionals on sexual assault and sexual harassment, making sure we get the right skills, not just people in jobs, but the right skill sets and expertise into these positions. That, we think, is the longest lead item in Tier 1, and probably the most important of our recommendations.

Dr. Hicks: (09:05)
For the active component, I think we’ll be able to see progress much earlier, in the first two years.

Bob Burns: (09:11)
So you’re distinguishing between 2027 for reserve only?

Dr. Hicks: (09:15)
That full implementation of Tier 1 is inclusive of all elements of the force and that reserve component, moving to full-time professionals who are able to look after, for example, the National Guard. Obviously across 54 different National Guard components, elements, that will take much more time. But in the first two years, you’ll see significant movement on that full-time force for the active component.

Bob Burns: (09:39)
One quick follow up, does that to any extent reflect the military service’s skepticism about moving too quickly when-

Dr. Hicks: (09:48)
I smile only because it does not. The military services are eager to move as fast as possible. They would like to make sure that as much as we can is in this first wave, this first tier of activity. And I think what we’re trying to balance is the expert advice we’ve been given to make sure we do this well. The roots have to be deep, we can’t just move quickly but shallowly, and have the figment of action without having really well thought through processes for how we do this.

Dr. Hicks: (10:18)
The DOD efforts in this space will be the largest ever attempted. No university, no major institution is at our scale, so building a workforce, a prevention workforce, building the accountability approach very specifically around sexual assault, sexual harassment, and related crimes, this will be a first of its kind endeavor. We want to move fast, but we want to make sure that these changes last, and we build back that trust in the force.

Bob Burns: (10:44)
Thank you.

Dr. Hicks: (10:45)
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Kirby: (10:45)

David: (10:52)
So I understand, the priorities that you laid out and the deadlines you gave, do they still require a legislation? And I have a follow-up after that.

Dr. Hicks: (11:00)
Sure. Most of the actions that I’ve described, we can do-

Speaker 2: (11:03)
Sure. Most of the actions that I’ve described we can do ourselves. There are some key elements we have asked Congress to help us with. The first and most important is the change to the Uniform Code of Military Justice to expand a group of activities or offenses, excuse me, around sexual assault, sexual harassment and related sexual offenses, and put those outside of the chain of command under these offices of special prosecutors. So these offices also, we are asking for legislative assistance to develop those offices. Those are probably the two most important elements for which we need legislative relief. Building out the prevention workforce, we need Congress’s help on funding it and making sure we have the particularly civilian workforce ceiling to hire people, but mostly, we can do that within our own authorities.

Speaker 3: (11:58)
And you mentioned coming up with metrics by May of next year. Don’t you already have metrics in the annual sexual assault report? Aren’t you going to know the next time a report comes around whether or not you’re having any impact?

Speaker 2: (12:17)
Those kinds of metrics, you’re right, we do have metrics that help us understand the rate of reporting for instance on sexual harassment, sexual assault. What we’re looking for is how to measure the quality of this workforce, the steps in the process I think is how I would put it for how we understand how to scale the challenge, for instance, the size of the unit level at which we need a dedicated professional. How we think about the offices of special prosecutors in each military department, that’s the level of metrics we’re talking about.

Speaker 3: (12:53)
And would expect to see any change in the annual sexual assault harassment report when it comes out next spring as a result of this?

Speaker 2: (13:02)
Well, I don’t expect as a result of this we will see it as soon as the spring. We also have not had the change of the chain of command yet through Congress, so we certainly are looking to make change as fast as possible and see change in those statistics as fast as possible. Where I think we will see more immediate effect, to that point, is more along the lines of what the secretary has already put into action beyond what was from the IRC recommendations. He had a series of actions right away, so you can think of the Fort hood report for example and the follow on actions taken there.

Speaker 2: (13:38)
So for example, we are already looking hard at installations across the force to understand where there are installations that are doing particularly well and where there are some installations where we need to send focused help, so where we take that sexual assault, sexual harassment prevention workforce that we have today and send them out, think of fly away teams to help at the installation level. Those sorts of actions are already underway and I do hope in fact that they will have effect on the statistics we next see.

John Kirby: (14:10)
The last one will be Therese.

Therese: (14:14)
Yes, thank you. I’m Therese [inaudible 00:14:15]. I’ve spoken to a few military investigators and one of the issues that they brought up was the fact that if an offender is kicked out of the military for other than honorable discharge, once they’re out, they can apply to get that changed to honorable, which will impact wherever they apply for jobs. Is that one of the issues or recommendations that’s going to be worked on through this new program? Are they going to try to adjust that or fix that, or has that been discussed at all?

Speaker 2: (14:39)
Yeah, I would have to look into that. That was not one of the IRC’s recommendations, to change that policy. It has not come up to my level thus far in our re-look at how the department addresses this issue, but I’m happy to look at that.

Therese: (14:53)
Thank you.

John Kirby: (14:55)
Thank you, ma’am.

Speaker 2: (14:55)
Yeah, thank you. Thank you, all.

John Kirby: (15:07)
Okay. Just a couple of other things to get through this afternoon.

John Kirby: (15:21)
This morning, as I think some of you know, Secretary Austin welcomed Australian Prime Minister Morrison to the Pentagon. The secretary thanked our Australian allies for more than a century of shared sacrifice and for their contributions in Afghanistan. The secretary and prime minister discussed the future of the alliance and how this Occas Agreement will contribute to integrated deterrence. That’s working closely with our allies and friends in defense of our shared security and to deter threats to a free and open Indo-Pacific. I did have one other thing that I wanted to mention.

John Kirby: (15:56)
I’ve seen the news that Bob Reisman, who worked for the Stars And Stripes for a very, very long time just passed away this week due to complications from cancer. If any of you, and I know many of you have served in or reported out of Iraq and Afghanistan, you can thank Mr Reisman for the fact that you could pick up a copy of Stars And Stripes and read it, and so could the troops., Because that was one of his key jobs. I think the title was expeditionary distribution, getting those copies of the newspapers to as many mess halls and work facilities across Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 20 years. Pretty incredible work, and Stars And Stripes as you know is a publication subsidized by the department of defense, but has complete editorial independence, and I think that’s pretty remarkable.

John Kirby: (16:59)
I don’t know too many other places where you can find something like that. And having been a veteran in myself, I just can’t speak enough about how important Stripes is to helping inform our men and women and their families all over the world, even in war zones. And so our thoughts and prayers go out to the Reisman family, and our thanks and our gratitude for his many long years of service to such a noble task. And so we’re all heartbroken here to get this word and again, we stand by to support the family in any way that we can. And with that, Bob?

Bob: (17:37)
Hey, John. Thanks. I have a question for you on, there was a line in the joint statement put out by President Biden and President Macron regarding their conversation, in which it said that the US commits to reinforcing its support to counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel. And I’m wondering if that has any actual real world implications for military operations?

John Kirby: (18:04)
It absolutely has real world implications, and we continue to provide a measure of support to French operations in the Sahel. And that’s what this line was referring to, was the longstanding support that we continue to provide the French and you can certainly surmise from that that support will continue. And I’ll tell you, the secretary spoke to Minister Parly on Monday, and in fact, this was one of the things that they talked about, was ongoing US/French collaboration.

Bob: (18:47)
With this reinforcing, I’m just wondering if that means increasing or expanding in some way?

John Kirby: (18:50)
I won’t speak to specifics about increases or decreases. What I can tell you is that we have supported some of their operations in that part of the world. We’re going to continue to do that, and clearly, we’re going to look for ways to make it as effective as possible going forward. And I can’t rule in or rule out any particular element of that support, Bob, in terms of whether it’s going to increase as a result of this conversation today, but when I saw the verb reinforce, what I took away was that we’re going to stay committed to that task.

Bob: (19:32)

John Kirby: (19:32)
Yeah. Tom?

Tom: (19:34)
John, there were thousands of Afghan refugees out at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin in an army facility, and apparently there were problems with lack of food, clothing. Some of the women are being harassed by former Afghan soldiers. Members of Congress are asking secretary Austin to investigate what’s going on. Can you say if he’s received that letter asking for the investigation, and any sense of the way ahead?

John Kirby: (20:00)
We’re certainly aware of these reports, Tom, and we take it very, very seriously. Especially at a place like Fort McCoy with winter coming on, and so North Comm is very mindful of the needs of the weather and the climate and making sure that the evacuees have a safe, clean, warm living environment while they continue this processing. But we’re mindful about this at all eight installations here domestically, that we have a responsibility to provide that kind of an environment for these individuals and their families to be able to subsist while they continue to work through the immigration process, and again, we’re taking it seriously. I know of no specific request today to conduct an investigation, but the secretary is certainly mindful of the reports and he’s comfortable that General VanHerck, the Northern Command commander also is mindful of these issues and we’ll continue to work closely with our inter-agency partners to alleviate any concerns there might be.

Tom: (21:19)
Give us a sense, who’s in charge of the facility? I know it’s an army facility. Who’s running it? Is it Homeland Security? Is it State? Is it all of you, all of the agencies? It seems like, well, first of all, there’s lack of access to reporters getting in to find what’s going on. Some lawmakers are going in but it’s confusing about who’s actually in charge out there.

John Kirby: (21:39)
Obviously, we own the facility, Tom. These are military bases and so the military commanders are responsible for the facilities on their installations and their bases. We are also responsible for the environment, the physical environment. The housing and making sure that food and water is provided.

John Kirby: (22:02)
And making sure that food and water is provided, appropriate medical care if it’s needed, recreation facilities, and access to that kind of thing, particularly for the children, and of course appropriate religious accommodations. That’s what we’re responsible for. The actual health of the end of individuals is HHS, and DHS isn’t responsible for the immigration process. And of course, they’re lashed up with states. It’s truly an interagency team effort. No one of us alone can, or should be responsible for the totality of the mission. But our job is the housing, and making sure that there’s a safe environment, a safe and secure environment for them to complete the processing.

John Kirby: (22:47)
And then your point on access, there’s no concerted effort to keep the press away. In fact, just a week or so ago, there was a media day that we did at Fort Bliss, and we fully anticipated and hoped to conduct follow on media days at the other installations. And then we got word of the measles outbreak. And as you know, we have frozen, at the request of the CDC, we’ve frozen all other transportation out of overseas locations to of the United States because of that, out of due caution. And once we get past that, whenever that is, I fully expect that we will be able to restart media access to the facilities. There was no desire to keep the press out for any reason. I think in the early weeks we just wanted to make sure we had things in order, that we were prepared to receive the numbers that we received, but we absolutely fully expect to be able to provide access going forward. And that includes for members of Congress. Clearly they have a responsibility and a right to see these facilities too, but right now visits are being postponed for health reasons.

Reporter #1: (24:03)
It seems to be of the eight facilities, this one place where there are reports of serious problems. I don’t hear, or see of any problems at the other facilities, particularly Fort McCoy.

John Kirby: (24:14)
Yeah, no, I understand that. And as I said, we’re aware of these reports too. We’ve taken them all seriously. General VanHerck is very much mindful of what our responsibilities are in terms of the safe and secure environment. And we take it all seriously. I can’t speak with specificity to each and every one of these reports, but we’re obviously taking them seriously.

John Kirby: (24:37)

Reporter #2 (Jennifer): (24:38)
John, at Fort McCoy, it’s our understanding that they’re two barracks that don’t have heat. That is the DOD’s responsibility. What is being done about that? It’s getting very cold up there.

John Kirby: (24:48)
Yeah. As I understand it, Jen, they have taken steps to correct that.

Reporter #2 (Jennifer): (24:54)
And if you look at Ramstein, they’ve carried out the MMR vaccinations. 95% of the 9,000 or so people there have been vaccinated. And then they also looked at the population and found that 95% of the sample they took had antibodies for the measles. Why can’t those flights begin? Again, the CDC is saying they have to wait 21 days, but if they’re vaccinated and they have antibodies, shouldn’t they also be moved to the US? It’s also getting cold at Ramstein.

John Kirby: (25:31)
Yes, it is. Again, we are working in lockstep with the CDC and HHS on this, and we want to be mindful that we are observant of CDC guidelines and their requirements. We’re not going to move any faster than we can do it safely for the health of the evacuees, as well for the health of the communities to which their being transported. And we are all mindful of the changing weather. Fall is upon us. We know that. And all the installation commanders are taking steps to make sure that with the coming colder weather, we can be able to keep people warm and safe.

Reporter #2 (Jennifer): (26:15)
And last question on the COVID vaccines, are those service members who don’t get the COVID vaccine, are they facing dishonorable discharge?

John Kirby: (26:27)
What I’m going to tell you is that we’re going to try to help those who resist taking the vaccine, help them make the best decision. Now some of them will have a legitimate reasons, maybe health reasons of their own because their doctor doesn’t want to get them. And yes, there can be some that can apply for a religious accommodation. There’s a process each service runs for that.

John Kirby: (26:52)
But for those who resist just because they don’t want to take the vaccine, it is now a lawful order. And what the Secretary expects is that command will do everything they can to inform and educate these members to get the vaccine, because it’s not just in their best interest, it’s in the best interest of their families, their loved ones, and their teammates. And that would include counseling with not only one’s chain of command, but with healthcare providers, medical professionals, to again, walk them through the risks that they would be taking.

John Kirby: (27:28)
There are a number of tools, short of using the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Disciplinary Action, to try to get these individuals to do the right thing and to follow this lawful order. That said, there are disciplinary actions that can be taken. Again, not all of them have to, or I would think, would rise the level of a discharge, and I wouldn’t want to go through the list because it’s going to vary case to case, and each service and commander’s going to handle it differently, but it is a lawful order. If you refuse to obey a lawful order, yes, you can be held to disciplinary action, but I wouldn’t want to specify at this time exactly what that would be in every case because it’s going to depend on the individual and the commander, and the tools that they want to use available.

John Kirby: (28:16)
The best incentive that one can have is knowing that one, by taking the vaccine, is doing the right thing for the unit, for the family, for the community, not just for him or herself, and look, we’re up over 90% now of the active duty force with at least one dose. We’re making pretty good progress.

John Kirby: (28:41)
Yeah. Travis.

Reporter #3 (Travis): (28:43)
Thanks, John.

Reporter #3 (Travis): (28:44)
Is there any update on the DHS request for DOD to contract air transport for migrants at the border?

John Kirby: (28:51)
Yeah. I don’t have a specific update on that, Travis. To date, there have been no flights that have occurred. Transportation command is working to get them contracted now.

Reporter #3 (Travis): (29:04)
The request has been approved by the Secretary?

John Kirby: (29:08)
The Deputy Secretary verbally approved a request for transportation support from the Department of Homeland Security. Under this request, DOD will provide contracted air transportation for Customs and Border Patrol on a reimbursable basis. This will conclude on, or before the 20th of October. And again, as I said the other day, can be provided with minimal risk to current DOD missions. I talked about this the other day. But again, today, as of now, there haven’t been any contracted flights. Transportation command is still working that.

Reporter #3 (Travis): (29:42)
When they do get those flights up and running, can you say whether service members will have any role at all, whether transporting migrants to the actual aircraft, or providing security, or anything like that?

John Kirby: (29:52)
I don’t know about that, Travis. I can ask to see if there’s more fidelity we have on this. Again, the request is specifically air transportation, and Customs and Border Patrol, as I understand the request, would be escorting these individuals on these flights. I’m not aware of any additional escort duties on the ground that would accompany the request. It really was about air transportation to these other locations in the continental United States.

John Kirby: (30:29)
Yeah. Mike.

Reporter #4 (Mike): (30:31)
Yes. John, did the Secretary and the Prime Minister discuss the Administration’s [inaudible 00:30:38] France’s submarine deal with Australia during their meeting?

John Kirby: (30:41)
They certainly talked about the arrangement, and the importance of the arrangement, for not just Australia, but for security dynamics in the Indo-Pacific. I won’t go into any more detail than that. Everybody in the Administration is mindful of course, of the statements that French leaders have made, and what the Secretary has maintained. And he maintained this in his discussion with the French Minister of Defense on Monday. France is our oldest ally. We share lot of security interests around the world, and in the Indo-Pacific specifically. One of them of course, is in Africa, as we talked about earlier, and that we’re going to keep working at the security interests we share, we’re going to maintain a commitment to one another bilaterally, and certainly multilaterally, through many other fora.

John Kirby: (31:38)

Reporter #5 (Jenny): (31:39)
Thank you, Dan. You may seen these report that South Korean [inaudible 00:31:45] proposed the full party end of the war declaration with South Korea, United States, North Korea, and China, at the United Nations General Assembly.

John Kirby: (32:01)
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Reporter #5 (Jenny): (32:01)
In fact, this declaration of the end of the war is what North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wants. And it means the withdrawal of the United States, US troops from South Korea. And with this mentioning of the United Nations Command, what would you like to say?

John Kirby: (32:28)
Well, I think the United States remains committed to achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, through dialogue and diplomacy with North Korea. We continue to seek engagement with the DPRK to address a variety of issues, and we’re open to discussing the possibility of an end of war declaration. Our goal remains, as always, the complete denuclearization of the Peninsula.

Reporter #5 (Jenny): (32:54)
Do you think that this declaration of the end of the war is not a solution to North Korea’s nuclear program?

Speaker 5: (33:00)
To North Korea’s nuclear program.

John Kirby: (33:04)
As I said, we’re open to a discussion about an end of war declaration, but we are also committed to diplomacy and dialogue with the DPRK to achieve the denuclearization. We know that this is a complex issue and we’re committed to supporting the role of our diplomats in having that kind of dialogue going forward.

Speaker 4: (33:29)
Thank you. I would like to go back to them to have a follow-up to Bob’s question about the statement, the common statement and the sign. You said that you understood that US is going to continue to stay committed to that task. So does it mean that it’s business as usual, or you are going to send more capabilities or to use more capabilities or what exactly is reinforcing?

John Kirby: (34:05)
When it comes to counter-terrorism operations there’s no business as usual. I mean, it’s something you focus on day-to-day. And as you’ve heard the secretary say before, he has praised the French and their military efforts in the Sahel specifically, and we are and have been for quite some time, supporting them through a variety of needs. And as I said to Bob, when you look at the word reinforcing, it means exactly that. We’re going to continue to stay committed to that task, to helping the French in their operations, in that part of the world, against the terrorist threat and that support has and will continue to change over time situationally as it needs to. The most important part… I know it’s interesting to see whether that signals an increase or decrease or what that looks like. And I totally understand the interest in that, but don’t get lost in that level of detail. The important thing is that we understand the important role that France is playing in that part of the world specifically, and that we’re going to continue to support their efforts to do that to the best of our ability.

Speaker 4: (35:23)
When we say reinforcing, we understand more. That’s…

John Kirby: (35:29)
I understand that you understand that means more. I would just tell you that there’s not going to be any slackening of US support for French operations in the Sahel, and that we are going to continue to maintain a dialogue with the French as the secretary reiterated on Monday in the phone conversation with Minister Parlay. We’re going to maintain a focus on that. And I think it’s conceivable that over any period of time that support’s going to increase, and it could decrease depending on what the nature of the threat is, but rather than get into the sine wave on a daily basis, I would just ask that you, the takeaway here is that we’re going to stay committed to it over the long haul. We know how important it is, and we know how effective the French have been, and we want to see them continue to be that effective. I got to go to the phones here. Phil Stuart, you still on?

Phil: (36:31)
Yeah. I was going to ask about the French support as well, but I’ll change my question. Last week or maybe it was early this week, the CDC was given the authority by the president to quarantine folks for 21 days for the MMR vaccine. Just wondering whether or not that has translated into any kind of actual order to you all, or any memo to the DOD saying that you have to keep these people in place wherever they are for 21 days following vaccination. Thanks.

John Kirby: (37:04)
I’m not aware of any official order on that, Phil. As I said, we’re following CDC guidelines, just the way we do with respect to COVID here at the Pentagon and at military installations around the country. We follow CDC guidelines and that’s going to be exactly how we approach this. We’re not going to move people until the CDC is comfortable doing so.

Phil: (37:33)
Could you explain whether that means that there’ll be held for 21 days following the vaccine?

John Kirby: (37:39)
Again, I won’t speak to specific mandates by the CDC, but I certainly think it’s reasonable to suggest to think that this quarantine will go on for a while longer as we continue to work through the vaccination scheme. Louie.

Louie: (38:04)
John, I’d just like to go back to Tom’s question about Fort McCoy. Is north comm making plans, long-term plans for the housing of these Afghan evacuees at all of their bases. And if so, how long term are we talking about?

John Kirby: (38:21)
I think you heard General VanHerck talk about this the other day. We’re going to maintain the ability to keep them as long as we need to, as long as there’s a valid mission and a population that needs support, the Department of Defense will stay at that. I couldn’t begin to speculate now what that will look like on the calendar. I couldn’t be predictive about how long, but we’re certainly prepared to be able to house these individuals for as long as we need to.

Louie: (38:51)
Does that include potentially ramping up the size, the infrastructure that you have right now because I imagine that if you were counting on a short term stay, that the infrastructure that was put in place is not as sturdy as maybe what you may need…

John Kirby: (39:07)
Right now we don’t think there’s a need to add installations or change the capacity. I think we have a capacity now over 60,000 and we’re at roughly 53,000, but again, as you’ve heard General VanHerck say, if he feels like as these flights start resuming again, if he feels like he needs that added capacity, he certainly, we would expect him to ask for that, to speak to that and to get the support that he would need for that. But there’s no anticipation now that we would have to change in any kind of major way, the capacity that we built out to. We’ve got excess capacity right now, as we sit today. And again, we’ll obviously be revisiting this in real time going forward. Yeah. Oren?

Oren: (39:55)
Could you comment on the dismissal of Leonor Tomero and explain why that would happen in the middle of the nuclear posture review?

John Kirby: (40:02)
I’m not going to talk about specific personnel matters, Oren. I would just tell you that we have a wide ranging team of experts working across policy issues, including on the nuclear posture review. And we’re committed to ensuring that all teams work efficiently and effectively to advance these policy goals. It’s natural with any new administration. This one’s not accepted that we would want to reevaluate the organizational structure and make changes where we think is appropriate to support the secretary’s priorities. And I think that’s, again, without speaking to individuals, we’re certainly doing that. We’re going to continue to consider and include a wide range of viewpoints in the nuclear posture review, including those from administration officials, military leaders, academics and all others. Again, the focus right now is on protecting our security interests. The nuclear posture review is a big part of that. And quite frankly, so are our reorganization efforts here at the department, all designed to help us better defend the nation and support the secretary’s priorities. Okay. That takes us almost to four o’clock. Thank you very much.

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