Pentagon Press Briefing 2/20/24 Transcript

Sabrina Singh (01:25):

Sorry, just give me a second here. All right, so good afternoon. I have a few things at the top and then I’d be happy to take your questions.

(01:32)
Last week, as you know, the Senate took a critical step in passing a bipartisan National Security Supplemental. If passed by the House and signed into law, this legislation would directly advance America’s interest and values. The Senate-passed National Security Supplemental Bill would allow the department to provide military aid to Ukraine, deliver security assistance to Israel, and bolster our support in the Indo-Pacific region. It is also an investment in our nation’s defense industrial base. Every day the Ukrainian people fight bravely and heroically against the Russian aggression. As the president said, “They’ve put so much on the line.” So we are going to continue to urge Congress to pass this urgent supplemental request so that we can deliver Ukraine the air defenses, artillery, and ammunition they need to defend themselves.

(02:19)
And as the Vice President said in Munich last weekend, “The failure to not pass a supplemental would be a gift to Vladimir Putin. If the US stands by while an aggressor invades its neighbor with impunity, the aggressor will keep going. And in the case of Vladimir Putin, that would mean all of Europe would be threatened. So this is a moment where our allies and our adversaries are watching.”

(02:43)
So we need the house to urgently pass and act and work to pass this Bipartisan Supplemental Agreement that passed last week in the Senate. However, when the House returns from recess on February 28th, there will be only three legislative days until certain federal agencies run out of funding. On March 1st, funding for the department’s military construction activities will expire. And on March 8th, funding for the rest of the department will expire. The brinkmanship creates uncertainty, increase costs, and delays missions, and most importantly, it’s a distraction for the force.

(03:17)
We will continue to defend the nation and conduct ongoing military operations, but the impact of a government shutdown will be widespread and devastating to our service members, their families, and DOD civilians who work every day in support of our national security.

(03:32)
And as you know, the department is still operating under our third extension of a continuing resolution, a stop gap funding measure that prevents any new starts, and limits our ability to implement a fully resourced national defense strategy. No amount of money can buy back the time we lose when we are forced to operate under continuing resolutions.

(03:52)
If you add up the total time spent under a CR going back to 2011, we’ve spent nearly five years under CRs. That puts our national security at risk, and prevents the department from modernizing, as we continue to be constrained to existing funding levels and prevented from launching new programs. We must break this pattern of inaction. We can’t outcompete the PRC with one hand tied behind our back three, four, five, or even six months of every fiscal year.

(04:22)
The best way that Congress can support the department is to pass appropriation bills into law as soon as possible. We need predictable, adequate, sustained, and timely funding. And with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.

(04:34)
Tara, I didn’t get the memo that I should wear red today. See, all the ladies are wearing red in this front row. All right, why don’t, go ahead.

Courtney (04:41):

Yeah, next time.

Sabrina Singh (04:42):

Thursday one, we’ll wear something different.

Courtney (04:44):

All right, thanks Sabrina. First on the Houthis, it’s been a pretty active 24 hours, a number of drones and missiles were either intercepted or shot down. Has the U.S. been able to degrade the Houthis ability to get more munitions, especially for many of these shipments headed toward Yemen? And if not, what is the U.S. doing about it?

Sabrina Singh (05:05):

So we’ve had two successful interdiction earlier in January and earlier this month by the US Coast Guard. And then as you know with our SEALs that we’re able to interdict the dhow. So we have been able to disrupt some delivery of capabilities to the Houthis. We’ve also continued to conduct coalition strikes and dynamic strikes in Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen. So we have been able to degrade the Houthi’s capabilities. I can’t say that we’ve been able to stop every single shipment that has been able to get to them by most likely Iran, but we have been able to considerably degrade their capabilities.

Courtney (05:44):

But it seems like the number of munitions that are being either intercepted or actually being shot is actually on the rise now. So what is the Pentagon’s assessment on where these weapons are coming from? Or did the Houthis just have such a large cache already?

Sabrina Singh (05:59):

So without getting into intelligence, I think it’s fair to say that the Houthis did have and do have a large warehouse of capabilities. But every single time that we conduct a strike, whether it be with our coalition partners, or whether it be unilateral in these dynamic strikes that you’ve seen CENTCOM take, we do degrade their abilities and their capabilities.

(06:23)
We know that Iran supports the Houthis, continues to fund, continues to train IRGC- backed militias across the region. So we know Iran finds ways to get weapons and get capabilities to the Houthis, but I’ll just have to leave it at that. Jen?

Speaker 1 (06:41):

Sabrina, where is the Iranian spy ship, the Behshad, right now, has it left Djibouti?

Sabrina Singh (06:48):

I don’t have an assessment of where it is. We know it’s in the region though.

Speaker 1 (06:50):

It’s my understanding that it has left Djibouti and that it is moving back toward the Red Sea, if not already in the Red Sea. Is it U.S. policy not to touch the Iranian spy ship, to not interfere with it? Because it does seem that since it’s back in those waters that the Houthis are targeting more directly and more accurately than when it was out of the region.

Sabrina Singh (07:15):

Well, this is a ship that has been in the region long before this weekend and has been there prior, at the start, when the Houthis started launching missiles towards commercial ships back in November 19th, Iran did have a presence in the region. I don’t know if it was the Behshad or another ship, but they always had some type of presence. That’s not unusual.

(07:37)
Again, I wouldn’t get into necessarily our policy when it comes to the ship, but we’re certainly aware of it. We track, we monitor, we did see more activity this weekend, but we, again, have been able to intercept some of the UAVs, the missiles that Houthis have launched, whether it be towards our own ships or ships in the region, and we’re going to continue to do that.

Speaker 1 (08:00):

But that Iranian ship is helping the Houthis target U.S. ships and U.S. warships, correct?

Sabrina Singh (08:06):

Again, I’m not going to give an intelligence assessment from here.

Speaker 1 (08:08):

Separately on Ukraine, how quickly can the U.S. and the Pentagon get the next tranche of weapons to Ukraine, to the front lines, if Congress were to pass this supplemental?

Sabrina Singh (08:18):

So if you’ve seen with most of our PDAs, we’ve been able to surge systems and capabilities pretty rapidly within a few days. So as soon as Congress gives us that authority, we will be able to, I think, pretty quickly deliver a PDA to the Ukrainians.

(08:35)
Carla, and then I’ll come over here.

Speaker 2 (08:36):

Thank you. Can you confirm that a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper was shot down near Hodeidah, was shot down over land or over sea? Has the U.S. recovered this aircraft? What more can you give us about [inaudible 00:08:50]-

Sabrina Singh (08:49):

Sure. So I can confirm that on February 19th, U.S. MQ-9 was downed, or went down off the coast of Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen in the Red Sea.

Sabrina Singh (09:00):

Initial indications are that it was shot down by a Houthis surface-to-air missile. In terms of recovery options, I know CENTCOM is looking into that, but I don’t believe it has been recovered at this time. Great.

Speaker 3 (09:16):

It’s been recovered by the Houthis. They showed a video of it.

Sabrina Singh (09:16):

I’ve seen some of those reports, but I just can’t confirm that at this time. Yes. Over here.

Speaker 4 (09:21):

On Iraq, given Kataib Hezbollah’s prominence in the PMF and the PMF’s role in the Iraqi government, is the US government concerned that weapons and other security assistance we send to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense could wind up in the hands of PMF and Kataib Hezbollah fighters?

Sabrina Singh (09:37):

Well, we’re confident in our end use monitoring that we have in Iraq and we work closely with the ISF, so I think we’re pretty confident in our coordination when it comes to the Iraqi security forces.

Speaker 4 (09:50):

But given the security environment in Iraq, does it make that end use monitoring harder? [inaudible 00:09:55] to go out, have to monitor-

Sabrina Singh (09:57):

No, I mean, we’re there, we have a presence still in the region. Again, and I am sorry I didn’t address your first question about Kataib Hezbollah, Cage is not part of the PMF. And so again, the work that we do when it comes to our Iraqi partners is with the ISF. It’s not with the PMF directly. Courtney.

Courtney (10:15):

Just on the MQ-9, was it armed when it was shot down?

Sabrina Singh (10:18):

I do not know the answer to that. I can take that question.

Courtney (10:20):

Thank you. And then I want to ask you, FSOC put out a statement this morning about the Osprey crash investigation, the safety investigation, and said that at this time, the material failure that occurred is known, but the cause of the failure has not been determined. And I’m just wondering, does the Pentagon think it’s safe to put Ospreys back up in the air before you determine what caused the crash?

Sabrina Singh (10:40):

Well, to my understanding, Ospreys are not going back in the air at this time. The case that you’re referencing, the Air Force Special Operations Commander did determine that it was a material failure, but the cause of that failure is still under investigation. So I’m not going to get ahead of that investigation.

(10:56)
But while it’s being completed, I think we’ll leave it to the services to determine when it’s best for those Ospreys to be relieved of that stand down order. But right now, they’re still not flying at this time.

Courtney (11:06):

So is it your understanding though, that until they determine that root cause, Ospreys won’t fly?

Sabrina Singh (11:11):

I would just leave it to the services to determine best. They’re the ones doing the investigation, so when it comes to when these Ospreys will be allowed back in the air, it’s really their call. Patrice, yeah.

Patrice (11:20):

A couple of weeks ago, General Ryder I think had given a general BDA of how many missile launchers and missiles had been destroyed or degraded by US strikes since you guys started striking any Yemen. Do you have an update on that?

Sabrina Singh (11:33):

Let me see here if I have an update. I don’t have an update from February 15th, which is I think what you are referencing on just some of the launchers and cruise missiles that we have destroyed. So I don’t have a further BDA update. I can tell you that as of February 20th, the US has taken 32 self-defense strikes, the most recent one being yesterday.

Patrice (12:01):

And there was a Reuters report over the weekend saying that Iran’s Quds Force leader had gone to Iraq and spoken with some of the militias it backs and said, dial down the attacks on the US and there hasn’t been once since February 4th. So do you believe Iran is playing, in this case at least, a constructive role in reducing attacks against US troops?

Sabrina Singh (12:24):

Well, look, I mean, we know Iran continues to support whether it be IRDC backed militias in Iraq and Syria, the Houthis, Hezbollah. Yes, we have not seen attacks in Iraq and Syria since February 4th, but we have seen certainly an uptick over the weekend in attacks from the Houthis on US forces and commercial shipping. So if Iran does have a role to play, it’s certainly not doing it when it comes to the Houthis. Brad? Yeah.

Brad (12:55):

Thank you. Can you tell us what other cities may be at risk of falling in Ukraine after Avdiivka? Because last week, the Pentagon was saying that the situation remains is critical across [inaudible 00:13:07].

Sabrina Singh (13:07):

Well, Avdiivka unfortunately it was a strategic withdrawal that Ukraine made in order to conserve their own artillery and ammunition. Look, if we don’t get the supplemental… I outlined that at the very top, but if we don’t get the funding needed from the Senate or sorry, from the house to pass the Senate supplemental, we will not be able to provide these critical PDA packages and Ukraine will have to make choices and decisions on what cities, what towns they can hold with what they have and what partners can continue to supply them.

(13:46)
I can’t forecast that from here. It’s really the Ukrainians’ decision to speak to, but obviously they’re in a critical fight for their lives, for their country. And that’s why you heard me say in very stark terms, that’s why we need the supplemental immediately. And we’ve been saying that and sounding these alarm bells since October, and so we’re going to continue to urge Congress to do its job.

Brad (14:09):

So there’s no other cities that are under threat right now?

Sabrina Singh (14:12):

They’re in a current war right now. Of course, there are other cities under fire, under threat. I would direct you to the Ukrainians. I’m sure they’re not going to give you their battle plans, but absolutely, they’re on the front lines fighting every single day to hold every single inch of territory. But I can’t speak to each specific city. Laura, yeah.

Laura (14:30):

Thank you. Has [inaudible 00:14:33] reviewed the findings of the 30-day review yet? And can you tell us whether there’s going to be any action taken from that?

Sabrina Singh (14:39):

Action in terms of anything?

Laura (14:42):

If there were any recommendations?

Sabrina Singh (14:44):

There were recommendations laid out in the 30-day review. I know that’s something that we’re working towards in terms of being able to share. I just don’t have more for you to be able to outline just yet on what those recommendations are. And I believe the review is with the secretary. I don’t know that he’s been able to… I can’t speak to if he’s finished reviewing it, but it’s something that as soon as he is done, we will provide you more information.

Laura (15:07):

Are you going to provide the review to the Hill? Has that already been done?

Sabrina Singh (15:11):

It has not gone to the Hill. I believe some version or classified version or the classified review would be submitted to the Hill or to the relevant committees, but that hasn’t been submitted at this time. Yeah. Tony.

Tony (15:27):

A couple of Ukraine questions.

Sabrina Singh (15:28):

Sure.

Tony (15:28):

How much of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funding the dollars and the weapons have actually been delivered? I’m thinking in particular there was $1.7 billion put on contract in August of ’22 for 155 shells. Do you have an update of how many of those shells have been delivered to Ukraine?

Sabrina Singh (15:47):

We wouldn’t get into the specific numbers of how many have been delivered to Ukraine. We announce with every PDA and USAI package the dollar figure, but again, we don’t announce when A PDA gets closed out or when a certain contract gets closed out.

(16:01)
We let the Ukrainians speak to what systems get delivered in country. So I just don’t have more specifics on… I can’t give you the totals of how many of something are in country. We’d let Ukraine speak to that.

Tony (16:13):

Can I ask you too on the whole PDA question?

Sabrina Singh (16:16):

Sure.

Tony (16:16):

The Pentagon, I think still has $4 billion of authority to draw down, but you don’t have any replacement money. So why can’t an $800 billion institution just risk drawing down $4 billion of inventory on the assumption at some point, you’re going to get it from Congress? Is that being discussed at all in the building?

Sabrina Singh (16:35):

Well, you sort of answered how I would answer the question because it’s a risk. It’s an absolute risk for us to incur. We don’t have the replenishment funds needed to resupply our own stocks. So if we can’t do that, then we’re not able or we don’t feel comfortable enough to draw down or to give another PDA until we have those replenishment funds. So again, it’s something that you’ve seen not just from here, from this podium, but across the interagency, continuing this urging of Congress to pass a supplemental.

Tony (17:05):

I’m going to push back a little bit.

Sabrina Singh (17:05):

Sure.

Tony (17:05):

You managed risk here, but we’re talking 155 shells and a lot of weapons that wouldn’t be used in a fight against China. Has there been discussion that why don’t we just put out 4 billion of PDAs on the assumption we’re going to get funding eventually if not soon?

Sabrina Singh (17:20):

Well, again, we can say that we’re going to get funding eventually, but we’ve been ringing the alarm bell since October and so we’re already into February. The two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is coming up at the end of the week. We don’t know when we’re going to get the funding and we’re going to continue the discussions that are having right now at the secretary’s level across the interagency is we need Congress to give us a supplemental. That’s what’s being discussed.

(17:45)
And as you know this, because you track this well, we don’t even have a fiscal year 2024 budget approved. We’re about to start conversations about FY25. So we are truly operating with one arm tied behind our back and not being able to

Sabrina Singh (18:00):

… provide Ukraine the security assistance it needs in this crucial moment, and you’re seeing the direct cost of that on the battlefield.

Speaker 8 (18:08):

Thank you.

Sabrina Singh (18:08):

Yeah. I’m going to go to the phones and I’ll come back in the room. Chris Gordon.

Chris Gordon (18:13):

Thanks, Sabrina. With the US losing another MQ-9 over Yemen, does the DoD view these as expendable? Has there been a decision made to take greater risks with these assets for the greater good, so to speak? Why not use manned platforms that don’t fly as low and slow and pose a risk of getting shot down?

Sabrina Singh (18:35):

Yeah, thanks Chris, for the question. Again, these are platforms that are available to the commander. He makes these decisions. There is a certain amount of risk that is incurred whenever we fly these to ensure that freedom of navigation is upheld, the rule of law is upheld, and of course there’s a certain amount of risk, and of course we care about that risk. These are multi-million, billion-dollar platforms and we are the commanders using them to keep commercial mariners safe, to keep our US service members that are safe in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. So of course there’s a risk incurred, but it’s something that we’re going to continue to do to ensure that freedom of navigation can continue to be upheld. The rule of law can be upheld and that commercial shipping can continue, whether it be in the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden.

(19:26)
All right, next question, Jeff Shogol, Task & Purpose.

Jeff Shogol (19:29):

Thank you. Given that the DoD is under a continuing resolution, does it have the funding and authorities it needs to replenish the weapons that it’s using in the Red Sea to shoot down the Houthi missiles and drones? And is the fact that the Navy is firing so many SM-6s and other missiles causing a deficit for INDOPACOM?

Sabrina Singh (19:51):

No. Thanks, Jeff, for the question. Again, this is why we need a budget passed. We need a supplemental passed and we’re about to head into the FY25 and we’re operating under a continuing resolution. So we have what we need right now, but it’s not an unlimited pit that we can continue to pull from. And so we absolutely need Congress to help us, whether it comes to defending our interests in the CENTCOM AOR, keeping abreast with our pacing challenge with the PRC, and of course providing Ukraine what it needs in its fight for its sovereign territory.

(20:26)
Yes. [inaudible 00:20:28].

Speaker 5 (20:28):

As you said, since February 4th, there hasn’t been any new attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria-

Sabrina Singh (20:35):

That’s right.

Speaker 5 (20:35):

… and there hasn’t been any US attacks on militia groups backed by Iraq. So does that mean if these militia groups stop their attacks on US forces, will you stop your attacks, too?

Sabrina Singh (20:49):

Again, I would say that … Are you just talking about Iraq and Syria or clarify? We will always continue to hold those responsible that have been attacking US forces. Just taking a step back, we have incurred over 170 attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria. It’s pretty significant, so I’m not going to forecast or get ahead of any other decisions that the secretary and the president make, but we will hold those responsible for the attacks on our service members who lost their lives in Jordan, and if there are attacks, we will continue to hold those accountable.

Speaker 5 (21:24):

As Idris said, IRGC commander in Baghdad met with Iraqi militia leaders and he demanded them to stop their attacks on US forces. So do you think Iran is looking for de-escalation of the conflict or they are afraid of retaliation forces by United States?

Sabrina Singh (21:44):

Our assessment is that Iran doesn’t seek a wider regional conflict. We’ve said that from the beginning, but they do support these militia groups that attack our forces. They do support the Houthis that, over this past weekend, have launched multiple attacks on commercial ships, on US forces in the region, and they support Hezbollah. They support these groups that are continuing attacks in the region that are destabilizing and are a threat to the rule of law. So if Iran doesn’t want to see a regional conflict, they can continue to intervene and to tell these groups to stop. Rio.

Rio (22:21):

Yeah. Thank you, Sabrina. Yesterday the China inspected a Taiwanese tourist ship near the Kinmen Island days after two Chinese fishermen died while being chased by Taiwan’s Coast Guard. So how concerned is the Pentagon that the situation could escalate in the days ahead?

Sabrina Singh (22:40):

Yeah, I’ve seen those reports, Rio. I’d refer you to both the PRC and Taiwan to speak to that. I don’t have anything more to add on that. We don’t want to see an escalation in the region at all, but I would refer you to them for more details.

Rio (22:55):

Similarly, the Japanese government is seeking leaders meeting with North Korea. Does the Pentagon support such Japanese diplomatic outreach? Is the Pentagon worried that that could undermine the trilateral defense cooperation among the three countries, including South Korea?

Sabrina Singh (23:13):

We support diplomatic outreach to the DPRK. We have also said from here that we would seek diplomatic outreach should they want to engage. We want to see regional stability in the region. If those conversations lead to that, we certainly welcome that. Yeah.

Speaker 6 (23:29):

Hi, Sam LaGrone, USNI News.

Sabrina Singh (23:30):

I know, Sam. I know.

Speaker 6 (23:35):

Over the weekend we saw a release from the Coast Guard that they had seized underwater drone components, believed to be from Iran to the Houthis, and then we had the first report from CENTCOM of a lethal attack drone interjected by US forces in the region. Is this a technical escalation of what we’re seeing in there? Are these more sophisticated attacks and new weapons? Can you give us a sense on where these fit in the spectrum of capabilities that the Houthis are bringing to ships in the region?

Sabrina Singh (24:07):

I think you’re certainly seeing that they have sophisticated technology and capabilities that they’re getting from Iran and I mean, yeah, of course their attacks are getting more sophisticated. That was the first time as CENTCOM put out, I think it was on Saturday that the first time that they used an underwater unmanned vehicle to try and launch an attack. So absolutely, the attacks are sophisticated, their weapons are sophisticated, and we know where they’re coming from. We know that Iran is continuing to supply them with what they are continuing to launch at US vessels and commercial mariners.

(24:44)
Yeah, Adrisa and then I’ll-

Speaker 9 (24:46):

[inaudible 00:24:46].

Adrisa (24:46):

So if they’re getting more sophisticated, what impact are your strikes having? It’s actually improving after you’re striking them. What are the-

Sabrina Singh (24:52):

Well, they used a capability that was more sophisticated than we’ve seen before, but what are the impacts of our strikes is every single day that we initiate another dynamic strike, we are taking another surface-to-air missile off the map for them. They can’t necessarily say the same for us. We are using our capabilities to shoot down, whether it be missiles or UAVs or, in this case, the underwater unmanned vehicle. We are being able to stop them. But again, sometimes the attacks do get through, and actually since we’re on this topic, I mean, one of the ships that they targeted was carrying grain bound for Yemen for their starving population.

(25:34)
So they’re saying that they’re targeting ships that have a connection to Israel or ships that have a connection to the United States. I mean, look at exactly what you’re doing. You’re putting your own population at risk. And so every single day, I think our dynamic strikes or our coalition strikes absolutely have an impact, but we at no point said that we’re wiping all of their capabilities off the map. We know that they have a large inventory, a large warehouse, and they’re going to continue to use it.

(26:02)
Yeah, over here.

Speaker 7 (26:03):

Thank you.

Sabrina Singh (26:03):

Mm-hmm. Go ahead.

Speaker 7 (26:07):

Two related questions there. As far as China’s activities inside the US is concerned, how much you think this building is concerned about China’s activity against the United States national security?

Sabrina Singh (26:18):

Is there something specific that you’re referencing or just broadly?

Speaker 7 (26:22):

Yeah, in general, I mean, because China is now in the news because there are so many hackings going on and all.

Sabrina Singh (26:27):

I see. So, I mean, we continue to monitor the PRC’s activities. I don’t have something specific to what you’re asking, but just generally, we know that we don’t see conflict with China, but we know we’re in competition. That doesn’t need to escalate any more. You’ve seen conversations happening at different levels of government, but of course we’re concerned of any activities and we continue to monitor that. And that’s why we have the robust

Sabrina Singh (27:00):

… bust presence that we do in the Indo-Pacific.

Speaker 7 (27:02):

And second on China. As far as Chinese expansion going on in the South Asia region, many smaller nations are worried and also including Taiwan. And as many times questions been there that China is watching very much about Taiwan’s getting help from the Capitol Hill, for in this package may be something for the Taiwan. Where are we standing as far as Chinese are really watching about this failure?

Sabrina Singh (27:29):

Yeah, China is watching. A lot of countries around the world are watching right now this moment, and that’s why we need Congress to do its job. We need the supplemental, we need to be able to support our commitments in the Indo-Pacific while also supporting Ukraine, while also supporting Israel in its fight against Hamas. But we can’t do that if we don’t have the funds to do it. I’m going to go on. Yeah.

Speaker 10 (28:00):

Just last week it was claimed that in a US airstrike, two Cuban hostages were killed in Somalia. Do you have anything on that for us?

Sabrina Singh (28:09):

Yeah, no, I’ve seen the reports on that. I just don’t have anything for you at this time. Yeah, Mike.

Mike (28:14):

The European Union this week launched Operation Aspides… I don’t know how to pronounce it… to protect merchant ships in the Red Sea against Houthi attacks. The fact that this mission is going to run alongside or parallel to Prosperity Guardian, is that an indication that some nations don’t think the US-led effort is doing the job, a sufficient enough job to protect shipping?

Sabrina Singh (28:37):

No, the EU is its own coalition of countries conducting this operation while running alongside, parallel to, Operation Prosperity Guardian only augments the goals of all of these countries, of all of these like-minded countries, which is to uphold the rule of law and to ensure the freedom of navigation is protected. So we certainly welcome this new coalition. Again, we’re all working towards the same goals here, which is to ensure that innocent mariners, commercial shippers can get through the Red Sea, the BAM, the Gulf of Aden safely. As you well know, 10 to 15% of the world’s commerce flows right through that strait. So we certainly welcome more partners as part of… if it’s not Operation Prosperity Guardian as being part of the effort to uphold the rule of law. Carla, do you have one more question? Then we’ll wrap it up.

Speaker 11 (29:33):

Just to follow up on Adrisa’s question, is the secretary satisfied with the current strategy against the Houthis?

Sabrina Singh (29:42):

Can you pull out that thread a little bit more for me?

Speaker 11 (29:44):

Yeah, sure. Because you said it was having an impact, you told Adrisa it was having an impact, but you’ve also said with Tara that it’s not deterring the Houthis. So it may be having an impact, but it’s not giving you the goal that you’re desiring. So is the secretary satisfied with this current, almost whack-a-mole strategy that’s going on?

Sabrina Singh (30:03):

So the secretary has full confidence in the Central commander and the operations that he is doing every single day to ensure that our mariners, our service members are safe. Look, and I said this earlier, we never said that we were taking every single capability that the Houthis have off the map. But every single day that we conduct a strike, we are degrading them further. And so I think the secretary has confidence that the more we continue to do this, the Houthis are going to… they are already seeing the effects. I mean, as General Ryder read out just last week, we do have battle damage assessment that we have been able to make an impact to some of the capabilities that they have. Again, it’s not everything off the map, but it is steps, it is progress and we’re going to keep holding them accountable until they stop. Okay. Mike.

Mike (30:55):

Is that strategy sustainable? I mean trading a multimillion dollar US missiles for couple thousand dollar Houthi weapons?

Sabrina Singh (31:07):

Well, I don’t have the cost for the Houthis weapons, but what I can tell you is if we don’t have the support of Congress, if we don’t have a budget, if we continue to operate under a continuing resolution, if we don’t get our supplemental passed, no, things are not going to be sustainable. We are going to have to look to make cuts to continue to fund our operations in the CENTCOM AOR to continue to support Ukraine. So that’s why we continue to urge Congress to give us the funding, the support that we need so we can continue these operations and continue to protect, not only our service members in the region, but ensure that commercial shipping can flow through that region safely. All right, thank you, everyone.

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